Mandala (Buddhist pictures)

When you visit a temple in Japan, you may find a pair of Buddhist pictures called "Mandala" on the wall of the main hall. Mandalas look sacred and something very important.


■ What is mandala?

Mandala, Hindu in origin, is a graphic depiction of the spiritual universe and its myriad realms and deities in Esoteric Buddhism.


Mandala scrolls and paintings became popular in Japan in the 9th century onward with the growth of the Shingon and Tendai sects of Esoteric Buddhism which is called Mikkyō in Japan.


■ Ryōkai Mandala or Two World Mandala


The most widely known mandala form in Japan is the Ryōkai Mandala, translated as the Two World Mandala. 


The Ryokai Mandala consists of two separate mandala pictures representing the central devotional image of Esoteric Buddhism in Japan. The two mandalas are Taizokai mandala and Kongokai mandala.


The Taizokai Mandala translated as Womb World is associated with ultimate principle (ri 理). It represents the world of physical phenomenon and ultimate principle.


The Kongokai Mandala translated as Diamond World is associated with mind or intelligence (chi 智). It represents the cosmic or transcendental Buddha (aka Dainichi Nyorai and complete wisdom). 


The two realms are fundamentally one, as are the absolute and phenomenal, e.g. water and wave.



In the building of the main hall and the Great Peace Pagoda in the Naritasan Shinshoji temple, a pair of mandala pictures are hung on the walls.

It might be interesting to see the mandala pictures with this knowledge.



(1) Sekai no shukyo, Popula-sha