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In Vajrayana Buddhism, the Five Dhyani Buddhas (Dhyani ध्यानि Skt. for "concentration"; Chinese: 金刚界五智如来, 五方佛), also known as the Five Wisdom Tathāgata(五智如来|Wǔzhì Rúlái), the Five Great Buddhas and the Five Jinas (Skt. for "conqueror" or "victor"), are representations of the five qualities of the Buddha. The term "dhyani-buddha" is first recorded in English by the British Resident in Nepal, Brian Hodgson, in the early nineteenth century, and is unattested in any surviving traditional primary sources. These five Buddhas are a common subject of Vajrayana mandalas.
The Five Wisdom Buddhas are a later development, based on the Yogācāra elaboration of concepts concerning the jñāna of the Buddhas, of the Trikaya (Skt. Tri is "three", kaya is "body") theory, which posits three "bodies" of the Buddha. The Wisdom Buddhas are all aspects of the dharmakaya or "reality-body", which embodies the principle of enlightenment. Initially two Buddhas appeared which represented wisdom and compassion - they were, respectively, Akṣobhya and Amitābha. A further distinction embodied the aspects of power, or activity, and the aspect of beauty, or spiritual riches. In the Sutra of Golden Light (an early Mahayana Sutra) the figures are named Dundubishvara, and Ratnaketu, but over time their names changed to become Amoghasiddhi, and Ratnasaṃbhava. The central figure came to be called Vairocana.
It should be noted that when these Buddhas are represented in mandalas, they may not always have the same color or be related to the same directions. In particular, Akṣobhya and Vairocana may be switched. When represented in a Vairocana mandala, the Buddhas are arranged like this:
(principal deity/ meditator)
Names in other languages:
|Vairocana||大日如來 Dàrì Rúlái|
毘盧遮那佛 Pílúzhēnà Fó
|大日如来, Dainichi Nyorai||Nampar nangdze, Nam nang|
|Akṣobhya||阿閃如來, Ajiu Rulai||阿閃如来, Ashuku Nyorai||Mitrugpa|
|Amitābha||阿彌陀佛, Ēmítuó Fó or Āmítuó Fó||阿弥陀如来, Amida Nyorai||Wöpakme|
|Ratnasaṃbhava||寳生如來, Baosheng Rulai||宝生如来, Hōshō Nyorai||Rinchen Jung ne Rin jung|
|Amoghasiddhi||成就如來, Chengjiu Rulai||不空成就如来, Fukūjōju Nyorai||Dön yö drub pa Dön drub|
There is an expansive number of associations with each element of the mandala, so that the mandala becomes a cipher and mnemonic visual thinking instrument and concept map; a vehicle for understanding and decoding the whole of the Dharma. Some of the associations include:
|Family||Buddha||Wisdom||Neurosis/Poison||Skandha||Action Activity||Symbol Implement||Element||Color||Season||Cardinal Direction||Mudra|
|Buddha||Vairocana||all accommodating||ignorance||form||Turning the Wheel of Dharma (teaching)||wheel||space||white||n/a||center||teaching the Dharma|
|Vajra||Akshobhya||mirror like||hatred anger||consciousness||protecting, destroying||scepter, vajra||water||blue||spring||east||earth-touching|
|Padma||Amitābha||discriminating awareness||desire||perception||magnetizing, subjugating||lotus||fire||red||summer||west||meditation|
|Ratna||Ratnasambhava||equanimity equality||greed pride||feeling||enriching, increasing||jewel||earth||gold, yellow||autumn||south||giving|
|Karma||Amoghasiddhi||all accomplishing||envy||mental formation, concept||pacifying||double vajras||air, wind||green||winter||north||fearlessness|
The Five Wisdom Buddhas are protected by the Five Wisdom Kings, and in Japan are frequently depicted together in the Mandala of the Two Realms and are in the Shurangama Mantra revealed in the Shurangama Sutra. They each are often depicted with consorts, and preside over their own Pure Lands. In East Asia the aspiration to be reborn in a pure land is the central point of Pure Land Buddhism. Although all five Buddhas have pure lands, it appears that only Sukhāvatī of Amitabha, and to a much lesser extent Abhirati of Akshobhya (Great masters like Vimalakirti and Milarepa dwell in this pure land) and Akanishtha of Vajrayogini-Heruka, attracted aspirants on planet Earth. 
|Buddha (Skt)||Consort||Dhyani Bodhisattva||Pure Land||seed syllable|
|Vairocana||White Tara or Dharmadhatvishvari||Samantabhadra||central pure land Akanistha Ghanavyuha||Om|
|Akṣobhya||Locanā||Vajrapāni||eastern pure land Abhirati||Hum|
|Amitābha||Pandara ||Avalokiteshvara||western pure land Sukhāvatī||Hrih|
|Ratnasaṃbhava||Mamaki ||Ratnapani||southern pure land Shrimat||Trah|
|Amoghasiddhi||Green Tara||Viśvapāni||northern pure land Prakuta||Ah|
- ↑ Bogle (1999) pp. xxxiv-xxxv
- ↑ =2008 Oral Commentary on Highest Yoga Tantra by Venerable Bhikshu Geshe Ngawang Dakpa" of Tse Chen Ling, San Francisco FPMT Center
- ↑ Pandara The Shakti of Amitabha
- ↑ Mamaki The Shakti of Aksobhya
- ↑ chart of the Five Buddhas and their associations
- ↑ Symbolism of the five Dhyani Buddhas
- Bogle, George; Markham, Clements Robert; and Manning, Thomas (1999) Narratives of the Mission of George Bogle to Tibet and of the Journey of Thomas Manning to Lhasa ISBN 812061366X
- Bucknell, Roderick & Stuart-Fox, Martin (1986). The Twilight Language: Explorations in Buddhist Meditation and Symbolism. Curzon Press: London. ISBN 0-312-82540-4
- Five Dhyani Buddhas - chart of the Five Buddhas and their associations.
- The Berzin Archives - Buddha-Family Traits (Buddha-Families) and Aspects of Experience
- Five Dhyani Buddhas - Painting of the Five Buddhas at Padmaloka.
- Symbolism of the five Dhyani Buddhas
- Color Symbolism In Buddhist Art
- Mark Schumacher: Godai Nyorai (Japanese) - Five Buddha of Wisdom Five Buddha of Meditation Five Jina | Five Tathagatas