This book is the first-ever, in-depth iconographical and philosophical interpretation of the twin mandalas of Vairocana – called Garbhadhatu and Vajradhatu in the popular Japanese parlance in the Shingon sect of Mahayana. First published in 1959, Dr Ryujun Tajima’s this work remains a classic of the traditional exegesis of the two mandalas. For an abbot (Daisojo), it was an article of both faith and thought. As an eminent disciple of Professor Levi, Daisojo also took into account the historical evolution of the Shingon theory vis-à-vis what he termed ‘popular’ Buddhism.
A mandala is both graphic representation (sakara) and meditation (nirakara). On the iconic level, it can represent the divinities in four ways: (i) in anthropomorphic form, (ii) as a bijaksara or hieronym, (iii) as a symbol (samaya), or (iv) in the dharmakaya, where the divinity is shown anthropomorphically but adorned by a vajra to represent the transcendent.
Now offered, for the first time, in readable English translation, Tajima’s book is a fundamental work for the philosophic and artistic understanding of the theory and graphic representation of the mandalas in general, more especially in the Shingon tradition of Japan. It presents, in detail, the philosophy, patriarchs and sacred canon of Mantrayana, its ulterior development into two branches in Japan, the nature and different kinds of mandalas, as well as their classification and essential principles. Based on the Mahavairocana-sutra and the Sarva-tathagata-tattva-sanggraha, it spells out almost every aspect of the twin mandalas: their basic ideas, their interrelationship and differences in character, their configuration and symbolism, among others. The book also brings out, in meticulous detail, the iconography of all the deities. Concluding with the critique of Shingon esoterism, Tajima shows how it differs from esoteric or ‘popular’ Buddhism, its three universals, the six elements, the triple mystery, et al.
Lokesh Chandra: an internationally-renowned scholar of Tibetan, Mongolian, and Sino-Japanese Buddhism, is a prolific writer, credited with about 680 works. Nirmala Sharma is an art historian: currently Professor of Buddhist Studies at the International Academy of Indian Culture, New Delhi.