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Tibetan Tanka representing the Adi-Buddha Vajrasattva. Samantabhadra and Samantabhadri, also considered Adi-Buddha, are above. Gouache on cloth.

In Vajrayana Buddhism, the Adi-Buddha, or Adibuddha (Tibetan: Dang-po'i sangs-rgyas), is the "Primordial Buddha." The term refers to a self-emanating, self-originating Buddha, present before anything else existed. Samantabhadra, Vairocana and Vajradhara are the best known names for Adi-Buddha, though there are others like Sanghyang Adi Buddha from Indonesia. Adi-Buddha is usually depicted as dark blue.

The concept of Adi-Buddha is the closest to monotheism of any form of Buddhism. Even then, Adi-Buddha is recognized as the center of an extended array of peaceful and wrathful deities, which are considered reflections of it. All famous sages and Bodhisattvas are said to be reflections of Adi-Buddha, and many are identified as the "personality" of it.

Adi-Buddha is better compared to the abstracted forces of Brahman, Ayn Sof or Arche rather than a personal creator God in the mold of Yahweh or Allah. Also, Adi-Buddha is not said to be the creator, but the originator of all things. Adi-Buddha is a deity in an emanationist sense.

Adi-Buddha is a representation of the interdependence of phenomena, being an entity that can be regarded as a creator in a relative sense. Though phenomena can be symbolically represented in the primordial nature of Adi-Buddha and have in it their collective source, the universe is not regarded as being linearly created, being in a continuous, eternal co-relation with the deity. It also represents the non-duality between the noumenom (the individual's mind), and the phenomena (the cosmos), which are also seen as interrelated.


The Seeker's Glossary of Buddhism[1] provide the definition of Adi Buddha:

"Term used in Mahayana Buddhism, especially in Nepal and Tibet, for the 'primordial Buddha', the Buddha without beginning." (Ling: 8)
"The primordial Buddha. Although the concept itself can be traced to early Buddhism, it is widely acknowledged that the notion of the Adi-Buddha was fully developed in esoteric Buddhism. In [traditional Mahayana] Buddhism, the Adi-Buddha is represented by Mahavairocana Buddha". (Preb: 38)

Names of Adi-Buddha[edit]

Though all Buddhist figures are said to be emanations of the Adi-Buddha, certain Bodhisattvas are revered as its actual personality. This personality is often referred to as Dharmakaya, or "Buddha-body of reality."

The term Samantabhadra in Sanskrit means "The Spirit of Truth that is righteous":

  1. Sam (equipoise/equanimity/equaled/balance of polarization/equality of Dual and Non-Dual views as supplementary and complementary/Non-Duo)
  2. Anta (end)
  3. Bhadra (disciplined/structured/civilized/virtuous/righteous/conscientious/moral)

Samantabhadra is Adibuddha in the sense of Spirit of Truth. In Mahayana He is regarded as a Bodhisattva (Enlightened Personality) where as in Vajrayana He is accepted as Adibuddha (Primordial Consciousness Beyond Perception). This marks the historical advent of Buddhist meditation or Yoga developed through the time from Mahayana to Tantrayana to Vajrayana where a Bodhisattva concept has developed, through deeper discovery of The Truth in its essential nature, into a Buddha realization. Credit of this goes to Padmasambhava.

Samantabhadra and Samantabhadrī[edit]

The Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, who, according to the Avatamsaka Sutra, made ten great vows,[2] is revered as Adi-Buddha in the Nyingma school along with his consort, Samantabhadrī. The two are usually depicted together in Yab-Yum. Samantabhadra is dark blue, while Samantabhadrī is white. They appear together as Adi-Buddha in the Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead), at the center of the assembly of peaceful deities, although Samantabhadrī also appears alone as Adi-Buddha.

Their wrathful forms are Mahotta Heruka and Krodheshvari.

There is some confusion over whether or not the Adi-Buddha Samantabhadra and the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra are in fact the same. Both appear as separate figures in the Bardo Thodol.


See also: Vajradhara

Vajradhara is regarded as Adi-Buddha in the Gelug and Kagyu schools. Vajradhara is also considered the tantric form of Gautama Buddha. He also is depicted as dark blue in color. His esoteric doctrines were said to have been handed down to Marpa Lotsawa.


See also: Vairocana

In Mahayana Buddhism, Vairocana is interpreted as the sambhogakāya of Gautama and all other Buddhas and appears as such in the Avatamsaka Sutra.[3] However, in the Vajrayana Mahavairocana Tantra, Vairocana is depicted as the Adi-Buddha. The Mahavairocana Tantra is the basis for Shingon Buddhism, the oldest esoteric school of Buddhist thought in Japan, where Vairocana is called Dainichi Nyorai (大日如來).

Other Adi-Buddhas[edit]


Dzogchen, also known by the Sanskrit term Atiyoga "Primordial Yoga", employs an Adi-Buddha sādhanā.

In Hinduism[edit]

In Vaishnavism, the term Adi-Buddha applies to the original form of Sugata as an avatar of Vishnu. Vishnu Buddha Avatara is included as one of the ten avatars. See also Sugata Buddha.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Van Hien Study Group. 2003. The Seeker's Glossary of Buddhism, "Adi-Buddha", p. 7. New York: Sutra Translation Committee of the United States and Canada. Strictly for free distribution. Second edition 1998
  2. ^ Van Hien Study Group. 2003. The Seeker's Glossary of Buddhism, "Samantabhadra", pp. 673-674. New York: Sutra Translation Committee of the United States and Canada. Strictly for free distribution
  3. ^ Van Hien Study Group. 2003. The Seeker's Glossary of Buddhism, "Vairocana Buddha", p. 850. New York: Sutra Translation Committee of the United States and Canada. Strictly for free distribution