Foundational Texts

The five principle sutras of Mikkyo are collectively called the “Esoteric Sutras of the Five Buddha Groups” (五部の秘経 gobu-no-hikyō):

1. Dainichi-kyō 大日経 (Sanskrit: Mahāvairocana-sūtra)
This sutra is most commonly referred to as the Dainichi-kyō 大日経, although the full title is Daibirushana-jōbutsu-jinben-kaji-kyō 大毘盧遮那成佛神變加持經 (Vairocanābhisaṃbodhi Sutra). It is 7 volumes, and was translated from Sanskrit into Chinese by Śubhakarasiṃha (637-735 CE), known as Zenmui 善無畏 in Japan. It is from this sutra that the Womb World Mandala is drawn. The canonical Chinese version can be found here: SAT T848

Womb World Mandala (胎蔵界曼荼羅 taizōkai mandara )

2. Kongōchō-kyō 金剛頂経 (Sanskrit: Vajraśekhara-sūtra)
Known as the Kongōchō-kyō 金剛頂経 (Adamantine Peak Sutra), this sutra is actually a large body of eighteen separate texts translated from Sanskrit to Chinese by Amoghavajra (705–774 CE), known as Fukūkongō 不空金剛 in Japan. The focus of study in Mikkyo is the first sutra, Tattvasaṃgraha 真実摂経 (short for Sarvatathāgata-tattvasaṃgraha, Compendium of Principles), which is usually treated as synonymous with the whole. It is from this sutra that the Diamond World Mandala is drawn. SAT T865

Diamond World Mandala (金剛界曼荼羅 kongōkai mandara )

3. Yōryaku-nenju-kyō 要略念誦経
This single volume text was translated from Sanskrit by Vajrabodhi (671–741 CE), known as Kongōchi 金剛智 in Japan. The title means “abridged incantation sutra,” and is the shortened form of Daibirushana-butssetsu-yōryaku-nenju-kyō 大毘盧遮那佛説要略念誦経, which translates as “abridged incantation sutra, as explained by Mahāvairocana.”

4. Soshitsuji-kyō 蘇悉地経
Like many Mikkyo texts, this title might be better described as a tantra, rather than sutra, because it is a ritual manual. The full title Soshitsuji-kara-kyō 蘇悉地羯羅経 is from the Sanskrit text Susiddhikāra-mahatantra, “excellent fulfilment of practice,” which was translated from Sanskrit to Chinese by Śubhakarasiṃha (637-735 CE), known as Zenmui 善無畏 in Japan. SAT T893

Aizen Myōō (Tokyo National Museum)

Aizen Myōō (Tokyo National Museum)

5. Yugi-kyō 瑜祇経
Short for Kongōbu-rōkaku-issai-yugayugi-kyō 金剛峯楼閣一切瑜伽瑜祇経, “all the yogas and yogins of the adamantine peak pavilion,” this is the primary source text for the rituals related to the important esoteric deity Aizen-myōō 愛染明王, the Wisdom King of Sexual Passion. SAT T867

Of these five texts, the first two sutras, the Dainichi-kyō and the Kongōchō-kyō, have the greatest significance because they are the primary sources for the two great Mikkyo mandalas, the Womb World and Diamond World respectively; the fifth text, the Yugi-kyō, has particular significance for ritual practices in the Tendai esoteric tradition.


Daitō shuppansha. 1979 (rev. edition 1999). Japanese-English Buddhist Dictionary 日英仏教辞典. Tokyo

Digital Dictionary of Buddhism [DDB]

Oguri, Dōei. 2000. Mikkyō nyūmon. Tokyo: Suzuki Shuppan
大栗道榮. 2000. 密教入門. 東京: 鈴木出版

Sawa, Ryūken (ed). 2002. Mikkyō jiten. Tokyo: Hōzōkan
佐和隆研 (編). 2002. 密教辞典. 東京: 法藏館

Snodgrass, Adrian. 1999. The Matrix and Diamond World Mandalas in Shingon Buddhism. New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture and Aditya Prakashan.