In Japan the transliteration 曼荼羅 is sometimes used to refer specifically to the mandara of Esoteric Buddhism mikkyou 密教, while 曼陀羅 is used to denote the mandara like painting of Pure Land Buddhism, but the original Sanskrit term is the same.
The practice of arranging images in certain patterns may be observed already in the triads found at Gandhara and Mathura, and with the development of Esoteric Buddhism or Tantrism in India around the 6c. this triadic format evolved into a primitive form of the mandara.
In the early and middle periods of Tantric history, the usual method of arranging the deities was based on the Buddha, Lotus and Vajra families, with deities belonging to the Lotus and Vajra families being arrayed symmetrically to the right and left of the central deity.
But after the emergence of the *Kongoukai mandara 金剛界曼荼羅 (ca. 8c) this three-family format came to be replaced by a five-family format, with deities belonging to the Tathagata, Vajra, Gem, Lotus and Action families being disposed uniformly in the center and in the east, south, west and north quarters .
Representative of the toe mandara are the Kongoukai mandara described in the KONGOUCHOUKYOU 金剛頂経 (Sk: Sarvatathagatatattvasamgraha) and the *Taizoukai mandara 胎蔵界曼荼羅 described in the DAINICHIKYOU 大日経 (Sk:Vairocanabhisambodhi-sutra), and this pair of mandara is known in Japan as the *Ryoukai mandara 両界曼荼羅 or Ryoubu mandara 両部曼荼羅.
esoteric rites dedicated to specific deities bessonhou 別尊法 and they are classified according to the type of deity into the Buddha familybutsubu 仏部; Buddha-crown family *Butchou 仏頂; sutra-rite division, kyouboubu 経法部; Kannon family *Kannon 観音; bodhisattva family *bosatsu 菩薩; myouou family *myouou 明王; family of gods and others *ten 天.
representations in scroll form that could be hung on a wall came to be used instead. The *shiki mandara 敷曼荼羅, which can be spread out like a carpet and is used during rites of initiation, preserves elements of the original earthen mandara.
- sanmaya mandara 三昧耶曼荼羅, in which they are represented by means of symbolic objects sanmayagyou 三昧耶形; *shuji mandara 種字曼荼羅 or houmandara 法曼荼羅,
in which they are indicated by means of Sanskrit syllables; and *katsuma mandara 羯磨曼荼羅, in which they are represented by means of three-dimensional images. The mandara was first introduced to Japan by Saichou 最澄 (766-822),
But for the full-scale introduction of the mandara Japan had to wait until the following year (806), when *Kuukai 空海 (774-835), the founder of the Shingon 真 言 sect, brought back copies of the Ryoukai mandara.
Not only has it served as the basis for a large proportion of Buddhist iconography, but through the medium of Kukai's writings it has also exerted considerable influence on the history of Japanese thought.
the suijaku mandara 垂迹曼荼羅 associated with Shinto (see *Shintou bijutsu 神道美術), the *sankei mandara 参詣曼荼羅 depicting a specific shrine or temple, and the Kanjou jikkai mandara 勧請十界曼荼羅 devised by *Nichiren 日蓮 (1222-82). This is a development peculiar to Japan. The mandara in Japan have the same origins as the mandara
Transliteration of the Sanskrit mandala, objects originally of Buddhist origin created to express fundamental doctrines or ideas. Mandala in the form of pictures were used at Buddhist ritual sites, particularly as decorative depictions of the beatific scenes of Paradise. Based on the significance of the
Buddhist mandala, iconographic scroll paintings (zuzō mandara) began to appear in temple rituals from the late Heian period as part of rites to invoke (kanjō) the protection of kami, and this use gradually spread from the Kamakura period on. Types of mandala differed depending upon their purpose and use, but they can
be broadly divided into the aforementioned iconographic mandala, and miya mandara (shrine mandala), which were created for the benefit of pilgrims and confraternities as means of elucidating the sacred histories and spiritual powers of the various shrines.
Iconographic mandala include honji-butsu mandara, which depict kami in the guise of their "original-essence Buddha" (honjibutsu); suijaku mandara, which portray the image of the kami while omitting the honjibutsu; and the honjaku mandara, which depict both honjibutsu and kami together (see honji suijaku).
so-called sankei mandara (pilgrimage mandala), which depicted various sights found at shrines together with their rituals, history, miracles, and lively scenes of pilgrims (sankeisha), and which were used by itinerant religious "picture tellers" (etoki) in order to educate people.