In Vajrayana Buddhism, the Five Dhyani Buddhas ( Sanskrit : “concentration”), also known as the Five Wisdom Buddhas,, the Five Great Buddhas and the Five Jinas (Sanskrit : 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 Buddhas, of the Trikaya (Sanskrit: 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.
Chart of the Five Buddhas