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Amitābha[2] ( Sanskrit
Sanskrit
pronunciation: [əmiˈt̪aːbʱə]), also known as Amida or Amitāyus, is a celestial buddha according to the scriptures of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Amitābha
Amitābha
is the principal buddha in Pure Land Buddhism, a branch of East Asian Buddhism. In Vajrayana Buddhism, Amitābha
Amitābha
is known for his longevity attribute, magnetising red fire element, the aggregate of discernment, pure perception and the deep awareness of emptiness of phenomena. According to these scriptures, Amitābha
Amitābha
possesses infinite merits resulting from good deeds over countless past lives as a bodhisattva named Dharmakāra. Amitābha
Amitābha
means "Infinite Light", and Amitāyus means "Infinite Life" so Amitābha
Amitābha
is also called "The Buddha of Immeasurable Light and Life".

Contents

1 Doctrine

1.1 Vajrayāna Buddhism

1.1.1 Mantras

2 Names in various languages 3 Iconography 4 Archeological origins 5 See also 6 Notes 7 Bibliography 8 External links

Doctrine[edit] According to the Larger Sūtra of Immeasurable Life, Amitābha
Amitābha
was, in very ancient times and possibly in another system of worlds, a monk named Dharmakāra. In some versions of the sūtra, Dharmakāra is described as a former king who, having come into contact with Buddhist teachings through the buddha Lokeśvararāja, renounced his throne. He then resolved to become a buddha and so to come into possession of a buddhakṣetra ("buddha-field", a realm existing in the primordial universe outside of ordinary reality, produced by a buddha's merit) possessed of many perfections. These resolutions were expressed in his forty-eight vows, which set out the type of buddha-field Dharmakāra aspired to create, the conditions under which beings might be born into that world, and what kind of beings they would be when reborn there. In the versions of the sutra widely known in China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan, Dharmakāra's eighteenth vow was that any being in any universe desiring to be born into Amitābha's pure land (Chinese: 净土; pinyin: jìngtŭ; Japanese pronunciation: jōdo; Korean: 정토; romaja: jeongto; Vietnamese: tịnh độ) and calling upon his name even as few as ten times will be guaranteed rebirth there. His nineteenth vow promises that he, together with his bodhisattvas and other blessed Buddhists, will appear before those who call upon him at the moment of death. This openness and acceptance of all kinds of people has made belief in pure lands one of the major influences in Mahāyāna Buddhism. Pure Land Buddhism
Pure Land Buddhism
seems to have first become popular in Gandhara, from where it spread to Central Asia
Central Asia
and China. The sutra goes on to explain that Amitābha, after accumulating great merit over countless lives, finally achieved buddhahood and is still residing in his land of Sukhāvatī, whose many virtues and joys are described. The basic doctrines concerning Amitābha
Amitābha
and his vows are found in three canonical Mahāyāna texts:[3]

Infinite Life Sutra Amitayurdhyana Sutra Amitabha Sutra

Through his efforts, Amitābha
Amitābha
created a pure land called Sukhāvatī (Sanskrit: "possessing happiness") . Sukhāvatī is situated in the uttermost west, beyond the bounds of our own world. By the power of his vows, Amitābha
Amitābha
has made it possible for all who call upon him to be reborn into this land, there to undergo instruction by him in the dharma and ultimately become bodhisattvas and buddhas in their turn (the ultimate goal of Mahāyāna Buddhism). From there, these same bodhisattvas and buddhas return to our world to help yet more people. Amitābha
Amitābha
is the buddha of comprehensive love. He lives in the West (represented as a meditating Buddha) and works for the enlightenment of all beings (represented as a blessing Buddha). His most important enlightenment technique is the visualization of the surrounding world as a paradise. Who sees his world as a paradise, awakens his enlightenment energy. The world can be seen as a paradise by a corresponding positive thought (enlightenment thought) or by sending light to all beings (wish all beings to be happy). After the Amitābha doctrine, one can come to paradise (in the Pure Land of Amitābha), if they visualize at their death Amitābha
Amitābha
in the heaven (sun) over their head (western horizon), think his name as a mantra and leave the body as a soul through the crown chakra. Vajrayāna Buddhism[edit]

Mandala
Mandala
of Amitayus, Tibet, 19th century, Rubin Museum of Art

Amitābha
Amitābha
is also known in Tibet, Mongolia, and other regions where Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism
is practiced. In the Highest Yogatantra
Yogatantra
of Tibetan Buddhism, Amitābha
Amitābha
is considered one of the Five Dhyāni Buddhas (together with Akṣobhya, Amoghasiddhi, Ratnasambhava, and Vairocana), who is associated with the western direction and the skandha of saṃjñā, the aggregate of distinguishing (recognition) and the deep awareness of individualities. His consort is Pāṇḍaravāsinī.[4][5][6][7][8] His two main disciples (the same number as Gautama Buddha) are the bodhisattvas Vajrapani
Vajrapani
and Avalokiteśvara, the former to his left and the latter to his right. In Tibetan Buddhism, there exist a number of famous prayers for taking rebirth in Sukhāvatī (Dewachen). One of these was written by Je Tsongkhapa on the request of Manjushri; for a discussion and translation of the most important prayers in the Tibetan tradition see Halkias.[9] The Panchen Lamas[10] and Shamarpas[11] are considered to be emanations of Amitābha. He is frequently invoked in Tibet
Tibet
either as Amitābha
Amitābha
– especially in the phowa practices or as Amitāyus – especially in practices relating to longevity and preventing an untimely death. In Shingon Buddhism, Amitābha
Amitābha
is seen as one of the thirteen Buddhas to whom practitioners can pay homage. Shingon, like Tibetan Buddhism, also uses special devotional mantras for Amitābha, though the mantras used differ. Amitābha
Amitābha
is also one of the Buddhas
Buddhas
featured in the Womb Realm Mandala
Mandala
used in Shingon practices, and sits to the west, which is where the Pure Land of Amitābha
Amitābha
is said to dwell. Mantras[edit] Amitābha
Amitābha
is the center of a number of mantras in Vajrayana
Vajrayana
practices. The Sanskrit
Sanskrit
form of the mantra of Amitābha
Amitābha
is ॐ अमिताभ ह्रीः (Devanagari: oṃ amitābha hrīḥ), which is pronounced in its Tibetan version as Om ami dewa hri (Sanskrit: oṃ amideva hrīḥ). His mantra in Shingon Buddhism
Shingon Buddhism
is On amirita teizei kara un which represents the underlying Indic form oṃ amṛta-teje hara hūṃ. In addition to using the mantras listed above, many Buddhist schools invoke Amitābha's name in a practice known as nianfo 念佛 in Chinese and nembutsu in Japanese. Names in various languages[edit] The proper form of Amitābha's name in Sanskrit
Sanskrit
is Amitābha, masculine, and the nominative singular is Amitābhaḥ. This is a compound of the Sanskrit
Sanskrit
words amita ("without bound, infinite") and ābhā ("light, splendor"). Consequently, the name is to be interpreted as "he who possesses light without bound, he whose splendor is infinite". The name Amitāyus (nominative form Amitāyuḥ) is also used for the Sambhogakāya aspect of Amitabha, particularly associated with longevity.[12] He is mostly depicted sitting and holding in his hands a vessel containing the nectar of immortality. In Tibetan Buddhism, Amitayus is also one of the three deities of long life (Amitayus, White Tara and Uṣṇīṣavijayā) . Amitāyus being a compound of amita ("infinite") and āyus ("life"), and so means "he whose life is boundless". In Chinese, 阿弥陀佛 ("Āmítuófó"), sometimes pronounced "Ēmítuófó", is the Chinese pronunciation for the Sanskrit
Sanskrit
name of the Amitābha
Amitābha
Buddha (Amida Buddha). The "a mi tuo" is the transliteration of the Sanskrit
Sanskrit
word "Amida" which means "boundless" (无量, "wuliang"). "Fo" is the Chinese word for "Buddha".[13] The name Amitābha
Amitābha
is given in Chinese as Wúliàngguāng (無量光; "Infinite Light"), while the name Amitāyus is given as Wúliàngshòu (無量壽; "Infinite Life"). These names are not, however, very commonly used. In Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese, the same Chinese characters used for Amitabha are used to represent his name, though they are pronounced slightly differently:

Vietnamese: A Di Đà Phật Korean: Amita Bul Japanese: Amida Butsu.

In Japanese, he is also called Amida Nyōrai (阿弥陀如来, "the Tathāgata
Tathāgata
Amitābha") . In Tibetan, Amitābha
Amitābha
is called འོད་དཔག་མེད་ Wylie: 'od dpag med, THL: Öpakmé and in its reflex form as Amitāyus, ཚེ་དཔག་མེད་ Wylie: tshe dpag med, THL: Tsépakmé. They are iconographically distinct. Iconography[edit]

This altar display at a temple in Taiwan shows Amitābha
Amitābha
flanked by Mahāsthāmaprāpta on his left and Guanyin
Guanyin
on the right

Amitābha
Amitābha
is said to display 84,000 auspicious and distinguishing marks reflecting his many virtues.[14] Amitābha
Amitābha
can often be distinguished by his mudrā: Amitābha
Amitābha
is often depicted, when shown seated, displaying the meditation mudrā (thumbs touching and fingers together as in the Great Buddha of Kamakura (鎌倉大仏) at Kōtoku-in
Kōtoku-in
or the exposition mudrā, while the earth-touching mudrā (right hand pointed downward over the right leg, palm inward) is reserved for a seated Gautama Buddha
Gautama Buddha
alone. He can also be seen holding a lotus in his hands while displaying the meditation mudrā. There is a difference between Amitāyus and Amitābha. Amitāyus—the Buddha of Infinite Life—and Amitābha—the Buddha of Infinite Light—are essentially identical, being reflective images of one another. Sutras in which Gautama Buddha
Gautama Buddha
expounds the glories of Sukhavati, the Pure Lands, speak of the presiding Buddha sometimes as Amitabha and sometimes as Amitayus. When depicted as Amitāyus he is depicted in fine clothes and jewels and as Amitābha
Amitābha
in simple monk's clothing. They are also simply known as Amida in the Chinese and Japanese tradition. The image of the gold colored statue in the article is of Amitayus as he is wearing a five-pointed crown, which is the easiest way to distinguish them. Amitāyus is an emanation of Amitābha. Amitābha
Amitābha
is the head of the Lotus family.[15] When standing, Amitābha
Amitābha
is often shown with left arm bare and extended downward with thumb and forefinger touching, with the right hand facing outward also with thumb and forefinger touching. The meaning of this mudra is that wisdom (symbolized by the raised hand) is accessible to even the lowest beings, while the outstretched hand shows that Amitabha's compassion is directed at the lowest beings, who cannot save themselves. When not depicted alone, Amitābha
Amitābha
is often portrayed with two assistants: Avalokiteśvara
Avalokiteśvara
on the right and Mahāsthāmaprāpta on the left. In Vajrayana, Amitābha
Amitābha
is the most ancient of among the Dhyani Buddhas. He is of red color originating from the red seed syllable hrīḥ. He represents the cosmic element of "Sanjana" (name). His vehicle is the peacock. He exhibits Samadhi
Samadhi
Mudra
Mudra
his two palms folded face up, one on top of the other, lying on his lap. The lotus is his sign. When represented on the stupa, he always faces toward west. He is worshiped thinking that one can have salvation. Archeological origins[edit]

Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty
Amitābha
Amitābha
sculpture, Hidden Stream Temple Cave, Longmen Grottoes, China

The first known epigraphic evidence for Amitābha
Amitābha
is the bottom part of a statue found in Govindnagar, Pakistan and now located at Government Museum, Mathura. The statue is dated to "the 28th year of the reign of Huviṣka" i.e., sometime in the latter half of the second century during the Kushan Empire, and was apparently dedicated to " Amitābha
Amitābha
Buddha" by a family of merchants.[16] The first known sutra mentioning Amitābha
Amitābha
is the translation into Chinese of the Pratyutpanna Samādhi Sūtra by the Kushan monk Lokakṣema around 180. This work is said to be at the origin of pure land practices in China. The appearance of such literature and sculptural remains at the end of the second century suggests that the doctrine of Amitābha
Amitābha
probably developed during the first and second centuries. Furthermore, there are sculptures of Amitabha in dhyani mudras as well as bronzes of Amitabha in abhaya mudra from the Gandhara
Gandhara
era of the first century, suggesting the popularity of Amitabha during that time. One of the last prayer busts of Amitabha can be found in the trademark black stone of the Pala Empire, which was the last Buddhist empire of India and lost its influence in the twelfth century due to Muslim conquests on the Indian subcontinent. See also[edit]

Buddhist art
Buddhist art
in Japan Chan Buddhism Chinese Buddhism Jōdo Shinshū Neo-Confucianism Shaolin Monastery Shinran

Notes[edit]

^ "阿彌陀佛".  ^ Lévi, Sylvain; Takakusu, Junjir; Demiéville, Paul; Watanabe, Kaigyoku (1929). Hobogirin: Dictionnaire encyclopédique de bouddhisme d'après les sources chinoises et japonaises, Paris: Maisonneuve, vols. 1–3, pp. 24–29 ^ Inagaki, Hisao, trans. (2003), The Three Pure Land Sutras (PDF), Berkeley: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, ISBN 1-886439-18-4, archived from the original (PDF) on May 12, 2014  ^ "The Great Compassion Mantra
Mantra
- Namo Amitabha". Archived from the original on 2009-10-25.  ^ "Bardo: Fourth Day". Kaykeys.net. 2005-02-07. Retrieved 2012-11-07.  ^ "Symbolism of the five Dhyani Buddhas". Archived from the original on March 8, 2009.  ^ "Pandara is said to be the Prajna of Amitabha Buddha. Pandara is the same in essence with Buddha Amitabha". Himalayanmart.com. Retrieved 2012-11-07.  ^ "Guan Yin - Bodhisattva/ Goddess of Compassion". Nationsonline.org. 2011-06-04. Retrieved 2012-11-07.  ^ Georgios T. Halkias, Luminous Bliss: A Religious
Religious
History of Pure Land Literature in Tibet
Tibet
Pure Land ^ Tibet
Tibet
is My Country: Autobiography of Thubten Jigme Norbu, Brother of the Dalai Lama
Lama
as told to Heinrich Harrer, p. 121. First published in German in 1960. English translation by Edward Fitzgerald, published 1960. Reprint, with updated new chapter, (1986): Wisdom Publications, London. ISBN 0-86171-045-2. ^ "Teachers: Shamar Rinpoche". Archived from the original on 30 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-21.  ^ "Amitayus". Rigpa Wiki. Retrieved 2012-11-07.  ^ "Buddhist Charms". Retrieved 22 May 2014.  ^ Olson, Carl (2005). The Different Paths of Buddhism: A Narrative-Historical Introduction. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. p. 185. ISBN 0813535611. Retrieved 9 June 2016.  ^ Landaw, Jonathan. Images of Enlightenment: Tibetan Art in Practice. Snow Lion Publications. pp. 75, 80, 96. ISBN 978-1-55939-832-9.  ^ "On the origins of Mahayana
Mahayana
Buddhism" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-06-12. Retrieved 2013-06-14. 

Bibliography[edit]

Karashima, Seishi (2009), On Amitābha, Amitāyu(s), Sukhāvatī and the Amitābhavyūha, Bulletin of the Asia Institute, New Series, 23, 121-130  – via  JSTOR
JSTOR
(subscription required)

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Amitābha.

Wikisource
Wikisource
has original text related to this article: Amitabha's forty-eight vows

Look up Amitābha
Amitābha
in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

The Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra
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(Pure Land) Shingon Buddhism: Amida Nyorai/Buddha of Infinite light and Life H.H. Chetsang Rinpoche
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