(Pinyin: ?mítuófó or ?mítuófó)
(Wade-Giles: A-mi-t?uo Fo)
(romaji: Amida Butsu)
(romaji: Amida Nyorai)
(RR: Amita Bul)
|Mongolian||? ? ?|
Tsaglasi ügei gereltu
Phra Amitapha Phuttha
Wylie: 'od dpag med
Wylie: tshe dpag med
|Vietnamese||A Di ?à Ph?t|
(Hán Nôm: ?)
|Venerated by||Mahayana, Vajrayana|
|Attributes||Infinite Light or Immeasurable Radiance|
Amit?bha (Sanskrit pronunciation: [?m?'ta:b]), also known as Amida or Amit?yus, is a celestial buddha according to the scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism. Amit?bha is the principal buddha in Pure Land Buddhism, a branch of East Asian Buddhism. In Vajrayana Buddhism, Amit?bha 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, Amit?bha possesses infinite merit resulting from good deeds over countless past lives as a bodhisattva named Dharmak?ra. Amit?bha means "Infinite Light", and Amit?yus means "Infinite Life" so Amit?bha is also called "The Buddha of Immeasurable Light and Life".
According to the Larger S?tra of Immeasurable Life, Amit?bha was, in very ancient times and possibly in another system of worlds, a monk named Dharmak?ra. In some versions of the s?tra, Dharmak?ra is described as a former king who, having come into contact with Buddhist teachings through the buddha Loke?varar?ja, renounced his throne. He then resolved to become a Buddha and to create a buddhak?etra (literally- "buddha-field", often called a "Pureland" or "Buddha Land" 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 Pureland Dharmak?ra 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, Dharmak?ra's eighteenth vow was that any being in any universe desiring to be reborn into Amit?bha's pure land (Chinese: ; pinyin: jìngt?; Japanese pronunciation: j?do; Korean: ; romaja: jeongto; Vietnamese: t?nh ) 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, at the moment of death, call upon him. This openness and acceptance of all kinds of people has made belief in pure lands one of the major influences in Mah?y?na Buddhism. Pure Land Buddhism seems to have first become popular in Gandhara, from where it spread to Central Asia and China.
The sutra goes on to explain that Amit?bha, after accumulating great merit over countless lives, finally achieved buddhahood and created a pure land called Sukh?vat? (Sanskrit: "possessing happiness") . Sukh?vat? is situated in the uttermost west, beyond the bounds of our own world. By the power of his vows, Amit?bha 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 Mah?y?na Buddhism). From there, these same bodhisattvas and buddhas return to our world to help yet more people. still residing in his land of Sukh?vat?, whose many virtues and joys are described.
The basic doctrines concerning Amit?bha and his vows are found in three canonical Mah?y?na texts:
Amit?bha 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. Those who see his world as a paradise awaken 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 Amit?bha doctrine, one can come to paradise (in the Pure Land of Amit?bha), if they visualize at their death Amit?bha 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.
Amit?bha is also known in Tibet, Mongolia, and other regions where Tibetan Buddhism is practiced. In the Highest Yogatantra of Tibetan Buddhism, Amit?bha is considered one of the Five Dhy?ni Buddhas (together with Ak?obhya, Amoghasiddhi, Ratnasambhava, and Vairocana), who is associated with the western direction and the skandha of sa?jñ?, the aggregate of distinguishing (recognition) and the deep awareness of individualities. His consort is Parav?sin?. His two main disciples (the same number as Gautama Buddha) are the bodhisattvas Vajrapani and Avalokite?vara, 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 Sukh?vat? (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).
He is frequently invoked in Tibet either as Amit?bha - especially in the phowa practices or as Amit?yus - especially in practices relating to longevity and preventing an untimely death.
In Shingon Buddhism, Amit?bha is seen as one of the thirteen Buddhas to whom practitioners can pay homage. Shingon, like Tibetan Buddhism, also uses special devotional mantras for Amit?bha, though the mantras used differ. Amit?bha is also one of the Buddhas featured in the Womb Realm Mandala used in Shingon practices, and sits to the west, which is where the Pure Land of Amit?bha is said to dwell.
Amit?bha is the center of a number of mantras in Vajrayana practices. The Sanskrit form of the mantra of Amit?bha is ? (Devanagari: o? amit?bha hr), which is pronounced in its Tibetan version as Om ami dewa hri (Sanskrit: o? amideva hr). His mantra in Shingon Buddhism is On amirita teizei kara un (Japanese: ), which represents the underlying Indic form o? am?ta-teje hara h.
In addition to using the mantras listed above, many Buddhist schools invoke Amit?bha's name in a practice known as nianfo in Chinese and nembutsu in Japanese.
The proper form of Amit?bha's name in Sanskrit is Amit?bha, masculine, and the nominative singular is Amit?bha?. This is a compound of the Sanskrit words amita ("without bound, infinite") and ?bh? ("light, splendor"). Consequently, the name is to be interpreted as "he who possesses light without bound, he whose splendor is infinite".
The name Amit?yus (nominative form Amit?yu?) is also used for the Sambhogak?ya aspect of Amit?bha, particularly associated with longevity. He is mostly depicted sitting and holding in his hands a vessel containing the nectar of immortality. In Tibetan Buddhism, Amit?yus is also one of the three deities of long life (Amit?yus, White Tara and U?avijay?) . Amit?yus being a compound of amita ("infinite") and ?yus ("life"), and so means "he whose life is boundless".
In Chinese, ? ("?mítuófó"), sometimes pronounced "?mítuófó", is the Chinese pronunciation for the Sanskrit name of the Amit?bha Buddha (Amida Buddha). The "a mi tuo" is the transliteration of the Sanskrit word "Amida" which means "boundless" (, "wuliang"). "Fo" is the Chinese word for "Buddha".
In addition to transliteration, the name Amit?bha has also been translated into Chinese using characters which, taken together, convey the meaning "Infinite Light": (Wúliànggu?ng). In the same fashion, the name Amit?yus ("Infinite Life") has been translated as (Wúliàngshòu). These translated names are not, however, very commonly used.
In Japanese, Amit?bha is also called Amida Nyorai (, "the Tath?gata Amit?bha") .
Amit?bha is said to display 84,000 auspicious and distinguishing marks reflecting his many virtues. Amit?bha can often be distinguished by his mudr?: Amit?bha is often depicted, when shown seated, displaying the meditation mudr? (thumbs touching and fingers together as in the Great Buddha of Kamakura (?) at K?toku-in or the exposition mudr?, while the earth-touching mudr? (right hand pointed downward over the right leg, palm inward) is reserved for a seated Gautama Buddha alone. He can also be seen holding a lotus in his hands while displaying the meditation mudr?.
There is a difference between Amit?yus and Amit?bha. Amit?yus--the Buddha of Infinite Life--and Amit?bha--the Buddha of Infinite Light--are essentially identical, being reflective images of one another. Sutras in which Gautama Buddha expounds the glories of Sukhavati, the Pure Lands, speak of the presiding Buddha sometimes as Amit?bha and sometimes as Amit?yus. When depicted as Amit?yus he is depicted in fine clothes and jewels and as Amit?bha 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 Amit?yus as he is wearing a five-pointed crown, which is the easiest way to distinguish them. Amit?yus is an emanation of Amit?bha. Amit?bha is the head of the Lotus family.
When standing, Amit?bha 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 Amit?bha's compassion is directed at the lowest beings, who cannot save themselves.
In Vajrayana, Amit?bha is the most ancient of among the Dhyani Buddhas. He is of red color originating from the red seed syllable hr. He represents the cosmic element of "Sanjana" (name). His vehicle is the peacock. He exhibits Samadhi 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.
The first known epigraphic evidence for Amit?bha 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 Huvi?ka" i.e., sometime in the latter half of the second century during the Kushan Empire, and was apparently dedicated to "Amit?bha Buddha" by a family of merchants.
The first known sutra mentioning Amit?bha is the translation into Chinese of the Pratyutpanna Sam?dhi S?tra by the Kushan monk Lokak?ema 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 Amit?bha probably developed during the first and second centuries. Furthermore, there are sculptures of Amitabha in dhyani mudras as well as bronzes of Amit?bha in abhaya mudra from the Gandhara era of the first century, suggesting the popularity of Amit?bha during that time. One of the last prayer busts of Amit?bha 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.