Amitabha


Amitabha
/u'mi tah"beuh/, n. Sanskrit.
Amida.

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Saviour deity worshiped by followers of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan.

According to the Sukhavati-vyuha-sutra (Pure Land sutra), the monk Dharmakara vowed many ages ago that once he attained buddhahood, all who believed in him and called upon his name would be born into his paradise (the Pure Land) and reside there until achieving nirvana. The cult of Amitabha came to the forefront in China с 650 and then spread to Japan, where it led to the formation of the Pure Land and True Pure Land sects. In Tibet and Nepal, Amitabha is regarded as one of the five eternal buddhas (rather than as a saviour), who manifested himself as the earthly Buddha Gautama and as the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.

Great bronze Amida (Daibutsu) at Kamakura, Japan, 1252

Asuka-en

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Sanskrit“Infinite Light”Japanese  Amida , Chinese  O-mi-t'o 
 in Buddhism, the great saviour deity worshiped principally by members of the Pure Land sect in Japan. As related in the Sukhāvatī-vyūha-sūtra (the fundamental scripture of the Pure Land sects), many ages ago a monk named Dharmākara made a number of vows, the 18th of which promised that, on his attaining buddhahood, all who believed in him and who called upon his name would be born into his paradise and would reside there in bliss until such time as they had obtained nirvana. Having accomplished his vows, the monk reigned as the buddha Amitābha in the Western Paradise, called Sukhāvatī, the Pure Land. (Pure Land Buddhism)

      The cult of Amitābha, which emphasizes faith above all else, came to the fore in China about AD 650 and from there spread to Japan, where it led in the 12th and 13th centuries to the formation of the Pure Land school and the True Pure Land school, both of which continue to have large followings today. Depictions of the Western Paradise and of Amitābha descending to welcome the newly dead are beautifully expressed in the Raigō paintings of Japan's Late Heian Period (AD 897–1185).

      Amitābha as a saviour figure was never as popular in Tibet and Nepal as he was in East Asia, but he is highly regarded in those countries as one of the five “self-born” buddhas who have existed eternally (see Dhyāni-Buddha). According to this concept he manifested himself as the earthly buddha Gautama and as the bodhisattva (“buddha-to-be”) Avalokiteśvara. His colour is red, his posture one of meditation (dhyāna-mudrā), his symbol the begging bowl, his mount the peacock, his consort Pāṇḍarā, his family Rāga, his element water, his sacred syllable “ba,” or “āh,” his skandha (element of existence) saṇjnā (perceptions of sense objects), his direction the west, his sense perception taste, his sense organ the tongue, and his location in the human body the mouth.

      As a bestower of longevity, Amitābha is called Amitāyus (Sanskrit: “Infinite Life”). In China and Japan the two names are often used interchangeably, but in Tibet the two forms are never confounded, and Amitāyus is worshiped in a special Lamaist ceremony for obtaining long life. He is depicted wearing ornaments and a crown and holding the ambrosia vase from which spill the jewels of eternal life. See also Amidism; Pure Land Buddhism.

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Universalium. 2010.

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