Amitābha (Sanskrit: अमिताभ, Amitābha (wordstem), Hindi pronunciation: [əmɪtaːbʱə]; Amitābho; Chinese: 阿彌陀佛, Vietnamese: A Di Đà, Ēmítuó Fó; Japanese: Amida; Tibetan: , Ö-pa-me) is a celestial buddha described in the scriptures of the Mahāyāna school of Buddhism. Amitabha is the principal buddha in the Pure Land sect, a branch of Buddhism practiced mainly in East Asia. According to these scriptures, Amitābha possesses infinite merits resulting from good deeds over countless past lives as a bodhisattva named Dharmakāra. "Amitabha" is translatable as "Infinite Light," hence Amitabha is often called "The Buddha of Infinite Light."
According to the Larger Sūtra of Eternal Life Amitābha was, in very ancient times and possibly in another realm, a monk named Dharmakāra. In some versions of the sūtra, Dharmakāra is described as a former king who, having come into contact with the Buddhist teachings through the buddha Lokesvararaja, 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 space time, 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 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 the Pure Land belief one of the major influences in Mahāyāna Buddhism. Pure Land Buddhism seems to have first become popular in northwest India/Pakistan and Afghanistan, from where it spread to 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 alive in his land of Sukhāvatī, whose many virtues and joys are described.
The basic doctrines concerning Amitābha and his vows are found in three canonical Mahāyāna texts:
- The Larger Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra
- The Smaller Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra
- The Amitāyurdhyāna Sūtra (Sutra on the Meditation on Amitāyus).
Through his efforts, Amitabha created the "Pure Land" (净土, Chinese: jìngtŭ; Japanese: jōdo; Vietnamese: tịnh độ) 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 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.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 October 2009 20:28