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Seated Amida Nyorai (Amitabha), Kamakura period, 12th-13th century, wood with gold leaf and inlaid crystal eyes - Tokyo National Museum - DSC05345.JPG
Amit?bha statue in gold leaf with inlaid crystal eyes. Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo, Japan

(Pinyin: ?mítuófó or ?mítuófó)[1]
(Wade-Giles: A-mi-t?uo Fo)
(romaji: Amida Butsu)
(romaji: Amida Nyorai)
(Hanja: ?)
(RR: Amita Bul)

Tsaglasi ügei gereltu
? Ayush
RTGSPhra Amitapha Phuttha
Wylie: 'od dpag med
THL: Öpakmé

Wylie: tshe dpag med
THL: Tsépakmé
VietnameseA Di ?à Ph?t
(Hán Nôm: ?)
Venerated byMahayana, Vajrayana
AttributesInfinite Light or Immeasurable Radiance
P religion world.svg Religion portal

Amit?bha[2] (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 Western attributes of, discernment, pure perception and purification of the aggregates with a deep awareness of emptiness of all 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".


Buddha Amit?bha in Tibetan Buddhism, traditional thangka painting.
Portrait of Buddha Amit?bha attached in Annotation to the Infinite Life Sutra (Ch. ).
Statue of the Buddha Amit?bha (Mongolia, 18th century).
A K?toku-in statue.

Attainment of Buddhahood

Mandala of Amit?yus, Tibet, 19th century, Rubin Museum of Art

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 with sincerity, 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.

References in Sutras

The basic doctrines concerning Amit?bha and his vows are found in three canonical Mah?y?na texts:[3]

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.

Vajray?na Buddhism

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?.[4][5][6][7][8] 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).[9]

The Panchen Lamas[10] and Shamarpas[11] are considered to be emanations of Amit?bha.

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.

Names in various languages

Earliest "Amit?bha" inscription
Inscribed pedestal with the first known occurrence of the name of "Amitabha Buddha" in "the year 26 of Huvishka" (153 CE, first year of Huvishka)[12] In Brahmi script in the inscription:
Gupta allahabad bu.jpgGupta ashoka ddh.jpgGupta ashoka sya.svgGupta ashoka a.svgGupta ashoka mi.jpgGupta ashoka t.svgGupta allahabad bh.svgGupta ashoka sya.svg
"Bu-ddha-sya A-mi-t?-bha-sya"
"Of the Buddha Amitabha"[13]
Art of Mathura, Mathura Museum
Tang dynasty Amit?bha sculpture, Hidden Stream Temple Cave, Longmen Grottoes, China

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.[14] 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 "amita" which means "boundless" (, "wuliang"). "Fo" is the Chinese word for "Buddha".[15]

In Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese, the same Chinese characters used for Amit?bha are used to represent his name, though they are pronounced slightly differently:

  • Vietnamese: A Di ?à Ph?t
  • Korean: Amita Bul
  • Japanese: Amida Butsu.

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").

In Tibetan, Amit?bha is called Wylie: 'od dpag med, THL: Öpakmé and in its reflex form as Amit?yus, Wylie: tshe dpag med, THL: Tsépakmé. They are iconographically distinct.


This altar display at a temple in Taiwan shows Amit?bha flanked by Mah?sth?mapr?pta on his left and Guanyin on the right.

Amit?bha is said to display 84,000 auspicious and distinguishing marks reflecting his many virtues.[16] 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.[17]

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.

When not depicted alone, Amit?bha is often portrayed with two assistants: Avalokite?vara on the right and Mah?sth?mapr?pta on the left.

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.

Archeological origins

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 26th 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.[18][12][13]

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.[]

See also


  1. ^ "?".
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ "The Great Compassion Mantra - Namo Amitabha". Archived from the original on 2009-02-21.
  5. ^ "Bardo: Fourth Day". 2005-02-07. Retrieved .
  6. ^ "Symbolism of the five Dhyani Buddhas". Archived from the original on March 8, 2009.
  7. ^ "Pandara is said to be the Prajna of Amit?bha Buddha. Pandara is the same in essence with Buddha Amit?bha". Retrieved .
  8. ^ "Guan Yin - Bodhisattva/ Goddess of Compassion". 2011-06-04. Retrieved .
  9. ^ Georgios T. Halkias, Luminous Bliss: A Religious History of Pure Land Literature in Tibet Pure Land
  10. ^ Tibet is My Country: Autobiography of Thubten Jigme Norbu, Brother of the Dalai 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.
  11. ^ "Teachers: Shamar Rinpoche". Archived from the original on 2007-10-30. Retrieved .
  12. ^ a b Rhie, Marylin M. (2010). Early Buddhist Art of China and Central Asia, Volume 3: The Western Ch'in in Kansu in the Sixteen Kingdoms Period and Inter-relationships with the Buddhist Art of Gandh?ra. BRILL. p. xxxvii, Fig 6.17a. ISBN 978-90-04-18400-8.
  13. ^ a b Schopen, Gregory (1987). "The Inscription on the Kun Image of Amit?bha and the Charakter of the Early Mah?y?na in India" (PDF). The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. 10 (2): 99-138.
  14. ^ "Amitayus". Rigpa Wiki. Retrieved .
  15. ^ "Buddhist Charms". Retrieved 2014.
  16. ^ Olson, Carl (2005). The Different Paths of Buddhism: A Narrative-Historical Introduction. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. p. 185. ISBN 0813535611. Retrieved 2016.
  17. ^ Landaw, Jonathan. Images of Enlightenment: Tibetan Art in Practice. Snow Lion Publications. pp. 75, 80, 96. ISBN 978-1-55939-832-9.
  18. ^ "On the origins of Mahayana Buddhism" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-06-12. Retrieved .


External links

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