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Amitabh Buddha

By Gaurav Manandhar at
amitabha buddha statue

According to the scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism, Amitabh Buddha is also called Amida or Amitayus. The word Amitabha is formed by two words amita- without bound, infinite and abha- light, splendor. Therefore, the name is interpreted as "he who possesses light without bound".

The alternative name used for Amitabh, Amitayus is associated with longevity. The word Amitayus is formed by compounding amit- infinite and ayus- life. It is interpreted as "he whose life is boundless".

The chinese name for Amitabh is "Wuliangguang" and for Amitayus is "Wuliangshou". However, these names are not used to call Amitabh Buddha. In Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese the same chinese characters are used but pronunciation is slightly different. In Tibetan, Amitabh is called Od dpag med; Opakme and for Amitayus, its tshe dpag med and Tsepakme.

In Pure Land Buddhism, Amitabh is regarded as the principal Buddha who possesses infinite merits which was the results of good deeds through countless past lives as bodhisattva named Dharmakara.

In some version of sutra, it is written that Dharma Kara was a king. He was introduced to Buddhism by Lokesvararaja Buddha. Later renounced his throne and resolved to become a Buddha. Dharma Kara came into possession of a Pure Land which possess many perfections. He describes this Pure Land in his forty-eight vows. In that, he describes the conditions that the being have to follow in order to get born in that Pure Land and also mentions about the beings if they would be reborn there.

In eighteenth vow of versions of sutra widely known in China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan, it has mentioned that any being calling upon Amitabh's name even as few as ten times will be guaranteed to have a birth there. His nineteenth vow promises that he along with other bodhisattvas will appear before those who call upon him at the moment of death. The sutra also explains how Amitabh achieved Buddhahood and still residing in his land of Sukhavati Pure Land.

Amitabha represents comprehensive love who works for the enlightenment of all beings. His important enlightenment technique is the visualization of the surrounding world as a paradise. The person who sees his surrounding as a paradise awakens his enlightenment energy. It can be done through sending light to all beings and by corresponding positive thought. It is believed that at the time of death, if the person visualize Amitabh in the heaven over their head and recite his name as a mantra and leave the body a soul through the crown chakra then he can come to Sukahvati Pure Land. It is also believed that when we focus on Amitabh Buddha while mediating, we will have the power to overcome desire or selfishness.

In Sanskrit form, the mantra of Amitabha is Om amitabha hrih; in Tibetan version this mantra is cited as om ami dewa hri. In Shingon Buddhism, people cite his mantra as On amirita teizei kara un.

Amitabh is associated with western direction and Buddha statue of Amitabh in Chaitya, faces towards western direction. He is reddish in complexion and His consort is Pandara. His Bija states with Hrih. His vehicle is the peacock and sign- lotus. In Buddha Statue and images, Amitabh can often be distinguished by his mudra. Amitabh is often depicted displaying the meditation mudra (gently folded over the lap with palms facing upward) or exposition mudra when shown seated. When standing, Amitabh is shown with the right hand raised with thumb and forefinger touching, and with left arm extended downward with thumb and forefinger touching. This mudra means that wisdom (raised hand) is accessible to even the lowest beings and Compassion (outstretched hand) is directed at the lowest beings. Amitabh is also portrayed with two disciples- Avalokitesvara on the right and Mahasthamaprapta on the left.

The first known epigraphic evidence was found in Govindnagar, Pakistan which is now relocated at Government Museum, Mathura. The Antique Buddha Statue is dated to "the 28th year of the reign of Huviska" (around late second century during Kushan Empire). Furthermore we can find Buddha statues of Amitabh in dhyani mudras, abhaya mudra from Gandhara era of first century.

The first known sutra, Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra, mentioning Amitabh was translated into Chinese by Kushan monk Lokaksema around 180. It was believed that with this work pure land practice was spread in China. These works suggest that the doctrine of Amitabh probably developed during the first and second centuries.