The name Amitabha is in Sanskrit and translate to boundless Light or limitless light. It is meant to convey the message that the light of enlightenment is limitless and all pervading, driving away all darkness of ignorance. Offering hope even in the deepest moment of darkness in one’s life (aka Death). Another meaning associated with this Buddha is deathlessness or commonly understood as infinite life in the Mahayana System.
Amitabha Buddha is being mentioned in Mahayana scriptures and is considered a celestial Buddha. Contrary to Shakyamuni Buddha (historical Buddha), a celestial Buddha is only mentioned in the Sutra and His existence is affirmed only by faith of His faithful followers and testimonies of His efficaciousness.
Amitabha Buddha is widely worshipped in Mahayana Buddhism and his popularity is closely tied to everyone’s concern about death and the afterlife. According to scriptures, those who have faith in Him and practice recitation of His holy name will be reborn in His paradise, located in the West.
The method of practice is simple and therefore very popular. One just need to chant the name of this Buddha by saying “Namo Amitabha Buddha” The practice requires focus on this chant until all other delusional thoughts can no longer delude the mind. No other scripture chanting is necessary.
Due to the simplicity of this method, it gained wide popularity amongst the uneducated echelon of ancient society in China and Japan. Farmers etc can just recite this chant faithfully while engaged in their daily chores. Their mind cooled by the assurance that a Paradise awaits them at the end of their life’s journey.
His popularity is still alive today, as evidenced by the giant statue that were constructed in his honour. Busy people in modern office life adopts a method known as 10 breath chanting to engage in this practice.
One of the most famous statues of Amitabha Buddha is located in Kamakura, Japan. Identifiable by the mudra (hand posture) This mudra signifies rebirth of the highest grade. According to Pure Land scriptures, the Western Paradise has 9 levels of attainments. This mudra signifies the highest level of birth in Amitabha Paradise. Attainable by high level practitioners.
Another popular giant statue of Amitabha Buddha is located in Ushiku, Japan. Towering at 120m or 38- story in height. This Buddha display the mudra that signifies attaining the 7th grade rebirth in the Western Paradise.
In China, Amitabha Buddha is popularly depicted holding a lotus flower in his hand. This is because the scripture states that being who reincarnates there appears out of a lotus blossom. The lotus flower would open to reveal the being who has gained successful rebirth. (There is a sacred pond filled with lotuses in the Western Paradise)
Amitabha Buddha (holding a lotus) is also popularly worshipped in Chinese Buddhist Temple along with Shakyamuni Buddha (holding a sphere or alms bowl) and Medicine Buddha (holding a pagoda) This trinity is known as Buddha of 3 worlds.
In the Vajrayana System, Amitabha Buddha is depicted as red in colour and one is supposed to visualise that He is all made of light. (A bit like a hologram but with more “solid” light.)
Will be going into the scripture of Amitabha Buddha in future post.
It is end of the year 2018 today. Hope you had a meaningful year and wishing you a Happy New Year 2019. May all be well and Happy!