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Amitabha

by Micha F. Lindemans
"Boundless Light." One of the most important and popular buddhas of the Mahayana (one of the two great schools of Buddhism), unknown in early Buddhism. He is the ruler of the western paradise Sukhavati. He symbolizes mercy and wisdom.

According to tradition he was a king who came in contact with Buddhist teaching and renounced his throne and became a monk with the name Dharmakara. He resolved to become a buddha and took forty-eight vows obliging him to sustain beings on the path to enlightenment. Through his meditative practice he fulfilled his vow and became Buddha Amitabha, ruler of Sukhavati.

In iconography he is adorned with a crown of precious jewels, sometimes with shaven head as the monk Dharmakara. He is most often seated in the middle of a lotus blossom, the symbol of purity. He also frequently appears with the bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara (on his left) and Mahasthamaprapta (on his right). Another iconographic style shows him together with Bhaishajya-guru-buddha, the "Medicine Buddha."

In Buddhism, paradise is not a location, but rather a state of consciousness. Amitabha is at the center of the worship of the Pure Land school of Chinese and Japanese Buddhism.


Article details:

  • Etymology:
    Boundless Light

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