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          Title:   1b. Amitabha in the Misty Mountain    download_trans.gif Download
 
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Amitābha (Sanskrit : Amitābha; Chinese : Āmtu F; Japanese : Amida Butsu; Korean : Amit'a Bul; Vietnamese : A-di-đà Phật;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.

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.

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, and from China to Vietnam, Korea and Japan.

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.

Through his efforts, Amitabha created the "Pure Land" (Chinese: jìngtŭ; Japanese: jōdo) 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.
 
It can be difficult to distinguish Amitābha from Śākyamuni, as both are portrayed as possessing all the attributes of a buddha but no distinguishing marks. Amitabha can, however, often be distinguished by his mudrā: Amitābha is often depicted, when shown seated, displaying the meditation mudrā (thumbs touching and fingers together (as in the Kamakura statue of Amitābh)) or the exposition mudrā, while the earth-touching mudrā (right hand pointed downward over the right leg, palm inward) is reserved for a seated Śākyamuni alone. He can also be seen holding a lotus in his hands while displaying the meditation mudrā.

When standing, Amitābha is often shown with his left arm bare and extended downward with thumb and forefinger touching, with his 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 Amitabha's compassion is directed at the lowest beings, who cannot save themselves.
 
When not depicted alone, Amitābha is often portrayed with two assistants: Avalokiteśvara (Guānyīn) who appears on his right and Mahāsthāmaprāpta (Dà Shì Zhì) who appears on his left.

In Tibetan Buddhism, Amitābha is red in color (red being the color of love, compassion, and emotional energy). His direction is west and so he is envisioned as the (red) setting sun. He is seen as the supreme power and energy of nature, cast on an earthly plain, accessible to all sentient beings. For this reason he is considered one of the most popular of all Dhyāni Buddhas.

His unique emblem is the lotus. He is thus associated with the attributes of the lotus: gentleness, openness, and purity.
 
Remember, when the clouds are full of water they have to shower. And when the flowers are filled with fragrance they have to give off their fragrance freely to the winds. And when a lamp is lit, the light is bound to radiate from it.
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