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Description Of Form
Amitâbha (Amida) is seated in lotus position on a jewel lotus. He wears a red robe with both shoulders covered. He is sitting with both of his hands held in his lap. The tips of his thumbs are touching, and the ends of his first fingers are turned up, forming two circles. His right hand is resting on his left hand, and this mudrâ is called the Samâdhi mudrâ.
Purpose and Vow
Amida Nyorai is widely known for the practice of chanting "Namu Amida Butsu," the six syllables of his sacred name, in the Pure Land tradition of Buddhism. In the Pure Land (Jôdoshû) and True Pure Land (Jôdoshinshû) Schools, Amida Nyorai is the main deity, and spiritual peace of mind lies in being able to attain salvation by relying on his power. By this doctrine, it is explained in the widely read Amida Sutra that "the Buddha's radiance is infinite and illumines all of the countries in the ten directions totally without obstruction. That is why he is called the Buddha of Infinite Light. The life span of the Buddha is infinite, without limit, and never ends; and therefore he is called the Buddha of Infinite Life." The name Amida is from the Sanskrit word meaning infinite life, and because Amida's compassion is infinite and without boundaries, he is also called the Buddha of Infinite Life.
Amida Nyorai presides over the Pure Land of the Western Paradise, holds to many vows specified in the Forty-eight Vows of Amida, and is particularly known for "Amida's coming and greeting" by which he will come with a host of attending bodhisattvas to greet a person who is about to die and lead that person to the Pure Land. This is also referred to as the power of the Original Vow made for the sake of saving people. Amida's name is recited as words of thanksgiving for the power of the Original Vow.
In his "Tannishô" Shinran Shônin, the founder of the True Pure Land School, said, "The good person will be reborn; how much more so the evil person." This explains the power of the Original Vow that can make even evil persons be reborn in the Pure Land through the power of the Original Vow of Amida Nyorai. This idea is called "akunin shoki," which means "evil people have the right qualifications" for rebirth. This speaks of how even evil can bring about the blessing of the right circumstances for encountering Buddhism, and how extensive are the relationships that one can have with the Buddha and thus be enabled to be reborn in the Pure Land through the Buddha?s power. This expresses the vow of Amida Nyorai never to abandon even those who have committed serious transgressions. The special characteristic of Amida Nyorai is that "Amida will come and greet you." This is the idea that when a person dies, Amida will come with twenty-five attendant bodhisattvas to greet and lead that person to the Pure Land.
On amirita teizei kara un (Jpn.)
Om amrta-teje hara hûm (Skt.)
Om save us in the glory of the Deathless One hûm!
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©1998 Shingon Buddhist International Institute
Deity line-art © Dashin Art, Inc. Used with Permission