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Amitabha/Amituo Fo/Amida

Amitabha Buddha of Infinite Light 


Name and Origin  


The Amitabha Buddha was once a Boddhisattva by the name of Dharmakara. His name varies by region. 


In Chinese, "Amitabha Buddha" is pronounced "O-Mi-To-Fo" or "A-Mi-To-Fo" and it is spelled Amituo Fo. In    This is used in Chinese mantras and may also be used as a greeting, farewell, blessing, and thanks.


FIn Japanese, Amitabha is called Amida and pronounced "Ah-Me-Da."




Amitabha Buddha is often depicted holding a lotus.

The lotus is a very important and symbolical image in Buddhism.

It represents something growing up from the earth and returning to the earth in a cyclic fashion.

It represents potential in sentient beings.


He is also of shown surrounded in rays of light.

This helps to depict his fitting name,

Amitabha Buddha of Infinite Light.

Amitabha's Pure Land was created through

his 48 vows. These vows made it possible for anyone

to call upon him with heart felt desire through the Boddhicitta.

In doing so Amitabha would ensure them rebirth

in this Pure Land. This place should not be considered a heaven,

(remember that those in the realms of the gods are left with

too much slack, making it difficult to obtain Buddhahood.)

but rather a Pure Land with all of conditions and factors

made perfect, so that the evils of the human realm are not

evident and the path to enlightenment becomes clearer

through the infinite light of the Amitabha Buddha.






It has been said that the Buddha Amitabha's light

emanated from his heart out to the center of a lake

 and a Guru by he name of Rinpoche

 was miraculously born

 in the pollen of a lotus flower.



Dharmakara's 18th Vow 


"Blessed One, may I not awaken to unsurpassable, perfect,

 full awakening if, after I attain awakening,

 those living beings in other world spheres

 who conceive the aspiration to attain unsurpassable,

perfect full awakening, hear my name, and remember me with serene trust,

will not be met by me at the moment of death-

if I should not stand before them then,

surrounded and honored by a retinue of monks,

 so that they can meet death without anxiety." 




Amitabha was of royalty, just as the Shakyamuni Buddha in his youth. He was a king who renounced his throne to study the teachings of the Buddha. He became a monk or Boddhisattva under the name Dharmakara studying the teachings for eons. Because of eons spent watching the suffering that sentient beings were forced to overcome and through studying the different Buddha lands, Dharmakara vowed to delay or refuse Buddhahood until his 48 vows were accomplished. Through the accomplishment of the 48 vows, which created a sort of perfect Buddha-land or Pure Land for those to follow and take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha on the path to enlightenment, Dharmakara reached enlightenment and became the Buddha Amitabha.


The 48 vows all begin with the common theme: "If, when I attain Buddhahood..." or "Blessed One, may I not awake to unsurpassable, perfect, full awakening if, after I attain awakening..." This theme explains that the Boddhisattva Dharmakara will not reach enlightenment unless these vows that he has proclaimed become valid. It is difficult and confusing to decifer the meaning of his vows because they are written in a negative way. He uses a double negatives to explain his Pure Land throughout these vows. A summary of what Amitabha's Pure Land exist like is listed below.


1. There should not be a hell, ghost, or animal realm.


2. All humans and devas will not fall into any three of those evil, lower realms after death.


3. All humans and devas will be the color of pure gold.


4. All humans and devas should be of one appearance.


5. All sentient beings will be able to remember and learn from their past lives.


6. They will be able to obtain the divine eye and be able to see into the entire cosmos (just as the Shakyamuni Buddha).


7. They will be able to obtain the divine ear and hear the entire cosmos.


8. They will know all thoughts of others.


9. They will be able to travel to other Buddha-lands in an instant.


10. There will be not thought of self-attachment. (Anatman) 


11. They will be able to overcome the existing linguistic parameters and temptations/cravings that promote samsara.


12. Amitabha's light will be infinite.


13. Amitabha's life and pure land should be everlasting.


14. The number of sentient beings cannot be known.


15. Sentient beings will have a long life unless shortened by choice.


16. Sentients beings will be unaware of criminality and wrongdoing.


17. All other Buddhas in the cosmos will recognize Amitabha's name.


18 All sentient beings who spend their time developing boddhicitta and

trust in the Amitabha Buddha shall be born into his Pure Land. 


19. Amitabha will appear to sentient beings, that hone their boddhicitta at the time of their death.


20. All who aspire to live in the Pure Land will be reborn there.


21. Sentient beings in the Pure Land will posses the attributes of a perfect body.


22. Visiting Bodhisattvas of other lands, will attain enlightnement on their next rebirth.


23. Bodhisattvas will be able to make offering to other Buddhas through Amitabha's tracendent power.


24. Bodhisattvas will be able to make merit and worship other Buddhas.


25. Bodhisattvas will be able to accept the Dharma, "with all knowing wisdom".


26. Bodhisattvas will encompass the "Vajra-god-Narayana".


27. Sentient beings, even those blessed with the divine eye, shall not be able to distinguish or label the beauty and slendid detail of

this world with societal constraints. 


28. All Boddhisattvas will be able to see the Bodhi-tree despite lack of merit.


29. Sentient beings of the Pure Land will uphold the Dharma and practice wisdom.


30. Wisdom in this land will be infinite.


31. The Land will be splendid and the light from it will reach across Buddha-lands.


32. The countless manifestations within the land will surpass everything in excellence. This will cause all Boddhisattvas who recognize this to continue in practice.


33. All sentient beings who have been touched by the light will feel pure bliss in their hearts and minds. 


34. All sentient beings who call upon him will reach insight into the Boddhisattva path and the Dharma.


35. All women who call upon upon him and wish to gain insight into the Boddhisattva path and renounce womanhood will be able to do so after rebirth.


36. All Boddhisattvas who have called upon his name will continue on this path to enlightement until they have reached Buddhahood.


37. All those following the path to enlightenment will be respected by all others.


38. All sentient beings' needs will be fulfilled.


39. All sentient beings will enjoy their reality of hapiness.


40. Boddhisattvas will be able to view all of the cosmos, "reflected in the jewelled trees."


41. All sentient beings who have called upon his name will have healthy and unrestricting bodies.


42. All sentient beings will be able to make effortless or unconscious offerings to the Buddha.


43. All sentient beings of other lands who call upon his name will recieve rebirth into noble families.


44. All sentient beings of other lands who hear his name will rejoice and be thrilled to practice the way of the Boddhisattva.


45. All sentient beings of other lands who call upon his name will reach equality and the ability to see all of the Tathagatas.


46. All sentient beings will be able to listen to any teachings.


47. All sentient beings of other lands will be able to instantly progress after hearing of his name.


48. All sentient beings of other lands will be able to gain insight into the nature of the Dharma and abide by the truths recongized by all the Buddhas.













Mantras and Sutras


  YouTube plugin error


The practice of nianfo (China) or nenbutsu (Japan) is simply recalling Amitahba while chanting his name.

Doing this out of faith becomes the key to being escorted to the Pure Land by Amitabha when one dies. "Namo Amitabha Hrih" 

The clip above is a Chinese chant. It is said that one can reach the pure land by simply making merit through chanting.


The Amitabha Buddha teaches that all sentient beings are capable of escaping samsara and that under perfect conditions one can reach enlightenment. This idea finds its strength in the Pure Land sect of Mahayana Buddhism. This specific form of Buddhism teaches that their is nothing externally permanent. That everything is emptiness. It is not what your actions show but how your mind, heart, or Boddhicitta process and think. It is about intention. "Prajna is the faculty that gives birth to enlightenment." (Lecture 17).





Pure Land - Sukhavati  


       According to pure land thinkers the world is in it's final stage of degeneration. We are waiting in anticipation for the future Buddha, Maitreya, to come. There is no content and form left in the teaching of the sutras and there is much controversy, chaos and strife around what is the true law. With the world in this condition it is extremely difficult for individuals to attain enlightenment by themselves. This difficult path which is also known as self-help is quite near impossible. Knowing this Dharmakara the Bodhisattva, made a series of vows out of extreme compassion for all sentient beings. One of them, the 18th vow, became the foundation of sect known as Pure Land Buddhism. He promised the world that if people were to have faith in him, think upon him with favorable intent while saying his name, he would escort them to this Pure Land or "Land of Bliss" when they die. He became a savior like figure providing people with a much easier path to enlightenment. This paradise that he created became a land of ideal circumstance in which people could entirely devote their lives to attaining enlightenment, living free from worldly distractions and being taught only the most pure, true law. Dharmakara promised that all sentient beings would attain enlightenment before he would enter into Nirvana himself.  It is believed that the 18th vow was proven to be true because Dharmakara did in fact become the Buddha Amitabha. 




This is a 17th century Tibetan painting of Amitabha, or Amitayus seated on a throne within his paradise, the Pure Land. On either side of him stand two Bodhisattvas, dressed in lavish skirts and surrounding him are numerous small Buddhas. This image depicts Amitabha as the Buddha of Eternal Life, the one who will provide an easier path to enlightenment for all who have faith in him. Within his hands, he holds a golden vase which is believed to contain the elixir of life. This detailed painting portrays a piece of work that is both Tibetan and Chinese in style and imagery.


This is a 17th century Tibetan painting of Amitabha, or Amitayus seated on a throne within his paradise, the Pure Land. On either side of him stand two Bodhisattvas, dressed in lavish skirts and surrounding him are numerous small Buddhas. This image depicts Amitabha as the Buddha of Eternal Life, the one who will provide an easier path to enlightenment for all who have faith in him. Within his hands, he holds a golden vase which is believed to contain the elixir of life. This detailed painting portrays a piece of work that is both Tibetan and Chinese in style and imagery.






The Fulfillment of the Bodhisattva Vow


     The Bodhisattva's role is to teach and bring all sentient beings to enlightenment before he, himself enters. This differs greatly from the role of the arhat, who hears the truth, carries the truth and enters Nirvana without helping others. The Bodhisattva hears the truth, realizes the truth, does not enter Nirvana, but proceeds to teach and bring all other sentient beings to Nirvana before himself. The Bodhisattva has perfected and mastered the six perfections, infinite compassion and infinite wisdom being the two most important. He has a deep concern for every living being and is determined to help every living being attain enlightenment. He can see into the character of existence and he has come to understand the "emptiness" (sunyata) of all living beings. Amitabha has fulfilled the Bodhisattva vow by creating a place in which all sentient beings can go once they die. A place where only the true law is taught and an environment free of worldly distractions so that one can fully concentrate on attaining enlightenment.
















 www.pcddallas.org/Amitabha_Buddha_of_Infinite_Light.htm, "The Buddha of Infinite Light", Osel Nyingpo of Ojai, California December 11, 2005  


http://venchinkung.com/48-vows-of-amitabha/. "48 Vows of Amitabha."


http://www.amtbweb.org/tchet150.htm "The 48 Vows of Amitabha." Amitabha Pure Land. Website.


De, Bary William Theodore. Sources of East Asian Tradition. Vol. 1. New York: Columbia UP, 2008. Print.



Gayley, Holly. "The Boddhisattvas and Buddhas" Lecture at University of Colorado at Boulder on March 31, 2010.  


Museum of Fine Arts, Boston







Comments (12)

austin.rand@colorado.edu said

at 4:59 pm on Apr 11, 2010

There is some good information on this page about pure lands and Amitabha but it lacks effective organization. I really like the section on the pure land near the bottom as it gives a good description of not only what but why this is all so significant. After reading this page I am left wondering what the signficance of Amitabha's name is? There is no real explaination of its signficiance.

Noga Vardy said

at 5:11 pm on Apr 11, 2010

This page is very thorough with lots of good information significant to Amitabha. There is some spelling errors and I am a little lost in the organization of the page. I think it would be nice to have all the iconography and images of Amitabha together. Perhaps another description of an image could have been nice as well. I really like the legend and the explanation of The Pure Land. I would rate this page a 4/5.

Lisa said

at 10:53 pm on Apr 11, 2010

This page has a good information about Amida and some good pictures of it; however, you guys should have used the same font, color, and text size for the entire page. It looks disorganized and is distracting.

elias.dequiroz@colorado.edu said

at 11:26 pm on Apr 11, 2010

There is some good information on the page, however I feel like it could have been more in depth. I agree that there is a lack of organization from the different fonts and colors but it is not too distracting. I felt that their could have been greater discription to the different photos and the significance of this buddha. 4/5

Brittany Woods said

at 10:52 am on Apr 12, 2010

Concise and well-written, though ya'll might have expounded upon Dharmakara's 18th Vow. Variations in subtle colors draws the eye and maintains a forward momentum, which keeps the page interesting. Excellent use of the YouTube video. Overall, well-done.

Matt McQuown said

at 4:19 pm on Apr 12, 2010

You provide a simple but firm understanding of your chosen Bodhisattva. Your definition of pure land was helpful in that I didn't totally understand the concept.

Anne Buonanno said

at 6:04 pm on Apr 13, 2010

I thought you guys got straight to the point and fulfilled the requirements given, however the lay out of the page was a bit confusing. Each description is well written and expresses developed ideas, but i feel like more could have been added. 4/5

Andrew Hepler said

at 7:56 pm on Apr 15, 2010

I liked the mantras and sutras video, it's always good to hear some of the chants that people are using. It seems that your group used their knowledge of this Bodhisattva very well 4/5.

ryan.schnirel@colorado.edu said

at 10:00 am on Apr 16, 2010

I like the various ways you conveyed the information. The video offers a nice insight into some practical uses of the bodhisattva. The page seems a bit disperate and may be improved by just tightening up some of the fonts, colors, and maybe more images. I also want to know more about what the images mean. You offer some, but perhaps more may also improve this page. Overall Great Job!

Joshua.J.Smith@Colorado.EDU said

at 9:41 am on Apr 17, 2010

Well laid out. The video was a nice addition. More iconography would have been nice but a fine job overall. 4/5

nicole.broida@... said

at 12:39 pm on Apr 19, 2010

I think this is an incredibly interesting compilation of work. You cover many different realms of the Amitabha Buddha! I really enjoyed the video as well! Great Work! 5/5

hgayley@... said

at 11:34 pm on Apr 24, 2010

Great layout – with lots of color, images and salient information! You do a nice job describing the myths associated with Amitabha, particularly his vow in a previous lifetime as Dharmakara to create a pure land in which beings could be born to complete the path of enlightenment. Of course, you had it a bit of a head start, since we discussed Amitabha in lecture. As such, I would have liked to have seen a bit more detail beyond topics covered in class. I'm glad that you added an overview of the other 48 vows. As a group, what do they say about about "pure lands" in Buddhism? In addition, there are numerous rituals associated with this Buddha that might have been discussed. Specifically, death bed rituals are an important aspect of his veneration in Japan. Nevertheless, you covered quite a bit of ground with just three people! 4.5 - Prof HG

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