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Amitayus: "The Buddha of Longevity"

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on April 9, 2010 at 10:54:13 am

By: Nicole Broida, Cameron Barras, Will Rickards, & Jack Bradley


Amitayus Buddha Iconography



Amitayus Buddha (Buddha of limitless life) is depicted in this iconic image in red with a gaze that dispels his compassion of all beings.  Above his two hands, which are, being held in a meditative posture is the long life vase, which contains the nectar of immortality.  Amitayus is shown to be clad with jewels, along with hair that is painted blue at the ends.  His elongated earlobes are similar to that of the Shakyamuni Buddha, which signifies his superhuman qualities.



Another iconic image of Amitayus.  It is important to note that, just like in the first image, he is seated on an 8 petalled lotus seat.  These pedals signify the 8 forms of Amitayus:  Vajra Amitayus, Ratna Amityaus, Padma Amitayus, Karma Amitayus, Avaloka Amitayus, Guna Amitayus, Jnana Amitayus and Achala Amitayus.  His body is always depicted to be shining like a jewel because of his role as the Buddha who seeks to remove ignorance and allow people to reach true human potential.  The achievement of pure happiness is the principle role of Amitayus Buddha.  Additionally, Amitayus Buddha’s iconography usually contains peacock feathers, which surround his body and support his throne in this image.  



This sculpture is a simpler, iconographic image of Amitayus Buddha.  It is easier to see the vase that contains the nectar of immortality, which he is holding during a moment of meditation in this image.  Amitayus is with his eyes closed in this image, which differs from the first two.  He is shown in meditation as opposed to with a glare that defines most of the Buddha’s iconography. 


Myths and Rituals about Amitayus:




The main form of the Buddha Amitayus is the emanation of the fire element. This element is symbolized by the Buddha Amithaba and together create the lotus family. The fire-element is associated with the color red and is also associated with the western region of the universe. "The lotus stands for pure intentions of all activities, while the nectar-vase, filled with the subtle life energy (nectar) demonstrates the immense power of this element." Amityaus is not only the most popular Buddha in Tibet but also in Japan and China. The concept of extending energy as well as the possibility of having a rebirth on the lotus flower has aided to the immeasurable popularity of Amitayus. Amithaba/Amitayus have over a hundred of traditions and sects that see this Buddha as the focal point. In mainly Japanese traditions, many special ceremonies take place at sunrise and sunset because they associate Amithaba with the sun.


Found from: http://www.iol.ie/~taeger/panchen/amistang.html



It is difficult to understand the exact relationship between Amitayus and Amitabha. According to Robert E. Fisher in Art of Tibet, "Amitayus, the Buddha of Eternal Life, is often interchangeable with Amitabha, especially in East Asia but also in Tibet. Amitayus gradually acquired a separate identity in Tibetan worship as the Buddha for the attainment of long life." (Fisher, p. 37). There are specific initiations that were given to followers of Amitayus. During the ritual, "long-life" pills are created from roasted barley flour, rock sugar or honey, and milk and yogurt. These pills are assumed to be empowered by the deity and anyone who attends would be distributed one. (Lipton and Ragnubs, pp.127-132) Many Buddhists have found the popular  tradition of commissioning images of Amitayus not only for themselves but for others. Their intention is that the result of creating these pictures will gain merit and would ensure a long life for themselves and others. These images have also been used as the focal point for many meditation practices.





An Entertaining Story of Amitayus by Thitch Nhat Hahn:




 From "Being Peace" by Thitch Nhat Hahn


"A woman who practices reciting Buddha Amitabha's name, is very tough and recites "NAMO AMITABHA BUDDHA" three times daily. Although she is doing this practice for over 10 years, she is still quite mean, shouting at people all the time. She starts her practice lighting incense and hitting a little bell. A friend wanted to teach her a lesson, and just as she began her recitation, he came to her door and called out: "miss Nuyen, miss Nuyen!".

As this was the time for her practice she got annoyed, but she said to herself: "I have to struggle against my anger, so I will just ignore it." And she continued: "NAMO AMITABHA BUDDHA, NAMO AMITABHA BUDDHA..." But the man continued to shout her name, and she became more and more oppressive. She struggled against it and wondered if she should stop the recitation to give the man a piece of her mind, but she continued reciting: "NAMO AMITABHA BUDDHA, NAMO AMITABHA BUDDHA..."

The man outside heard it and continued: "Miss Nuyen, miss Nuyen..."

Then she could not stand it anymore, jumped up, slammed the door and went to the gate and shouted: "Why do you have to behave like that? I am doing my practice and you keep on shouting my name over and over!"

The gentleman smiled at her and said: "I just called your name for ten minutes and you are so angry. You have been calling Amitabha Buddha's name for more then ten years now; just imagine how angry he must be by now!"




The Legend of Buddha Amitabha:








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