Amida Buddha

Five meditation Buddhas, detail of the Diamond Mandala
(9th century, Kyōgoku-ji, Tōji Temple, Kyoto)

Amida Buddha (Jp. Nyorai) is one of the five meditation or wisdom Buddhas. These Buddhas are symbols and used when meditating — when trying to be present — they are not Buddhas that actually lived on earth. Each of these Buddhas has a pure land, one in each of the four directions and one in the middle.

Four to five hundred years after the death of Buddha, a new esoteric impulse occurred in India and many new Buddhist sutras appeared. This new impulse was later called Mahayana (Great Vehicle) Buddhism, in contrast to the Buddhism that had developed right after Budda's death which was then called Hinayana (Little Vehicle). The inner meaning of the Little and Great Vehicle refers to tools or techniques to reach the other shore. The other shore symbolizes the state of Divine Presence while this shore refers to the state of psychological sleep.


The acts of reciting the Buddha’s name and reading sutras are rafts taking one to the shore of awakening. After riding in a raft across the river to the shore, one should discard the raft and hurry on.
-- Bassui (14th c. Japanese Zen master)
Why are you only talking about the doctrine of the Little Vehicle, monk? Can you preach about the Great Vehicle? That doctrine of the Little Vehicle of yours will never bring the dead to rebirth; it's only good enough for a coarse sort of enlightenment. Now I have the Three Stores of the Buddha's Law of the Great Vehicle that will raise the dead up to Heaven, deliver sufferers from their torments, and free souls from the eternal coming and going. -- Journey to the West (one of the four great Chinese classical novels)

Amida Buddha (11th century, Byodo In Temple, Kyoto)

Some of the new sutras described the Pure Land of Amida Buddha, and Buddhist sects developed that worshipped Amida Buddha. By reaching this Pure Land one could free oneself of the endless rebirths in one of the six states of being. According to Buddhist and Hindu thought, after one dies, one is reborn in one of six states, called the Six States of Existence or the Six Roads of Reincarnation. This idea is also know by the Sanskrit word Samsara. These six states are: Hell Beings, Hungry Ghosts, Animals, Humans, Ashuras or half Gods and Gods.

Samsara is no more than one's own thoughts.
-- Upanishads (Hindu text)

The inner meaning of this idea is that these six realms represent six kinds of thoughts or emotions in a human being.

After much observation, I have learned to recognize the difference between angelic thoughts, human thoughts, and thoughts that come from the demons.
-- Philokalia, Evagrios the Solitary
You are demon and wild beast and angel and Man. Whichever you cultivate, that you will be. -- Kashani (Persian poet)

The Tibetan Wheel of Life (Asian Art Museum, San Francisco)

This Tibetan Tanka shows the six states of being with a Buddha figure in the center of the image of each of the six states. A hell being symbolizes a negative emotion, a hungry ghosts could be a strong desire, an animal is an impulse we have in common with beasts such as the urge for food and reproduction, a human symbolizes a noble thought, an ashura is a thought related to spiritual work on oneself but not related to being present, and a god refers to a thought that encourages us to be present.

If I accept the fact that a god is absolute and beyond all human experiences, he leaves me cold. I do not affect him, nor does he affect me. But if I know that a god is a powerful impulse in my soul, at once I must concern myself with him, for then he can become important… like everything belonging to the sphere of reality. -- Carl Gustav Jung (20th c. psychotherapist and psychiatrist )

Amida`s Buddha`s Pure Land is a symbol for the state of presence, in which one is purified of these six kind of thoughts and emotions going round in one`s mind.

The emergence of the pure mind is the pure land. -- Huineng (7th c. 6th Partriarch of Zen buddhism)
I am pure, pure, pure, pure. -- Egyptian Pyramid Texts

It doesn`t necessarily mean that one has no thoughts and emotions anymore, but that one`s experience of 'I', is no longer in them. In the state of Presence one observes them without being attached to them, and the part that observes, Real 'I', or the God within, is pure.

While practicing contemplation of the empty, one also knows that one cannot destroy the ten thousand things, and still one does not notice them. -- Secret of the Golden Flower (Taoist text)
Freedom from thought means having no thought in the midst of thought. -- Huineng

One`s Higher Self has awakened and is born in this Pure land, the state of presence, and sees the many thoughts and emotions as something separate from itself.

On all occasions, whether we are standing, walking, sitting, or reclining, let us be absolutely straightforward. Then, remaining in our sanctuary, and without the least movement, we shall virtually be in the Kingdom of Pure Land. -- Huineng

It is said that one attains rebirth in this Pure Land by mindfully chanting of the name of Amida Buddha, Namu Amida Butsu with firm faith.

The monk Kuya repeating Amida buddha`s name six times,
(by Kosho, 13th Century, Rokuharamitsuji temple, Kyoto)

Shariputra, if there is a good man or good woman
who hears of Amida and holds his name
whether for one day, two days, three, four,
five days, six days, as long as seven days
with one mind unconfused, when this person nears
the end of life, before him will appear Amida and all
the Assembly of Holy Ones. When the end comes,
his mind will not be utterly confused,
and in Amida's Land of Utmost Happiness
he will quickly be reborn.
Amida Sutra (Mahayana buddhist sutra)

One day symbolizes one breath — the night is the inhalation and the day represents the exhalation — in which one repeats the name of God.

You will find the day spoken of as breathing. -- Bernard of Clairvaux (12th c. French abbot)

The seventh day or breath symbolizes rebirth in Amida Buddha`s Pure Land, the state of presence.

The number seven is reserved for God’s rest. -- Aelred of Rievaulx (12th c. English writer and abbot)

When the end comes (Amida Sutra), refers to the end of the life of the spiritual body of effort, six words contained in the prayer, not to the end of the physical body. One can find the idea of a prayer of repeating Gods name in all Esoteric Traditions. The inner meaning is to use reminders to be present, timed with one`s breath, to reach the Divine state of presence, in which the God within is awakened.

The name 'Allah' means divine presence. -- Ibn Arabi (13th c. Andalusian Sufi mystic and philosopher )
If you ask what the Word of the Presence is, we will reply, the word “Be”. -- Ibn Arabi
I am Om, the Word that is God. -- Bhagavad Gita 7:8 (Hindu text)
Let your heart sing of God with every breath you draw. Your good acts will save you from the cycle of birth and death. -- Guru Nanak (first Sikh guru, 16th c.)
I have slipped away out of the trap, by saying the name of God. -- Ravidas (15th c. Indian mystic)
When the mind unceasingly repeats the name of the Lord, and the intellect gives its full attention to the invocation, light fills the entire soul like a luminous cloud. -- The Philokalia, Theoleptus

The inner meaning of repeating Amida`s name with firm faith is that one must have a sincere desire to be present, for if one simply repeats the name of God — a reminder to be present — without this desire, one will not experience the state of Divine Presence.

If only done with your tongue and not your heart, the repetition of God’s name is in vain.
-- Sultan Bahu (17th c. Sufi)

Six Kannon Bodhisattvas (by Jokei II, 1224AD, Daihō-onji Temple, Kyoto)

Groupings of Six Kannon Bodhisattva statues or Six Jizo Bodhisattva statues are quite common in Japan and they are said to protect people in all six realms of rebirth. Each statue represents one breath of remembrance, similar to the Six Buddhas coming from Kuya`s mouth and the Six Buddhas in the image of the Tibetan Wheel of Life. They all symbolize six syllables to reach the pure land of Divine Presence.

All changes of spiritual consciousness depend upon the heart. There is a secret charm , which although it works very accurately, is yet so fluid that it needs extreme intelligence and clarity, and the most complete absorption and tranquility. People without this highest degree of intelligence and understanding do not find the way to apply the charm; people without this utmost capacity for absorption and tranquility cannot keep fast hold of it. -- The Secret of the Golden Flower (Taoist text)

Six Jizo bodhisattvas (Guimet Museum, Paris)






















The Ten Worlds coming from the heart
(The Japanese character in the middle means "heart") Edo period, Daikakuji temple, Kyoto

In addition to the six states of being, there are four additional realms for enlightened beings. These are combined with the six realms to form the ten worlds:
1. Hell beings
2. Hungry ghosts
3. Animals
4. Humans
5. Ashura
6. Heavenly beings
7. Sravaka arhats
8. Pratyeka buddhas
9. Bodhisattvas
10.Buddhas
Here we see the same symbolism as with the Ten Incarnations of Vishnu, From number one to six, there is a gradual rise in level of being, symbolizing presence getting gradually stronger as one intones a six syllable mantra. The last four are enlightened beings, like the four last incarnations of Vishu, symbolizing prolonged presence for four breaths.


The whole universe in all ten quarters (jippō 十方) is what our radiantly luminous True Self is.
-- Dogen (13th c. Japanese Zen master)

The Japanese word jippō (十方)is translated in various ways, such as the ten directions, the ten quarters, the ten domains, and the ten worlds, all of which refer to the whole universe not in a literal, worldly sense but in a spiritual one.

Six large Jizo Bodhisattvas with 4 small Jizo Bodhisattvas, Meaka-Fudoson Nankokuji Temple, Tokyo

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