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Amitabha and Amitayus are the same person, or entity. In the Mahayana Tradition of Buddhism a buddha is described as having three bodies: a form body (nirmanakaya), an apparitional body (sambhogakaya) and an ultimate truth body (dharmakaya). The first, Amitabha is the form body and the second, Amitayus, is the apparitional body. The ultimate truth body is without appearance and does not appear in painting or sculptural art.
The important iconographic difference between the two, Amitabha and Amitayus, is that Amitabha has Buddha Appearance and Amitayus has Bodhisattva Appearance. Amitabha holds a black begging bowl in the lap with both hands. Amitayus holds a long-life vase in the lap with both hands.
Amitayus although referred to in the Mahayana literature is also a very popular meditational deity in Vajrayana Buddhism. He belongs to the important and popular set known as the Three Long-life Deities: Amitayus, White Tara and Ushnishavijaya. There are also mandala practices such as the Nine Deity Mandala of Amitayus along with forms of the deity where he is embracing a consort. Rechungpa, the famous student of Milarepa, recieved a special practice tradition of Buddha Amitayus from Tipu Pandita while on a trip to India. Upon his return he passed the tradition on to Milarepa. This is known as the Rechung Tradition. As a meditational practice in the lower Tantras Amitayus primarily serves as a Long-life deity.
Forms & Types:
- Amitayus (solitary)
- Amitayus (with consort)
- Amitayus Nine Deity
- Three Long-life Deity Composition
- Amitayus Textile
Jeff Watt 10-2008 [9-2011]