Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Amitabha Buddha Main Page (阿弥陀佛 / འོད་དཔག་མེད།)

Amitabha Masterworks

- Art History

- Iconography

- Religious Context

- Amitabha Buddha, Part 1
- Amitabha Buddha, Part 2
- Amitabha-Amitayus Conflation (From HAR on Patreon)

There are many different Buddhas represented in art. Following after the images of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni the next most common Buddha form to appear in art is likely to be Amitabha (immeasurable light). His popularity is based in the Mahayana Sutra literature of which there are many texts devoted to him. In art depictions Amitabha has two appearances. He can have the appearance of a standard buddha form (nirmanakaya), although red in colour, wearing the traditional patchwork robes of a monk. In his other appearance (sambhogakaya) he wears the clothing and jeweled adornments of a peaceful heavenly god according to the classical Indian system of divine aesthetics. The source literature for Amitabha Buddha are texts such as the Display of the Pure Land of Sukhāvatī (Sukhāvatī­vyūha), the Incantation of Amitābha (amitābhadhāraṇīmantra), Calling Amitābha to Mind and the Dhāraṇī Praising the Qualities of the Immeasurable One.

In the Himalayan and Tibetan traditions there is a great deal of conflation between the two buddhas - Amitabha and Amitayus. In the early sutra literature Amitabha and Amitayus Buddha are not the same entity, or person. (For a detailed explanation of the differences between Amitabha and Amitayus see the introduction to the Aparimitāyurjñāna Sūtra: Aparimitāyus, Amitāyus, and Amitābha).

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Jeff Watt 10-2008 [9-2011, 1-2020, 6-2021]