Amitabha - Buddha of Limitless Light

We have to speak about Buddha Amitabha or Buddha of Limitless Light, when we talk about Buddhist concepts on death.

In the last article we were reviewing omens and signs that are preceding the death and now we can tell what is expected to happen next. In Tibetan Buddhism and some other Mahayana traditions, especially the Pure Land Buddhism, widely spread in China, Japan and a few other Asian countries, it is believed that after a death all Bodhisattvas, Realized ones and who have practiced Buddhism and been familiar with the inner light of Buddha consciousness are going to the Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha. His name means "Limitless Light" - amita (unmeasured, boundless, infinite) + ābha (splendour, light; colour, appearance, beauty). In Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism Amitabha is considered one of the five Dhyani Buddhas (together with Akshobhya, Amoghasiddhi, Ratnasambhava and Vairocana) or 5 wisdoms of the Buddha. In the sutras it has been said the Pure Land of Amitabha, known also with a name Dewachen (in Tibetan) or Sukhavati (in Sanskrit) is a land or energy-field somewhere very far away in western direction, in some other planetary system. All enlightened beings reborn there when they leave the human body. There are several Sutras narrating about Amitabha and his Pure Land and its inhabitants, from which the most important are considered 3:

  1. Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra
  2. Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra
  3. Amitāyurdhyāna Sūtra

In the Infinite Life Sutra or Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra (Sanskrit: सुखावतीव्यूहः sukhāvatīvyūhaḥ) Buddha has described to his devotee Ānanda the past lives of Buddha Amitabha. In his past life Buddha Amitabha has been once a king who renounced his kingdom and became a Bodhisattva Dharmākara ("Dharma Storehouse").

He was meditating for five eons as a bodhisattva under the guidance of the Buddha Lokešvarāja (“World Sovereign King”) who was the Buddha of that age. Innumerable Buddha-lands in ten directions were revealed to him. After this Buddha Amitabha made many noble vows to save all sentient beings from all sufferings. And through his great merits he created a realm named Sukhāvatī (“Ultimate Bliss”) also known as a Pure Land of Amitabha.

amitabha-chenrezigThe Sutra contains the 48 great vows of Amitabha and elaborately narrates about the Pure Land, its inhabitants and how they were able to attain rebirth there.

Amitabha in his other form is also known as Buddha Amitayus, as a Buddha-aspect we meditate upon for a long life.

Buddha Amitabha can bring us all enlightened qualities, but it is especially important to be concentrated upon him at the moment of death. And to prepare ourselves for a death we use to meditate upon Amitabha and repeat his mantra. In Tibetan Buddhism we usually visualize Amitabha in a dark red ruby colour above our head, above crown chakra. He is radiating everywhere around him a bright ruby-colour energy field. On his right hand is sitting Bodhisattva Chenrezig, on his left – Bodhisattva Vajrapani. They are the closest disciples of Amitabha. When we meditate this way, we can repeat the mantra of Buddha Amitabha:

Om Amideva Hrih

It is recommended to repeat this mantra at least 111’111 times. Often it is also a preparation requirement for another, even more powerful, Amitabha practice – Phowa - a conscious dying practice when we send our consciousness into the heart of red Buddha, experiencing what exactly does happen at the moment of death. But phowa practice is strongly forbidden to try on one’s own; it should be learned under direct guidance of a qualified Lama. Nowadays courses of Phowa are held periodically also in the west.

amitabha-pure-landOther than that people are often asking how they can help their dying loved ones. Even if during a life someone hasn’t reached the enlightenment, there is still a good chance they can accomplish it in an after-death state, if they can keep visualizing the ruby-red radiating Buddha above their head. It is recommended to tell them about it. Or if they are already unable to understand anything or keep concentration, we should meditate and visualize Buddha Amitabha above their head and how their consciousness go up the energy channel to the crown chakra and shoots into the heart of Amitabha. In Tibet it is also a common tradition to read aloud to the dying person after the death the Tibetan Book of the dead, where are described all states of consciousness he should go through and be not afraid. Even if the body of a person seems dead, he is still there near his body for the next approximately 40 days and can see and hear what is told.

P.S. You can get a better understanding about Amitabha reading the Buddha Amitabha Sutra