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Amitāyus

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Amitayus (Tibཚེ་དཔག་མེད་, Tsepakmé; Wyl. tshe dpag med), 'The Buddha of Boundless Life' — a sambhogakaya aspect of Amitabha, particularly associated with longevity. He is mostly depicted sitting and holding in his hands a vessel containing the nectar of immortality. Amitayus is also one of the three deities of long Life.

Amitayus
阿弥陀仏無量寿仏 (Skt; Jpn Amida-butsu or Muryoju-butsu) Amitàyus (Changshou Fo): The Buddha of Infinite Life or the Long-Life Buddha is a manifestation of Amitabha Buddha. When Amitabha became the leader of Esoteric Buddhism, it was very hard for living beings to become enlightened. They would practice, but die at an early age. Amitabha then manifested himself as light and went in the ten directions to invite all the Buddha lights to merge with his own body. Suddenly, after he combined with all the Buddhas, his body became a coral color and he was transformed into the Long-life Buddha, Amitàyus.

    The Buddha Infinite Life or the Buddha of Infinite Life. The Sanskrit name of Amida Buddha, the Buddha of the Pure Land of Perfect Bliss in the west.

See Amida.
The worship of the Cosmic Buddha Amitabha (Infinite Light) and his variant Amitayus (Infinite Life) had already developed by the 3rd century C. E., especially in the regions of north-western India. Each of the Cosmic Buddhas has his own specific cardinal placement. Amitayus presides over the western (1) direction and his colour is red, like the setting sun. His name, linked with Light, may have derived from contact with the Zoroastrian religion, whose chief deity is Ahura Mazda, God of Light, the worship of whom was widespread in the Iranian world along the north- western border of India (2).

Amitayus is pictured in a paradise called The Land of Bliss and described in the related Sutra (3), which had already been translated from Sanskrit into Chinese during the mid-3rd century (4). The aim of that short text, which describes a kingdom of wellbeing and prosperity where there is no Suffering, was to indicate the road for reaching such condition through the practice of the conscious recollection of The Buddha. That meditative procedure was in fashion in the so-called school of the Pure land. The main feature of this procedure consists in attempting to make contact with The Buddha Amitabha, developing a devotional behaviour. Indeed, it is held that Amitayus is able to bestow a long Life on believers, a characteristic symbolized by the vase he holds, containing the nectar of the ambrosia which bestows immortality. The leaves hanging from the edge of the vase represent the four Buddhas of the pentad, while Amitayus himself is represented by a jewel on the top (5), in this case, a Triple Gem symbolizing The Buddha, his Doctrine and the community of his followers.

Amitayus Buddha is The Buddha of Health and Physical Immortality. He is one of the two primary aspects of Amida Buddha. The first aspect is Amitabah, The Buddha of Infinite Love and Light. Amitayus Buddha is also part of the Trinity of Physical Immortality along with Unishavijaya and White Tara. This Bodhisattva and Dakini Trinity is no accident, because it refers to three core practices that are needed to become physically immortal. Each practice is so important that you can start with any of them. For subtle reasons, though, I recommend starting with the Amitayus practice, because it has to do with gathering your energy back from others who have taken it. I find that when we have some of our intrinsic energy inside someone else that they can dump some of their own Karma into our process. If he or she is not taking responsibility for his or her Life, then the Karma that can be dumped into our process is endless. It is like a person who has taken a credit card from someone else and is always max-ing it out. The more you paid off the debt, the more debt comes. It is better to eliminate the leak before filling the vessel. Amitayus Buddha also confirs a protective field that prevents further incursions into our Life.

Amitayus is the Buddha of eternal life, along with the Goddesses White Tara and Ushnishvijaya. The long-life Buddha is extremely popular in many Northern Buddhist countries, since his special boon is to prolong the life span. Many Buddhists commission images of Amitayus Buddha both in sculpture and painting in order to gain merit and assure a long life for themselves or someone else.

Amitayus belongs to the Yoga Tantra. His colour is red and he always holds the long-life vase that sometimes has an Ashoka-tree branch, the tree of life, coming out of it. The vase contains water, saffron, and nectar pills, food of the gods that confers immortality. Amitayus is a central deity in longevity rituals and contemplations.

Amitayus is distinguished from Amitabha Buddha – Amitabha is always depicted in Dhyana-mudra, with a pindapatra, and he is a nirmana-kaya,a Buddha with monastic robes. While Amitayus is also shown in Dhyana-mudra, but with an amrita-kalasha filled with ambrosia, nectar pills and topped by a branch of Ashoka tree, symbolizing long life with full of health. He is a sambhoga-kaya with royal ornaments. The conceptualization of enlightenment as a flash of illumination led to the apotheosis of infinite as Amitabha. An important function of deities is healing and long life. His healing aspect was apotheosized Amitayus. Amitayus Buddha is invoked to cure a person in ill-health, but on death he went to the world of Amitabha. Amitabha resides in the Western Paradise of Sukhavati but Amitayus has no specific heaven and he is placed on an abstract plane.

Thus Amitayus or Infinite Life is a deity parallel to but independent of Amitabha. In the Tibetan tradition he has been clearly distinguished from Amitabha, both iconographically and philosophically. In India, in the Buddhists Sanskrit literature, Saddharmapundarika-sutra, and Sukhavati-vyuha, Amitabha and Amitayus are mentioned indiscriminately. Even Sadhanamala, has not clearly distinguished them. The Tibetan Buddhist tradition credits the distinctive entity of Amitayus to the Indian teacher Tiphu who revealed it to Ras-chun-grags-pa who diffused his worship in the Land of Snows. In the Japanese tantric denomination of Shingon, Amitayus (Japanese Muryoju) belongs to the Garbhadhatu-mandala and Amitabha (Japanese Amida) to Vajradhatu-mandala. Lokeshchandra, assigned distinction between Amitabha and Amitayus to the seventh century A.D.

The thangkas and sculptures of Amitayus Buddha and properly worshipped in Tibet, Mongolia, China, Korea and Japan mainly because of the firm faith of the people in his powers of prolonging life, as the absolute symbols of Infinite (amita) Life (ayus). A sacrament to Amitayus Buddha is celebrated on an auspicious day for life everlasting. Devotees throng to the temple to receive blessings. Every village performs it at least once a year for the life of the community.

In this black esoteric painting Amitayus Buddha is seated in vajraparyankasana on a lotus base. He holds the long-life vase with an Ashoka tree emerging from the top. His colour is red, he wears ornaments of Bodhisattva, a crown, floral silk scarves and dhoti. There is an aureole, surrounded with plants, and halo behind his body and head, respectively. Amitabha Buddha is seated on top centre in clouds with rainbow light. The bottom centre depicts auspicious offerings, placed on a lotus emerging from a lake. The painting is brilliantly drawn and painted; it is very much suitable for sadhana and practice of Amitayus Buddha.

Buddha Amitayus (Of Infinite Life), a deity associated with rites that would ensure a long Life. Amitayus is closely connected with Amitabha, The Buddha of infinite Light, and in some texts the two names are used interchangeably for the same deity. Here, Amitayus is seated in a meditative posture, his hands cradling a vase (kalasha) containing the elixir of immortality (amrita) and leaves of the ashoka tree, which symbolize "a long Life without (a) the misery (shoka) of disease."1 The kalasha is surmounted by an alms bowl; Tucci notes that Amitayus is sometimes described as holding a "vase for alms," and perhaps that is what is intended in this painting.2 Works such as the Sukhavativyuha and the Saddharma Pundarika describe Amitayus/Amitabha preaching the Dharma in an exquisitely rarefied realm known as Sukhavati Paradise.3 There are no specific references to this paradise in the painting, but Tucci notes that "besides being a Heaven, Sukhavati remains one of the numberless worlds in infinite space, where a Buddha analogous to the historical Buddha preaches the Law; he Amitayus ... is accordingly represented under the Bodhi tree."4 Here, the leaves and branches of the Bodhi tree can be seen
behind the spire of Amitayus's temple.

The enthroned deity is flanked by two standing attendants, the bodhisattvas Padmapani (on his right) and Mahastharnaprapta (a form of Vajrapani, on his left). Amitayus appears within the trilobe arch of a temple whose superstructure (shikhara) rises above the attendant bodhisattvas in receding tiers, and is then surmounted by a shrine enclosing a Buddha in bhumisparsha mudra, the earth-touching gesture, a reference to the historical Buddha's Enlightenment. Streamers arranged in an even scrolling pattern fall from a parasol at the top of the shikhara, and cloudborne attendants bear a parasol and a banner, symbols heralding the attainment of Enlightenment. The painting is unusual in the iconography of its side registers, each of which portrays three enthroned Buddhas within temples. Of the six, five hold the vase of immortal elixir, Amitayus's identifying attribute, and bear the colors associated with the five Tathagatas: green (Amoghasiddhi), white (Vairochana), yellow (Ratnasambhava), blue (Akshobhya), and red (Amitabha). The sixth Buddha stands at the lower left holding an alms bowl. Four seated figures of Amitayus flank the spire of the temple, as do images of Avalokiteshvara (below them, on the left) and Ushnishavijaya, on the right.

In the top register are eight Buddhas, perhaps the seven Buddhas of the Past and Maitreya, the Future Buddha.5 In the bottom register (far left and far right) are the Four Guardian Kings (caturmaharajas), each associated with one of the four cardinal points of the compass: Dhrtarashtra holding a stringed instrument (east), Virudhaka holding a sword (south), Virupaksha with a serpent and a Stupa (west), and Vaishravana with a staff and mongoose (north). The deities Achala (with sword and noose), a wrathful Vajrapani (with bell and vajra), and Tara also appear in the bottom register, along with the consecrating Monk, a mustached figure drawn with great sensitivity and seated in front of a white, gold patterned cloth. He holds the stem of an Incense burner, fashioned in the shape of a Lotus bud, from which smoke is rising. At the Monk's right a low table supports a Stupa whose plinth bears crossed fly whisks flanked by offering lamps and other implements associated with ritual practice.

Little is known about the worship of Amitayus in Tibet, although it is likely that all Buddhists would have venerated this deity to promote health and prolong Life. A late-twelfth-century painting in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a portrayal of Amitayus accompanied by an inscription which states that the painting was dedicated during a long Life attainment ceremony performed
by Chokyi Gyaltsen (d. 1189?).6 Tucci notes a hymn to Amitayus written by the Sakya hierarch Phakpa (1235-1280) in 1258, but there is no reason to associate this work specifically with the Sakya order.7 A thirteenth-century date is proffered for this painting, although it retains features seen in twelfth-century works, such as the cloud-borne deities flanking the top of the shikhara (compare with those in the twelfth-century Ushnishavijaya, cat. no. 6; and in the twelfth-century One-Thousand-Armed Avalokiteshvara, cat. no.12), and the similarly rendered standing attendants (compare those in the twelfth-century Buddha, cat. no.15; and in the ca. 1200 Buddhist Hierarch,
cat. no. 17). Despite these earlier elements, the painting shares a wealth of features with other thirteenth-century works. Amitayus shares with the early-thirteenth century Amitabha (cat. no. 23b) an elegant, similarly drawn head and torso. The coloration and drawing of their respective Lotus petals are also similar, with curling leaves that resemble frothy waves. The Lotus petals also resemble those in the thirteenth-century Amoghasiddhi (cat. no. 25) and Maitreya (cat. no. 24). Amitayus's robes, an iconographic feature associated with his nirmanakaya (emanational Body), or earthly form, show an understanding of and Appreciation for Chinese silks. Marked with gold roundels containing Flowers, the red upper robe is arranged in loose, rich patterns, sometimes folded to expose the underside of a fabric in contrasting but complementary colors and designs. The painting attests to the existence of Amitayus worship in the central regions of Tibet in the thirteenth century, and future studies may associate this work more closely with specific developments in central Tibet at that time.

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