Amitabha Buddha, also known as Amida or Amitāyus, is a celestial buddha according to the scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism.

Amitabha is the principal Buddha in Pure Land Buddhism, a branch of East Asian Buddhism.

In Vajrayana Buddhism, Amitabha is known for his longevity attribute, magnetizing red fire element, the aggregate of discernment, pure perception and the deep awareness of emptiness of phenomena.

According to these scriptures, Amitabha possesses infinite merit resulting from good deeds over countless past lives as a bodhisattva named Dharmakāra. Amitābha means “Infinite Light“, and Amitāyus means “Infinite Life” so Amitabha Buddha is also called “The Buddha of Immeasurable Light and Life“.


According to the Larger Sūtra of Immeasurable Life, Amitabha Buddha was, in very ancient times and possibly in another system of worlds, a monk named Dharmakāra.

In some versions of the sūtra, Dharmakāra is described as a former king who, having come into contact with Buddhist teachings through the Buddha Lokeśvararāja, renounced his throne.

He then resolved to become a Buddha and so to come into possession of a buddhakṣetra (“buddha-field”, a realm existing in the primordial universe outside of ordinary reality, produced by a buddha’s merit) possessed of many perfections.

These resolutions were expressed in his forty-eight vows, which set out the type of buddha-field Dharmakāra aspired to create, the conditions under which beings might be born into that world, and what kind of beings they would be when reborn there.

In the versions of the sutra widely known in China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan, Dharmakāra’s eighteenth vow was that any being in any universe desiring to be reborn into Amitabha’s pure land and calling upon his name even as few as ten times will be guaranteed rebirth there.

His nineteenth vow promises that he, together with his bodhisattvas and other blessed Buddhists, will appear before those who, at the moment of death, call upon him. This openness and acceptance of all kinds of people have made belief in pure lands one of the major influences in Mahāyāna Buddhism.

Pure Land Buddhism seems to have first become popular in Gandhara, from where it spread to Central Asia and China.

The sutra goes on to explain that Amitabha Buddha, after accumulating great merit over countless lives, finally achieved Buddhahood and is still residing in his land of Sukhāvatī, whose many virtues and joys are described.

The basic doctrines concerning Amitabha and his vows are found in three canonical Mahāyāna texts:

  • Infinite Life Sutra
  • Amitayurdhyana Sutra
  • Amitābha Sutra

Through his efforts, Amitābha created a pure land called Sukhāvatī (Sanskrit: “possessing happiness”). Sukhāvatī is situated in the uttermost west, beyond the bounds of our own world.

By the power of his vows, Amitabha has made it possible for all who call upon him to be reborn into this land, there to undergo instruction by him in the dharma and ultimately become bodhisattvas and buddhas in their turn (the ultimate goal of Mahāyāna Buddhism). From there, these same bodhisattvas and buddhas return to our world to help yet more people.

Amitabha Buddha is the Buddha of comprehensive love. He lives in the West (represented as a meditating Buddha) and works for the enlightenment of all beings (represented as a blessing Buddha).

His most important enlightenment technique is the visualization of the surrounding world as a paradise. Those who see his world as a paradise awaken his enlightenment energy. The world can be seen as a paradise by a corresponding positive thought (enlightenment thought) or by sending light to all beings (wish all beings to be happy).

After the Amitabha doctrine, one can come to paradise, if they visualize at their death Amitābha in the heaven (sun) over their head (western horizon), think his name as a mantra and leave the body as a soul through the crown chakra.

Vajrayāna Buddhism

Amitabha Buddha is also known in Tibet, Mongolia, and other regions where Tibetan Buddhism is practiced.

In the Highest Yogatantra of Tibetan Buddhism, Amitabha Buddha is considered one of the Five Dhyāni Buddhas (together with Akṣobhya, Amoghasiddhi, Ratnasambhava, and Vairocana), who is associated with the western direction and the skandha of saṃjñā, the aggregate of distinguishing (recognition) and the deep awareness of individualities.

His consort is Pāṇḍaravāsinī. His two main disciples (the same number as Gautama Buddha) are the bodhisattvas Vajrapani and Avalokiteśvara, the former to his left and the latter to his right.

In Tibetan Buddhism, there exist a number of famous prayers for taking rebirth in Sukhāvatī (Dewachen). One of these was written by Je Tsongkhapa on the request of Manjushri.

The Panchen Lamas and Shamarpas are considered to be emanations of Amitabha.

He is frequently invoked in Tibet either as Amitabha – especially in the phowa practices or as Amitāyus – especially in practices relating to longevity and preventing an untimely death.

In Shingon Buddhism, Amitabha Buddha is seen as one of the thirteen Buddhas to whom practitioners can pay homage. Shingon, like Tibetan Buddhism, also uses special devotional mantras for Amitabha, though the mantras used to differ.

Amitabha Buddha is also one of the Buddhas featured in the Womb Realm Mandala used in Shingon practices and sits to the west, which is where the Pure Land of Amitābha is said to dwell.


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