Amitabha Buddha, Buddha of Infinite Light, is a celestial buddha in Mahayana Buddhism. Amitabha is the principal buddha in Pure Land Buddhism, mainly practiced in East Asia. Amitabha created his Pure Land called Sukhāvatī, where as part of his vows to become a buddha (his eighteenth vow), everyone is guaranteed into his Pure Land if they call upon his name as few as ten times. Visualizing Amitabha’s Pure Land and reciting his name during meditation, and reciting his name upon death, are the techniques used to be reborn in the Pure Land.
Before he became a buddha, Amitabha was a bodhisattva named Dharmakāra. As a bodhisattva, he made forty-eight vows which set out the type of Buddha Land he 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. Sukhāvatī is situated in the uttermost west, beyond the bounds of our own world. By the power of his vows, Amitabha made it possible that anyone who calls upon his name will be reborn in his land, where the conditions to reach Buddhahood are easier and favorable.
Amitabha is often depicted with Avalokitesvara on the right and Mahāsthāmaprāpta on the left. While sitting, Amitabha is often displayed with the meditation mudra or exposition mudra, sometimes holding a lotus or an alms bowl. While standing alone, Amitabha is shown with his left arm extended downward with thumb and forefinger touching, and the right hand facing outward also with thumb and forefinger touching.
The basic doctrines concerning Amitābha and his vows are found in three canonical Mahāyāna texts:
- Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra
- Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra
- Amitāyurdhyāna Sūtra