Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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mikenz66
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Apr 16, 2016 10:25 am

Here's the basic history from Wikipedia:
The Pure Land teachings were first developed in India, and were very popular in Kashmir and Central Asia, where they may have originated.[4] Pure Land sutras were brought from the Gandhāra region to China as early as 147 CE, when the Kushan monk Lokakṣema began translating the first Buddhist sūtras into Chinese.[5] The earliest of these translations show evidence of having been translated from the Gāndhārī language, a prakrit language related to Sanskrit.[6] There are also images of Amitābha Buddha with the bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta which were made in Gandhāra during the Kushan era.[7]
...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pure_Land ... y_in_India
There are some references there to books that may shed more light on the origin of the pure land concepts, but this question could probably be answered better at Dharma Wheel: http://dharmawheel.net/index.php.
Here is a resource thread from that site:
http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=60&t=4317#p42350

:anjali:
Mike

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daverupa
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by daverupa » Sat Apr 16, 2016 1:21 pm

I'll recommend Paul Williams' Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations for this topic, an author that Dan also mentioned. It sets up the gist of the Mahayana project.

On page 238, his discussion of Amitabha begins:
In the emergence of a Pure Land tradition in India based on Amitabha or Amitayus, Kenneth K. Tanaka (1990: 3–13) has detected five chronological stages. First, there was the idea that grew up (he argues) soon after the death of Sakyamuni Buddha that there were previous Buddhas...

The second stage, also in the second century BCE, was the development in some circles of the idea of innumerable world realms in each of the 10 directions [focused on Metteya in his Buddha Field]...

The third stage of the evolution of an Indian Pure Land tradition lay in the emergence by the latter half of the first century CE of the Buddha Amitabha or Amitayus as one of these contemporary Buddhas, residing in his Buddha Land of Sukhavati (ca. 100 CE)...

Fourth, by the early fourth or perhaps even the third century CE enthusiasts for this Buddha had adopted buddhanusmrti practices of visualization and recitation of his name...

The final stage in the evolution of the Pure Land tradition may have been critical commentarial development...
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

hosuswee
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by hosuswee » Sun Apr 17, 2016 2:23 am

Dear friends,

If I ever sound biased against Mahayana or pureland, I asked for your kind forgiveness and my sincere apology.

I would like to point out that many teachings between Mahayana and Theravada were similar although they might have different emphasis regarding ro practices.

Similar to the teachings about Pureland (Sukhavati), Theravada teachings mentioned about Suddavasa. Although the destinations between the two were different but some or part of the idea behind were similar. Thus I accept Pureland as teachings of Buddhism.

Also regarding the chanting of Amitabha Buddha's name, yes, this is a form of meditation and similar to Buddhanusati of Theravada's teaching. Thus i also accept the chanting of Buddha's name as teaching of Buddhism as well.

However, I personally feels that as buddhist, we should all put in effort to learn and know more about teachings of the Buddha whether from Suttas or Sutras or both, up to individuals, rather than simply accepting talks or teachings by a certain Venerable or Master.

This can be at times dangerous like what HK also mentioned, it looks like blind faith. Because other than the chanting of Amitabha Buddha's name, a person who is inspired to go to Amitabha Buddha's Sukhavati has to develop his bodhicitta and inspire to become a Buddha as well. That's why in Amitabha Buddha's Sukhavati, everything there will teach about 37bodhipaksaka or Bodhipakkhyadhamma.

Maybe this is a common problem with many Chinese (I am a Chinese as well), we like to take teachings from elders lock stock & barrel and get everything mixed up. So if anyone blindly thinks that the journey to end samsara is to just to reach any Buddha's (Amitabha, Akshobhya or Medicine Buddhas) Sukhavati must be careful of what you wish for, as you have to continue to practise after reaching there, similar to Anagami when they reach Suddavasa.

:anjali:

Dan74-new
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Dan74-new » Sun Apr 17, 2016 7:52 am

hosuswee wrote:Dear friends,

If I ever sound biased against Mahayana or pureland, I asked for your kind forgiveness and my sincere apology.

I would like to point out that many teachings between Mahayana and Theravada were similar although they might have different emphasis regarding ro practices.

Similar to the teachings about Pureland (Sukhavati), Theravada teachings mentioned about Suddavasa. Although the destinations between the two were different but some or part of the idea behind were similar. Thus I accept Pureland as teachings of Buddhism.

Also regarding the chanting of Amitabha Buddha's name, yes, this is a form of meditation and similar to Buddhanusati of Theravada's teaching. Thus i also accept the chanting of Buddha's name as teaching of Buddhism as well.

However, I personally feels that as buddhist, we should all put in effort to learn and know more about teachings of the Buddha whether from Suttas or Sutras or both, up to individuals, rather than simply accepting talks or teachings by a certain Venerable or Master.

This can be at times dangerous like what HK also mentioned, it looks like blind faith. Because other than the chanting of Amitabha Buddha's name, a person who is inspired to go to Amitabha Buddha's Sukhavati has to develop his bodhicitta and inspire to become a Buddha as well. That's why in Amitabha Buddha's Sukhavati, everything there will teach about 37bodhipaksaka or Bodhipakkhyadhamma.

Maybe this is a common problem with many Chinese (I am a Chinese as well), we like to take teachings from elders lock stock & barrel and get everything mixed up. So if anyone blindly thinks that the journey to end samsara is to just to reach any Buddha's (Amitabha, Akshobhya or Medicine Buddhas) Sukhavati must be careful of what you wish for, as you have to continue to practise after reaching there, similar to Anagami when they reach Suddavasa.

:anjali:
:goodpost:

However, we must remember that people all have different kammic roots. Some read the Suttas and feel great joy as so much confusion is dispelled. Others read the Suttas and get more confused. So it is not one size fits all. Pure Land is a very simple accessible practice that largely depends on devotion and commitment, if I understand correctly, and the results can be profound. Whereas other practices are more complex, have more pitfalls. Personally I'm glad it's not just one way to the destination.

ThienPhatHD1980
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by ThienPhatHD1980 » Wed Nov 01, 2017 5:18 am

Hello everyone. This is a great discussion and I would like to add my 2 cent. Many people doesn't accept the 3 Pureland Sutra as real or it was spoken by Sakyamuni Buddha. Since all Mahayana texts are "not considered" as Lord Buddha's teaching then it doesn't matter if there are over 200 mentions of Amida Buddha and his Pureland. All of Buddha teachings or paths must be experienced to be proven true, yet all of the Pureland masters had practiced and proven that Pureland exist but people still doubt. Even in our modern time, there are stories of practitioners knowing their date of rebirth to Pureland with incredible signsat death.
It is true want Lord Buddha said in the Infinite Life Sutra that it's extremely difficult for sentient beings to have faith in the Pureland sutra. That's ok, everyone have their own preferences, merit and timing to enlightenment. There shouldn't be any argument regarding the Dhamma, just experience it before you make any judgement.

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Coëmgenu
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Coëmgenu » Wed Nov 08, 2017 10:07 pm

Aloka wrote:
Sat Apr 16, 2016 6:03 am
.

This is an excerpt from "Myth in Buddhism" an essay by Piya Tan:

1.8.1 The Mahāyāna myth. The post-Buddha Indian Buddhists responded with their own genius to the brahminical broadside on Buddhism in a number of ways. From our textual records and history, we can surmise that these responses are mainly philosophical, doctrinal, and ritual, each with their new myths. The main thread running through all these responses was that of making Buddhism more universalist and populist, even triumphalist.

Beginning around the 1st century BCE, we see the rise of the Perfection of Wisdom (prajñā,pāramitā) literature, a central concept of the newly emerged Mahāyāna. Although these texts often give inspiring accounts of meditation, their tone is predominantly philosophical, which are not easily comprehensible or practicable for the masses. Most of these great works, however, have come down to our times.

The new Mahāyāna mythology is rich and colourful with new Buddhas and paradises, the best known of which are clearly Amitābha Buddha and his Western Paradise of Sukhāvati. The earliest Mahāyāna texts often centred around meditation,
but the texts that follow are generally more ritualistic and apotropaic (magical). Many such texts deify the Buddha, so that he is endowed with omniscience and boundless powers, and inhabit various universes, besides ours.

The Mahāyāna mythology as a whole is unparallelled in the history of religion. However, if we look deeply into the threads that run through many of them, we could say that they reflect that their authors are struggling with the death of this historical Buddha. There is a general denial that such a great being as the Buddha could be mortal. This, anyway, is a common reaction of devout believers after the passing of their founders, who then are apotheosized.

The Mahāyāna authors are arguably great literati, living in urban monasteries, especially well versed in Buddhist texts and secular learning. Such urbanized settings, as a rule, are not home for the Buddhist contemplatives, who prefer to live in smaller groups in remote forests, or as eremites (solitary wanderers).
Lacking the detachment of the eremites, these post-Buddha coenobites (settled monastics) are understandably concerned with promoting, or at least preserving, their communities and teachings. They also have to present their followers and the public with a mythology that would continue to strengthen their faith and sustain, even increase, their patronage.

These settled monastics conceived the cults of cosmic Buddhas who are regarded as eternal beings, with whom they are capable of having communion through meditation, prayer, trance or dreams. These new Buddha-myths became very popular, and grew into numerous new schools and sects, as Buddhism spread into other cultures, and was in turn assimilated into local cultures.

http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-con ... m-piya.pdf

:anjali:
The specification of "urban monasteries" is striking. I had heard many speak of Mahayana originating in the forests of Southern India.
神足示現者,
世尊隨其所應,而示現入禪定正受,陵虛至東方,作四威儀,
行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧,出種種火光,青、黃、赤、白、
紅、頗梨色,水火俱現, 或身下出火,身上出水,身上出火,
身下出水,周圓四方亦復如是。

Caodemarte
Posts: 736
Joined: Fri May 01, 2015 3:21 pm

Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Caodemarte » Wed Nov 08, 2017 11:25 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Wed Nov 08, 2017 10:07 pm
Aloka wrote:
Sat Apr 16, 2016 6:03 am
.

This is an excerpt from "Myth in Buddhism" an essay by Piya Tan:

1.8.1 The Mahāyāna myth. The post-Buddha Indian Buddhists responded with their own genius to the brahminical broadside on Buddhism in a number of ways. From our textual records and history, we can surmise that these responses are mainly philosophical, doctrinal, and ritual, each with their new myths. The main thread running through all these responses was that of making Buddhism more universalist and populist, even triumphalist.

Beginning around the 1st century BCE, we see the rise of the Perfection of Wisdom (prajñā,pāramitā) literature, a central concept of the newly emerged Mahāyāna. Although these texts often give inspiring accounts of meditation, their tone is predominantly philosophical, which are not easily comprehensible or practicable for the masses. Most of these great works, however, have come down to our times.

The new Mahāyāna mythology is rich and colourful with new Buddhas and paradises, the best known of which are clearly Amitābha Buddha and his Western Paradise of Sukhāvati. The earliest Mahāyāna texts often centred around meditation,
but the texts that follow are generally more ritualistic and apotropaic (magical). Many such texts deify the Buddha, so that he is endowed with omniscience and boundless powers, and inhabit various universes, besides ours.

The Mahāyāna mythology as a whole is unparallelled in the history of religion. However, if we look deeply into the threads that run through many of them, we could say that they reflect that their authors are struggling with the death of this historical Buddha. There is a general denial that such a great being as the Buddha could be mortal. This, anyway, is a common reaction of devout believers after the passing of their founders, who then are apotheosized.

The Mahāyāna authors are arguably great literati, living in urban monasteries, especially well versed in Buddhist texts and secular learning. Such urbanized settings, as a rule, are not home for the Buddhist contemplatives, who prefer to live in smaller groups in remote forests, or as eremites (solitary wanderers).
Lacking the detachment of the eremites, these post-Buddha coenobites (settled monastics) are understandably concerned with promoting, or at least preserving, their communities and teachings. They also have to present their followers and the public with a mythology that would continue to strengthen their faith and sustain, even increase, their patronage.

These settled monastics conceived the cults of cosmic Buddhas who are regarded as eternal beings, with whom they are capable of having communion through meditation, prayer, trance or dreams. These new Buddha-myths became very popular, and grew into numerous new schools and sects, as Buddhism spread into other cultures, and was in turn assimilated into local cultures.

http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-con ... m-piya.pdf

:anjali:
The specification of "urban monasteries" is striking. I had heard many speak of Mahayana originating in the forests of Southern India.
There are many theories ranging from Mahayana as the product of forrest ascetics to emerging from lay practioners with varying degrees of evidence. However, the idea that Mahayana emerged as a result of “non-detached” non-contemplating urban monks (how is this known?) attempting to secure patronage seems particularly weak. The essay does not seem to have any evidence at all (inscriptions, textual sources, etc.) and belongs more to literary speculation than to history.

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Coëmgenu
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Coëmgenu » Thu Nov 09, 2017 2:12 am

Relating to the origins of Amitābha. Many scholars around the turn of the 20th century were very persuaded for a Persian origin for the Buddha Amitābha, on the basis of motivic similarities between Sukhāvatī and the abode of Ahuramazda. This would not be the first time that Mahāyāna Buddhism (is suspected to have) absorbed a god from a local pantheon and reinterpreted him as a Buddha, speaking (Mahāyāna) Buddhavacana.

Unfortunately, speculations as to the Persian origins of Amitābha Buddha are just that, speculation, barring any actual hard evidence surfacing. People used to think all sorts of things about Buddhism in the 1890s.
神足示現者,
世尊隨其所應,而示現入禪定正受,陵虛至東方,作四威儀,
行、住、坐、臥,入火三昧,出種種火光,青、黃、赤、白、
紅、頗梨色,水火俱現, 或身下出火,身上出水,身上出火,
身下出水,周圓四方亦復如是。

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