Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

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

Post by Gintoki » Tue Jul 07, 2015 12:59 pm

I got curious of the origin of Amitabha Buddha in mahayana and had trouble finding the source. It's to my understanding that this "buddha" was never incarnate as a buddha on this earth, that Sakyamuni Buddha never said anything about him in the sutta pitaka. I want to understand why such a massive amount of buddhists are pure land yet there is no record of a buddha in the flesh saying anything about amitabha? All I can find anywhere is that mahayana sutra just popped up at some point. Am I confused about something?

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daverupa
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by daverupa » Tue Jul 07, 2015 1:50 pm

The origins of Mahāyāna are still not completely understood. Consider an early inscription on the matter, but read note 9 as well.
  • "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]

Gintoki
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Gintoki » Tue Jul 07, 2015 2:24 pm

Thanks a lot. Though I don't understand what nontextual evidence could refer to? Isn't text the only evidence of mahayana and it's historical following?
Last edited by Gintoki on Tue Jul 07, 2015 3:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

santa100
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by santa100 » Tue Jul 07, 2015 3:02 pm

Amitabha is a Mahayana concept which works within the Mahayana Trikaya (Three Bodies) framework. From the wiki page:
The Three Bodies of the Buddha from the point of view of Pure Land Buddhist thought can be broken down like so:[8]

The Nirmaṇakāya is a physical/manifest body of a Buddha. An example would be Gautama Buddha's body.
The Sambhogakāya is the reward/enjoyment body, whereby a bodhisattva completes his vows and becomes a Buddha. Amitābha, Vajrasattva and Manjushri are examples of Buddhas with the Sambhogakaya body.
The Dharmakāya is the embodiment of the truth itself, and it is commonly seen as transcending the forms of physical and spiritual bodies. Vairocana Buddha is often depicted as the Dharmakāya, particularly in esoteric Buddhist schools such as Shingon, Tendai and Kegon in Japan.
Since the model is a later development, you won't be able to find it in the Pali Canon. The sister site Dharmawheel.net would be the place to go to for further inquiry..

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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Gintoki » Tue Jul 07, 2015 3:43 pm

OK thanks. I feel I know as much as I need to. I'm surprised mahayana is so popular given that it's specific sutras were never sourced from a buddha. I'll never know for sure whether amitabha is the figment of a genius imagination. I've read plenty of incredibly brilliant books similar to the dhamma but they are characteristically warped by an individuals interpretation and divergent with the dhamma and I doubt anything coming from a mouth other than a Buddha's/Arahant's isn't subject to such. Given the Buddha's sight into the future and all that is I see no reason to exclude mention of amitabha's pure land while mentioning maitreya for intents and purposes (any I can imagine atleast). So if the buddha didn't find amitabha or this pure land relevant enough to give one mention then I can't find any reason to see it as worthwhile or capable of leading to the cessation of dukkha if it exists at all. Just my 2 cents.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Jul 07, 2015 6:56 pm

The Buddha's teaching is hard to practice. He always stressed the importance of working out one's own salvation with diligence.

All beings are the owners of their own actions, and they will inherit the results of their own actions. Beings are born from their actions, they are related to their actions, and have their own actions as their true refuge.

Other religions rely on an external powerful deity of some kind to which the pious pray in the hope of getting help, but in Buddhism the gods will only help us if we deserve it. One good example is that of Bāhiya, who was ship-wrecked in Sunaparanta and dwelt there as an ascetic. A Brahma god, who has been Bāhiya's fellow monk in a previous life, and had attained Non-returning in the time of Buddha Kassapa, took pity on his former friend, and told him to go and see the Buddha who was then staying in Sāvatthi. Bāhiya set off at once and with the help of the Brahma god, arrived at Sāvatthi the following morning as the Buddha was on his alms round. The Buddha instructed Bāhiya, who became an Arahant.

The point is, Bāhiya had to have the ability and courageous determination to go to the teacher or the god would not have been able to help him. His determined practice in the time of Buddha Kassapa had been insufficient to gain liberation at that time. However, his efforts to meditate unto death were the seeds of kamma that led to his liberation in the time of Buddha Gotama.

Even the Buddha can only point out the way, it is up to each one of us to make the effort to realise the truth that will liberate us from suffering.

So the origin of Amitabha Buddha, and other Buddhist deities in different traditions, to whom pious devotees make offerings and pray for help, is in the weakness of human nature. It is not typical of human beings to be self-reliant and independent. They want someone else to do the hard-work for them — thus they are easily beguiled and parted from their hard-earned wealth by fake gurus and false gods.
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ihrjordan
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by ihrjordan » Tue Jul 07, 2015 9:57 pm

I believe the technical term is "bad faith" when one refuses to accept the truth of the matter and instead insist that some external power will be there to save us, but it is interesting to think of the possible assistance Sakka could offer me if I were to worship him at an alter :mrgreen: ...good post Bhante

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Jul 08, 2015 8:43 am

There's a tale from Burmese folk-lore to illustrate the other side of the story.

A pious Buddhist who ran a market stall selling bric-a-brac had an impious son. Nothing the father could say could improve his son's behaviour. After his death, the pious father was reborn in the deva realms. Looking down one day, he saw that his previous business was failing due to his son's laziness and mismanagement.

Thinking to make one last effort to help his son, he appeared before his son and told him to set up his stall outside the palace gates in the morning, and when the king came to his stall to purchase a certain pot, to ask whatever price he liked for it.

During the night, the deva appeared before the king in a terrifying form, and told him about a spirit who dwelt in a certain pot. Unless the king could purchase the pot to gain control over the spirit, his kingdom would be destroyed. In the morning, the king should visit a market stall outside the palace gates and purchase the pot, which the deva described.

In the morning, the king went outside the palace gates, and on seeing the stall set up there by the deva's former son, he identified the pot and asked the stall-holder what the price was. The deva's former son said the price was five pence, and the king purchased it.

Infuriated by his son's stupidity, the deva grabbed him by the hair in order to strike him, but as he did so he saw the price "five pence" stamped on his forehead, and on seeing it realised his own folly in trying to help him, so he let him go.

Hence the Burmese saying, “Living beings have their kamma stamped on their forehead.”
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chownah
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by chownah » Wed Jul 08, 2015 9:03 am

Come on Bhikkhu Pesala, stop teasing us and finish the story.....did the king gain control of the spirit or was his kingdom destroyed?
chownah

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robertk
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by robertk » Wed Jul 08, 2015 9:40 am

Love that story venerable
a friend of mine just won over a million dollars in a lottery. Never worked in her life But money has always chased her: she bought a house through govt help and it quadrupled in value. And so many other things...

Cant escape kamma, good or bad..

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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Disciple » Wed Jul 08, 2015 9:48 pm

Some heavy misconceptions in this thread but I won't bother to address.

Gintoki
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Gintoki » Thu Jul 09, 2015 12:41 am

I might be confused but does the story imply the kid couldn't have chose another action other than selling it for 5 pence?

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Jul 09, 2015 7:19 am

Gintoki wrote:I might be confused but does the story imply the kid couldn't have chose another action other than selling it for 5 pence?
If the deva's son was wise he would have sold it for enough to live on for the rest of his life, but he would not have asked for so much as to risk the king's enmity.

When wise people encounter the precious treasure of the Buddha's dispensation, they appreciate its true value, while the foolish squander it for mere “merit-making” in the pursuit of further sensual pleasures in the future.
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Virgo
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Virgo » Thu Jul 09, 2015 5:24 pm

This big red "Buddha" and his special property aren't even mentioned in debates between early schools which came hundreds of years after the Buddha.

This development is part of "Mahayana" - a term which also postdates the founder of the religion - the Buddha - by hundreds of years.

So, essentially, the big red Buddha didn't decide to show up while Gotoma Buddha was teaching but at some later time. I think he showed up briefly and then returned to his property in the sky.

Kevin

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waterchan
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by waterchan » Thu Jul 09, 2015 6:02 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
Gintoki wrote:I might be confused but does the story imply the kid couldn't have chose another action other than selling it for 5 pence?
If the deva's son was wise he would have sold it for enough to live on for the rest of his life, but he would not have asked for so much as to risk the king's enmity.

When wise people encounter the precious treasure of the Buddha's dispensation, they appreciate its true value, while the foolish squander it for mere “merit-making” in the pursuit of further sensual pleasures in the future.
The above may not mean much to a typical Westerner who is just starting to explore Buddhism, but this foolish pursuit of "merit-making" instead of practising the Buddha's path to liberation from stress and suffering is a HUGE problem in traditional Buddhist countries.

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tattoogunman
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by tattoogunman » Thu Jul 09, 2015 8:52 pm

I was wondering the same thing as Gintoki as I've just recently begun delving deeper into Buddhism. The nearest temple to me is a Mahayana temple and that is where I have been obtaining quite a few books and doing my reading. I've met with one of the few English speaking monks a few times about this issue and they basically just say that Amitabha was just another Buddha, etc. I understand that, but I don't really see the need to pursue a Buddha outside of Gautama Buddha (for lack of a better explanation). The various schools of Buddhism is what has been throwing me off and it's why I get drawn more towards Theravada since it seems to be the "original" Buddhism if you will.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Jul 09, 2015 9:17 pm

If someone tried to sell you gems or gold you would or should make a thorough inquiry that they are authentic. Likewise, one should make a thorough inquiry regarding any teaching that purports to be the genuine teaching of the Buddha, whatever its source.

Read widely, ask pertinent questions from those who should know, meditate constantly, and compare your results with what it says in reliable sources.

The Kesamutti Sutta or the Discourse to the Kālāmas is often quoted (and misquoted too).

See also The Four Great References in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta and the Brief Discourse to Gotamī.
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Disciple
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Disciple » Thu Jul 09, 2015 11:35 pm

Venerable Huifeng once told me that true buddhadharma isn't about who it's spoken by but in the truth of the words. Many outstanding Buddhist masters over the centuries from Tibet to Japan have had nothing but good things to say about Pure Land teachings and I lack the arrogance to say they were all wrong.

ieee23
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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by ieee23 » Fri Jul 10, 2015 2:00 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The Buddha's teaching is hard to practice. He always stressed the importance of working out one's own salvation with diligence. .
I'm guessing you just tried to diplomatically write that Buddhism is about putting people into the driver's seat and many people don't want the work, responsibility that comes with that. That is my thinking too not being better acquainted with Pure Land Buddhism. Similar situations exist in Theravada, such as with Sri Lanka where most of the lay people focus on dana to the Sangha. I think the situation is similar to exercise and sticking to a healthy diet. It brings a lot of happiness, but people are naturally inclined not to start, but once they get over a hump they find it wonderful.
Whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind. - MN 19

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Re: Origin of Amitabha Buddha?

Post by Disciple » Fri Jul 10, 2015 7:45 pm

ieee23 wrote:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The Buddha's teaching is hard to practice. He always stressed the importance of working out one's own salvation with diligence. .
I'm guessing you just tried to diplomatically write that Buddhism is about putting people into the driver's seat and many people don't want the work, responsibility that comes with that. That is my thinking too not being better acquainted with Pure Land Buddhism. Similar situations exist in Theravada, such as with Sri Lanka where most of the lay people focus on dana to the Sangha. I think the situation is similar to exercise and sticking to a healthy diet. It brings a lot of happiness, but people are naturally inclined not to start, but once they get over a hump they find it wonderful.
The work is still up to you in Pure Land. Purelands are just places that are more conducive to practicing the dharma than in the saha world. It's not really more complicated than that. They are similar to the pure abodes found in your own scriptures.

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