Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

General forum on the teachings of all schools of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Topics specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
User avatar
Ambrosius80
Posts: 128
Joined: Sat Nov 08, 2014 6:20 pm

Re: Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

Postby Ambrosius80 » Thu Dec 29, 2016 1:17 am

AlexanderS wrote:I was under the impression that Padmasambhava is the Nirmanakaya of Amithaba. Shamarpa too.


Interesting. I am not familiar with the Tibetan traditions, so cannot really comment on that. However, the Buddhas and Bodhisattva Mahasattvas certainly do take many physical forms with which to teach sentient beings. I believe HH Dalai Lama is thought to be a nirmanakaya of Avalokiteshvara, for example.
"What we have now is the best. He who can never be satisfied is a poor man, no matter how much he owns.

What you have results from karmic causes that you created, and what you'll gain hinges on karmic causes that you're creating."
-Master Sheng Yen

AlexanderS
Posts: 335
Joined: Fri Jul 22, 2011 8:58 am

Re: Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

Postby AlexanderS » Thu Dec 29, 2016 3:20 pm

Ambrosius80 wrote:
AlexanderS wrote:I was under the impression that Padmasambhava is the Nirmanakaya of Amithaba. Shamarpa too.


Interesting. I am not familiar with the Tibetan traditions, so cannot really comment on that. However, the Buddhas and Bodhisattva Mahasattvas certainly do take many physical forms with which to teach sentient beings. I believe HH Dalai Lama is thought to be a nirmanakaya of Avalokiteshvara, for example.


True, it depends on what you consider the supreme authority. In Tibetan tradition i'm pretty sure Amithaba is considered the Dharmakaya buddha of the lotus family, Avalokiteshvara the sambhokaya of the lotus family and Padmashabhava the nirmanakaya of the lotus family.

Dharma Flower
Posts: 122
Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2016 9:03 am

Re: Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

Postby Dharma Flower » Fri Dec 30, 2016 7:16 am

I think it's relatively easy to come to the belief that Amida is a real Buddha. It's a common position in Buddhist scholarship that the Pali scriptures present the most authentic and reliable record of the Buddha's teachings.

Well, one can find in the Pali scriptures that the Buddha spoke of intelligent life in other world systems as well as Buddhas who came before him. There is no reason, then, for someone who believes in the Pali scriptures to insist that Amida can't be a real Buddha.

Dharma Flower
Posts: 122
Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2016 9:03 am

Re: Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

Postby Dharma Flower » Tue Jan 03, 2017 6:41 am

In regard to there being other Buddhas besides Shakyamuni, this is from In the Buddha's Words by Bhikkhu Bodhi*:

According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha Gotama is not merely
one unique individual who puts in an unprecedented appearance on
the stage of human history and then bows out forever. He is, rather, the
fulfillment of a primordial archetype, the most recent member of a cos-
mic "dynasty" of Buddhas constituted by numberless Perfectly Enlight-
ened Ones of the past and sustained by Perfectly Enlightened Ones
continuing indefinitely onward into the future.
Early Buddhism, even
in the archaic root texts of the Nikayas, already recognizes a plurality of
Buddhas who all conform to certain fixed patterns of behavior, the
broad outlines of which are described in the opening sections of the
Mahapadana Sutta (Digha Nikaya 14, not represented in the present
anthology).
https://archive.org/stream/InTheBuddhas ... s_djvu.txt


*Emphasis added.

Dharma Flower
Posts: 122
Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2016 9:03 am

Re: Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

Postby Dharma Flower » Tue Jan 03, 2017 3:07 pm

One thing I've been guilty of in the past is interpreting words out of context as to suggest that Amida is not a real Buddha, when the author probably never intended it. I have never read a Pure Land master, including one who also practices Zen, claim that, since Amida is our true self, then Amida doesn't exist in the first place. If we had a friend or loved one claim that a fictional character is their true self, we would think they're deluded and call for professional help.

User avatar
cj39
Posts: 52
Joined: Wed May 18, 2011 8:26 pm

Re: Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

Postby cj39 » Tue Jan 03, 2017 5:52 pm

PureLandPancake wrote:Hi, I am new to Shin Buddhism, but I am a bit confused by the concept of Amida Buddha. When I read the sutras & the writings of Master Shinran & Master Honen, it seems to me that Amida is a real sambhogakaya buddha that exists in the Western Pure Land. However, I have had some Shin Buddhists tell me that Amida is not a real Buddha and that the story is just a myth or a metaphor. I have a hard time having faith in a symbol or metaphor. I would love to have your opinion if you don't mind me asking!

Gasho, _/|\_

Alexander :sage:


The only thing that has not been mentioned is that the in late 1800s the US and her European Allies took it upon themselves to remake Japane into a "modern" nation. Called the Meiji 'Restoration', this ended the Tokugawa Shogunate and restored political power to the Emperor. It is also why Japan was the only nation in Southeast Asia to join with the US, Britain and other European powers against China during the short lived Boxer Rebelion. As Japan was opened up to Western influence, monks were forced to marry (or permitted depending on who you read), there were social chaos (or change if you prefer) and the intelligentsia of Japan, which included many prominent Shin Buddhist thinkers, were exposed to the works of philosophers like Nietzsche, Hegel and others. Early on the influence can be seen in such figures as Kiyozawa Manshi and in time a more "sanitized" version of Shin Buddhism developed.

You can also see this influence in Fumio Niwa's classic novel The Buddha Tree, published in 1956. It is about a (disfunctional) temple family. In one of the chapters the grandmother is telling ghost stories to her grandson about people who had died and returned to the temple one last time. Niwa was raised in such a temple, the novel is largely autobiographical and there can be no doubt (at least in my mind) that this scene was plucked directly from his own childhood. Then he breaks narative rather abruptly to say that of course the grandmother is just telling a tall tale.

However this shift within the Jodo Shin Shu was not all at once or ever complete. Suye Mura: A Japanese Villiage for example is glimse of Japanese village life in 1939 (just before the events of the Meiji 'Restoration' culminated for the US in the bombing of Pearl Harbor) includes a Dharma talk of a Shin priest who takes the Buddha teachings at face value and even now, there are still Shin Buddhists who believe in a more or less literal Pure Land.

Dharma Flower
Posts: 122
Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2016 9:03 am

Re: Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

Postby Dharma Flower » Thu Jan 05, 2017 4:49 am

cj39 wrote:
PureLandPancake wrote:However this shift within the Jodo Shin Shu was not all at once or ever complete. Suye Mura: A Japanese Villiage for example is glimse of Japanese village life in 1939 (just before the events of the Meiji 'Restoration' culminated for the US in the bombing of Pearl Harbor) includes a Dharma talk of a Shin priest who takes the Buddha teachings at face value and even now, there are still Shin Buddhists who believe in a more or less literal Pure Land.


The more I learn about the life of Honen, and the visions which he and his disciples experienced related to his death, the harder it is to me believe that there isn't a Pure Land, though I can't say for sure what it's like to be there. All I can say is that it's the realm of Nirvana:
The land of bliss is the realm of nirvana, the uncreated;
I fear it is hard to be born there by doing sundry good acts according to our diverse conditions.
Hence, the Tathagata selected the essential dharma,
Instructing beings to say Amida’s Name with singleness, again singleness.
http://shinranworks.com/the-major-expos ... -and-land/

Dharma Flower
Posts: 122
Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2016 9:03 am

Re: Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

Postby Dharma Flower » Thu Jan 05, 2017 8:07 am

Am I factually certain that Amida is a real Buddha? No, I am not. But if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

Before becoming a Buddhist, I was into new age clowns like Eckhart Tolle and Neale Donald Walsch. Now I see that they just stole Eastern religious ideas to get money and fame for themselves. I then turned to Buddhism because I wanted something more substantive, based on 2,500 years of enlightened tradition.

If you really love the Buddha as an enlightened teacher and seek to follow him, then you will take his word that there are other world systems with other Buddhas as well. Even the Pali scriptures taught this.

For there to even be one Buddha in the first place is such a pretty radical thing, that it wouldn't be much more radical for there to be countless Buddhas as well. One isn't easier or harder to believe or accept than the other.

Those who reject even the possibility of Amida being a real Buddha tend to think that Shakyamuni is just dust and bones, and all he ever did while alive on this earth was teach a form of mental therapy rather than disclosing the secrets of the universe.

User avatar
emceecombs
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2017 7:30 pm

Re: Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

Postby emceecombs » Thu Jan 05, 2017 8:17 pm

Dharma Flower wrote:For there to even be one Buddha in the first place is such a pretty radical thing, that it wouldn't be much more radical for there to be countless Buddhas as well. One isn't easier or harder to believe or accept than the other.


Actually I think the idea that there is only one Buddha, who lived on this earth is a much more radical concept than there being countless Buddhas. This is the kind of thing that shows how earth-centric most people are--as in they are so narcissistic as to think that only this mote of dust in a vast multi-verse could ever have a Buddha. The universe is so big how could there not be other beings who reached the same enlightenment? And that is just one universe! Really, if you accept Sakyamuni's words, then to think that there could only be a Buddha on this earth is almost unthinkable

Dharma Flower
Posts: 122
Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2016 9:03 am

Re: Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

Postby Dharma Flower » Thu Jan 05, 2017 9:10 pm

emceecombs wrote:
Dharma Flower wrote:For there to even be one Buddha in the first place is such a pretty radical thing, that it wouldn't be much more radical for there to be countless Buddhas as well. One isn't easier or harder to believe or accept than the other.


Actually I think the idea that there is only one Buddha, who lived on this earth is a much more radical concept than there being countless Buddhas. This is the kind of thing that shows how earth-centric most people are--as in they are so narcissistic as to think that only this mote of dust in a vast multi-verse could ever have a Buddha. The universe is so big how could there not be other beings who reached the same enlightenment? And that is just one universe! Really, if you accept Sakyamuni's words, then to think that there could only be a Buddha on this earth is almost unthinkable


Yeah, it reminds me of the Drake equation. As Carl Sagan would say, "Billions and billions!" Thought provoking.

User avatar
cj39
Posts: 52
Joined: Wed May 18, 2011 8:26 pm

Re: Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

Postby cj39 » Thu Jan 12, 2017 4:11 am

Dharma Flower wrote:
cj39 wrote:
PureLandPancake wrote:However this shift within the Jodo Shin Shu was not all at once or ever complete. Suye Mura: A Japanese Villiage for example is glimse of Japanese village life in 1939 (just before the events of the Meiji 'Restoration' culminated for the US in the bombing of Pearl Harbor) includes a Dharma talk of a Shin priest who takes the Buddha teachings at face value and even now, there are still Shin Buddhists who believe in a more or less literal Pure Land.


The more I learn about the life of Honen, and the visions which he and his disciples experienced related to his death, the harder it is to me believe that there isn't a Pure Land, though I can't say for sure what it's like to be there. All I can say is that it's the realm of Nirvana:
The land of bliss is the realm of nirvana, the uncreated;
I fear it is hard to be born there by doing sundry good acts according to our diverse conditions.
Hence, the Tathagata selected the essential dharma,
Instructing beings to say Amida’s Name with singleness, again singleness.
http://shinranworks.com/the-major-expos ... -and-land/


I just started reading Never Die Alone: Death as Birth in Pure Land Buddhism. Carl Becker who has studied near death experience and a fellow Jodo Shu Buddhist makes some great points. Essentially (I am not doing him justice here) across pretty much all cultures people returning from near death experiences report a "figure of light". Early Mahayana Buddhists made sense of this experience in terms of their own faith, calling it Amitabha/Amida Buddha. I would def recomend the book.

User avatar
Admin_PC
Site Admin
Posts: 3025
Joined: Wed Sep 19, 2012 11:17 pm
Location: San Antonio, TX

Re: Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

Postby Admin_PC » Thu Jan 12, 2017 4:25 am

cj39 wrote:I just started reading Never Die Alone: Death as Birth in Pure Land Buddhism. Carl Becker who has studied near death experience and a fellow Jodo Shu Buddhist makes some great points. Essentially (I am not doing him justice here) across pretty much all cultures people returning from near death experiences report a "figure of light". Early Mahayana Buddhists made sense of this experience in terms of their own faith, calling it Amitabha/Amida Buddha. I would def recomend the book.
I just started reading that book in the new year as well. Sounds like I got some catching up to do. :)
月影の いたらぬ里は なけれども 眺むる人の 心にぞすむ
法然上人

steveb1
Posts: 525
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:37 am

Re: Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

Postby steveb1 » Fri Jan 13, 2017 8:58 am

As a convert to Shin/Jodo Shinshu, I believe in Amida Buddha's reality - i.e., I believe that "He" is a real Buddha. Not a Buddha in a "meat body" any longer, but a Buddha operating from the transcendent realm of the Pure Land. This may have a parallel to the Christian belief in the risen exalted Jesus, who no longer lives on earth in an "incarnational body", but rather reigns as a transcendent "Power" in a transcendent Heaven. And most Christians, of course, insist on Jesus' reality. Similarly, I believe in Amida's real, transcendental Buddhahood, even though it has been eons ago and perhaps dimensions far away since he was "in the body" as the Monk Dharmakara.

That is of course not to say that Amida "looks like" any earthly representation of a Buddha or Enlightened person. The Transcendent is difficult for samsaric beings to picture, and inevitably word-pictures fail. For me, this only signals samsara's deficits, not some flaw or lack of reality in the Transcendent. Certain old quips apply here, such as, "How can a butterfly describe its experience in the wide world to a caterpillar", or, "How can a fish - caught and then released - explain to other fish what the air-world is like?"

Amida and the Pure Land may be difficult to picture and conceptualize, but fortunately, the Buddha is known immediately via our reception of Shinjin, in which His providential grace quickens us and grants us a sure knowledge that we are "embraced, never to be let go". For me, this salvific process conveys the Buddha's compassionate essence - and hence, His reality - and since experience trumps belief-in and belief-about, this experience sufficiently bypasses any doubts that Amida Buddha might not be a real Buddha.

User avatar
Tsongkhapafan
Posts: 862
Joined: Sat Jan 01, 2011 9:36 am

Re: Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Fri Jan 13, 2017 9:59 am

Buddha Amitabha has appeared as many realised Masters such as Atisha, Geshe Langri Tangpa, the Panchen Lamas and Kyabje Trijang Dorjechang. Buddha Amitabha is the emanation body and Buddha Amitayus, the Buddha of long life, merit and wisdom is the enjoyment body.

His red coloured body indicates that he is the nature of the speech of all the Buddhas.

He is emanating and teaching today in many different forms and will never stop helping living beings until samsara ceases.

PureLandPancake
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Dec 25, 2016 8:03 pm

Re: Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

Postby PureLandPancake » Sun Jan 15, 2017 11:13 pm

Thank you guys, these are some of the best answers I've received on this question!

CJ I have been thinking of reading that book, I will definitely check it out

User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
Posts: 2851
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Jan 16, 2017 4:07 am

"real"?
Last edited by PadmaVonSamba on Mon Jan 16, 2017 4:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.

User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
Posts: 2851
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: Is Amida Buddha a real buddha?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Jan 16, 2017 4:08 am

do you mean "real" as compared to how you are "real" or how things are "real"?
are you "real"
what does that mean?
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.


Return to “Mahāyāna Buddhism”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Soma999 and 18 guests