In iconography, the seated Amitābha is most frequently distinguished by His meditation mudrā (thumbs touching and fingers together, or the exposition mudrā. To avoid confusion with Śākyamuni, bear in mind that the earth-touching mudrā (right hand pointed downward over the right leg, palm inward) is reserved for a seated Śākyamuni alone. Amitābha, being the head of the Lotus Family, can also be seen holding a lotus in his hands while displaying the meditation mudrā.

Ancient Amitabha sculpture from Swat Valley showing classic meditation or samadhi mudra

Before Iesous left the Gandhāra region to work in the West, two distinct schools of Amithaba worship had developed in Buddhism. The concept of “king of heaven” was rather unique at the time. Iesous depicted God as a most humble being, whose immense and unsurpassed powers and wisdom is hidden to lesser beings. God was therefore depicted as a monk, unadorned with trappings of status. Nevertheless, one group required their god to be depicted in a more regal manner. The Lord may have explained to them that Amitābha God will appear to them in a regal emanation if that is what is required for them to be saved from the cycle of rebirth (samsara). By the end of the first

century, a regal emanation of Amitābha, known as Amitayus God of Infinite Life was standardized. Wayists emphasize the doctrinal position that god values humility, simplicity and compassion, and as Tathágata He was once a soul-being and moves to and from this world and Heaven. Amitayus Lord of Infinite Life (known to Buddhists also as Buddha Aparimita ) and Amitābha Lord of Infinite Light are essentially identical in nature but different in appearance, only for our sake.






Meditation mudra, alternate version

Amitābha, in monk’s clothes

For 1st century Buddhism to have incorporated a new teaching, meant that Shakyamuni Buddha must have advocated it. Therefore, Sutras that speak to Wayist teaching mostly start with a line that indicated ‘Shakyamuni Buddha said,’ even if said Sutra orinigated in the late first century, five hundred years after Shakyamuni lived on Earth. It is important to acknowledge that after a perfected soul leaves Earth, that it (he/she) is very much alive and potentially present. Sutras in which Shakyamuni expound the glories of Sukhāvatī speak of the presiding deity sometimes as Amitābha and sometimes as Amitayus, therefore reflecting the early development of the Amitayus emanation. When depicted as Amitayus, He is depicted in fine clothes and jewels and as Amitābha, He is clothed in the humble clothing of a monk. In the Chinese and Japanese traditions, both are known as Amida.

Amitayus is often seen wearing a five-pointed regal crown while Amitābha is never seen with a crown. Amitābha may be depicted with a large halo of radiance.

For Buddhists, Amitābha is the head of the Lotus family but Amitayus, being an emanation, is not so depicted.

When standing, Amitābha is often shown with left arm bare, extended downward with thumb and forefinger touching, with the right hand facing outward, also with thumb and forefinger touching. The meaning of this mudra is that wisdom (symbolized by the raised hand) is accessible to even the lowest beings, while the outstretched hand shows that Amitābha’s compassion is directed at the lowest beings who cannot save themselves.

When not depicted alone, Amitābha is often portrayed with two assistants, Avalokiteśvara on the more important right and Mahāsthāmaprāpta on the left. Avalokitesvara can be depicted in male, female, transgender (both genders) or androgynous form (no gender). Chinese devotees usually prefer to depict the female forms of Amitābha’s attendant Bodhisattvas.

Amitābha with radiant halo

In Vajrayana Buddhism, Amitābha is the most ancient Buddha among the Dhyani Buddhas. He is of red colour because of his passionate compassion. For Buddhists in general, Amitābha represents the West. When represented in a stupa or temple, Lord Buddha King Amitābha faces West. He is revered as King of the Western Pure Land. Wayists do not regard Lord Iesous as a westerner. We understand that His human experience makes of Him a citizen of the world, in that He transcends cultural bounds. We understand only one heaven, Sukhāvatī.

Western Iconography

fatherGod-full Western iconography of our heavenly Father is distinctively that of the Old Man of Heaven, the Tathāgata. 

In this classic fresco, The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Father had made changes to modern man's genetic structure to better serve the spirit (adam/atman) and soul (eve/jiva). In this scene, Amitabha animates the first mythological Adam.  








Western (Jewish Christian) iconography of the Father does not go to much length to depict spiritual beings in artforms to make them look much different from human beings. One reason for this may be the Christian doctrine of the "bodily ressurection", the belief that our physical bodies will be ressurected to live in heaven.






Chinese iconography makes the Father look Chinese, Indians picture Him with Indian features and westerners have a distintively European featured God. This is normal human behaviour. Anthropomorphism is a literary, story telling device. The word comes from two Greek words, human (anthropos) and shape/form (morphe). This is what human body-minds do to make sense of things.

Therefore, it is understandable that junior souls who are not yet ready for spiritual teaching are attracted to organized religion that ascribe human qualities such as anger and jealousy to their gods.

As Paul said in Corinthians 3:2, "1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able,3 for you are still fleshly. "

Wayists look beyond the graphics to the Reality to which they point. Body mind will get terribly bored looking at orbs of light that depict spiritual beings. We love the pictures, the art and symbolism but we do not really think of our Father as one who inhabits a human body. We know that our Amitabha is a spiritual being of immense light, one that we cannot bear to see with human eyes. We wait to know the Father more intimately ne day when we shall behold Him with our newfound spiritual senses. In the mean time, we bask in the divine presence of the Lord in our hearts.


Not to Hurt...

Not to hurt our humble brethren (the animals) Is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission: To be of service to them whenever they require it. St. Francis of Assisi
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