About the Artwork

Amitabha (Tib. Od dpag-med), the Buddha of 'Boundless Light', is the 'Lord of the Padma or Lotus Family' who presides over the western direction where his paradise of Sukhavati is located. Amitabha Buddha is red in color, his seed syllable is HRIH, and he represents the aggregate of perception or discrimination, and the transmutation of attachment into the wisdom of discernment or discriminating awareness. He sits on a peacock throne, his symbol is the red lotus, his gesture is the dhyana-mudra of meditation, his prajna or consort is red Pandara, and his principal bodhisattva or 'spiritual son' is Avalokiteshvara. As one of the Five Buddhas he is also identified with the faculty of taste, the tongue, the summer season, evening twilight, and the throat chakra - which is equated with the sambhogakaya aspect of speech.

Amitabha appears at the center of this composition, wearing the three red patchwork robes of a Buddhist monk and a green shawl that is draped over his right shoulder. He sits in vajra-posture upon a white moon disc, a multicolored lotus, and a jeweled throne that is adorned on each of its four sides with two young peacocks. His hands rest upon his lap in the dhyana-mudra of meditative equipoise as he holds an alms-bowl made of the vaidurya gemstone (blue-beryl), which is filled with the cascading white nectar of immortal wisdom. Golden light rays emanate from his divine body against his blue inner aura, which is encircled by the golden scrolls and jewels of his outer aura, while a colorful net of gemstones and two jeweled yak-tail pendants hang in front of his green halo.

On each side of Amitabha appear four of the 'Eight Close Sons' or great bodhisattvas, two of which - white Avalokiteshvara and blue Mahasthamaprapta (Vajrapani) - are his principal attendants, and they sit facing forward as they flank Amitabha to his right and left. Next to Avalokiteshvara is orange Manjushri, who holds a large book; and below them is red Samantabhadra (left), who holds a lotus that bears a golden flask; and blue Akashagarbha (right), who holds the stem of a blue lotus. Next to blue Mahasthamaprapta is orange Maitreya, who wears a deerskin sash and holds a lotus that bears a golden flask; and below them is yellow Kshitigarbha (left), who holds a lotus that bears a jewel; and white Nivarana-vishkambhin (right), who holds a blue lotus.

Encircling the enthroned form of Amitabha Buddha is a halo of rainbow light, within which appear some of the beautiful palaces, mansions, lakes, heavenly gardens, and the groves of sweetly scented medicinal trees that adorn his western paradise of Sukhavati. The Pure Land of Sukhavati (Tib. Dewa-chen), meaning the 'Blissful Realm', is believed to be the only Buddhist paradise that can easily be attained by those who are still progressing on the path to enlightenment.

© text by Robert Beer

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PEM Custom Prints offers exclusive custom reproductions of artworks in the collections of the Peabody Essex Museum. Hand-made in the USA using gallery-quality materials, we create prints as true to the original work as possible, using strict color management protocols and state-of-the-art printing technology.


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