Amitābha (阿弥陀仏 Amida butsu; 阿弥陀如来 Amidha nyorai)

Japancirca 1400s, Muromachi period (1338–1573)

Spencer Museum of Art

Spencer Museum of Art

Amitābha, whose name means “limitless light” in Sanskrit, is venerated in the Pure Land sect of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. Scriptures related to Amitābha first made their way to Japan in the 7th century, but the religious figure did not become popular until three hundred years later when Buddhism was tranformed from an elite, foreign tradition into a populist religion. Pure Land Buddhism teaches mindfulness through the recitation of Amitabha’s name (namu amida butsu in Japanese) in order to attain reincarnation in Western Paradise. An accompanying hand gesture (known as a mudra in Sanskrit) welcomes deceased souls into paradise (known as raigo in Japanese). Darkened from smoke and incense, this figure’s lacquer coating, mixed with tiny slivers of gold leaf, once glowed in the flickering light of votive candles in the dim temple interior.

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  • Title: Amitābha (阿弥陀仏 Amida butsu; 阿弥陀如来 Amidha nyorai)
  • Creator: Japan
  • Date Created: circa 1400s, Muromachi period (1338–1573)
  • Physical Dimensions: Object Height/Width/Depth: 109.2 x 46.1 x 40 cm, Object Height/Width/Depth: 43 x 18 1/8 x 15 3/4 in
  • Type: sculpture
  • Medium: wood, lacquer, kirikane (gold foil)

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