To understand more about the nature of Amituofo (Amita Buddha), let us look at the significance of his name (名号):
A = 阿 = 无 = Without
Mita = 弥陀 = 量 = Measure
Buddha = 佛 = 觉 = Awakened One(s) / Awakening
Amita Buddha = 阿弥陀佛 = 无量觉 = 无量佛 = Awakening Without Measure / Awakened One(s) Without Measure
The Sanskrit word ‘A’ means ‘Without’. ‘Mita’ means ‘Measure’. And ‘Buddha’ means ‘Awakened One(s)’ or ‘Awakening’. Together, ‘Amita Buddha’ means ‘Awakening Without Measure (Supreme Buddhahood)’ and ‘Awakened One(s) or Buddha(s) Without Measure’. Thus, Amita Buddha’s name does not just represent one Buddha; but also all immeasurable Buddhas, with their immeasurable (and perfect) compassion, wisdom, merits and skilful means to guide all beings to Buddhahood.
As an individual Buddha, Amita Buddha is also interconnected to all other Buddhas. Being all Buddhas collectively as ‘Buddha(s) Without Measure’, Amita Buddha is also the name of the Dharmakaya (法身) – the one universal body of truth realised and shared by all Buddhas, that pervades all space and time (just as truth itself does). Within the Dharmakaya are all Sambhogakayas (报身: Reward Bodies) and Nirmanakayas (应化身: Manifestation Bodies) of all countless Buddhas too, as they are able to inter-penetrate one another without obstruction, just as many lamps’ lights can shine everywhere harmoniously within a room.
In the traditional ‘Repentance Text With 88 Buddhas’ (八十八佛忏悔文), listed as the 89th Buddha is this: ‘Homage to (and Refuge in) the Dharma realm’s (dharmadhatu: universe) Treasury Body’s Amita Buddha’ (南无法界藏身阿弥陀佛). This is to conclude, summarise and streamline the mindfulness of all Buddhas via mindfulness of Amituofo. As explained by Great Master Yin Guang (印光大师: the 13th Patriarch of the Pure Land tradition):
‘[It] should [be] known that Amita Buddha is the Dharma realm’s [universe] treasury body [or storehouse of compassion, wisdom and merits of all Buddhas]. Of all the ten directions’ [everywhere] Dharma realms’ merits of all Buddhas, Amita Buddha as one Buddha, have them all completely. [This is] as if Sakra’s [Indra the deva king] net of gems, with thousands[‘s reflections] of gems absorbed within one gem, one gem[‘s reflection] everywhere within thousands of gems. Raising one, all are received, without any lack, without any excess.’
– Scroll of Widening [Understanding & Learning]: First reply to Layman Gao Shao Lin’s second letter
In other words, the name of Amituofo represents and contains all Buddhas’ merits based on their boundless compassion and wisdom, that pervade all space and time. Using Indra’s net as an analogy, which is strung with countless gems, each reflecting all others, and all reflecting one, upholding mindfulness of just one name of a Buddha sincerely, i.e. Amituofo, one will in effect be mindful of all other Buddhas without loss of focus, or being scatter-minded. No Buddha will be amiss and no stray thoughts will arise.
While all Buddhas have their individually distinct (and sometimes similar) names (别号) based on their characteristics (such as how they became Buddhas and how they are like after Buddhahood), they also have a fundamental, original or universal name (本名), that is common to all of them collectively, in terms of the Dharmakaya and dharmadhatu. This name is ‘Amituofo’. This is why mindfulness of Amituofo alone with wholeheartedness (single-mindedness) is so meritorious and equivalent to being mindful of all Buddhas. It also explains why our fundamental teacher Sakyamuni Buddha repeatedly encouraged mindfulness of Amituofo, and how all who uphold mindfulness of Amituofo’s name ‘will be protected and kept in mind by all Buddhas’ (为一切诸佛之所护念). Connecting deeply to Amituofo with a strong sense of focus enables us to connect to all other Buddhas via the Samadhi of Mindfulness of Buddha. This is also possible upon reaching Amituofo’s Pure Land, where we will have unlimited access to other Buddhas in their Pure Lands via the empowerment of Amituofo’s blessings.
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