Expressing the form of Amitabha Buddha as "light"

- through Francois Leclercq

Published on


Characteristics of Amitabha Buddha's Light

Le Amitabha Sutra said:

The light of the Buddha shines boundlessly and unhindered on all the worlds of the ten directions. It is for this reason that he is called Amitabha.

The name “Amitabha” means infinite light.

Since we know that a Buddha's name denotes an important aspect of his activity, and since that activity depends on the form in which a Buddha chooses to manifest, we realize that we can know something profound about Amitabha by understanding his light. What kind of "light" does Amitabha Buddha possess? How can the light of the Buddha shine on us?

Le sutra of contemplation said:

Amitabha's light pervades and shines on all the worlds of the ten directions which embrace and receive those sentient beings who think or recite his Name without abandoning them.

Why can't we “see” Amitabha's light? What happens when millions of people think or recite his name at the same time? Can Amitabha's light instantly shine on them at the same time?

Le sutra of contemplation also says:

Because all Tathagatas have cosmic bodies, they can enter the mind of every sentient being. For this reason, when you think of a Buddha, your mind takes the form of his thirty-two physical characteristics and his eighty sub-marks. When your mind thinks of Buddha (by name, shapes and brands)he himself is the Buddha.

From the words of Shakyamuni Buddha, we know that the activity and form of Amitabha Buddha is described using the analogy of light. However, Amitabha's light is not the same type of light that we can see, such as sunlight, electric light, candlelight, etc. Rather, it is a supernatural light that enters our minds and, without obstruction, works to transform and liberate us from within.

The form of the Buddha is described by light

Form and function are intimately linked. In terms of the functionality of the Buddha light, there are many similarities with the light in the world. Just as the light of the world can pierce the darkness of the physical environment, the light of the Buddha can dispel the darkness of ignorance in our minds so that we can clearly see life's meaning, purpose and direction. .

Moreover, the Buddha's light can give us wisdom, hope, peace and joy. It can grab our attention, guide us home, relieve us of fear, and comfort us when we are in despair. Again, the light of the world has a similar function when we are lost in a desert at night. From these functions we know that one of the forms taken by Amitabha Buddha in our Saha world is infinite, unobstructed, supernatural light.

The Meaning of “Permeate and Shine”

It is also stated that the light of the Buddha can enter the minds of sentient beings who are aware of the Buddha or who recite his name. If millions of people are aware of the Buddha at the same time in different parts of the world, the light of the Buddha can enter their minds simultaneously.

This implies that the light of the Buddha is different from the light of the world which travels from place to place. For example, it takes about eight minutes for light to travel from the Sun to Earth. However, the Buddha's light pervades all the worlds and enters the minds of all sentient beings who think or recite his Name simultaneously. Isn't that inconceivable?

The meaning of "unhindered"

According to the theory of karma in Buddhism, people perform good or bad deeds (karma) through their body, mouth and mind, resulting in consequences of happiness and suffering, according to the law of cause and effect. Thus, the Buddha advises us to refrain from evil and perform good deeds.

Regarding "unhindered" in the definition of Amitabha's name, it refers to the ability of Amitabha's light to remove obstructions (due to greed, hatred and delusion; arrogance, doubt and wrong opinions) created by our karma so that we are physically and mentally liberated.

The light of the world is obstructed if there is an object in its path. Thus, the "back" of the object is dark and a shadow is cast. However, the light of the Buddha does not require any means of transmission and therefore does not suffer from any obstruction. It coexists with the spirit of all sentient beings in the worlds of the ten directions.

What is the light of a Buddha, in fact?

In Buddhism, "light" is the mental activity of a sentient being. In a state of purity, the mind nature or buddha nature of all individual sentient beings is filled with "light" which shines through the immeasurable and limitless cosmos.

Unfortunately, due to a single thought of “ignorance” (or discriminating thought), all sentient beings have fallen into a state of delusion and are trapped in an ever-rotating cage of afflictions. This state is described as "darkness", for the light of spirit-nature is covered by the "dust" of matter, sound, smell, taste and touch.

Subsequently, because of the illusion, sentient beings experience karma, receive retribution, and suffer in the cycle of birth and death. This leads to an endless chain of rebirths within the Six Kingdoms in the Three Realms of the Saha world.

All inhabitants of the Land of Bliss have the same form of light as Amitabha

How can we leave or come out of the cage of darkness of birth and death? There are two ways. One is through the self-help practices of precepts, meditation and wisdom to eradicate greed, hatred and delusion respectively. The other is through the practices of the power of the compassionate vow of the Buddha.

A Buddha is an enlightened sentient being, while an ordinary being is an unenlightened Buddha. For an enlightened Buddha, his mental nature in the form of "light" is perfectly and completely "recovered", and he has the ability to enlighten sentient beings by discovering their original mental nature.

Amitabha's light is the most important among all the Buddhas. Amitabha's light can shine on all sentient beings and embrace those who think or recite his Name, so that they may be reborn in his Land of Bliss with the merit and virtues he has bestowed. By rebirth in the Land of Bliss, all living beings have the same bodily form of “light” as Amitabha Buddha.

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

Leave comments