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西方三聖 (Xifang sansheng)
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新北市金山區法山西方三聖(法山基金會提供)

西方三聖是佛教淨土宗的主要崇祀對象。他們是佛教西方極樂世界的三位代表,中尊為「阿彌陀佛」,兩旁分別是面對佛像時右側的「觀音菩薩」和左側的「大勢至菩薩」。阿彌陀佛的梵語作Amitabha,意思是無量光,無量壽,其義又可解作甘露,因此在密教中也稱爲甘露王。大勢至是梵文Mahâ-sthâma-prâpta的音譯,亦作「摩訶那」,其意簡稱作「大勢」、「勢至」或「得大勢」。觀世音,梵名 Avalokiteśvara,音譯阿縛盧枳低濕伐羅。又作光世音菩薩、觀自在菩薩、觀世自在菩薩、觀世音自在菩薩,略稱觀音菩薩。在《悲華經》中,阿彌陀佛是一位國王,名叫無諍念。無諍念王的長子名「不眴」、次子名「尼摩」。後來不眴成為觀音菩薩,尼摩成為大勢至菩薩。
        西方三聖是佛教淨土宗的崇奉對象,在西方三聖之中,中國民間有謂「家家彌陀戶戶觀音」,阿彌陀佛和觀世音菩薩顯然普遍受到大眾的崇奉。相較之下,大勢至菩薩則少有獨立供奉的情形。西方三聖塑像的區分方法有多種,除了根據位置外,其中一種是根據《觀無量壽佛經義疏》裡對觀音和勢至的區分,兩者的分別是「觀音冠有立佛,勢至髻有寶瓶」。另外一種普遍的區分方式是大勢至菩薩多持花、觀音多持淨瓶。
        西方三聖除了在佛教寺院設有畫像或塑像,供佛教徒舉行儀式、實踐念佛法門之外。目前在醫院的安寧病房、往生的葬儀中也經常用西方三聖的畫像。這是根據佛教的理解,若是人們臨命終時,為臨終者或亡者念佛,可以幫助他們往生極樂世界。信仰者往生的時候,西方三聖會親臨接引他們的神識前往極樂世界,在極樂世界從蓮花中出生。



新北市汐止區廣修禪寺西方三聖(陳美華攝)
 
 
關鍵詞:淨土宗、蓮社、臨終關懷、極樂世界

考書目
  1. 《觀無量壽佛經》
  2. 《悲華經》

Xifang sansheng means three saints in the west. They are Amituo fo (阿彌陀佛: Amitabha), Dashizhi (大勢至菩薩: Mahāsthāmaprāpta) , and Guanyin (觀音: Avalokiteśvara). The west means the Pure Land of Amitabha. Xifang sansheng are mainly worshiped by the devotees of Buddhist Pure Land sect. In the arrangement of their statues, Amitabha is situated in the middle. The left one is Avalokiteśvara. The right one is Mahāsthāmaprāpta.
In Chinese Buddhism, Amitābha is also called Wuliangshou fo (無量壽佛), the Buddha of Infinite lifespan, or Wuliangguang fo (無量光佛), the Buddha of Infinite Light. Avalokiteśvara is an important bodhisattva in Chinese Buddhism who often be depicted as a goddess. Dashizhi means great strength. It is translated literally by the meaning of Mahāsthāmaprāpta.
Among Xifang sansheng, the trinity of Amitabha’s Pure Land, Mahāsthāmaprāpta is the one been lesser known. Though he is mentioned often, his stories and rold is not clear. Comparing to a saying that there are Amitābha and Avalokiteśvara enshrined in each and every family (家家彌陀戶戶觀音), Mahāsthāmaprāpta is apparently neglected.
Reagarding to the Wuliangshou jing (無量壽經), The Infinite Life Sutra, Amitābha has two bodhisattvas as his assistants. They are bodhisattva Mahāsthāmaprāpta, and Avalokiteśvara. According to another sutra, the Beihua jing (悲華經), Karuṇā-puṇḍarīka-sūtra in Sanskrit, when Amitābha used to be a king named Wuzheng Nian (無諍念) eones before, Mahāsthāmaprāpta was his second son named Nimo (尼摩). He followed King Wuzheng Nian taking refuge in Buddhism. When King Wuzheng Nian by eones efforts became Amitābha, Nimo became Mahāsthāmaprāpta to assist Amitābha.
Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between statues of Mahāsthāmaprāpta and Avalokiteśvara. A simple was is that there is a standing statue of Buddha in the crest of Avalokiteśvara. There is a bottle in Mahāsthāmaprāpta’s coiffure with a topknot.
In Taiwan, the temples dedicated to Xifang sansheng are often belong to the Pure Land Buddhism. According to the doctrine of Pure Land Buddhism, a dying person or a dead will be guided by Amitabha, Mahāsthāmaprāpta, and Avalokiteśvara to the Pure Land, if the dead oneself or ones family chant Amitābha’s name or visualize Amitābha’s image at that time. For this reason, in the hospice of hospital, there is hung the image of them of place their statues sometimes, especially Buddhist founded hospital. In the funeral, the dead’s family members chant Amitābha as a way to help the deat ascenting to the Pure Land. In other words, Xifang sansheng are important in hospice care today.
 
Keywords: Xifang sansheng, the Pure Land sect, Amitabha, Mahāsthāmaprāpta, Avalokiteśvara
 
References:
《觀無量壽佛經》
《悲華經》
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