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臺南市東區彌陀寺阿彌陀佛(陳美華攝)

阿彌陀佛梵文作 Amita-buddha,為佛教西方極樂世界之教主,又作阿彌多佛、阿弭跢佛、阿弭嚲佛,略稱彌陀。根據漢傳佛經,阿彌陀代表無窮的光明、恆久的壽命,所以也有無量壽佛的稱號。關於阿彌陀佛的前世有著不同版本的記載,據《無量壽經》,從前有位國王為了求道,捨棄王位出家,名法藏比丘。法藏比丘歷經長時間的冥想思慮後,立下四十八個誓願,希望自己成佛時能創造一個沒有罪惡和痛苦的世界,也就是極樂世界。法藏比丘在發願後又經過長久的努力,最後終於成為阿彌陀佛,也創造了他的理想佛國,即極樂世界。阿彌陀佛的極樂世界和我們目前的世界之間相隔有十億個宇宙。在極樂世界,祂有兩位輔佐的菩薩,一位是大勢至,另外一位就是我們非常熟悉的觀音。
又根據《悲華經》,阿彌陀佛的過去世曾是國王,名叫無諍念,無諍念有兩位王子,長子叫「不眴」,次子名「尼摩」。無諍念有位大臣叫寶海梵志,寶海梵志的兒子出家修道,成為當時的佛,名叫寶藏。在寶海梵志的勵之下,無諍念國王和兩位王子捨棄原本供佛欲求世間福祉的念頭,下定決心追求佛道,發願成佛。無諍念國王發願要成就極樂世界。寶藏佛最後預言無諍念王日後將成為無量壽佛,長子成為觀世音菩薩、次子成為大勢至菩薩。
阿彌陀佛的信仰在漢傳佛教的發展很早,且影響深遠。東晉時有志求生淨土的佛教徒已在廬山結社,成立最早的教團,後來成為我們所熟知的淨土宗。淨土宗的修行方法以念佛法門為主。「念佛法門」是念阿彌陀佛以求生西方極樂世界的實踐,其念佛法門則包括不斷念誦佛的名字或是憶想阿彌陀佛的形象等等。淨土宗和念佛法門的發展也使得稱念阿彌陀佛的方式更深入民間,並且和許多日常活動相互結合,例如佛教徒以之作為互相打招呼的用語,或是在寺院中持續的吟誦儀式,甚至在臨終或喪儀裡,不止佛教徒,一般大眾也有念誦阿彌陀佛佛號或相關經典為亡者超度的儀式活動。上述種種日常生活行為都和淨土宗追求來世到達西方極樂世界有關,阿彌陀佛的影響力較於釋迦牟尼佛可說是亳不遜色。


臺南市東區彌陀寺阿彌陀佛(陳美華攝)


Amituo fo (阿彌陀佛), Amitābha, is the Buddha in the West Pure Land (西方淨土). 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.
        Reagarding to the Wuliangshou jing (無量壽經), The Infinite Life Sutra, eons ago, there was a king who met Guan Zizaiwang rulai (觀自在王如來), Lokeśvararāja in Sanskrit, and learned his teaching. Then the king became a monk named Dharmakara (法藏) and practiced Buddhist teaching. After he got enlightenment, he made forty-eight vows to saving all of the sentimental being. He sought to creat a world without dying and suffering and anyone who shares his vows will reborn in his wonderland, the West Pure Land. Amitābha’s wonderand is far from our world. He also has two bodhisattvas as his assistants. They are bodhisattva Dashizhi (大勢至菩薩), Mahāsthāmaprāpta, and bodhisattva Guanyin (觀音菩薩), Avalokiteśvara.
        According to another sutra, the Beihua jing (悲華經), Karuṇā-puṇḍarīka-sūtra in Sanskrit, Amitābha used to be a king named Wuzheng Nian (無諍念), and he had two princes. The elder one was named Buxuan (不眴). The younger was named Nimo (尼摩). King Wuzheng Nian had a minister named Baohai (寶海). Baohai’s son became a monk and got enlightenment, named Baozang fo (寶藏佛), the Treasure Buddha. King Wuzheng Nian and his two sons were encouraged by Baozang fo and made vows to become a Buddha. As a result, by eones efforts, King Wuzheng Nian became Amitābha. The Princes Buxuan and Nimo became Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta individually.
In Chinese Buddhism, various Pure Land sects are the major groups who devote to Amitābha. The first Pure Land sect was established in Eastern Jin dynasty. The devotees of Amitābha mainly visualize the image of or chant the name of Amitābha in order to reborn in the Pure Land after death.
The practice and idea of Amitābha are very important in Chinese religion and cultural. In Taiwan’s Buddhist monastery, the devotees say the name of Amitābha to each other as a greeting. When a person is dying or dead, sometimes ones family member and other volunteers will around the person chanting Amitābha and praying for him or her.
No doubt Amitābha and his Pure Land are very important religious phenomenom in Taiwan.
 
Keywords: Amitābha, the Pure Land
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