Pure Land Buddhism was popularized only after the end of the 10th century in Japan. This sector of Mahayana Buddhism primarily focuses on the teachings of Amida Buddha (as known in Japan) or Amitabha Buddha (as known in southeast Asia).
As written in Pure Land Buddhism sutra, Amida Buddha was bodhisattva Dharma Kara in his past life. Dharma Kara was a king who was introduced to Buddhism by Lokesvararaja Buddha. Learning the principle and knowledge from Lokesvararaja Buddha, Dharma Kara renounced his throne and decided to follow the path of Buddha. Later after becoming Buddha, he came into possession of a Pure Land (western paradise, or Shukhavati Bhuwan). Amida Buddha has described clearly about this pure land (nature, how can we born in this paradise, ) in his 48 vows. He promised salvation for the people who recite his sutra and accumulates merits through meditation and assured rebirth in his paradise.
The iconography of Amida Buddha
Amida Buddha is often depicted in two postures - seating and standing. While depicted in seating posture, Amida Buddha is displayed with meditation mudra. Both of the hands gently folded over the lap with palms facing upward. In some instances, thumbs are raised and touched with one another. While depicted in standing posture, Amida Buddha is displayed with Dharma chakra mudra. Right hand raised with thumb and forefinger touched with one another and left arm extended downward with thumb and forefinger touched with one another.
Apart from gesture and posture, Amida Buddha is displayed with thick cheeks, wears monastic robe, semi closed small eyes to aligned with localized form of Japanese people.
Amida Buddha Statues in Japan
Kamakura Daibutsu at Kotoku-in temple
Amida Buddha statue of Kotoku-in temple was built up in the 13th century with a height of 11.4 meters (statue only). This bronze statue is depicted in a seating posture with a meditation mudra. The foot of the Buddha statue is covered by a monastic robe.
Originally, the statue was located inside the temple hall but as the temple buildings were destroyed multiple times by typhoons and tsunami in the 14th and 15th centuries, the statue have now is located in an open space.
Amida Buddha at Byodo-in temple
Amida Buddha statue of the Byodo-in temple was built up in the 11th century with a height of around 9 feet. This gold-leaf-covered statue is depicted in a seating posture with a meditation mudra. The foot of the Buddha statue is covered by a monastic robe.
Amida Buddha statue located in Ushiku was built up in the 20th century with a height of around 120 meters. The statue is one of the top five tallest statues in the world. This bronze statue wears a monastic robe and is depicted in a standing posture with a Dharma chakra mudra.
Ikko Sanzon Amida Buddha at Zenko Ji temple
Amida Buddha statue located in Zenko Ji temple was crafted in India and was brought to Japan in the 6th century. The original Buddha statue is hidden and is not shown to anyone. Hence, a replica of the Amida Buddha statue is constructed to display to the public once in the sixth year in the ceremony called Gokaicho.
Amida Buddha Statue of Toyama city was originally constructed of wood in the 13th century. But due to various natural calamities, it was severely affected, multiple times. In the 20th century, Takaoka Daibutsu was re-erected as a copper statue with a height of 52 feet. The statue is depicted in a seating posture on a lotus base with a meditation mudra. The Buddha wears a monastic robe and has a halo behind his head.