Amida Buddha is the heart of Shin Buddhist faith and practice. First revealed by the historical Buddha over 2,600 years ago, the name Amida is Japanese which is derived from Amitabha or Amitayus of the ancient Sanskrit language, which means ‘Immeasurable Life and Light’ or Oneness. The word Amida is a personification or symbol for the transcendent reality and mystery, which is “unborn, uncreated and formless” which is also known as dharmakaya, nirvana, shunyata (emptiness).
Amida Buddha is a personification expressing that which is incomprehensible. This inconceivable transcendent realm is called Dharmakaya, which is Sanskrit meaning ‘the body of truth.’ This word points to the non-conceptual ultimate dimension and the true nature of things including ourselves. Amida Buddha in turned is the sambhogakaya or the compassionate expression of this formless transcendent realm. She gives us a concrete image that helps us to understand that which is beyond understanding. Amida is also synonymous with the terms One Life, the Great Compassion and Buddha Nature.
Buddha is a term meaning a few things: firstly, it is any life form that has awakened to boundlessness; secondly, it is the deepest nature of all things, which is undifferentiated and selfless; and thirdly, it is our inner potential, reality and destiny to live a life of pure compassion and wisdom.
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~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Who Was the Buddha? The Story of a Human Being Like You and Me
by Toni Bernhard, guest contributor
An image of the Buddha is carved into a banyan tree at Wat Mahathat in Thailand. (photo: McKay Savage/Flickr, cc by 2.0)
The name Buddha means “awakened one.” This is the story of how a young man became the Buddha. As with all ancient tales, we can’t know what is to be taken literally and what is to be taken metaphorically. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m inspired by his story either way.
The Buddha was born a prince in a small kingdom in northern India. His name was Siddhartha Gautama. His father, the king, indulged his son’s desires and protected him from being exposed to human suffering. The king posted guards at the palace gates to keep Siddhartha from seeing how less fortunate people lived. He even had attendants hold a parasol over his son so he wouldn’t experience heat or cold or dust. Everything unpleasant about life was hidden from him.
When Siddhartha was nine years old, his father took him to a plowing festival. At one point, the nurses left the prince unattended under a rose-apple tree. In striking contrast to the noise of the festival, it was calm and quiet under the tree. Siddhartha sat cross-legged and became aware of the sensation of his breath going in and out of his body. It was his first experience of true calm and peacefulness. Soon his nurses returned and broke this peaceful abiding, but the experience had a profound effect on the young prince.
One day, when Siddhartha was a young man, he talked his attendant, Channa, into taking him beyond the walls of the palace. For the first time, Siddhartha was exposed to life as the rest of us experience it.
Sari Nusseibeh Discovers God in Cambodia
by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer
Bayon Temple in Angkor Thom, Cambodia (photo: Ran Phang/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Palestinian philosopher Sari Nusseibeh comes from one of the oldest families on record in Jerusalem. His Muslim ancestors have been in the Holy Land since at least the seventh century. Earlier this year, Nusseibeh traveled to Cambodia where he glimpsed inside another ancient civilization. And it was there, as he tells it in the audio link above, that he had an epiphany about God:
“One thing that struck me was the four faces in many of the gates that were on those temples of Buddha. I was asking the guide what they stood for. He said, “Care, compassion, charity, and equality are the four faces of Buddha in those temples. And as he said them I just felt, to me, this is God. And I’m not a Buddhist.”
Listen to more of our interview with Sari Nusseibeh in this week’s show, “The Evolution of Change.”
The Buddha’s a Birthday Boy!
by Susan Leem, associate producer
A monk celebrates Vesak Day, the Buddha’s birthday, at the Borobudur Temple in Indonesia. (photo: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
Today is the birthday of the Buddha, born as Prince Siddhārtha Gautama in Lumbini, 150 miles from Kathmandu, Nepal. Devotees celebrate three stages of his life on this day: his birth, enlightenment after meditating under the Bodhi tree, and his passing.
Roger Ebert’s Buddha Smile
Andy Dayton, associate web producer
Like many, for most of my life Roger Ebert has been a vaguely familiar and pleasant face — paired with Gene Siskel and opining with his thumbs. And, like many, I was captivated by Chris Jones’ profile of Ebert in a recent issue of Esquire. As a necessary preface to his story, Jones describes how in 2006, after a series of surgeries battling thyroid cancer, Ebert’s jaw was removed — also removing his ability to eat solid foods and talk.
What may sound like a tragedy reads in many ways as a rebirth. The challenges of his new life are very clear, but Ebert seems to have rediscovered himself in a way that he’s made public on his blog and even through his Twitter account. One of the more striking aspects of the Esquire article is a full-page portrait of Ebert that made no attempt to conceal his face, post-jaw removal. Jones describes one aspect of Ebert’s new face in detail:
“… because he’s missing sections of his jaw, and because he’s lost some of the engineering behind his face, Ebert can’t really do anything but smile. It really does take more muscles to frown, and he doesn’t have those muscles anymore. […] Anger isn’t as easy for him as it used to be. Now his anger rarely lasts long enough for him to write it down.”
I was reminded, in a way, of an essay by our recent guest, E. Ethelbert Miller, called “Langston’s Buddha Smile”:
“For me, looking at Langston, with his Buddha smile and easy laugh, makes me think about what it means to possess a poet’s heart. I too have known rivers.”
Obviously, there’s a world of difference between these two smiles in terms of circumstances, but something resonates here with me. Jones’ description of Ebert’s new life seems to hint at spiritual transformation, although perhaps as a self-declared atheist Ebert wouldn’t feel comfortable with that language. Maybe it’s a “poet’s heart” then, but it’s evident in his honest and gracious response to Jones’ profile:
“I mentioned that it was sort of a relief to have that full-page photo of my face. Yes, I winced. What I hated most was that my hair was so neatly combed. Running it that big was good journalism. It made you want to read the article.”
And perhaps moreso in his words on “dying in increments”:
“I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.”
(photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Repossessing Virtue: Pankaj Mishra on the Dangers of Progress
» download (mp3, 14:06)
Shiraz Janjua, Associate Producer
Looking ahead to next week’s refreshed and resonant broadcast of our Buddha in the World program, here’s some new material with the guest of that program, Indian journalist Pankaj Mishra. In the original interview with Krista in 2005, he had come out of a personal adventure retracing the steps of the Buddha and reflecting on his modern-day relevance. He had some powerful things to say about globalization, so we sought out his thoughts once more, this time on the economic crisis.
Now, as he did in that program, he critiques the ideologies of progress and globalization. But his critique makes me think of something in our Recovering Chinese Religiosities program: we often measure progress solely through economic terms; we measure China’s and India’s increased economic power as invariably good. And the logic is fairly convincing: if a country has more money, its citizens must have a higher standard of living, and must therefore be happier.
But, unfortunately, the opposite must also be true — that when we lose money, we lose happiness, because we lose security. Never mind “we” — maybe I’m just talking about myself. I am secure when I know I have a roof over my head, a job, food nearby, the whole nine. Yes, I admit it: having money makes me worry less about the future.
So how do we deal with this unhappiness and insecurity? As Pankaj Mishra says, we don’t have to invent some new solution to our way of living. Our traditions already have resources to heal us. We need to live like we’re bound to the people around us. Perhaps doing so — especially in a society where we value individualism and specialization — would have prevented the larger crisis. Well, who can say. We can’t really apply that program across society, but we sure can try it in our own lives. I suppose as the news gets worse day by day, being bound to other people is one way we might collectively stay afloat.