Is belief enough for salvation? The answer is affirmative, according to Amida Buddha. Amida is the Japanese name for Amitabha, who vowed to save—without exception!—even the lowest, most perverse, wicked person. Amida Buddha rescues souls and brings them to Pure Land, the Western Paradise over which he presides. Calling the name of Amida Buddha in trust and devotion, especially at the moment of death, allegedly guarantees salvation and passage to the Pure Land. Amida heads an entourage of angels, spirits, and Bodhisattvas to welcome believers to the Western Paradise.
Amitabha is the focus of what is known as Pure Land Buddhism. The belief that repetitive recitations of his name enables humans to reach the Pure Land after death (as opposed to going to Hell or another less desirable realm) was first documented in China in approximately the fourth century CE.
Mountains are sacred in many spiritual traditions. In Japan, it was believed that performing rituals in the mountains enabled one to attain great magical and spiritual powers. Practitioners of this belief became known as yamabushi (mountain priests). Eventually they developed an organized, structured religion whose formal doctrine derives largely from esoteric Buddhism, especially Pure Land.
Although the tradition exists throughout the Buddhist world, it evolved differently and controversially in Japan. Buddhist Pure Land tradition mingled and merged with traditional shamanism and Shinto to form an esoteric tradition called Nembutsu.
Nembutsu evolved into a system by which one could not only save one’s own soul but could also send malevolent spirits and angry ghosts to Pure Land, purifying them and effectively banishing them in a kindly manner. Through magic and prayer, dangerous spirits and ghosts werenot only banished and exorcised but saved and sent to a better place, Amida’s Pure Land.
Women’s traditional strong leadership roles in shamanism and Shinto were incorporated into Nembutsu, which was initially served not only by male priests but also by itinerant, mendicant priestesses called utabikuni (singing nuns). During later crackdowns on Nembutsu, their spiritual associations were denied. Many became secular singers; others were gradually forced into prostitution; and the name utabikuni is now often used derisively.
Theoretically everyone, but Amida is also the special guardian of those born in the Chinese Years of the Dog and Pig.
Chant: Chant Amida’s invocation or post the words (ideally in Sanskrit or Japanese, depending on tradition, but Amida is so kind that English may be sufficient, too) to protect against ghosts and evil spirits. Chant just before death to enter the Western Paradise: Namu Amida Butsu (“Hail Amida Buddha”).
Akiba-Sanjukubo; Bosatsu; Buddha; Bud dha Amitabha; Ksitigarbha; Tengu
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by :Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.