Amrita

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Amrita (Sanskrit: अमृत, IAST: amṛta), Amrit or Amata (also called Sudha, Amiy, Ami) is a word that literally means "immortality" and is often referred to in texts as nectar. "Amṛta" is etymologically related to the Greek ambrosia[1] and carries the same meaning.[2] Its first occurrence is in the Rigveda, where it is considered one of several synonyms for soma, the drink of the devas.

Amrit has varying significance in different Indian religions. The word Amrit is also a common first name for Sikhs and North Indian Hindus, while its feminine form is Amritā. The traditional masculine name is Amritha with the feminine name being Amrithi.

Hinduism[edit]

A stone carving of a standing woman with a pot in her left hand and lotus in right.
Mohini, the female form of Vishnu, holding the pot of amritha which she distributes amongst all the devas, leaving the asuras without. Darasuram, Tamil Nadu, India

The amṛta is repeatedly referred to as the drink of the devas, which grants them immortality. Despite this, the nectar does not actually offer true immortality: instead, by partaking it, the devas were able to attain a higher level of knowledge and power, which they had lost due to the curse of Sage Durvasa.

The amṛta features in the samudra manthana legend, which describes how the devas, because of a curse from the sage Durvasa, begin to lose their immortality. Assisted by their rivals, the asuras, the devas begin to churn the ocean, releasing (among other extraordinary objects and beings) the amṛta.[3]

Amṛta is sometimes said to miraculously form on, or flow from, statues of Hindu gods. The substance is consumed by worshippers and is alleged to be sweet-tasting and not at all similar to honey or sugar water.

Amṛta was the last of the fourteen treasures that emerged from the churning of the ocean and contained in a pot borne by Dhanvantari, the physician of the devas.

Sikhism[edit]

Amrit (Punjabi: ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ) is the name of the holy water used in the baptism ceremony or Amrit Sanchar in Sikhism. This ceremony is observed to initiate the Sikhs into the Khalsa and requires drinking amrit. This is created by mixing a number of soluble ingredients, including sugar, and is then rolled with a khanda with the accompaniment of scriptural recitation of five sacred verses.

Metaphorically, God's name is also referred to as a nectar:

ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਸਬਦੁ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਹਰਿ ਬਾਣੀ ॥
अम्रित सबदु अम्रित हरि बाणी ॥
Amrit sabad amrit har baṇi.
The Shabda is Amrit; the Lord's bani is Amrit.
 
ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਸੇਵਿਐ ਰਿਦੈ ਸਮਾਣੀ ॥
सतिगुरि सेविऐ रिदै समाणी ॥
Satgur seviai ridai samāṇi.
Serving the True Guru, it permeates the heart.
 
ਨਾਨਕ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਦਾ ਸੁਖਦਾਤਾ ਪੀ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਸਭ ਭੁਖ ਲਹਿ ਜਾਵਣਿਆ
Nānak amrit nām sadā sukhdāta pi amrit sabh bhukh lėh jāvaṇia.
O Nanak, the Ambrosial Naam is forever the Giver of peace; drinking in this Amrit, all hunger is satisfied.[4]

Theravada Buddhism[edit]

According to Thanissaro Bhikkhu, "the deathless" refers to the deathless dimension of the mind which is dwelled in permanently after nibbana.[5]

In the Amata Sutta, the Buddha advises monks to stay with the four Satipatthana: "Monks, remain with your minds well-established in these four establishings of mindfulness. Don't let the deathless be lost to you."[6]

In the questions for Nagasena, King Milinda asks for evidence that the Buddha once lived, wherein Nagasena describes evidence of the Dhamma in a simile:

"Revered Nagasena, what is the nectar shop of the Buddha, the Blessed One?"

"Nectar, sire, has been pointed out by the Blessed One. With this nectar the Blessed One sprinkles the world with the devas; when the devas and the humans have been sprinkled with this nectar, they are set free from birth, aging, disease, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. What is this nectar? It is mindfulness occupied with the body. And this too, sire, was said by the Blessed One: 'Monks, they partake of nectar (the deathless) who partake of mindfulness that is occupied with the body.' This, sire, is called the Blessed One's nectar shop."

— Miln 335[7]

Vajrayana Buddhism[edit]

Amritha (Wylie: bdud rtsi, THL: dütsi) also plays a significant role in Vajrayana Buddhism as a sacramental drink which is consumed at the beginning of all important rituals such as the abhisheka, ganachakra, and homa. In the Tibetan tradition, dütsi is made during drubchens - lengthy ceremonies involving many high lamas. It usually takes the form of small, dark-brown grains that are taken with water, or dissolved in very weak solutions of alcohol and is said to improve physical and spiritual well-being.[8]

The foundational text of traditional Tibetan medicine, the Four Tantras, is also known by the name The Heart of Amrita (Wylie: snying po bsdus pa).

The Immaculate Crystal Garland (Wylie: dri med zhal phreng) describes the origin of amrita in a version of the samudra manthana legend retold in Buddhist terms. In this Vajrayana version, the monster Rahu steals the amrita and is blasted by Vajrapani's thunderbolt. As Rahu has already drunk the amrita he cannot die, but his blood, dripping onto the surface of this earth, causes all kinds of medicinal plants to grow. At the behest of all the Buddhas, Vajrapani reassembles Rahu who eventually becomes a protector of Buddhism according to the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Inner Offering (Wylie: Nang chod, Chinese: 内供) is the most symbolic Amrita offering assembly, and the Inner Offering Nectar Pill (Wylie: Nang chod bdud rtsi rilbu, Chinese: 内供甘露丸) is a precious and secret medicine of Tibetan Buddhism, which are only used internally for higher ranking monks in Nyingma school. Its ingredients including Five Amrita and Five Meat, which represents five buddha, and five elements respectively. According to Tantras of Chakravarti, and Tantras of Vajravārāhī, a ceremony needs to be hold for melting and blessing the Inner Offering Nectar. Five Nectar needs to be arranged in four directions: yellow excrement in the east, green bone marrow in the north, white semen in the west and red blood in the south, blue urine is placed in the center. Four Nectar should come from wise monks and the ova should be collected from the first menstruation of a blessed woman. The Five Meats are arranged similiarly, meat of black bull in the southeast, the meat of the blue dog in the southwest, the meast of the white elephant in the northwest, the meat of the green horse in the northeast, and the meat of a red human corpse in the center. After the ceremony, these ingredients will transform into an one taste (ekarasa) elixir, which bestows bliss, vitality, immortality and wisdom. Actual practitioner will take a 'synthesized essence' of the Nectar Pill and combined it with black tea or alcohol, but mostly the "Nectar Pill" are derived from plants.[9]

Chinese Buddhism describes Amrita (Chinese: 甘露; pinyin: gānlù) as blessed water, food, or other consumable objects often produced through merits of chanting mantras.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Walter W. Skeat, Etymological English Dictionary
  2. ^ "Ambrosia" in Chambers's Encyclopædia. London: George Newnes, 1961, Vol. 1, p. 315.
  3. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 66.
  4. ^ Guru Granth Sahib, page 119
  5. ^ "All About Change", by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 5 June 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/change.html
  6. ^ "Amata Sutta: Deathless" (SN 47.41), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 17 February 2012, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn47/sn47.041.than.html
  7. ^ "The Blessed One's City of Dhamma: From the Milindapañha", based on the translation by I.B. Horner. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/horner/bl130.html
  8. ^ Dutsi, A Brief Description of the Benefits of the Sacred Ambrosial Medicine, The Unsurpassable, Supreme Samaya Substance that Liberates Through Taste.
  9. ^ The handbook of Tibetan Buddhist symbols, Robert Beer. ISBN 1590301005, Boston, MA. :Shambhala, 2003.

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