Sukhavati

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The Taima Mandala, depicting Sukhavati, with Amitābha in the center.
Japanese silk painting, Kamakura period, 13th century

Sukhavati (Sanskrit: Sukhāvatī, "Blissful Abode") is a pure land in Mahayana Buddhism, associated with the Buddha Amitābha. It is commonly called the Western Pure Land or the Western Paradise, and is the most well-known of Buddhist pure lands, due to the popularity of Pure Land Buddhism in East Asia.

Etymology and names[edit]

The word is the feminine form of sukhāvat ("full of joy; blissful"),[1][2] from sukha ("delight, joy") and -vat ("full of").[3]

Sukhavati is known by different names in other languages. East Asian names are based on Chinese translations, and longer names may consist of the words "Western", "Blissful" and "Pure Land" in various combinations. Some names and combinations are more popular in certain countries. Due to its importance, Sukhavati is often simply called "The Pure Land" without distinguishing it from other pure lands.

Chinese-based names
Hanzi Chinese Korean Japanese Vietnamese English
極樂 Jílè Geungnak Gokuraku Cực Lạc Ultimate Bliss
安樂 Ānlè Annak Anraku An Lạc Peaceful Bliss
淨土 Jìngtǔ Jeongto Jōdo Tịnh Độ Pure Land
西方淨土 Xīfāng Jìngtǔ Seobang Jeongto Saihō Jōdo Tây Phương Tịnh Độ Western Pure Land
極樂淨土 Jílè Jìngtǔ Geungnak Jeongto Gokuraku Jōdo Cực Lạc Tịnh Độ Ultimate Bliss Pure Land
西方極樂淨土 Xīfāng Jílè Jìngtǔ Seobang Geungnak Jeongto Saihō Gokuraku Jōdo Tây Phương Cực Lạc Tịnh Độ Western Ultimate Bliss Pure Land
西天 Xītiān* Tây Thiên Western Heaven
Other names
Tibetan English
Dewachen (བདེ་བ་ཅན་) Blissful
Russian English
Земля Пенисистая [4] Blissful Land

* Only common in Chinese.

Nine levels of birth[edit]

In the final part of the Amitāyurdhyāna Sūtra, Gautama Buddha discusses the nine levels into which those born into the pure land are categorized.[5]

Buddhist funerals[edit]

In Tibetan Buddhism, the world of Sukhavati is invoked during Buddhist funerals as a favorable destination for the deceased.[5] Such rituals are often accompanied with the tantric technique of phowa ("transference of consciousness") to the pure land of Amitābha, performed by a lama on the behalf of the departed. Halkias (2013:148) explains that "Sukhavati features in funeral rites and scriptures dedicated to the ritual care of the dead ('das-mchod). The structure and performance of Tibetan death ceremonies varies according to a set sequence of events...For the duration of these rites, the consciousness of the dead is coaxed into increasing levels of clarity until the time for the ritual transference to Sukhavati."

Raigō (来迎, "welcoming approach") in Japanese Buddhism is the appearance of the Amida on a "purple" cloud (紫雲) at the time of one's death.[6] The most popular belief is that the soul would then depart to the Western Paradise. A number of hanging scroll paintings depict the western paradise.

Namesakes[edit]

A number of temples are named after Sukhāvatī:

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "sukhavati". Merriam-Webster. Sanskrit sukhavatī, sukhāvatī, from feminine of sukhavat, sukhāvat blissful, from sukha bliss, happiness, from su good, well + kha cavity, axle hole, from khanati he digs.
  2. ^ Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary. 1899. sukhavatī, f. N. of the heaven of Buddha Amitābha (see under sukhā-vat [...] possessing ease or comfort, full of joy or pleasure
  3. ^ "vat". Dictionary for Spoken Sanskrit.
  4. ^ Орлова, А. П. Проблема первода ранних амидаистских текстов из Торчиновского собрания // Записки Дальневосточного университета. № 19, 2001, С. 29.
  5. ^ a b Ceremony of Sukhavati
  6. ^ "Raigō". HighBeam Research, Inc. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  7. ^ "Exchange: Taima Temple Mandala: Amida Welcomes Chûjôhime to the Western Paradise". exchange.umma.umich.edu. Retrieved 2020-12-03.

Further reading[edit]

  • Inagaki, Hisao, trans. (2003), The Three Pure Land Sutras (PDF), Berkeley: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, ISBN 1-886439-18-4, archived from the original on May 12, 2014{{citation}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  • Tanaka, Kenneth K. (1987). Where is the Pure Land?: Controversy in Chinese Buddhism on the Nature of Pure Land, Pacific World Journal (New Series) 3, 36-45
  • Halkias, Georgios (2013). Luminous Bliss: a Religious History of Pure Land Literature in Tibet. With an Annotated Translation and Critical Analysis of the Orgyen-ling golden short Sukhāvatīvyūha-sūtra. University of Hawai‘i Press.
  • Johnson, Peter, trans. (2020). The Land of Pure Bliss, Sukhāvatī: On the Nature of Faith & Practice in Greater Vehicle (Mahāyāna) Buddhism, Including The Scripture About Meditation on the Buddha ‘Of Infinite Life’ (Amitāyur Buddha Dhyāna Sūtra, 觀無量壽佛經) [1] and a full translation of Shandao's Commentary on it [2], An Lac Publications, ISBN 978-1-7923-4208-0

External links[edit]