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 Amitabha Buddha’s Twelve Kinds of Light: A Brief Explication

Author: Dharma Master Huijing

Translator: Sam Suen

Publication Date: 2018-05

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Brief Introduction

Amitabha Buddha’s virtues are immeasurable and can be broadly categorized into those of light and longevity. In much the same way as humans have aliases, Amitabha Buddha is also known by thirteen other names. Of these, one is associated with lifespan: “Buddha of Infinite Life.” The other twelve names relate to light and are collectively known as “Buddha of Infinite Light.”

Of the 48 Vows made by Amitabha in the causal ground, the 12th is the Vow of Infinite Light and the 13th is the Vow of Infinite Life. In these two vows, he pledges to attain Buddhahood and forever deliver sentient beings of the three time frames (the past, present and future) through the name of “Infinite Life,” exemplifying untold compassion, and in the ten directions through the name of “Infinite Light,” encompassing inconceivable wisdom. His life and light are all-pervasive and limitless. Amitabha Buddha skillfully delivers and receives afflicted sentient beings from the ten directions with his great compassion and wisdom.

A Buddha’s virtues either “hold or are held.” The virtue of infinite life is one that holds, while all other virtues are held -- because the former holds the latter together. Without life, what would the various virtues of a Buddha be based on? What would support a Buddha’s countless and inconceivable merits -- such as his major and minor outstanding physical marks, his radiance, his ability to teach the Dharma and to benefit sentient beings? Accordingly, only the Vow of Infinite Life holds together and maintains all other Vows. This vow is also the embodiment of the Buddha’s great benevolence andingenious use of expedient means to save beings.

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Guiding Principles

Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings