Large Buddha Amida Nyorai

Large Buddha Amida Nyorai, in the Zushi (travel shrine). Wood, lacquer and gilding. The Buddha in meditation seat on wooden tendrils with rocks and water. The shrine is gilded with black lacquer on the inside, black lacquer on the outside and large, elaborately shaped and chased fittings made of brass. Rest., signs of age and wear.

Japan, Edo period.

Size: 70x48x30cm.

Provenance: private collection, EU.

– Note: Compare a closely related gilt-wood Buddha Amida Nyorai with similar “Sun” mandorla dated to the 15th century in the Guimet Museum, Paris.  The Zushi (travel shrine), the gilt Buddha, the peaceful and fine face expression, the sun mandorla makes this Amida Nyorai a masterpiece (museum quality).

*Amida Nyorai—referred to in Sanskrit as Amitabha Tathagata—the Buddha of Limitless Light, sits upon a lotus pedestal with his hands forming the mudra of meditation. Amida presides over his own paradise, the Western Pure Land, to which he welcomes any being who calls upon his name. His benevolent gaze, directed toward the viewer below, is symbolic of this boundless compassion. The Pure Land sects of Buddhism, with their emphasis on salvation through faith, stirred the imagination of both courtiers and commoners alike, and temples dedicated to Amida were constructed throughout Japan.


Amida is one of the loftiest savior figures in Japanese Buddhism, and Amida faith is concerned primarily with the life to come, the life in the beyond. Amida is described in the Amitābha Sūtra 阿彌陀經, the Sutra of Infinite Life 無量壽經, and many other Mahayana texts. Amida is the central deity of Japan’s popular Pure Land (Jōdo 浄土) sects and the ruler of the Western Paradise of Ultimate Bliss (Gokuraku 極楽; Skt. = Sukhāvatī). To followers of Japan’s Pure Land sects, Amida has eclipsed the Historical Buddha as the most popular divinity in Japan’s Mahayana traditions. Even today, the Pure Land sects of Japan are among the nation’s largest and most popular.

Amida appears with great frequency in Japanese religious painting and statuary, and is often accompanied by two main attendants in artwork called the Amida Sanzon 阿弥陀三尊 (lit. = Amida Triad), which depicts the three descending from above to welcome the souls of the dying into Amida’s pure land. Amida is also one of the Five Tathagata of Wisdom, and thus appears frequently in the mandala of Japan’s esoteric sects, where he reigns over the western quarter and is sometimes shown atop a peacock or goose. Famous examples of Amida art include Amida & Bosatsu on Clouds at Byōdō-in Temple (near Kyoto) and the Big Buddha statue (in Kamakura). Also, numerous Jōdo Mandala & Jōdo Sanmandara depict Amida’s paradise and the non-Tantric deities of Japan’s Pure Land sects.

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