Iconography of Amida and Shakamuni

Iconography of Amida and Shakamuni

Postby Tatsuo » Wed Nov 17, 2010 12:25 pm

I have a question concerning the iconographical differences between Shaka Nyorai and Amida Nyorai. Both statues can be depicted standing with the mudra for bestowing fearlessness (raised right hand) and wish-granting mudra (lowered left hand). On JAANUS is written, that you can distinguish Amida from Shakamuni by looking at the fingers on each hand, because on Amida statues the thumb touches one of three fingers.
Now you can also find Shakamuni statues with fingers touching the thumb, like the Shakamuni Statue on Mount Shakka, which is associated with Shugendo. The reason i am asking this is, that I have a zushi (small shrine) with a statue inside, which has the characteristics of a Amida statue (thumb touching the index finger), but the Heart Sutra is written on the doors and I always thought, that the Heart Sutra is not very important in Pureland schools (except for a short recitation before meals in Jodo-shu temples). I've never seen the Heart Sutra being displayed on any item from the Pureland schools, because it doesn't have any reference to the Pureland. On the other hand, the doors are decorated with phoenixes, which I thought are more related to the Pureland schools and Amida.
Does anybody know more about the iconographic differences between Amida Nyorai and Shaka Nyorai or is there maybe not a clear iconographic difference between both?
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Re: Iconography of Amida and Shakamuni

Postby Seishin » Wed Nov 17, 2010 1:02 pm

You might like to try this http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/amida.shtml
It has a break down of the various mudras and postures and their meanings.

Not sure about the Heart Sutra in PureLand sects though, however, the veneration of Amida can be found in many other Japanese sects like Tendai and Shingon. Your shrine might have come from another sect??

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Re: Iconography of Amida and Shakamuni

Postby Tatsuo » Wed Nov 17, 2010 3:41 pm

Thank you for the link, Seishin. I completely forgot to look on that site. It seems, that the mudras with the thumbs touching one other finger are in fact mostly associated with Amida. So I guess the statue must be Amida. It could be, that the zushi comes from Tendai (i don't think it's Shingon, because I've never seen statues of Amida, or any other Buddha, in a standing position in any Shingon temple, but that's just my experience). If that's the case, it would be really interesting, as I also never heard of reciting the Heart Sutra in connection with Tendai Pureland practices. But if there is a possibility to combine both practices, it would probably be practised in Tendai.
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Re: Iconography of Amida and Shakamuni

Postby Seishin » Mon Nov 22, 2010 9:51 am

No probs Tatsuo. :smile: Your other questions are way over my head I'm afraid. I'm still relatively new to Tendai and still learning. Sometimes, at our weekly services, we will chant the heart sutra before meditation and after, we will chant the nembutsu. I'm also, not familiar with the iconography of Shingon. Might be good if we can get Jikan and Eijo involved in this thread. I understand they are both busy though, so it might take a while.

Very interesting :)
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Re: Iconography of Amida and Shakamuni

Postby Tatsuo » Mon Nov 22, 2010 12:00 pm

Ahh I see - something similar is encouraged in the Tendaishū nichijō gongyō shiki (jp. 天台宗日常勤行式*), even though there are two recitations - one in the morning, the other one in the evening:
In the morning one recites the Heart Sutra and in the evening the nenbutsu is recited. That's why I was surprised to see the Heart Sutra in connection with Amida. Maybe this is even a way to differentiate oneself from the Jodo traditions. But that's all random speculation... i haven't got the faintest idea :smile:




* I would translate it as "Every day service of the Tendaishū"
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