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 This is the most recent of the three mandalas, dating from 1867. This is a hanging scroll, measuring 128 by 58 cm., painted on silk in gorgeous colors with abundant use of gold. It is reported in art books that Chion-in temple in Kyoto is in possession of an Amida Sutra Mandala but the picture of it looks quite different from the present scroll. The late Mr. Stewart purchased this in Kyoto in the early 80's.
  The whole picture is divided into two sections by a row of balustrades. The upper half presents glorious manifestations of the Pure Land, which are reminiscent of the Taima and the Larger Sutra Mandalas. The lower half describes the contents of the Amida Sutra in ten sections.
  The chapter references given in the charts below are the same as those in H. Inagaki's translation of the Amida Sutra (or Smaller Sutra) and also agree with those in the Honganji edition of the original Chinese text and its Japanese transcription published by Honganji in 1988 with the title"Jodoshinshu Seiten."

[Upper Part - Image A]

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[Chart - A]


5. Sky

2. Canopy

1. The Three Holy Ones

4. Jewelled pavilions               Jewelled pavilions

3. Platform
9. Jewelled trees                   Jewelled trees
7. Dance and music

6. Jewelled pond

8. Fountain


[A] Upper section
(1) The Three Holy Ones: Amida and two attendant Bodhisattvas, Avalokiteshvara on his left and Mahasthamaprapta on his right, are seated on lotus-thrones, which are a dominant feature in this mandala, as in the two other mandalas. They are surrounded by many bodhisattvas.
(2) Over their heads are glorious canopies hanging in the air; Amida's canopy is especially magnificent.
(3) Platform: A newly born devotee is sitting on the platform in front of Amida. The devotee is welcomed by six bodhisattvas.
(4) Jewelled pavilions: On either side of the central part there is an imposing Chinese-style building. In the hall downstairs Amida is giving a sermon to bodhisattvas who join their hands to pay homage to Amida or make offerings to him. In the room upstairs bodhisattvas are enjoying pleasures.
(5) Sky: The vast sky expands above the Three Holy Ones and the pavilions. Just above Amida's canopy floats a five-colored cloud, which is a transformation of the light. In the apparitional pagoda above the cloud sits a transformed body of Amida. In the golden light are flying beautiful birds, such as kalavinkas, and musical instruments are hovering. Also seen are comings and goings of Buddhas and bodhisattvas. The uppermost fringe of the sky is decorated with a jewelled net.
(6) Jewelled pond: In the pond that spreads in the lower part are seen newly born devotees seated on the lotus-flowers. They are paying homage to Amida with joined hands. Lotus-flowers of various colors are in bloom, and among them are a pleasure-boat and two leaf-boats poled by boys.
(7) Dance stages: In the foreground there are two dance stages connected by a bridge. On the left-hand stage seven people are playing music. On the right-hand stage, three of the newly born are being dressed by bodhisattvas. On the bridge four people are dancing and making offerings.
(8) Fountain: In the lowest part is a fountain. Water pours forth from a mani-gem placed on top of a richly ornamented stand.
(9) Jewelled trees: A pair of magnificent trees decorate the scene. Each consists of seven layers of green leaves, and among them are seen storied buildings. In each layer there is a decorative white net girdling the tree.

[Lower Part - Images B,C]

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[Chart - B]


10 Buddhas in the zenith                 
     (ch. 10)            5 Buddhas in the east
5 Buddhas in the north             (ch. 6)   
        (ch. 9)             Buddhas in the south
         Shakyamuni's preaching   (ch. 7)
  (ch. 1)
7 Buddhas in the west        6 Buddhas in the nadir
(ch. 8)                  (ch. 11)


Open Amida Sutra for reference.  

[B] Top of the lower section: This scene shows Shakyamuni's preaching of the Amida Sutra in the Jeta Grove at Shravasti. He is accompanied by lay-people, bodhisattvas, monks and deities. Before the Buddha on the left sits Shariputra, who is the chief in the audience. The Buddha keeps his right hand in the mudra of 'bestowing fearlessness' (abhayada-mudra) and his left hand in the mudra of 'granting wishes' (varada-mudra). In the four corners, above and below are groups of Buddhas, who praise the distinguished virtues of Amida.

[Chart - C]

Click the numbers for larger images


Amida appears with a host of holy ones.

Various birds sing with sweet sounds.
(ch. 3)

Seven rows of balustrades and
trees (ch. 3).

One should aspire to birth in the Pure Land
(ch. 12)

The life-span of Amida and beings is infinite. (ch. 4)

Seven -jewelled ponds full of lotuses.
(ch. 3)

The audience rejoices and departs.
(ch. 14)

One meets sages of supreme virtue.
(ch. 5)

Heavenly music plays and flowers shower.
(ch. 3)

[C] Lower half of the lower section: The part below the scene of Shakyamuni's preaching is divided into nine sections, which describe prominent features of the contents of the sutra.
(1) There are seven rows of trees partitioned by seven rows of balustrades. Like the trees in (A), each tree has seven layers of green leaves and is decorated with white nets.
(2) Lotuses of various colors grow in the pond; those of green, blue, red, yellow and white colors emit rays of the same colors. Water is supplied by a mani-gem attached to a beautiful stand.
(3) There is a stage connected to the main building by a bridge. Various musical instruments, including lute, harp, drum and flute, fly about in the sky, while red and green heavenly mandarava-flowers are showered.
(4) Birds: In the foreground there are two birds, a peacock and a while goose, and four birds are in flight; they are a kalavinka with the face of a heavenly maiden playing a flute, a two-headed jivamjivaka, a shari on the upper right-hand side, and a parrot on the lower left-hand. These birds are manifested by Amida so that their singing can proclaim the Dharma.
(5) Immeasurable life-span: Both Amida and those born in the Pure Land enjoy immeasurable life-span. Amida radiates numerous rays of light, while seated on a lotus-throne with his hands in the meditative mudra. Monks and a bodhisattva pay homage to him with joined hands.
(6) Meeting holy sages: The newly born devotees meet holy sages who are seated on lotus-flowers.
(7) Amida's welcome: According to the Amida Sutra,, those who concentrate on Amida's Name even for one to seven days will see Amida and a host of sages coming to welcome them at the hour of death. In this scene, however, the devotees see Amida and the sages while alive. This shows that they enjoy the benefit of welcoming and protecting at ordinary times. Amida sends forth rays of light from between his eye-brows, and one of the sages holds a lotus-seat for the devotee to sit on.
(8) Acts of merit: The sutra encourages acts of merit in order to attain birth in the Pure Land. Here these acts are depicted as giving alms to a monk, setting free a bird in captivity, and listening to a sermon. In the cloud above the house are good deities watching over the devotees; they also chase away evil spirits.
(9) End of the sutra: Shakyamuni is sitting behind an altar-table, flanked by bodhisattvas and monks. Shariputra is paying homage to him with joined hands. The bodhisattva who rides a lion is Manjushri, and the one who rides an elephant is Samantabhadra. This shows that after expounding the Amida Sutra Shakyamuni, who was a Nirmanakaya Buddha, has now returned to his original state of a Sambhogakaya. On the cloud behind the Buddha the audience is seen departing.

[Bibliography]  H. Inagaki, The Three Pure Land Sutras: A Study and translation, Nagata Bunshodo, 1994; second edition 1995, third edition 2000, pp. 351-360.
H. Inagaki, The Three Pure Land Sutras, BDK English Tripitaka 12-II, III, IV, Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 1995, pp. 119-126; second edition, 2003, pp. 101-108.
H. Inagaki, The Amida Sutra Mandala: An Iconography with the text of the Amida Sutra, Pure Land Mandala Study Group, Nagata Bunshodo, 1995.
Jerome Ducor, Le Sutra d'Amida preche par le Buddha, Societe-Asia, Monographies, vol. 29. Bern, Peter Lang, 1998.
Hongwanji International Center, The Three Pure Land Sutras, Vol. I, 2003, pp. 1-13.

Link to: Amida Sutra (1) & (2)  
Pure Land Mandala Study Group
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