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Amida Raigo (Descent of Buddha Amitabha)
Japan; Kamakura period (1185-1333), late 13th century
Hanging scroll; Ink, color, and gold on silk
Image only, H. 38 3/4 in. (98.4 cm); W. 16 1/2 in. (41.9 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection of Asian Art
Esoteric (Vajrayana) Buddhism, a later development of Buddhism, postulates the existence of many Buddhas. Amitabha Buddha, known as Amida in Japan, presides over the Western Paradise and worship of him became particularly popular in East Asia. It was thought that saying Amida's name at the moment of death ensured rebirth in his paradise, a goal of many believers. Amida is shown here descending to earth on two lotuses, his hands in the gesture of welcoming the believer to his paradise. Painted and sculpted versions of this theme are known to have been placed before the deathbed of a devotee in order to help her or him concentrate on Amida. Sometimes, threads were attached from the hands of the dying individual to the hands of Amida, thus providing a direct contact with the salvific power of the Buddha, and consequently, a straight line to his paradise.
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