Friday, August 27, 2010

Amitabha Buddha Mantra

There is are a number of Amitābha mantras. This one is the main one used in the Tibetan traditions, but below are two other mantras used in two different Japanese traditions.

Siddhaṃ

the Amitabha mantra in the Siddham script

Tibetan - Uchen

the Amitabha mantra in the Tibetan Uchen script

Transliteration

oṃ a mi de va hrīḥ
oṃ amideva hrīḥ

Notes

The word amideva would appear to mean "undying god" which is perhaps unexpected in a Buddhist context. Ami is apparently a contraction of "amita". Deva is related, via Latin deus, to the English word deity. However the root meaning of deva is "shining" and deva is sometimes, in the Pāli Canon for instance, used to refer to kings as well as gods. In which case Amideva could simply be a synonym for Amitābha.
I have also seen Tibetan explanations which say that Dewa (the tibetan spelling) is short for Dewachen the name of Sukhāvatī in Tibetan. Dewa is the Tibetan word for sukha. So it could be that this mantra is a Sanskrit/Tibetan hybrid. However this explanation could be due to transliteration difficulties with Tibetan. The word is more precisely transliterated as "bde ba" (pronounced dewa) and the similarity of pronunciation may just be a happy coincidence.