The word “Buddha” means “Awakened (or Enlightened) One.” “Shakyamuni” (“Wise man of the Shakya clan”) is a name for the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, who lived in India in the 6th century B.C. Statues and pictures representing Shakyamuni Buddha provide a visual reminder of the life, training, enlightenment and teaching of the man in whose footsteps all Buddhists aspire to follow. For many Buddhists, statues and pictures of Shakyamuni Buddha also represent our own Buddha Nature, as well as our own capacity to awaken to, and live in harmony with, this True Nature.
In the Sanskrit language of ancient India, this Buddha’s name is “Amitabha” (Eternal Light) and “Amitayus”(Eternal Life). In the Pure Land tradition of Buddhism, Amida Buddha’s Pure Land is a refuge for all who call upon Him with true faith. In the Zen tradition, the emphasis is upon finding the Pure Land within one’s own heart, and this also requires true faith. In both cases, Amida Buddha personifies cosmic compassion, mercy and benevolence—infinite Love.