Section of The Amitabha Sutra


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 224

The Amida Sutra (Sanskrit: Sukhavativyuha Sutra), one of two Mahayana Buddhist scriptural texts that describe the beautiful Pure Land paradise of Amida (Sanskrit: Amitabha) Buddha, was inscribed in alternating lines of gold and silver inks on a paper repeatedly soaked in a dark blue indigo dye intended to resemble the color of precious lapis lazuli. This style of sutra transcription was popular from the twelfth through the fourteenth century, when wealthy patrons commissioned richly executed sutra scrolls such as this as offerings to temples, in the hope of gaining spiritual merit. It was a commonly held belief that the copying of sacred texts improved one’s chance to achieve salvation, and patrons supplied artists with expensive and valuable materials with which to work, in lieu of copying the texts themselves.

Once they had been dedicated to a temple, scrolls of this quality were stored in sutra repositories and rarely used; hence their survival in good condition.

Section of The Amitabha Sutra, Unidentified Artist, Handscroll; gold and silver on indigo paper, Japan

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