Medicine Buddha, Buddha, Medicine Tantra
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Medicine Buddha and Medicine Tantra

Medicine Buddha and Medicine Tantra

The historical Shakyamuni Buddha provided teachings on healing and systems of medicine which were collected into four volumes called "The Four Medicine Tantras". These teachings became the basis for the system of medicine practiced in Tibet and other Buddhist lands. They are characterized by a belief that all disease is essentially rooted in a psychosomatic cause, namely, spiritual confusion. His Holiness the Dalai Lama teaches that although there is no beginning point of the root confusions, there can be an end to them through enlightenment. The many confusions may be traced to three main poisons, or wrong attitudes, of greed (grasping), hatred (fear), and ignorance (mistaken beliefs). Until the mistaken attitudes are released, all other cures are at best, only temporary. His Holiness also teaches that, unlike ignorance, wisdom does have a beginning, but no end! Once we do cleanse our beliefs, we reach a luminous enlightened mind, free of stain, which remains eternally so.


In the Medicine Tantras, Shakyamuni describes Medicine Buddha as an enlightened being who has special powers of healing. The special healing blessings of Medicine Buddha may be obtained by reciting his name or mantra. For centuries, Buddhists have been reciting this mantra prayer, to bring an ultimate healing of spiritual disease, as well as cures for everyday problems of the body and mind.


The full name of the Medicine Buddha is Bhaishajyaguru Vaiduryaprabha, the Healing Master of Lapis Lazuli Radiance. Like Shakyamuni he wears the robes of a monk and is seated in the full cross-legged posture. His left hand is in the meditation mudra, resting in his lap and holding a begging bowl filled with medicinal nectar and fruit. His right hand rests upon his knee with palm facing outward in the mudra granting blessings and holds the stem of a myrobalan plant (Terminalia chebula), renowned as the king among medicines because of its effectiveness in treating both mental and physical diseases.


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 In traditional Tibetan tangkas, the Lapis Healing Master is often shown in the company of seven other Medicine Buddhas, one of whom is Shakyamuni himself. And in depictions of his eastern Buddha realm known as Pure Lapis Lazuli, the Healing Master is generally flanked by the two leading bodhisattvas of that pure land, Suryaprabha and Chandraprabha, respectively All-pervading Solar and Lunar Radiance.

The most distinctive feature of this Medicine Buddha is his color, the deep blue of lapis lazuli. This precious stone has been greatly prized by Asian and European cultures for more than six thousand years and, until relatively recently, its ornamental value was on a par with, or even exceeded, that of the diamond. An aura of mystery surrounds this gemstone, perhaps because of its principal mines are located in the remote Badakshan region of northeast Afghanistan , an all-but-inaccessible area located behind the Hindu Kush . One commentator has written, "the finest specimens of lapis, intensely blue with speckled waves and swirls of shining gold-colored pyrite, resemble the night aglow with myriads of stars." Traditionally this beautiful stone was used to symbolize that which is pure or rare. It is said to have a curative or strengthening effect on those who wear it, and its natural smoothness allows it to be polished to a high degree of reflectivity. For all these reasons, plus the fact that deep blue light has a demonstrable healing effect on those who use it in visualization practices, lapis is the color of the principal Medicine Buddha.

Buddha, Buddha Statues, Medicine Buddha



  The Lapis Healing Master is one of the most honored figures in the Buddhist pantheon. The sutras in which he appears compare his eastern pure land with the western paradise of Amitabha, and rebirth there is said to be as conducive to enlightenment as is rebirth in Sukhavati. Recitation of his mantra, or even the mere repetition of his holy name, is said to be sufficient to grant release from the lower realms, protection from worldly dangers and freedom from untimely death. In one of the main sutras concerning the Medicine Buddha, Shakyamuni tells his close disciple and attendant Ananda:

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If these sentient beings [those plunged into the depths of f samsara's sufferings hear the name of the Lord Master of Healing, the Lapis Lazuli Radiance Tathagatha, and with utmost sincerity accept it and hold onto it, and no doubts arise, then they will not fall into a woesome path.

In Tibet the Medicine Buddha is revered as the source of the healing arts for it is through him that the teachings embodied in the Four Medical Tantras, the basis of Tibetan medicine, came into being. As explained in the first of these Four Tantras, the Lapis Lazuli Healing Master was once seated in meditation surrounded by an assembly of four circles of disciples including divine physicians, great sages, non-Buddhist gods and bodhisattvas, all of whom wished to learn the art of healing. Rendered speechless by the radiant glory of his countenance, they were unable to request the desired teachings. To accommodate their unspoken wishes, the Medicine Buddha manifested two emanations, one to request the teachings and the other to deliver them. In this way, then, the Buddhist explanation of the various mental and physical ailments, their causes, diagnoses and treatment and the maintenance of health is said to have originated.


According to the Four Tantras, the fundamental cause of every disease is to be found in the three poisonous delusions; ignorant bewilderment, attachment and hatred, occupying the hub of the wheel of samsaric existence. These three root delusions lead to imbalances in three so-called humors (phlegm, wind and bile), the various bodily constituents (blood, flesh, bone, etc.) and waste products, or impurities, all of which are analyzed in twenty-five divisions. The Root Tantra says:


Thus if all these twenty-five are in balance and the three factors of the (1) tastes and (2) inherent qualities of one's food and (3) one's behavior are wholesome, one's health and life will flourish. If they are not, one's health and life will be harmed.


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