Item: Medicine Buddha - Retinue Figure

སངས་རྒྱས་སྨན་ལྷ། 药师佛
(item no. 59677)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1600 - 1699
Lineages Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Brahma, originating with Indian Hindu religious culture. This small painting belongs to a set of fifty-one compositions that make up the fifty-one deities of the mandala of Medicine Buddha. (See Gods & Deities in Tantric Buddhism).

Brahma is considered one of the highest worldly gods. He is peaceful in appearance, has four faces, yellow in colour, with two hands holding a wheel or chakra symbolizing universal supremacy. Seated in a relaxed posture with the legs placed in royal ease he sits atop the back of a large orange and blue goose above a pink flower blossom and throne, surrounded by an elaborate and decorative throne niche.

Placement in the Medicne Buddha Mandala - The Ten Gods:
26 (1). Eastern direction, Brahma, yellow, holding a wheel, riding a goose.
27 (2). Indra, white, holding a vajra, riding an elephant.
28 (3). Agni, red, holding a fire pot, riding a goat.
29 (4). Southern direction, Yama, blue, holding a stick, riding a buffalo.
30 (5). South-west, Raksha, black-maroon, holding a sword, riding a zombie.
31 (6). West, Varuna, white, holding a snake lasso, riding a makara.
32 (7). North-west, Vayu Deva, smoky-coloured, holding a banner, riding a deer.
33 (8). North, Yaksha, yellow, holding a mongoose, riding a horse.
34 (9). North-east, Ishana, white, holding a trident, riding a buffalo.
35 (10). West, Bhudevi, yellow, holding a vase, riding a sow.

The depicted forms and ritual practices of Medicine Buddha are derived from the Bhaishajyaguru Sutra and according to Mahayana Buddhist Tradition were taught by Shakyamuni Buddha. In the Vajrayana Buddhist Tradition this sutra is classified as Tantra literature belonging to the Kriya classification. Many works under the Kriya classification are understood as being both sutra texts and tantra texts at the same time. Medicine Buddha imagery and practice is common to all of Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhism and particularly important to the Tibetan medical schools and traditions.

It is very common with the three lower classifications of Buddhist Tantra to include the most common and popular of Indian gods. In Buddhism the various Hindu gods are considered Worldly-deities but included in many of the larger mandala configurations.

Jeff Watt 5-2012

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Subject: Gods & Deities in Buddhist Art
Buddhist Deity: Medicine Buddha (retinue figures)
Collection: Private X
Painting Style: Gyantse Scroll Paintings (Chi'u Gangpa)
Buddhist Deity: Medicine Buddha (Retinue Figure Masterworks)

Copyright © 2015 Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation. Images Provided Courtesy of Private Collections