Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Medicine Buddha

སངས་རྒྱས་སྨན་ལྷ། 药师佛
(item no. 125)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Buddhist
Size 86.36x62.23cm (34x24.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1995.11.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Medicine Buddha (Sanskrit: Bhaishajyaguru. Tibetan: sang gye men la. English: the Buddha, Guru of Medicine).

Tibetan: Sang gye men la

Also known as Vaidurya Prabha Raja, the King of Lapis Lazuli (or sapphire) Light, he is dark blue in colour with one face and two hands, held in the right, in a gesture like that of supreme generosity, is held a myrobalan plant (Latin: terminalia chebula. Skt.: haritaki). The left hand is placed in the lap in the gesture of meditation supporting the black begging bowl of a monk - filled with nectar. Adorned with the patchwork robes of a fully ordained monk and the left arm covered, appearing in the nirmanakaya aspect of a buddha he is seated in vajra posture above a lotus and lion supported tiered throne. Standing to the left is the bodhisattva Suryabhaskara, orange in colour, the left hand holding a lotus marked with a sun and on the right side is Chandrabhaskara, white, the right hand holding a lotus marked with a moon.

Above Suryabhaskara is the mother of wisdom Prajnaparamita with four hands, orange, seated, flanked by two standing bodhisattvas. To the other side above Chandrabhaskara is the buddha Shakyamuni flanked by two standing bodhisattvas. Vertically along each side are three buddhas each flanked by two bodhisattvas. These six are referred to as the brothers of Vaidurya Prabha and all together they are known as the 'Seven Buddhas of Medicine.'

Along side the lion throne are the Four Direction Guardians, Vaishravana, etc. Below that are two horizontal rows of figures. The upper row contains the ten Gods of the Directions each riding on a different animal mount. At the far right side are two additional figures mounted on chariots. The 12 Yaksha Generals specific to the Sutra of Medicine Buddha comprise the lower row.

At the top are rows of smaller buddhas, all in the same appearance, representing the set of 53 Buddhas along with the Seven Lord Buddhas of the Past with one extra making a total of 61 buddhas. The form and practice of Medicine Buddha is derived from the Bhaishajyaguru Sutra taught by Lord Shakyamuni. In the Vajrayana Tradition this sutra is classified as a Kriya Tantra. Common to all schools of Tibetan Buddhism Medicine Buddha is particularly important to the Tibetan medical traditions.

Jeff Watt 7-98

Seven Medicine Buddhas & Prajnaparamita:

Sixteen Bodhisattvas: 11 (1). Eastern direction: Manjushri 12 (2). Avalokiteshvara 13 (3). Vajrapani 14 (4). Nyi Nang 15 (5). Southern direction: Chandraprabha 16 (6). Mahamati 17 (7). Maitreya 18 (8). Kyab Drol 19 (9). Western direction: Pobpa 20 (10). Nampar Nonpa 21 (11). Tana 22 (12). Jompa'i Lodro 23 (13). Northern direction: Sampa Legpa 24 (14). Lhunpo 25 (15) Sang Sangpo'i Jung 26 (16). Lhunpo Chenpo

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, Maheshvara, white, holding a trident, riding a buffalo. 35 (10). West, Bhudevi, yellow, holding a vase, riding a sow. Twelve Yaksha Generals: 36 (1). Eastern direction, Jijig, yellow, vajra. 37 (2). Vajra, red, sword. 38 (3). rgyan 'dzin, yellow, stick. 39 (4). Northern direction, g.za' 'dzin, light blue, stick. 40 (5). rlung 'dzin (Vatadhara), red, trident. 41 (6). gnas bcas, smoky-coloured, sword. 42 (7). Western direction, dbang 'dzin, red, stick. 43 (8). btung 'dzin, yellow, stick. 44 (9). smra 'dzin, pink, axe. 45 (10). Southern direction, bsam 'dzin, yellow, lasso. 46 (11). g.yob 'dzin, blue, stick. 47 (12). rdzogs byed, red, wheel. All hold a mongoose in the left hand, with short fat limbs and a large stomach.

Four Guardian Kings: 48 (1). East: Dhritarashtra, white 49 (2). South: Virudhaka, blue 50 (3). West: Virupaksha, red 51 (4). North: Vaishravana, yellow

Collection of All Tantras, vol.1, pages 116-117.

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