Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Medical - Blue Beryl

གསོ་རིག། 医术
(item no. 35810)
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Object/Concept

Interpretation / Description

Blue Beryl Medical Compositions (charts) commissioned by the 3rd Desi Sanggye Gyatso (1653-1705).

The overall image above is created by layering fifteen strips of register found at the top of the first fifteen Blue Beryl compositions. Only the first fifteen compositions have a top register. The strips of register have been combined together to make it easier to follow the sequence and read the name inscriptions. (See Annotated Registers).

There are four main sequential topics contained in the registers:
[1] Medicine Buddha and early Indian Gods and Rishis,
[2] the Lineage of the Four Medical Tantras,
[3] the Yutog Nyingtig Lineage and
[4] the Deities and Protectors of the Yutog Nyingtig.

The first topic, Medicine Buddha and the Medicine Buddha Sutras, are a religious teaching and group of several texts. Initially it is using the idea of a Medicine Buddha and healing as a metaphor for suffering as sickness and healing with correct methods as the Dharma teachings of Buddhism. It was only in Tibet in the 11th and 12th century that Medicine Buddha and the Medicine Buddha Sutras began to be directly linked to medicine and the new concept of Tibetan Medicine. The linking of Medicine Buddha and Tibetan Medicine can be found in the Four Medical Tantras and in the later Yutog Nyingtig. Both of these texts are classifies as 'terma' Revealed Treasure teachings of the Nyingma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

Up until the 17th century there were many versions of the Four Medical Tantras along with many other medical related manuscripts and texts, a number of them translated from Sanskrit and other languages. Sanggye Gyatso himself in his own writings makes reference to a number of the different versions of the Four Medical Tantras. The Yutog Nyingtig prior to the 17th century appears to be a modest 'terma' found amongst many such Nyingma traditions. It certainly was not mainstream nor considered of significant importance amongst the 'Sarma' traditions of Tibetan Buddhism in general (Sakya, Kagyu, Jonang, Gelug).

The Yutog Nyingtig is first and foremost a meditation practice of the Revealed Treasure Tradition. The principal 'deity yoga' meditation is focussed on Hayagriva who is said to be in this instance a wrathful emanation of the Medicine Buddha. Hayagriva is red in colour, wrathful, with one face and two hands. He embraces the consort Vajrayogini who is similar in appearance to himself. The central couple are surrounded by an assortment of retinue figures. Descriptions of the meditational deities are followed by those of the protectors. The most important protector figure is Mahakala along with his consort Ekajati. They are further accompanied by seven other attendants. Five are male and two are female.

In the 17th century, Desi Sanggye Gyatso chose to adopt the mythology of the Four Medical Tantras combined with the Yutog Nyingtig, unify them as a single mythology, and then teach the result as the official origin of the Tibetan State authorized system of Medicine. The fifteen registers of the Blue Beryl compositions visually depict the synthesis of these mythologies into the new state narrative.

[1] Top Three Registers - Medicine Buddhas & Early Rishis:

The top register begins with the 5th Dalai Lama followed by the Eight Medicine Buddhas, and the five activity emanations of the Medicine Buddha. Those are followed by four Indian deities which include Indra and Prithi Devi, twelve Indian rishis and six further Indian gods including Brahma, Mahadeva, Vishnu, Kumara, Ganesha and Ramana. The gods and rishis are also repeated in the depiction of the Medicine Buddhe Realm. They surround the central figure and each has a name inscription.

[2] Middle Four Registers - Four Medical Tantras Lineage:

The lineage begins with Manjushri, Lokeshvara, Vajrapani, Anannda, Songtsen Gampo, followed by early Buddhist arhats and patriarchs which include Arya Nagarjuna and conclude in that register with Padmasambhava and the translator Vairochana. The lineage continues in the next register below with two Tibetan kings and then Draba Ngonshe the famed 11th century discoverer of the Four Medical Tantras. The lineage concludes with the 5th Dalai Lama and Terdag Lingpa.

[3] Middle Five Registers - Yutog Nyingtig Lineage:

Five of the middle registers depict the lineage of the Yutog Nyingtig beginning with Medicine Buddha, followed by Manjushri, Lokeshvara, Varapani, Padmasambhava and Palden Trengwa Daki Tsomo. The registers add several important individuals in the history of medicine making for a slightly confused or staggered lineage of teachers. The final figures are Terdag Lingpa and then Desi Sanggye Gyatso passing a manuscript to a kneeling attendant figure.

[4] Bottom Four Registers - Yutog Nyingtig Meditional Deities & Protectors:

The first two registers contain meditational deities. The figure at the far left side is a blue wrathful deity named Dorje Trab. He stands alone and is a special form of Padmasambhava employed for removing disease and obstacles. The next figure is a red wrathful Hayagriva embracing a consort. All of the figures that follow in the same register and the register immediately below are retinue and related deities to Hayagriva and consort.

The third register down depicts the Yutog Nyingting protector deities. At the far left and continuing to the right side are Mahakala, Ekajati and the remaining seven Mahakala retinue figures. At the far right are the Four Guardian Kings of the Directions. At the far right side is the Tibetan worldly deity Maha Yaksha Yangle Bar, red in colour, riding a black horse.

The bottom register continues with Tibetan worldly protectors starting with the Tenma Chunyi, Twelve Protector Goddesses of Tibet. At the far right is Shri Devi Magzor Gyalmo, blue in colour, riding a mule and Dorje Dragden (Nechung Choggyong), emanation of Pehar, red, dressed like a warrior, and related to Nechung Monastery. These last two figures are unrelated to the Yutog Nyingting are are likely placed here to establish that everything that has come before is under the direction and control of the Ganden Podrang and the Tibetan Government.

Jeff Watt 3-2014

Secondary Images

View other items in the Thematic Set: Charts: Blue Beryl Main Page (Medical Paintings, All)