Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Medicine Buddha

སངས་རྒྱས་སྨན་ལྷ། 药师佛
(item no. 90520)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Bhaishajyaguru, Buddha (Tibetan: sang gye men la, English: the Enlightened One - Guru of Medicine) with Avalokiteshvara, Amitabh and Padmasambhava above and Amoghapasha and Damchen Garwa Nagpo below. (See the Medicine Buddha Main Page and Outline Page).

Tibetan: Sang gye men la

Dark blue in colour, he is known by the name Vaidurya Prabha Raja, the 'King of Lapis Lazuli (or sapphire) Light.' With one face and two hands he holds in the right, in the mudra (gesture) of generosity, a myrobalan plant (Latin: terminalia chebula. Skt.: haritaki). The left hand placed in the lap is in the mudra of meditation supporting a begging bowl with the open palm. Adorned with the orange and yellow patchwork robes of a fully ordained monk, the left arm covered, he appears in the nirmanakaya aspect of a fully enlightened buddha. Seated in vajra posture above a moon disc, multi-coloured lotus and ornate lion supported throne, Medicine Buddha is surrounded by a bright red nimbus and dark green aureole.

At the top center is the bodhisattva of compassion Avalokiteshvara, white, with one face and four hands; seated in vajra posture. To the left is the buddha Amitabha, red, with the two hands in the gesture of meditation placed in the lap supporting a begging bowl. To the right is Padmasambhava holding in the right hand a vajra and a skullcup and vase in the left. He is richly attired in fine robes and wears a lotus hat.

At the bottom left is the deity Amoghapasha, considered an emanation of Avalokiteshavara, white in colour with three faces and four hands. With the two right hands he holds a trident and with the lower performs the gesture of supreme generosity. With the left hand held aloft he performs the gesture of removing fear and in the lower hand holds a lasso. At the bottom right is the wrathful avowed protector Damchen Garwa Nagpo; the main attendant to the protector Dorje Legpa. Blue in colour, with one face and two hands, he holds a hammer in the right and a blacksmiths bellows made of tiger skin in the left. Wearing flowing garments and mounted on a brown goat he stands amidst smoky dark flames.

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 especially important to the Tibetan medical traditions.

Jeff Watt 7-98

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Collection of Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art
Buddhist Deity: Medicine Buddha Main Page
Collection of Southern Alleghenies: Buddhas