Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Medicine Buddha Main Page

Medicine Buddha Masterworks

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

Tibetan: Sang gye men la

The depicted forms and ritual practices of Medicine Buddha are derived from the Bhaishajyaguru Sutra and according to Buddhist Tradition were taught by Shakyamuni Buddha. In the Vajrayana Buddhist Tradition this sutra is classified as Tantra literature and 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.

Medicine Buddha can be placed in a number of different compositions in painting and sculpture. He can be depicted alone or with his seven accompanying Buddhas (included is Shakyamuni - known as the Eight Medicine Buddha Brothers [Block Print Set]). Bhaishajyaguru can be depicted at the center of a Fifty-one Deity Mandala (see list of deity figures), or he can be relegated to a side position while the female personification of wisdom, Prajnaparamita, occupies the central position of the Medicine Buddha mandala. Sets of paintings can be commissioned depicting the Eight Medicine Buddha Brothers, or sets of paintings can be created depicting each of the fifty-one deities in their own composition. Often these sets are done with the painted canvas relatively small. In China they are commonly created as embroidered sets. They are then strung together and hung as a complete set in a temple or meeting hall. Likewise, sets of sculpture composed of fifty-one figures were also created and then arranged on a temple shrine. Many of the figures making up the fifty-one deities, when viewed individually and out of context with the whole, are often mis-identified and mistaken for other deities. The Twelve Yakshas Generals in the outer ring of the Medicine Buddha Mandala are most often mistakenly identified as forms of Jambhala, or even the more erroneous Kubera. (See Medicine Buddha Outline Page).

Description: Medicine Guru Buddha (Sanskrit: Bhaishajyaguru) is also known by the name Vaidurya Prabha Raja, the 'King of Sapphire Light.' Dark blue in colour, with one face and two hands he holds in the right hand a myrobalan fruit (Latin: terminalia chebula. Skt.: haritaki). The left hand is placed in the lap in the gesture 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. In vajra posture above a moon disc, he sits on a lotus and ornate lion supported throne with a back rest. At each side of Medicine Buddha stand the two principal bodhisattva attendants. To the left is the yellow bodhisattva Suryabhaskara (Rays of the Sun) and to the right is white Chandrabhaskara (Rays of the Moon).

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Jeff Watt 5-2007 [updated 10-2014, 5-2017, 8-2018, 12-2019]