Here’s everything you need to know about the Medicine Buddha

(Medicine Buddha. Source- https://sanaakosirickylee.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/medicine-buddha-a-healer-provider-and-protector-of-both-the-spiritual-and-physical-realm/)

Who is Medicine Buddha?

You may have seen the image of this serene blue Buddha before or heard the chants on TV but many of us do not know the significance of the Medicine Buddha, Sangay Menlha. 

Bhaisajyaguru is the Buddha of healing and medicine in Mahayana Buddhism. Commonly known as the Medicine Buddha, he is known as a doctor who cures dukka or suffering through his teachings.

Origins of the Medicine Buddha

In the 7th century, the earliest mention of the Medicine Buddha is found in a Mahayana text called the Medicine Buddha Sutra. Sanskrit manuscripts of this sutra have been found in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, both of which were once part of the Buddhist kingdom of Gandhara.

Iconography

The Medicine Buddha is associated with the semi-precious stone, lapis lazuli. Lapis is an intensely deep blue stone that often contains gold-colored flecks of pyrite, creating an impression of the first faint stars in a darkening evening sky. 

(Lapis Lazuli. Source- Wikipedia)

Throughout the ancient world lapis was thought to have mystical power. In eastern Asia it was thought to have healing power as well, especially to reduce inflammation or internal bleeding. In Vajrayana Buddhism, the deep blue color of lapis is thought to have a purifying and strengthening effect on those who visualize it. 

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(Medicine Buddha- right hand)

His right hand holds out the Terminalia chebula, which is believed to cure all illnesses. 

(Medicine Buddha- left hand)

In his left hand is a bowl of ambrosia, the elixir of immortality.

Most of the time you will see the Medicine Buddha, sitting on a lotus throne, with his right hand reaching down, palm out. This gesture signifies he is ready to answer prayers or give blessings.

Why do we pray to him?

Medicine Buddha has become a refuge in times of illness and despair. Chanting his mantra is said to purify and remove the underlying, karmic causes of diseases and cultivate holistic well-being.

The sutras say that speaking the name of the Medicine Buddha in the ears of a dying animal or human, they will be ensured a good rebirth regardless of past karma. 

(Je Khenpo gives oral initiation of Medicine Buddha. Source- BBS)

Meditation during the pandemic

In March of this year, His Holiness the Je Khenpo gave an oral initiation of Sangay Menla on TV. His Holiness advised Bhutanese people to listen to health experts and recite as many Medicine Buddha mantras as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

On 1st September, Ashi Jetsun Pema launched the ‘Bhumisparsha- Touching the Earth’ initiative to recite one hundred million mantras of Shakyamuni Buddha. A different form of Buddha, reciting these chants will help humanity overcome difficulties and unfavorable circumstances. 

(Ashi Jetsun Pema letter)

No matter which mantra you choose, the most important thing is to have faith in the Buddha’s teachings and believe that your chants will benefit and heal other beings.

(Image of Medicine Buddha. Source- https://buddhaweekly.com/the-first-doctor-medicine-buddha-bhaisajyaguru/

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