Monday, February 14, 2011

The Medicine Buddha

The Medicine Buddha, 2011
acrylic on paper
30 x 22 inches (sheet)

The celestial Buddha known as Master of Healing, the Lapis Lazuli Radiance Buddha (Skrt: Bhaishajya-guru vaidurya-prabha tathagata) is one of the most important figures of the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon, appearing in various chapters of the Lotus Sutra. 

The Medicine Buddha is blue in color, which refers to the color of lapis lazuli, which is the name of his pure land or paradise located in the east.  He is related to the cosmic Buddha Akshobhya as both are depicted as blue and both reside in the east.  The Medicine Buddha is also related to Gautama as both are depicted in plain dress with no jewelry ornaments, and both are shown holding a begging bowl. 

The Medicine Buddha is shown with his left hand in the meditation mudra holding a begging bowl made of lapis filled with amrita.  His right hand is extended in the gift giving mudra while also holding the myrabolean fruit which is noted for its healing qualities.  To the Medicine Buddha's right and left are bodhisattvas representing the moon and the sun.  While the six figures in the upper area could be indentified as members of the Medicine Buddha's assemply, more probably they, plus the Medicine Buddha in the center, refer to the ritual associated with the seven Buddha brothers, described in esoteric texts popular in Tibet and Nepal (Raoul Birnbaum, The Healing Buddha, Boston: Shambhala, 1989, pp. 92-5)  At the bottom of the picture are depicted the 7 precious jewels:  the 7 possessions of the chakravartin:  elephant, general, minister, queen jewel, wheel (chakra), and horse (white in color).

While Buddhist medicine makes use of various physical healing methods, illness is primarily considered to be any state that is not enlightenment, and medicine is the dharma.  Healing is the gradual elimination of the 3 inner poisons of lust, anger, and delusion. 

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