Medicine Buddha

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Sangye Menla  or Bhaisajya.guru 

The mantra, or even the name of the Medicine Buddha (Skt: Bhaisajyaguru, Tib: Sangye Menla, Chin: Yaoshi-fo, Jap:Yakushi) is beneficial.   

Ven. Thrangu Rinpoche has said that a mantra is essentially an elaboration on the deity's name, and that any mantra is the shortest possible form of the sadhana.  The Sanskrit mantra of Medicine Buddha is:

Tayata, Om, Bhaishaye Bhaishaye Maha-Bhaishaye Raja Samudgate, Svaha. 

or, pronounced the Tibetan way:

Tayata, Om, bekandzeh, bekandzeh maha-bekandzeh, radza samungateh. Soha

'May all beings benefit from the sublime love and power of Sangye Menla' is often given as the meaning but it is not a literal translation.

Since the practice of Medicine Buddha is considered a Sutrayana practice (i.e., based mainly on scripture) no empowerment is necessary, but it is good to attend one or to ask for one when you have an opportunity. 

Khenpo Karthar has said that the practice of Sangye Menla also has been found beneficial in cases of mental illness.  And it is said that even hearing the name Sangye Menla only once has benefits for subsequent rebirth, for the Medicine Buddha made 12 vows describing the various ways he can help sentient beings with their sufferings. 

As red Amitabha is the Buddha of the Western Pure Land, blue Medicine Buddha is often considered the Buddha of the Eastern Pure Land.  His color is lapis lazuli blue, the hue of the dark, gold-threaded stone called lapis for short -- lapis is Latin for stone -- has been associated with healing at least since the time of Sumerian goddess (>Mt. Sumeru = Meru) Inanna (Ishtar) who descended to the Land of the Dead to revive her brother/lover, and then returned.  Interestingly, ashi-  is the Sumerian root for heal; in Tibetan amchi is a healer.

Notice that the Buddha is not teaching in this image.  He is holding in his lap a bowl of lapis lazuli [In Japan, the bowl is said to be of iron] in which is an arura or myrobalan plum.  His right hand displays a spray of arura.

  • Shenpen Osel Online (v. 4, no.1, June 200) has the Medicine Buddha sadhana in .pdf format as taught by Ven. Thrangu Rinpoche.

    • Issue 9, 96 pps.  All Medicine Buddha, all the time!

  • Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche: audio tapes, Medicine Buddha: Teachings & Practice.  Two cassettes include commentary and guidance on the sadhana  called "Drop of Ambrosia." US $17, text US $5. 

Other Forms  

According to the Sakya "Wish-fulfilling Gem" tradition, the seven surrounding him are:

1. Skt.: Buddha Suparikirti'tanama'shri, Tibetan spelling: Sangs-rGyas mTshan legs-par yongs bsgrags dpal, pron. Tshen Lek -- Excellent Name, golden.

2. Buddha Svaraghosha, Sgra-dbyangs kyi rgyal-po, pron. Dra Yang Gyalpo -- King of Melody, yellow.

3. Buddha Suparna'bhadra vimalaratna'prabhasa, Sangs-rgyas gser-bsang dri-med rin-chen snangs, pron. Ser Zang Dri Me Nangwa -- Appearance of Stainless Fine Gold, golden.

4.  Buddha Ashok'attama'shri, Sangs-rgyas mya-ngan med mchog dpal,  pron. Nya Ngen Me Chok Pal -- Glorious Supreme One, Free of Misery.  His body is pink.

5. Buddha Dharmakirti'sagaraghosha,  Sangs-rgyas chos bsgrags rgya-mtsho'i dbyangs, pron. Cho Drak Yang -- Resounding Dharma Melody, white with reddish glow

6.  Buddha Abhijna'raja, mNgon mKyen rGyal-po, Ngon Khyen Gyalpo -- King of Direct Knowledge, red as coral.

7.  Buddha Bhaisajya'guru vaidurya'prabharaja, Sangs-rgyas sMan gyi Vaidurya'i od kyi rgyal-po,  Man-po'i gyal;  dark blue as lapis lazuli.

8. Buddha Shrijing Shakyamuni,  Tib. spelling: Sangs-rgyas dpal rgyal-ba Sahkya thub-pa, Shakya Gyalpo -- King of the Shakyas ('historical' Buddha) golden.  As Supreme Physician or "Supreme Healer" there is a practice in which he alone is the Medicine Buddha.

The eighth petal supports the dharma book that, according to Khenpo Karthar, actually sings the words it contains. 

An orange figure, Parantaj, appears on the Dharma Haven Medicine Buddha site.

Orgyen Menla is the special form of Guru Padmasambhava manifesting as the Medicine Buddha.

  • A son of King Bimbisara of Maghada who was the patron of Buddha Shakyamuni, is believed to have had a Moses-like beginning and it is he who is credited with founding one of the Buddhist healing traditions.  The link has the Tibetan and Chinese legends concerning the one known in Pali as Jivaka Kumara-bhacca.

Long life Deities

Since the precious human form is beneficial for the attainment of enlightenment for the sake of all beings, and progress is easier to achieve in a continuous lifetime, then many different deities can be called upon to assist us in prolonging our lives.

White Tara is one of those associated with longevity. Dutsi or tiny pills are produced and empowered by a qualified tantric Buddhist practitioner in a ritual practice (sadhana) in which Her activity is invoked.

Another long-life deity is Usnishavijaya who embodies the life force of the Buddha.  

Amitayus (Tsepameh) is the longevity form of Amitabha where he is depicted holding a vase of nectar.

In Tibet, people also invoke the 5 Tseringma, "Goddesses of Longevity." 

Completion stage yoga includes longevity as a benefit as do most guru yoga practices.  For example, Guru Padmasambhava holds a long-life vase in the kapala in his left hand.  

The Tibetan Medical Tradition 

Medicine is one of five traditional Tibetan sciences.  It is called gSoba Rigpa or the science of healing. To the Tibetan doctor, disease is a sign of an imbalance of mind and body.  The obscurations or mental poisons of attachment, hatred and delusion are considered contributing factors to disease.  Therefore, spiritual practices including the recitation of mantras (as above) are considered a vital aspect of treatment.  

The Gyu Shi [rGud-bzhi] are four tantras that constitute Tibet's oldest medical text.  Originally in Sanskrit, this fourth century (CE) text is considered a compendium of the wisdom of the Medicine Buddha.  

Under the auspices of Sangye Gyatso, a 17th-century Tibetan regent, the compendium of medical treatment known as The Blue Beryl (Tib: vai-dur-ya ngon-po) was produced.  The original tangkas that illustrate The Blue Beryl are in Tibet, but accurate replicas made in the traditional way involving the grinding of precious stones to make the pigments have been on display at Tibet House in NY (July 2004.)

Nature of Diagnosis in the Tibetan System

The Tibetan system is somewhat reminiscent of European medicine during the Renaissance, and it shares many characteristics of both Taoist and Ayurvedic medicine. In this system, individuals are first classified according to three categories depending upon predominating "humours," and the mainly herbal remedies are prescribed in conjunction with appropriate diet.

The three humors or doshas of Indian Ayurveda are: 

vata, or air which is similar to the Tibetan humor, lung (rLung]
pitta, or fire is equated with tee-pah [mKhris-pa]
kapha, the balance of water and earth is like the Tibetan bad-kan.

The late Dr. Tenzin Choedrak explained that although the two systems are similar in many ways, some aspects of Tibetan medicine set it apart:  As a means to understanding the movement of fluids in the body, the Tibetan method incorporates the astrological system using the twelve animal signs and five elements.  

According to Dr. Lobsang Rapgay, a trained Tibetan physician who is now a licensed clinical psychologist and director of UCLA’s Behavioral Medicine Clinic, since the Gyu Shi, Tibetan medicine continued to evolve. 

"Tibetan medicine is the first integrated system of medicine which incorporates various aspects of Ayurveda, Chinese and Greek medicine and presents the concepts underlying these practices from a Buddhist perspective." 

Traditional Remedies 

Water and any other purifying substances used in rituals, ie. that have been empowered by visualization and mantra, are considered efficacious as treatments.

Remedies combine ingredients from plants, trees, resins, soil and rocks but 95% is derived from herbs that are increasingly difficult to obtain. Also, the formulation of the various remedies that may include rare components such as gold, silver and tiny amounts of such potential poisons as mercury is dependent on the phases of the moon.  There are seven kinds of 'precious pill' or rinchen rilpo.

Some herbal preparations as they appear in a treatise on the alchemy of long life by Jamgon Kongtrul the Great as quoted in Beyer's Cult of Tara:

Mix arura [Myrobalan arjuna,] churura [Crataegus pinnatifida,] bhangaraja [Eclipta prostrata, 'king bee' -- its distillation will turn the hair black, supposedly] piling [Piper longum -- pepper] and iron filings.  Mix with honey and sugar and roll into pills. By eating these for one month, one may live to 300 years.

Master Kokila says to mix equal parts of butter, honey and milk mixed in a vessel of oil; add one part barley malt, then decant and eat.  Within 6 months the eyes and nails will be bright, and one can live for 1, 000 years!

Or, grind the dried root of nyeshing [Polygonatum falcatum] in fine powder and mix with milk.  When it 'turns' churn it into butter, and eat some every morning for 21 days.  It will clear all disease, and if eaten for 6 years, it will produce "life and freedom from the construction of non-reality."

Also, mixing the three fruits, arura, churura and barura [Terminalia chebula] with powdered bhrngaraja, butter and honey as it is being digested, eat some rice boiled with milk . . .  .

The description is only an example. "Please don't try this at home" as they say on TV.

* We are not certain of the plants *Similar plants are not identical plants *Some of the substances are known to be poisonous or harmful, eg. iron filings *Ask your lama *Discuss it with your medical doctor.

 

Training

Men-Tsee Khang is the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute re-established in 1961 in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.   This most highly respected source for Tibetan medicine and medical training outside of Tibet occupies a complex on the hill below the Dalai Lama’s monastery.

The rigorous five-year program at the Institute is offered only in Tibetan.   Buddhism and astrology are essential to the curriculum, and professors continually stress the importance of compassion, empathy and kindness.  It is followed by a further 2 years of internship and specialization.

Though prayer and astrology may play an important role, Dr. Tashi Rabten, founder of the International Tibetan Medical Association in Rye, NY said "people get the wrong idea that Tibetan medicine is all about spirituality."  In an interview with Lisa Tsering for an article in India-West (April 6, 2001) he stressed that  "Tibetan medicine is a science.  It’s not shamanism." 

Though Western medicine is preferred in emergencies, Tibetan medical practitioners are relied upon for the treatment of chronic ailments such as rheumatism, arthritis, sinus problems and diabetes.  It is also known to provide relief from the pain of late-stage cancer and AIDS.  This is similar to the place of acupuncture in the array of techniques available to patients in the West.

Ven. Ayang Rinpoche (Drikung Kagyu) is an authority on life-death issues.

Rokpa (Tib. for help) est. Dr. Akong Tulku & also http://www.rokpa.org/index.htm

Dr. Tamdin Sither Bradley on the humours in diagnosis and treatment.

Tibetan Medical Astrological Institute

Shang Shung Institute (USA)

_______________________________________________________________

practice: The popular Nyingma sadhana, "A Stream of Lapis Lazuli" practiced by many denominations is a terma of the anutara yoga level.   

Blue Beryl: Rather than a lapis lazuli, the English phrase used in this instance refers to an aquamarine.

Ayurvedic:  the name given to the Indian traditional medical system that forms the basis of the Tibetan one; its name refers to the title of the ancient treatise or Veda. 

~ image of Sangye Menla http://www.dharma-haven.org/thrangu-medicine-buddha.htm

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