Who’s Who in Buddhism: Medicine Buddha

Medicine Buddha


Sanskrit: Bhaiṣajyaguru भैषज्यगुरु
Tibetan: Sanggye Menla སངས་རྒྱས་སྨན་བླ།
Chinese: Yàoshīfó 药师佛
Vietnamese: Phật Dược Sư
Japanese: Yakushi 薬師

Formally known as “Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabhārāja,” Medicine Master and King of Lapis Lazuli Light, he is the Buddha of healing and medicine in Mahayana Buddhism. He is most commonly referred to as “Medicine Buddha” because he cures suffering using the medicine of his teachings.

Medicine Buddha is described in the Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabhārāja Sūtra a Bodhisattva who made 12 great vows. Once he achieved Buddhahood, he became the Buddha of the eastern pure land of Vaiḍūryanirbhāsa, or Pure Lapis Lazuli. Bhaiṣajyaguru is typically depicted seated, wearing the three robes of a Buddhist monk, holding a lapis-colored jar of medicine nectar in his left hand and the right hand resting on his right knee, holding the stem of the Aruna fruit or Myrobalan between thumb and forefinger. In the sutra, he is also described by his aura of lapis lazuli-colored light.

The Twelve Great Vows
The Twelve Vows of the Medicine Buddha upon attaining Enlightenment, according to the Medicine Buddha Sutra are:

  1. To illuminate countless realms with his radiance, enabling anyone to become a Buddha just like him.
  2. To awaken the minds of sentient beings through his light of lapis lazuli.
  3. To provide the sentient beings with whatever material needs they require.
  4. To correct heretical views and inspire beings toward the path of the Bodhisattva.
  5. To help beings follow the Moral Precepts, even if they failed before.
  6. To heal beings born with deformities, illness or other physical sufferings.
  7. To help relieve the destitute and the sick.
  8. To help women who wish to be reborn as men achieve their desired rebirth.
  9. To help heal mental afflictions and delusions.
  10. To help the oppressed be free from suffering.
  11. To relieve those who suffer from terrible hunger and thirst.
  12. To help clothe those who are destitute and suffering from cold and mosquitoes.

Dharani and Mantra
In the Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabhārāja Sūtra, the Medicine Buddha is described as having entered into a state of samadhi called “Eliminating All the Suffering and Afflictions of Sentient Beings.” From this samadhi state he spoke the Medicine Buddha Dharani.

namo bhagavate bhaiṣajyaguru
vaiḍūryaprabharājāya tathāgatāya
arhate samyaksambuddhāya tadyathā:
oṃ bhaiṣajye bhaiṣajye mahābhaiṣajya-samudgate svāhā.

The last line of the dharani is used as Bhaisajyaguru’s short form mantra.




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