Bhaiṣajyaguru, formally Bhaiṣajya-guru-vaiḍūrya-prabhā-rāja
("King of Medicine Master and Lapis Lazuli Light"), is the Buddha of
healing and medicine in Mahāyāna Buddhism. Commonly referred to as
the "Medicine Buddha", he is described as a doctor who cures dukkha
(suffering) using the medicine of his teachings.
Bhaiṣajyaguru's original name and title was rāja (King), but
Xuanzang translated it as
Tathāgata (Buddha). Subsequent translations
and commentaries followed
Xuanzang in describing him as a Buddha. The
image of Bhaiṣajyaguru is usually expressed with a canonical
Buddha-like form holding a gallipot and, in some versions, possessing
blue skin. Though also considered to be a guardian of the East, in
Akshobhya is given that role. As an exceptional case, the
honzon of "Kōya-san Kongōbu-ji" was changed from
2 The Twelve Vows
3 Dharani and Mantra
5 Role in Chinese Buddhism
6 Role in Japanese Buddhism
7 Role in Tibetan Buddhism
9 External links
Bhaiṣajyaguru is described in the eponymous
Bhaiṣajya-guru-vaiḍūrya-prabhā-rāja Sūtra, commonly called the
Medicine Buddha Sutra, as a bodhisattva who made 12 great vows. On
achieving Buddhahood, he became the Buddha of the eastern pure land of
Vaiḍūryanirbhāsa "Pure Lapis Lazuli". There, he is attended to
by two bodhisattvas symbolizing the light of the sun and the light of
the moon respectively:
Suryaprabha (Chinese: 日光遍照菩薩; pinyin: rìguāng biànzhào
Candraprabha (Chinese: 月光遍照菩薩; pinyin: yuèguāng
Sanskrit manuscript of the
Bhaiṣajya-guru-vaiḍūrya-prabhā-rāja Sūtra was among the texts
attesting to the popularity of Bhaiṣajyaguru in the ancient
northwest Indian kingdom of Gandhāra. The manuscripts in this find
are dated before the 7th century, and are written in the upright Gupta
The Chinese Buddhist monk
Xuanzang visited a Mahāsāṃghika
monastery at Bamiyan, Afghanistan, in the 7th century CE, and the site
of this monastery has been rediscovered by archaeologists.
Birchbark manuscript fragments from several Mahāyāna sūtras have
been discovered at the site, including the
Bhaiṣajya-guru-vaidūrya-prabha-rāja Sūtra (MS 2385).
The Twelve Vows
The Twelve Vows of the Medicine Buddha upon attaining Enlightenment,
according to the Medicine Buddha Sutra are:
1. I vow that my body shall shine as beams of brilliant light on this
infinite and boundless world, showering on all beings, getting rid of
their ignorance and worries with my teachings. May all beings be like
me, with a perfect status and character, upright mind and soul, and
finally attaining enlightenment like the Buddha.
2. I vow that my body be like crystal, pure and flawless, radiating
rays of splendid light to every corner, brightening up and
enlightening all beings with wisdom. With the blessings of compassion,
may all beings strengthen their spiritual power and physical energy,
so that they could fulfil their dreams in the right track.
3. I vow that I shall grant by means of boundless wisdom, all beings
with the inexhaustible things that they require, and relieving them
from all pains and guilt resulting from materialistic desires.
Although clothing, food, accommodation and transport are essentials,
it should be utilised wisely as well. Besides self-consumption, the
remaining should be generously shared with the community so that all
could live harmoniously together.
4. I vow to lead those who have gone astray back to the path of
righteousness. Let them be corrected and returned to the Buddha way
5. I vow that I shall enable all sentient beings to observe precepts
for spiritual purity and moral conduct. Should there be any relapse or
violation, they shall be guided for repentance. Provided they truly
regret their wrong-doings, and vow for a change with constant prayers
and strong faith in the Buddha, they could receive the rays of
forgiveness, recover their lost moral and purity.
6. I vow that all beings who are physically disabled or sick in all
aspects be blessed with good health, both physically and mentally. All
who pays homage to Buddha faithfully will be blessed.
7. I vow to relieve all pain and poverty of the very sick and poor.
The sick be cured, the helpless be helped, the poor be assisted.
8. I vow to help women who are undergoing sufferings and tortures and
seeking for transformation into men. By hearing my name, paying homage
and praying, their wishes would be granted and ultimately attain
9. I vow to free all beings from evil thoughts and its control. I
shall lead them onto the path of light through inculcating them with
righteousness and honour so that they will walk the Buddha way.
10. I vow to save prisoners who have genuinely repented and victims of
natural disasters. Those who are sincere will be blessed by my supreme
powers and be freed from sufferings.
11. I vow to save those who suffer from starvation and those who
committed crime to obtain food. If they hear my name and faithfully
cherish it, I shall lead them to the advantages of
Dharma and favour
them with best food and eventually lead a tranquil and happy life.
12. I vow to save those who suffer from poverty, tormented by
mosquitoes and wasps day and night. If they come across my name,
cherish it with sincerity and practise dharma to strengthen their
merits, they will be able to achieve their wishes
Dharani and Mantra
In the Bhaiṣajya-guru-vaiḍūrya-prabhā-rāja 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 arahate samyaksambuddhāya tadyathā:
oṃ bhaiṣajye bhaiṣajye bhaiṣajya-samudgate svāhā.
The last line of the dharani is used as Bhaisajyaguru's short form
mantra. There are several other mantras for the Medicine Buddha as
well that are used in different schools of
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. In Chinese depictions, he is sometimes holding a pagoda,
symbolising the ten thousand
Buddhas of the three periods of time. He
is also depicted standing on a Northern Wei stele from approximately
500 AD now housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, accompanied by
his two attendants,
Suryaprabha and Candraprabha. Within the halo are
depicted the Seven Bhaiṣajyaguru
Buddhas and seven apsaras.
Role in Chinese Buddhism
The Pure Land of Bhaisajyaguru, a wall mural made circa 1319 AD, Yuan
The practice of veneration of the Medicine Buddha is also popular in
China, as he is depicted as one of the three prominent Buddhas, the
others being the founder Śākyamuni and Amitabha. He can also be
viewed as the healing attribute of Śākyamuni, as he is often called
the "Medicine King" in sutras. There are two popular Chinese
translations of this sutra: one by Xuanzang and the other by Yijing
both translated in the Tang dynasty. The
Taisho Tripitaka and Qianlong
Tripitaka (Chinese: 乾隆大藏經) each have three translations of
By Dharmagupta in 615 CE (Taisho: vol. 14, no. 449; Qianlong: no. 166)
Xuanzang in 650 CE (Taisho: vol. 14, no. 450; Qianlong: no. 167)
By Yijing in 707 CE (Taisho: vol. 14, no. 451; Qianlong: no. 168)
These three versions have different titles:
Sutra of the Vows of the Medicine Buddha
Sutra of the Vows of the Medicine Buddha of Lapis Lazuli
Sutra of the Vows of the Medicine Buddha of Lapis Lazuli
Crystal Radiance and Seven Past Buddhas
Chinese: 藥師琉璃光七佛本願功德經 (no. 168, two scrolls).
The version translated by Yijing includes not only the vows of the
Medicine Buddha but also the vows of the Seven Past Buddhas.
Like Tibetan Buddhists, Chinese Buddhists recite the mantra of the
Medicine Buddha to overcome mental, physical and spiritual sickness.
The Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabhārāja Sūtra, which the Medicine
Buddha is associated with and described in great detail in, is a
common sutra to recite in Chinese temples as well. Furthermore, much
like the nianfo path of Amitabha, the name of Medicine Buddha is also
recited for the benefit of being reborn in the Eastern Pure Lands,
though this is deemphasized in favor of the Medicine Buddha's role for
Role in Japanese Buddhism
Yakushi (Bhaishajaguru, The Buddha of Healing) by Enkū (1628-95).
Starting in the 7th century in Japan, Yakushi was prayed to in the
Ashuku (Akshobhya). Some of Yakushi's role has been taken
Jizō (Ksitigarbha), but Yakushi is still invoked in the
traditional memorial services for the dead.
Older temples, those mostly found in the
especially those around Kyoto, Nara and the
Kinki region often have
Yakushi as the center of devotion, unlike later Buddhist sects which
Amitabha Buddha or
Bodhisattva almost exclusively.
Often, when Yakushi is the center of devotion in a Buddhist temple, he
is flanked by the
Twelve Heavenly Generals
Twelve Heavenly Generals (十二神将,
Jūni-shinshō), who were twelve yaksha generals who had been
converted through hearing the Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabhārāja
Wherever this sutra circulates or wherever there are sentient beings
who hold fast to the name of the Medicine Buddha [Yakushi Buddha] and
respectfully make offerings to him, whether in villages, towns,
kingdoms or in the wilderness, we [the Twelve Generals] will all
protect them. We will release them from all suffering and calamities
and see to it that all their wishes are fulfilled.
Role in Tibetan Buddhism
The practice of Medicine Buddha, the Supreme Healer (or Sangye Menla
in Tibetan) is not only a very powerful method for healing and
increasing healing powers both for oneself and others, but also for
overcoming the inner sickness of attachment, hatred, and ignorance,
thus to meditate on the Medicine Buddha can help decrease physical and
mental illness and suffering.
The Medicine Buddha mantra is held to be extremely powerful for
healing of physical illnesses and purification of negative karma. One
form of practice based on the Medicine Buddha is done when one is
stricken by disease. The patient is to recite the long Medicine Buddha
mantra 108 times over a glass of water. The water is now believed to
be blessed by the power of the mantra and the blessing of the Medicine
Buddha himself, and the patient is to drink the water. This practice
is then repeated each day until the illness is cured.
Buddha of Medicine Bhaishajyaguru (Yaoshi fo), Smarthistory
Koya-san and Cultural assets. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
^ Birnbaum, Raoul (2003). The Healing Buddha. p. 64.
^ Oriental Medicine: an illustrated guide to the Asian arts of Healing
^ a b Bakshi, S.R. Kashmir: History and People. 1998. p. 194
^ a b "Schøyen Collection: Buddhism". Retrieved 23 June 2012.
^ a b c Ven. Hsuan Jung. "
Sutra of the Medicine Buddha" (PDF).
Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 April 2007. Retrieved
^ S. C. Bosch Reitz, "Trinity of the Buddha of Healing", Metropolitan
Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol 19, No. 4 (Apr., 1924), pp. 86-91.
^ Hsing Yun,"
Sutra of the Medicine Buddha with an Introduction,
Comments, and Prayers", Buddha's Light Publishing, 2005, Revised
Edition, ISBN 1-932293-06-X
^ Hsing Yun 2005, p 42
^ CBETA, retrieved 2012. Main sutra page for Yi Jing Translation:
www.cbeta.org/result/T14/T14n0451.htm, Scroll 1:
www.cbeta.org/result/normal/T14/0451_001.htm, Scroll 2:
www.cbeta.org/result/normal/T14/0451_002.htm. Dharmagupta translation:
http://www.cbeta.org/result/normal/T14/0449_001.htm. Xuan Zang
^ Chen Li Quan and Zhu Mo. "
Sutra of the Medicine Buddha", 1997,
Classic Chinese Buddhist Texts in Plain Language, Buddha's Light
Publishing, Taiwan (in Chinese). 藥師經/陳利權,竺摩釋譯
ISBN 9781932293067, p 101)
^ "Buddha of Medicine Bhaishajyaguru (Yaoshi fo)".
Khan Academy. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
Image of Medicine Buddha
Medicine Buddha Resources
Sutra on the Original Vows and Merits of the Medicine Master Lapis
Lazuli Light Tathagata (藥師琉璃光如來本願功德經): English
Translation by the Chung Tai Translation Committee
Buddhist Text Translation Society version of Medicine Master Sutra
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