The Healing Light of the Medicine Buddha


Text | Peter Lin  Images | Buddha Museum International Affairs Department

At the heart of Buddhism, within its sacred teachings, we find the figure of the Medicine Buddha, known as Bhaisajyaguru-vaiduraprabhasa in Sanskrit. Medicine Buddha embodies the roles of a healer and doctor, offering a cure for both physical and spiritual afflictions. While appearing in statues, the Medicine Buddha is very often seen alongside the Sakyamuni Buddha and Amitabha Buddha. During his spiritual journey, the Medicine Buddha made twelve vows, which are a testament to his commitment to easing the suffering of the world, such as disease, poverty, and imprisonment. A notable feature of the Medicine Buddha's image is his radiant blue glow, similar to crystal or colored glass, symbolizes purity, stability, and healing.

Medicine Buddha statue made in liuli 

In Buddhist history, there was a legend regarding Master Yulin and his connection with the Medicine Buddha. In a previous life, Master Yulin suffered disfigurement while saving his younger brother from a fire. He diligently followed the Medicine Buddha's practices and offered daily prayers with fresh flowers. As the legend foretold, in his later life, he manifested the very essence of the Medicine Buddha. He was blessed with a glazed body and a radiant blue glow.

Master Yulin

The Medicine Buddha is commonly portrayed holding two significant objects. In his left hand, he cradles a medicine bowl, symbolizing his power to heal physical illnesses. This simple yet powerful bowl carries the promise of relief from suffering. In his right hand, he holds haritaki, renowned as the king of herbal medicine and employed in various treatments. These healing tools in the Medicine Buddha's hands emphasize his role as a compassionate healer.

Haritaki in the Buddha Museum's Buddhist Botanic Gardens

The Medicine Buddha's power goes beyond his physical form, encapsulated in the sacred mantra, "namo bhagavate bhaiṣajya-guru vaiḍūrya prabha rājāya, tathāgatāya arhate samyaksambuddhāya tadyathā: oṃ bhaiṣajye bhaiṣajye bhaiṣajya-samudgate svāhā." Devotees recite this mantra with deep devotion, calling upon the Medicine Buddha's healing power. And through the mantra, the Medicine Buddha's compassion is accessible to all who seek it.

Medicine Buddha sutra illustration at the Jade Buddha Shrine

The legend of the Medicine Buddha is one of compassion and healing. His very name, Bhaisajyaguru-vaiduraprabhasa, signifies his sacred mission: to serve as the teacher and doctor for all sentient beings.