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Eight Medicine Buddhas

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Eight Medicine Buddhas :

The assembly known as the 'Eight Medicine Buddhas' (Tib. sman-bla bde-gshegs brgyad) shows the principal form of Bhaisajyaguru, the 'Medicine Guru' or Medicine Buddha, surrounded by his 'Six Brothers' and Shakyamuni Buddha. All eight of these figures wear the three red monastic robes of a nirmanakaya Buddha, and sit in vajra-posture upon a moon disc and lotus, with only their specific colours and right hand gestures differentiating them.

Bhaisajyaguru, who appears at the centre, is also known as Vaiduryaprabharaja, the 'King of Vaidurya Light', because of the bright blue rays that emanate from his body. These rays dispel the darkness of ignorance, desire, and aversion, which are the causes of imbalances in the three corresponding humors (Skt. doshas) of phlegm, bile, and wind. Bhaisajyaguru is also recognized as the aspect that Shakyamuni Buddha assumed in order to reveal the medical tantras, and his meditation practices are performed to cure physical diseases, alleviate mental and emotional disorders, and eliminate the obstacles to health, happiness, longevity and harmony. The Medicine Buddha's Pure Land is known as Sudarshana, meaning 'beautiful to behold', which is also identified with Indra's paradise realm known as the heaven of the 'Thirty-Three' (Skt. trayastrimsha) at the summit of Mt Meru. The Medicine Guru is deep blue in colour and he holds a stem of the medicinal arura or myrobalan plant with his right hand. With his left hand resting upon his lap in the dhyana-mudra of meditation he holds an alms-bowl made from blue beryl (Skt. vaidurya) gemstone that contains three myrobalan fruits.

At the top centre is Shakyamuni Buddha, who is golden-orange in colour and makes the earth-touching gesture with his lowered right hand, and the dhyana-mudra with his left hand. Surrounding Bhaisajyaguru are his 'Six Brothers', each of whom cure a variety of different illnesses and afflictions of body, speech and mind.

(1) Suparikiritita-nama-sri-raja (top left), the 'Glorious King with the Renowned Name', who is also known as Sunaman, the 'Good Name'. He is golden-yellow in colour and makes the abhaya-mudra of protection or granting refuge with his lowered right hand, and the dhyana-mudra of meditation with his left hand.

(2) Svaraghosa-raja (top right), the 'King of Melodious Sound'. He is golden-yellow in colour and makes the boon-granting varada-mudra with his lowered right hand, and the dhyana-mudra of meditation with his left hand.

(3) Suvarna-bhadra-vimala (middle left), the 'Golden, Excellent and Stainless'. He is orange-red in colour and with his right hand in front of his heart he makes the gesture of teaching the dharma, and the dhyana-mudra of meditation with his left hand.

(4) Asokottama-sri (middle right), the 'Glorious, Supreme and Sorrowless'. He is light red in colour and sits with both hands resting upon his lap in the dhyana-mudra of meditation.

(5) Dharmakirti-sagara-ghosa (bottom left), the 'Dharma-proclaiming Sound of the Ocean'. He is white in colour and with his right hand in front of his heart he makes the gesture of teaching the dharma, and the dhyana-mudra of meditation with his left hand.

(6) Abhijna-raja (bottom right), the 'King of Supreme Knowledge'. He is coral red in colour and makes the boon-granting varada-mudra with his lowered right hand, and the dhyana-mudra with his left hand.

Below Bhaisajyaguru's multicoloured lotus seat is an offering of the five sense objects: a mirror (sight), cymbals (sound), fruit (taste), a conch filled with perfume (smell), and a silk ribbon (touch). Various auspicious offerings, jewels, trees and medicinal herbs appear in the lower landscape of this thangka.

© text by Robert Beer

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