Sunday, January 23, 2011

Medicine Buddha Empowerment

This is the 41st entry in my fieldwork diary. The original date is 06.11.2010.


Sangye Menla (in Tibetan), Bhaiṣajyaguru (Sanskrit), more formally Bhaiṣajyaguruvaidūryaprabharāja ("Medicine Master and King of Lapis Lazuli Light"), is the buddha of healing and medicine in Mahayana Buddhism. In the English language, he is commonly referred to as the "Medicine Buddha". The use of the analogy of a Buddha being depicted as a doctor who cures the illness of suffering using the medicine of his teachings appears widely in Buddhist scriptures.

The practice of Medicine Buddha, the Supreme Healer, 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.


Bhaiṣajyaguru is described in the eponymous Bhaiṣajyaguruvaidūryaprabharāja 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 realm of Vaidūryanirbhāsa, or "Pure Lapis Lazuli". There, he is attended to by two bodhisattvas symbolizing the sun and moon respectively: Suryaprabha and Candraprabha.


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.


Drupon Sangyas:

"2500 years ago, during the time of Buddha, Medicine Buddha was already giving teachings. There were many bodhisattvas."


Drupon Sangyas stated that once a lama has received the Medicine Buddha empowerment, they have the permission to give this empowerment to his own disciples (the tradition was started by the Medicine Buddha himself).
*I guess it's kind of like passing down an inheritance from the older generation to the younger, except in their case, the inheritance is not a material thing, but instead something spiritual - or, in other words, a 'blessing'.


"Buddha Shakyamuni could travel with his mind to all the lands of different buddhas and receive their teachings while he was meditating.

There are 8 different manifestations of the Medicine Buddha. Just visualize him in the sky.

When you recite the mantra of the Medicine Buddha, visualize the syllable HUNG in the centre of the forehead or in the core of your heart. The mantra moves like a clock. This is the Medicine Buddha's symbolic nectar.

To receive his blessing we need to make offerings."


The following is a step-by-step description (this is not an instruction) of the Medicine Buddha empowerment ritual process (done under the guidance of Drupon Sangyas):

1. Recite the Vajrasattva mantra altogether.
2. Contemplate on becoming closer and closer to Buddha-nature (rigpa).
3. Visualize the healing energy of the Medicine Buddha destroying all obstacles.
4. Repeat the mudra demonstrated by Drupon Sangyas in the eastern direction (an offering for the 4 different worlds, a symbol of the universe).
5. Pray, "Vajra lama, please give us the Medicine Buddha initiation."
6. Develop your bodhicitta.
7. Repeat the lotus mudra demonstrated by the lama (symbolizes giving flowers to the Medicine Buddha).
8. Repeat the words of the lama.
9. Repeat again and then say, "I want to reach enlightenment, and when I do, I, as a bodhisattva, will benefit all sentient beings," while the lama holds a vase in his hands. There are lapis lazuli stones, Aruna fruit and Medicine Buddha's nectar inside the vase. Visualize that the light from the vase is spreading in 10 different directions.
10. Visualize the syllable OM as a clear, white colour in the middle of your forehead;
the syllable AH as a red colour at your throat;
the syllable HUNG as a blue colour in your heart.
Remember that your motivation needs to be pure in order for the meditation to work.
11. Meditate while the lama chants the necessary mantras and prayers.
12. Once again, repeat the words after him.
13. Meditate on the white light coming from the Medicine Buddha, purifying all bad karma.
14. Visualize that the water in the vase is purifying and healing your body. Meditate while the lama continues chanting.
15. Receive the blessing of the vajra (a ritual object shown by the lama), and the light from the sun that dissolves in your mantra as you purify your speech karma (the red light at your throat).
16. Visualize the blue light from the sky going to your heart (for another purification).
17. Meditate on being in the (Medicine Buddha's) pure land of lapis lazuli and all the colours from that place going to the naval level of your body and healing it (this opens up the wind channels)
18. Visualize the blue Medicine Buddha holding the Aruna fruit in his right hand.
19. Receive the blessings from 8 different buddhas and meditate.
20. Repeat the Medicine Buddha mantra 2-4 times:
Visualize this mantra repeating within yourself and everywhere else.
21. Count with the mala (if you have one) 7 times to purify karma, so that your next rebirth won't take place in Samsara.


The most important part of the ritual is going one by one to the lama to receive the Medicine Buddha empowerment. It consists of the lama pouring a few drops for you to sip from your palm and then rub your hand over your forehead, your hair or the tip of the head to dry the hand and complete the process. All this is done while slowly and peacefully chanting a mantra at the same time.

Medicine Buddha Mantra by Khenpo Pema Chopel Rinpoche


*Important side note 1: These diary entries do not reflect every word the teacher said, and there may be some mistakes or misunderstandings, for which I am sorry and accept responsibility. In a few instances, I have interjected my own interpretation or explanation.
*Important side note 2: Please do not attempt to perform this ritual on your own, or any other empowerment/initiation rituals that require the permission and the guidance of a qualified lama or guru. That is their tradition, and as such, it should be respected.
What I have shared here are merely descriptions of Tibetan Buddhist rituals, they are not all meant to be instructions for disciples.

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