Medicine Buddha is an extraordinary and precious healing meditation practice found in Tibetan Buddhism. The purpose of this blog is simply to share a few resources and links I hope you may find helpful if you are investigating this practice.
As with all tantra practices, it is recommended that you receive proper initiations and teachings on Medicine Buddha, in person, from a properly qualified lama.
What does Medicine Buddha Look Like?
Medicine Buddha is depicted as having a dark blue (lapis lazuli) coloured body, this being an archetypal colour of healing. With his left hand he holds a bowl of healing nectars, and with his right, a medicine plant. There are many visual presentations of Medicine Buddha, but they all tend to have these key elements.
If you’re looking for a visual representation for your own practice, it’s best to use whichever one has been offered to you by your teacher. If this is not possible, look at what is available and choose the one that most resonates for you. The image at the top of this blog comes from the Nobulingka Institute, (http://www.norbulingka.org/) so is a very good one to use.
How to practice meditating on Medicine Buddha
The essentials of the Medicine Buddha meditation practice are as follows:
Find a quiet place to meditate and assume the optimal meditation posture for you. (For more on how to sit, go to: http://www.thewayofmeditation.com.au/meditation-posture/)
Take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. (For more on this subject, see: http://viewonbuddhism.org/refuge.html)
Establish your bodhichitta motivation
As with all Tibetan Buddhist meditations, spend a short time establishing your bodhichitta motivation. Our aim is for bodhichitta to permeate all our activities throughout the day. Recollecting our bodhichitta motivation in a heartfelt way, at the start of a meditation session, is the best way to begin.
In summary, we may think or say: ‘By this practice of Medicine Buddha may I/the being for whom I am practising, be purified of all disease, pain and suffering, enjoy robust, good, health, and attain complete and perfect enlightenment, in order to lead all other beings to this same state.’ (For more on bodhichitta, there are some great insights provided by the wonderful Lama Yeshe in his very last public talk at: https://www.lamayeshe.com/article/bodhicitta-perfection-dharma-0)
Invite Medicine Buddha to your presence
Visualise Medicine Buddha sitting looking at you. He is at about the height of your forehead, a few feet in front of you, gazing at you with as much love as a mother for her only child. He is everything beautiful gathered into one. The more familiar you become with the Medicine Buddha image when you are not meditating, the easier it will be for you to visualise him when you are (in the same way, for example, you can effortlessly picture your front door, or your car – objects with which you are very familiar). So, I recommend having an image of Medicine Buddha somewhere you’ll see it frequently through the day, making it easier and easier for you to see it when your eyes are shut. Even if your visualisation is not great, picturing a blob of blue light is sufficient.
What’s really important to to have a very real sense that Medicine Buddha is actually there. That if you looked up, or opened your eyes, you would see him there. Try and cultivate the feeling that you are in the presence of a truly amazing being.
If you’ve ever had the privilege of being in an audience with someone such as The Dalai Lama, you will know that there is a palpable sensation to his being there. His is an energetic presence. So too with Medicine Buddha.
Request Medicine Buddha to eliminate pain, purify disease and/or rebalance or restore your health, or that of the being for whom you are practising. You don’t have to be a medical expert or have precise knowledge of the physiological changes required. What matters here is intention.
Visualise that Medicine Buddha very willingly responds to your request. Instantly, healing blue lights and nectars emanate from the bowl in his lap, come to the crown of your head and flow down, filling your body, or that of the being for whom you are practising. You can direct the lights and nectars to specific parts of the body initially. But there is such an abundance of them, that they will fill the whole being of the person/animal.
Imagine that this process eliminates and purifies all disease, pain and suffering and causes of disease, pain and suffering instantly, completely and permanently. Imagine it is incomparably more powerful than the most powerful medical treatment.
Recite Medicine Buddha’s mantra
While visualising this process, recite Medicine Buddha’s mantra. Like the image of Medicine Buddha, there are a few variants of the mantra, depending on lineage. And, like the image, the best version to use is the one taught by your teacher.
If not, here is a helpful video providing a soundtrack of the mantra:
Continue the visualisation and mantra recitation for at least ten minutes if you are new to the practice. If you are a seasoned meditator, you will probably wish to go on for longer.
Conclude your session with a dedication:
‘By this practice of Medicine Buddha, may I/the being for whom I am practicing, and all beings, be free from pain, disease and suffering, and quickly, quickly achieve complete and perfect enlightenment.’
How does Medicine Buddha work?
We may understand the practice of Medicine Buddha on several different levels.
At the most basic level, there is now empirical evidence that the practice of meditation triggers a self-repair mechanism in our own bodies. We stop producing cortisol and adrenalin, and instead produce endorphins, seratonin, melatonin and effect many other pharmacological changes in our body. Even when we have a subjectively ‘bad’ session – i.e. our mind keeps wandering – by shifting what is going on in our mind, even a little, we also shift what is happening in our body. In an extraordinary way. A mantra and a visualisation is a very powerful combination, gives us plenty to be keeping us focused and engaged in our practice, thereby turbo-charging our self-healing session.
An element of confidence in the practice is also critical. If you believe it will help you, well, there’s every reason that it will. The placebo effect accounts for over a third of all healing, and if you believe that Medicine Buddha which has, after all, been practiced for thousands of years by people with incredibly powerful results, can work for you, then you’re off to a racing start.
The whole subject of how mental factors play a key role in effecting change at an epigenetic level is explored by writers like Bruce Lipton in his book, The Biology of Belief, which I’d highly recommend if you’d like to explore this subject from a scientific basis.
Resonance may also account for the powerful impact of Medicine Buddha practice. You may be sitting alone in a room doing it, on one level, but in a different way you are resonating with the many hundreds of thousands of people who have done exactly the same thing, benefiting from the experience, and contributing to the experience of those who follow. I have written more about this in my blog on the power of resonance (see blog link below).
You invoke Medicine Buddha through the use of specific imagery and sound, reaching out to the consciousness of those who have already attained enlightenment and who have chosen to manifest as Medicine Buddhas – of which there are innumerable beings. The minds of Buddhas are understood to be all-seeing and all-knowing. Nothing could be a more direct call to action, for such beings, than your practice of their specific mantra. You pretty much have them on speed dial when you use their mantra. Again, I have written more about the subject of Buddhist deities (see blog link below).
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