In 1994 Ringu Tulku was asked to provide a description of the Medicine Buddha (Skt: Bhaiṣajyaguru भैषज्यगुरु, Tib: Sangye Menla སངས ར ས ས ན བ) Practice at Kagyu Samye Ling, following an empowerment provided by Tai Situ Rinpoche. These recordings were edited to fit the requirements of audio cassettes produced by the Samye Ling Audio Visual Department to be offered in the Samye Ling store at the time.
In the very first recording Rinpoche talks about the aspirations of the Medication Buddha to benefit beings– especially recovery from illness, for elimination of illness, for filtration, and benefitting others at the time of their death. There are Sutra and Tantra based Medicine Buddha practices; here Rinpoche talks about an anuttarayoga tantra (Tib: bla na med pa’i rgyud) version. Karma Chagmey empasizes that both: empowerment (Tib: wang); and a reading transmission of the text (Tib: lung) by a licensed holder of the practice; are required.
Rinpoche discusses taking sanctuary in the Three Gems, and describes the Tibetan systems of the red and white sangha; the latter lay neighborhood of ngagpas (Tib: ས གས པ, sngags pa; Skt mantrī) being historically vital for the survival of Buddhism in Tibet throughout the well-known reign of Langdarma (Tibetan: ག ང དར མ, glang dar ma). Rinpoche then describes the 3 Roots.
At 00:32:00 Rinpoche begins to describe the creation aspects of this practice. A dialogue with a number of trainees then takes place, regarding the creations of our minds and the relative solidity of understandings, with Rinpoche traditionally claiming an argument point “shown” with a hand clap at 00:38:48! Nevertheless the discussion continues till questions and answers start:
00:46:00 Q. How does our subjective awareness influence if we are burned by a fire or not?
A brand-new teaching session commences at 00:52:04 when discussion of the Medication Buddha practice resumes, and Rinpoche highlights that it is our mindset, and the method which we react, which determines our happiness/unhappiness, rather than the scenario we are in.
In this context, Rinpoche notes Samye Ling’s dual properties of:
- rain &
We create with our mind. We can produce offerings with our mind’s power. In this context at 01:00:40 Rinpoche recommendations the 1990 film “Ghost” (starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore & Whoopi Goldberg).
At 01:04:11 Rinpoche discusses what is indicated by “clouds of endless offerings” developed through the power of our mind, and The 4 Unlimited Goals (Countless: 1. Love; 2. Empathy; 3. Joy; and 4. Equanimity) as the best and essential offerings which result in build-up of benefit, and eventually, to Buddhahood.
The first recording ends with Rinpoche mentioning that “problem” can be considered as fairly favorable, as it is still “news” and not our normal everyday circumstance …
In the second recording, the session straight continues with Rinpoche clarifying this point further, and how we end up being more conservative as we age as adults, and how individual stability isn’t always ensured by scholastic attainment.
Compassion comes through understanding others’ suffering; compassion offers us more perspective than self-pity.
00:15:09 Please can you discuss more about us having ideal equanimity, when we might do not like some individuals’s negative characteristics?
00:24:22 If we should try to find favorable qualities in people we don’t like, do we need to search for negative qualities, in people we simulate, simply to balance things out!?
The next session begins at 00:27:00 when Rinpoche begins to explain the visualisation of the Medicine Buddha.
The letter OM ཨ is the beginning of whatever, the source of all noises.
Everything is naturally pure, by its own nature. Any pollutants we see, are our own imposed ideas and forecasted perceptions. Whatever is pure by nature. Our real nature is no different from that of the Medicine Buddha. So we imagine ourselves as the Medication Buddha.
The Course of the Cause, and the Course of the Result, are both discussed at 00:34:00. (The initial recording tape stops at 00:36:12 however continues with a brief space).
All becomes the nature of vacuum to exercise our mind on the real nature of phenomena. We view the entire cosmos as the Medication Buddha’s Buddhafield, with a throne at the centre supported by 8 lions; holding a large lotus flower and moon disc. We have a “self” and “in front” visualisation of Medicine Buddha, arising from a blue HUNG ཧ, which radiates light to all of space, which then brings back all the wisdom and blessings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, changing the HUNG ཧ into the full image of the Medicine Buddha (as detailed above) with all 32 marks; lapis lazuli blue in colour; holding the stem of the Aruna or Myrobalan (Terminalia chebula) fruit plant in the right-hand man; and holding a begging bowl of medicine nectar in the left hand. The seven other Medicine Buddhas arise on 7 of the 8 petals around the Medication Buddha (see the list in Praises below) and are listed by Rinpoche at 00:53:50; with texts on the 8th petal. Rinpoche describes the full samayasattva visualisation with the 16 Bodhisattvas, and the guardians at this moment. We then bring the jnanasattva (wisdom aspect) at 01:00:00, when Rinpoche descibes the invite of, and empowerment from, the 5 Wisdoms and Five Buddha Households.
Concerns on the visualisation
01:01:10 Rinpoche can you clarify the sequence of visualisation, please? When we dissolve is it like dying?
In the 3rd recording Rinpoche goes over the qualities of ideal visualisation: clearness; pureness; and stability. It is necessary for us to feel that our visualisation as having the living lively knowledge and true blessings of the Buddha instead of just the kind alone. The Medicine Buddha has: one face, representing no duality; and two hands, representing the 2 elements of wisdom and compassion. Stability (Tib tenpa) comes through training our mind repeatedly with concentration and relaxation, without stress or laxity.
At 00:06:31 Rinpoche discusses the offerings we imagine and their significance. Any attachment or aversion through our senses we transform, making terrific offerings to eliminate clinging.
The Eight unique substances are explained by Rinpoche: white mustard seed signifying elimination of challenges; durva grass (Cynodon dactylon) representing long life; bilwa fruit (Aegle marmelos, Bael or wood apple) considered the King of Fruits; gorochana or ‘bezoar’ medication (Tib gi-wang) from an elephant’s brain; vermillion; yoghurt (the very first food provided to Buddha on becoming enlightened); a mirror (Tib melong); and conch shell. All were offered to Shakyamuni Buddha throughout his life time.
At 00:17:20 Rinpoche discusses ཕ ག མཚན or chaktsen (Skt: ashtamangala) -the Eight advantageous (or “fortunate”) signs or indications:
- the parasol/umbrella (Skt: chatraratna; Tib: ར ན ཆ ན གད གས or rinchen duk; representing both the Buddha’s head and defense from harm);
- two golden fish (Skt: gaurmatsya; Tib: གས ར ཉ or sernya; representing both the Buddha’s eyes and The 2 Realities (taught in other places in this Archive). The two fishes also originally represented the two main sacred rivers of India– the Ganges and Yamuna; and are connected with the lunar and solar channels, originating in the nostrils and bring the breath or prana);
- the treasure vase (Tib: གཏ ར ཆ ན པ འ བ མ པ or terchenpo’i bumpa; representing the Buddha’s neck/throat -where the teachings circulation from. It also reprents the unlimited quality of Dharma: no matter the number of mentors Buddha shared, the treasure never lessened);
- lotus flower (Skt: padma; Tib: པད མ or péma; representing the Buddha’s tongue and the primordial purity of Buddha’s body, speech, and mind, untainted by the mud of attachment and desire);
- white conch shell (of the big Indian Ocean sea snail Turbinella pyrum. Skt: shanka or śaṅkha; Tib: ད ང དཀར གཡས འཁ ལ or dungkar yénkhyil; representing the Buddha’s voice and the gorgeous and pervasive sound of the Dharma);
- the endless/eternal knot (Skt: śrīvatsa; Tib: དཔལ བ འ or pelbeu; representing the Buddha’s heart and the intertwining of wisdom and compassion, the union of wisdom and approach, and the inseparability of śūnyatā -emptiness with pratītyasamutpāda -interdependent origination);
- the success banner (Skt: dhvaja; Tib: ར ལ མཚན or gyeltsen; representing the Buddha’s body and victory over the four māras, or limitations on the path of enlightenment);
- the wheel (Skt: dharmachakra; Tib: ཆ ས ཀ འཁ ར ལ or chö kyi khorlo— representing the Buddha’s feet and the Dharma mentors).
They were originally used to represent the Buddha in Ashoka’s time, prior to the Buddha’s image was initially utilized.
At 00:23:18 Rinpoche discusses the Seven valuable things for an emperor or Chakravarti king (Sanskrit: चक्रवर्तिन् cakravartin, Pali: cakkavatti) the wheel-turning king:
- the precious horse
- the valuable elephant
- the precious wish-fulfilling jewel
- the valuable general warrior
- the precious queen
- the precious worthy minister
Then there is a Mandala offering (described elsewhere within the Archive).
At 00:27:01 Rinpoche talks about the significance of offering the Buddha a scented bath to represent liberty from oscurations (a purification practice for the mind of the offerer); then drying (to represent flexibility from suffering); then clothes with saffron bathrobes.
At 00:30:15 an explanation of the Praises begins, where we consider the qualities of The 8 Medicine Buddhas:
- The Medication Buddha or Bhaiṣajyaguru (officially Bhaiṣajya-guru-vaiḍūrya-prabhā-rāja: Medication Master and King of Lapis Lazuli Light; Tib. Sangye menla), is lapis lazuli blue in colour; His right-hand man in the mudra of giving the supreme and holding the stem of the Aruna or Myrobalan (Terminalia chebula) fruit plant in between thumb and forefinger; His left hand holding a lapis-coloured container of medication nectar.
- King of Shakyas (Shakyamuni) Buddha (Tib. Shakya gyalpo); gold in colour; His right-hand man in an earth-pressing mudra; His left hand in the mudra of concentration;
- Exceptional Name (Skt. Supa rikiti tanama sri raja Tib. Tshän lek yang drag), gold in colour with His right-hand man in the mudra of granting haven; and His left hand in the mudra of concentration;
- Look of Stainless Fine Gold (Skt. Suvarnabhadra vimala or Tib. Serzang drime nangwa), yellow in colour (like the river Tsambu), His right-hand man in the mudra of teaching the Dharma; and His left hand in the mudra of concentration;
- Resounding Dharma Tune (Skt. Dharmakirtisagara or Tib. Chödrak gyamtso yang) with a white pale pink body, His right hand in the mudra of teaching the Dharma; and His left hand in the mudra of concentration;
- King of Tune (Skt. Svaragosaraja Tib. Dra yang gyi gyälpo), gold in colour with His right-hand man in the mudra of giving the supreme; and His left hand in the mudra of concentration;
- Glorious Supreme One Devoid Of Suffering (Skt: Asokottamasiraja or Tib: Nyangän mechog friend), pale red in colour with both hands in the mudra of meditative equipoise;
- King of Direct Knowledge or clear knowing (Skt. Abhjyaraja or Tib. Ngön khyen gyälpo); coral red in colour, His right hand in the mudra of giving the supreme; and His left hand in the mudra of concentration.
Applauds reach all the Bodhisattvas, 10 Directional Guardians, Great Beings and retinues to clear all sicknesses, unfavorable ideas and unfavorable emotions.
00:34:00 Rinpoche, what are the Ten Protectors of the 10 directions?
00:34:34 Rinpoche, please can you explain more about the 8 auspicious signs?
00:36:34 Can you talk more about the treasure vase? It looks a more like a “teapot”, than what we normally call a “vase” in the west!
At 00:39:05 the final session starts. Rinpoche explains and talks about how to recite the mantra at 00:39:50:
The Medicine Buddha Mantra is:
ཏད ཐ ཨ བ ཥ ཛ བ ཥ ཛ མཧ བ ཥ ཛ ར ཛ ས མང ཏ ས ཧ TAYATA OM BHEKANDZYE MAHA BHEKANDZYE RADZA SAMUDGATE SOHA
(TADYATHA OM BHAISHAJYE MAHABHAISHAJYE RAJA SAMUDGATE SVAHA)
At 00:46:46 Rinpoche discusses the dissolution and devotion.
May all see 100 falls!
At 00:54:14 Rinpoche goes over the source of the text (Terton Mingyur Dorje) and its advantages for the sick and the passing away; and the elimination of blockages.
00:59:05 Can you tell me why the Jowo Rinpoche (in the Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Square, Lhasa) in the most revered statue in Tibet?
01:04:16 Were the very first pictures of Buddha made in sandalwood?
01:05:12 Can you talk some more about the names and natures of the spirit protectors please?
01:07:50 Does the light radiate out in 8 or 10 instructions? Is the colour of hair among the unique marks of a Buddha?
01:10:00 My Medicine Buddha text is a little different from yours; with a wang (empowerment visualisation of body mind and speech blessings) -when do I do it?
01:11:18 Does the ego pass away at the momement of death, or does it continue to the next reincarnation?
In between the years of 1997 and 2003, Kagyu Shenpen Ösel Chöling released transcripted Buddhist mentors in the tri-annual publication Shenpen Ösel.The magazine sought to provide the mentors of recognized and completely qualified lamas and teachers, with a focus on the Karma Kagyu and the Shangpa Kagyu family trees. A truly excellent endeavour, two editions were devoted to mentors on: The Medication Buddha Sadhana (practice) in Tibetan, transliteration, word-for-word translation, and full literary translation; mentors on the Medication Buddha Sadhana by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche; and a commentary on The Medication Buddha Sutra by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche. Both are offered here:
Extreme thanks to Palpung Changchub Dargyeling for their exceptional pdf Resource website of Kagyu sadhana practice texts (including the Sangye Menla/Medicine Buddha pdf text in a printable format below to enable two-sided printing) at:
The photos below functions Sherabpalden Beru and Ringu Tulku in the Kagyu Samye Ling Medicine Buddha Shrineroom developed by Sherabpalden Beru, and the surrounding stained glass window.
For more information, check out: http://palpung.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Medicine-Buddha-TEXT.pdf