In 1994 Ringu Tulku was asked to give an explanation of the Medicine Buddha (Skt: Bhaiṣajyaguru भैषज्यगुरु, Tib: Sangye Menla སངས་རྒྱས་སྨན་བླ) Practice at Kagyu Samye Ling, following an empowerment given 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 sold in the Samye Ling shop at the time.
In the first recording Rinpoche discusses the aspirations of the Medicine Buddha to benefit beings – particularly healing from illness, for removal of disease, for purification, and benefitting others at the time of their death. There are Sutra and Tantra based Medicine Buddha practices; here Rinpoche discusses 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 an authorized holder of the practice; are required.
Rinpoche discusses taking refuge in the Three Jewels, and explains the Tibetan systems of the red and white sangha; the latter lay community of ngagpas (Tib: སྔགས་པ་, sngags pa; Skt mantrī) being historically vital for the survival of Buddhism in Tibet during the notorious reign of Langdarma (Tibetan: གླང་དར་མ།, glang dar ma). Rinpoche then explains the Three Roots.
At 00:32:00 Rinpoche starts to describe the creation aspects of this practice. A dialogue with a number of students then ensues, regarding the creations of our minds and the relative solidity of perceptions, with Rinpoche traditionally claiming a debate point “proven” with a hand clap at 00:38:48! However the discussion continues until questions and answers commence:
00:46:00 Q. How does our subjective awareness influence if we are burned by a fire or not?
A new teaching session commences at 00:52:04 when discussion of the Medicine Buddha practice resumes, and Rinpoche emphasizes that it is our state of mind, and the way in which we react, which determines our happiness/unhappiness, rather than the situation we are in.
In this context, Rinpoche notes Samye Ling’s dual assets of:
We create with our mind. We can create offerings with our mind’s power. In this context at 01:00:40 Rinpoche references the 1990 film “Ghost” (starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore & Whoopi Goldberg).
At 01:04:11 Rinpoche explains what is meant by “clouds of inexhaustible offerings” created through the power of our mind, and The Four Limitless Aspirations (Immeasurable: 1.Love; 2.Compassion; 3. Joy; and 4.Equanimity) as the best and most important offerings which lead to accumulation of merit, and ultimately, to Buddhahood.
The first recording ends with Rinpoche pointing out that “bad news” can be considered as relatively positive, as it is still “news” and not our normal everyday situation…
In the second recording, the session directly continues with Rinpoche clarifying this point further, and how we become more conservative as we age as adults, and how personal integrity isn’t always guaranteed by academic attainment.
Compassion comes through understanding others’ suffering; empathy gives us more perspective than self-pity.
00:15:09 Please can you discuss more about us having perfect equanimity, when we might dislike some people’s negative characteristics?
00:24:22 If we should look for positive qualities in people we don’t like, do we have to look for negative qualities, in people we do like, just to balance things out!?
The next session commences at 00:27:00 when Rinpoche starts to describe the visualisation of the Medicine Buddha.
The letter OM ཨོཾ is the beginning of everything, the source of all sounds.
Everything is naturally pure, by its own nature. Any impurities we see, are our own imposed concepts and projected perceptions. Everything is pure by nature. Our true nature is no different from that of the Medicine Buddha. So we visualise ourselves as the Medicine Buddha.
The Path of the Cause, and the Path of the Result, are both discussed at 00:34:00. (The original recording tape stops at 00:36:12 but continues with a short gap).
All becomes the nature of emptiness to exercise our mind on the true nature of phenomena. We perceive the whole cosmos as the Medicine 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 ཧཱུྃ, which radiates light to all of space,which then brings back all the wisdom and blessings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, transforming the HUNG ཧཱུྃ into the full image of the Medicine Buddha (as illustrated 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; 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 Medicine 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 point. We then bring the jnanasattva (wisdom aspect) at 01:00:00, when Rinpoche descibes the invitation of, and empowerment from, the Five Wisdoms and Five Buddha Families.
Questions on the visualisation
01:01:10 Rinpoche can you clarify the sequence of visualisation, please? When we dissolve is it like dying?
In the third recording Rinpoche discusses the qualities of ideal visualisation: clarity; purity; and stability. It is important for us to feel that our visualisation as having the living vibrant wisdom and blessings of the Buddha rather than just the form alone. The Medicine Buddha has: one face, representing no duality; and two hands, representing the two aspects of wisdom and compassion. Stability (Tib tenpa) comes through training our mind repeatedly with concentration and relaxation, without tension or laxity.
At 00:06:31 Rinpoche discusses the offerings we visualise and their significance. Any attachment or aversion through our senses we transform, making great offerings to remove clinging.
The Eight special substances are described by Rinpoche: white mustard seed signifying removal of obstacles; durva grass (Cynodon dactylon) representing long life; bilwa fruit (Aegle marmelos, Bael or wood apple) considered the King of Fruits; gorochana or ‘bezoar‘ medicine (Tib gi-wang) from an elephant’s brain; vermillion; yoghurt (the first food offered to Buddha on becoming enlightened); a mirror (Tib melong); and conch shell. All were offered to Shakyamuni Buddha during his lifetime.
At 00:17:20 Rinpoche discusses ཕྱག་མཚན or chaktsen (Skt: ashtamangala) -the Eight auspicious (or “lucky”) symbols or signs:
They were originally used to represent the Buddha in Ashoka’s time, before the Buddha’s image was first used.
At 00:23:18 Rinpoche discusses the Seven precious things for an emperor or Chakravarti king (Sanskrit: चक्रवर्तिन् cakravartin, Pali: cakkavatti) the wheel-turning king:
Then there is a Mandala offering (explained elsewhere within the Archive).
At 00:27:01 Rinpoche discusses the significance of offering the Buddha a perfumed bath to represent freedom from oscurations (a purification practice for the mind of the offerer); then drying (to represent freedom from suffering); then clothing with saffron robes.
At 00:30:15 an explanation of the Praises starts, where we consider the qualities of The Eight Medicine Buddhas:
Praises extend to all the Bodhisattvas, 10 Directional Guardians, Great Beings and retinues to clear all sicknesses, negative thoughts and negative 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 eight auspicious symbols?
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 begins. Rinpoche explains and discusses how to recite the mantra at 00:39:50:
The Medicine Buddha Mantra is:
TAYATA OM BHEKANDZYE BHEKANDZYE MAHA BHEKANDZYE RADZA SAMUDGATE SOHA
(TADYATHA OM BHAISHAJYE BHAISHAJYE MAHABHAISHAJYE RAJA SAMUDGATE SVAHA)
At 00:46:46 Rinpoche discusses the dissolution and dedication.
May all see 100 autumns!
At 00:54:14 Rinpoche discusses the source of the text (Terton Mingyur Dorje) and its benefits for the sick and the dying; and the removal of obstructions.
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 first images 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 directions? Is the colour of hair one of the special 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 die at the momement of death, or does it carry on to the next reincarnation?
Between the years of 1997 and 2003, Kagyu Shenpen Ösel Chöling published transcripted Buddhist teachings in the tri-annual magazine Shenpen Ösel.The magazine sought to present the teachings of recognized and fully qualified lamas and teachers, with an emphasis on the Karma Kagyu and the Shangpa Kagyu lineages. A truly excellent endeavour, two editions were dedicated to teachings on: The Medicine Buddha Sadhana (practice) in Tibetan, transliteration, word-for-word translation, and full literary translation; teachings on the Medicine Buddha Sadhana by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche; and a commentary on The Medicine Buddha Sutra by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche. Both are available here:
Profuse thanks to Palpung Changchub Dargyeling for their excellent pdf Resource site 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 photographs below features Sherabpalden Beru and Ringu Tulku in the Kagyu Samye Ling Medicine Buddha Shrineroom designed by Sherabpalden Beru, and the adjacent stained glass window.
For more information, visit: http://palpung.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Medicine-Buddha-TEXT.pdf