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The Medicine Buddha, Bhaishajyaguru
Place of Origin: Tibet
Date: 1800-1900
Object Name: Thangka
Materials: Colors on cotton
Dimensions: H. 20 7/16 in x W. 13 9/16 in, H. 51.9 cm x W. 34.4 cm (image); H. 24 1/2 in x W. 17 1/2 in, H. 62.2 cm x W. 44.5 cm (unmounted)
Credit Line: The Avery Brundage Collection
Department: Himalayan Art
Collection: Painting
Object Number: B62D29
On Display: Yes
Location: Gallery 12

Description

Label: Early Buddhist texts often refer to the historical Buddha Shakyamuni as a doctor (vaidya) who diagnoses ordinary existence (samsara) as a disease and prescribes enlightenment (nirvana) as the proper medicine (bhaishajya). Like Shakyamuni, the Buddha at the center of this painting is also a doctor, but his blue color indicates that this is not Shakyamuni. Instead, he is Bhaishajyaguru-Vaidyaraja, “the Royal Doctor, the Master of Medicine.” He is the Buddha who specializes in the healing of physical disease.

Here, Bhaishajyaguru sits at the center of a multitiered palace. At the bottom of the painting is a door in the palace wall where a guardian plays a lute. In his extended right hand, Bhaishajyaguru holds a myrobalan fruit—Indian symbol of a powerful cure-all or panacea. The three Buddhas visible above Bhaishajyaguru and the two in each pillar make a group of eight healing Buddhas who commonly appear in Tibetan paintings of this type.

More Information

Exhibition History: "One Billion Buddhas: The Awakened Cosmos of Himalayan Buddhism", Asian Art Museum, 8/9/2016-4/9/2017
Label: Early Buddhist texts often refer to the historical Buddha Shakyamuni as a doctor (vaidya) who diagnoses ordinary existence (samsara) as a disease and prescribes enlightenment (nirvana) as the proper medicine (bhaishajya). Like Shakyamuni, the Buddha at the center of this painting is also a doctor, but his blue color indicates that this is not Shakyamuni. Instead, he is Bhaishajyaguru-Vaidyaraja, “the Royal Doctor, the Master of Medicine.” He is the Buddha who specializes in the healing of physical disease.

Here, Bhaishajyaguru sits at the center of a multitiered palace. At the bottom of the painting is a door in the palace wall where a guardian plays a lute. In his extended right hand, Bhaishajyaguru holds a myrobalan fruit—Indian symbol of a powerful cure-all or panacea. The three Buddhas visible above Bhaishajyaguru and the two in each pillar make a group of eight healing Buddhas who commonly appear in Tibetan paintings of this type.
Exhibition History: "One Billion Buddhas: The Awakened Cosmos of Himalayan Buddhism", Asian Art Museum, 8/9/2016-4/9/2017