Medicine Buddha
Sadhana of the
Medicine Buddha 

(Medicine Buddha Meditation)

"Through ... the practice of the Medicine Buddha ... we not only achieve benefit for ourselves, but we are actually cultivating the potential to benefit others. And by doing these practices we actually bless the environment and all the beings in that environment."

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Overview

"Although all the Buddhas have the same nature, each has a particular power. When we recite the mantra, rays of light emanate from the heart of the Buddha, like a hundred rising suns, curing all the diseases and obscurations of the beings and even their causes. By the power of this practice may all suffering and problems of the beings be removed by the power of the Medicine Buddha." 


This particular Web page, "Sadhana of the Medicine Buddha," is primarily intended for people who want to get started with a Medicine Buddha meditation practice. 

Dharma Haven offers several other Web pages about different aspects of the Medicine Buddha, as well as other pages about meditation, and several pages about Tibetan Medicine, which is considered by Tibetans to be an expression of the compassion of the Medicine Buddha. Links to many of these pages are given below:

medicine buddha and health pages

For a general introduction to the topic of meditation for healing, or to explore other forms of Buddhist meditation that are also valued for healing, please look at our page titled Tibetan Healing Meditation.

Tibetan Healing Meditation

Additional sources of information about the Medicine Buddha are given on the Medicine Buddha Resources page:

Medicine Buddha Resources



Buddha Sakyamuni taught that one can benefit greatly from learning about the Medicine Buddha, or just from hearing or remembering his name. There is no contradiction between practicing the Medicine Buddha meditation in order to improve our own health, and the motivation to help someone else or to benefit all beings. The Tibetan masters tell us that even if we are practicing the Medicine Buddha meditation with the aim of improving our mental and physical health in this life, we can deeply benefit ourselves and others and ultimately attain buddhahood. As Thrangu Rinpoche says "by doing these practices we actually bless the environment and all the beings in that environment." (Teachings on the Medicine Buddha)

In general, to begin working with the practice, you will need a copy of the text of the sadhana, or a recording of someone reading it as a guided meditation. (If the practice becomes important to you, you might want to memorize it.) You'll also need instructions on how to do that particular version of the practice, an image of Medicine Buddha Sangye Menla to show what the visualization should look like, and a way to learn how to say the mantra. Obtaining the Medicine Buddha empowerment from a qualified lama is also highly beneficial, though not required. Suggestions on where to find all these things on the Web and in print are given in the section titled Resources for Medicine Buddha Practice:

Sadhana Texts with Instructions
Mantra and Mantra Garland
Medicine Buddha Image for Visualization
Medicine Buddha Empowerment
The next section of this page, The Medicine Buddha Sadhana Practice, gives a brief introduction to the meditation.


"It is very important to consciously dedicate the energy, awareness, and blessings you have received from the practice to the benefit of all sentient life. You remember it is limitless and allow it to flow endlessly out into all corners of the universe. When you finish the practice, you arise and enter your daily life conscious of the transcendental energy generated by the non-dual view. For however long it lasts, you try and stay close to this as you re-engage behavior, speech and thoughts, through Buddha body, Buddha speech and Buddha mind. If you are working on your own healing, the healing of another, or if you are a health care practitioner, staying close to the view serves to continue the Medicine Buddha healing" 

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The Medicine Buddha Sadhana Practice

"If one meditates on the Medicine Buddha, one will eventually attain enlightenment, but in the meantime one will experience an increase in healing powers both for oneself and others and a decrease in physical and mental illness and suffering."
 
Lama Tashi Namgyal's Introduction
Teachings on the Medicine Buddha

Auspicious Days for Practice -- Many Tibetan Buddhists include a Medicine Buddha practice in their daily meditation. Those who are not able to do that try to practice the Sadhana of the Medicine Buddha on auspicious days — especially on the first quarter-moon day, which is known as the Medicine Buddha Day. This is the waxing half-moon day, the eighth day of the lunar month, counting the new moon as the first day.
Phases of the Moon Calendar
US Naval Observatory

Both the 8th day and 23rd day of the lunar month are considered auspicious for health and healing (the first and last quarter-moon days). The 8th day, Medicine Buddha Day, occurs in the masculine half of the month. The 23rd day occurs in the feminine half of the month, and is considered especially appropriate for Tara practice. (Tara is the female Buddha aspect connected to health, long life, and healing in general.) Both these days are also auspicious for meditation on Amitayus, who is said to grant good health and long life.

Even if you do the meditation every day, you might use the longer version — or practice for a longer time — on these auspicious days.

Choosing a Version of the Meditation -- Now, to really get into the practice we obviously have to know what to do; and to derive full benefit, we have to understand why we are doing it. First we need a general understanding of the sadhana and its purpose, and then all through the sadhana there are various things to say or do, and it would be best if we had some idea of the meaning of the words we are saying and the images we are visualizing, and some understanding of why we are engaging in each of these actions. 

Specifically, you will need a printed copy of the sadhana text or a recording of someone reading it (you don't really want to be limited to doing the practice sitting in front of a computer screen), plus instructions on how to do the practice. 

Medicine Buddha practice comes in several forms, and the instructions should be written for the text one will be using. The many versions of the Medicine Buddha Sadhana differ not only in details of the translation, but in major aspects of how the practice is done — for example, whether you see the Medicine Buddha in front of you or visualize yourself as Medicine Buddha, or both. If the instructions are telling you about Sangye Menla's seven colleagues — the 'brother' Medicine Buddhas — and your sadhana text tells you that Menla is surrounded by four Medicine Goddesses, that's not going to work very well. 

So how do you choose a version of the sadhana for your practice? If you have received a Medicine Buddha empowerment and were given a copy of the sadhana text, it might be best to use that one. Also, if you have a relationship with a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master, you might ask for a recommendation. However, if you don't already have a good reason for choosing a particular sadhana, the Resources section of this page describes three different versions, all of which include appropriate instructions.

medicine buddha sadhana: texts with instructions


"His left hand rests in his lap, palm upward, in the gesture of meditative stability or meditation, which represents the eradication of sickness and suffering— and, indeed, the very roots of samsara— through the realization of absolute truth. From the point of view of either relative truth or absolute truth, the fundamental cause of sickness and suffering is a lack of contentment and the addictive quality of samsara. Therefore, to indicate the need for contentment, in his left hand he holds a begging bowl."

Group Practice -- Often people find that the benefits of meditation practice are enhanced by practicing in a group, and many Tibetan Buddhist centers hold group sessions for Medicine Buddha practice. 

To find nearby Tibetan Buddhist centers

Also, some communities are forming groups which meet weekly for Medicine Buddha practice. People interested in developing such a group might look at the Web page from the group in Victoria, BC.



Talk to your doctor — Although the the Medicine Buddha practice can certainly be highly beneficial to ones health, some people would like to use it to replace standard health care, and if that is done in an aggressive way it could be dangerous. Certainly if you are depending on some sort of life preserving medical treatment like hemodialysis or medications, you should continue your normal treatment until your doctor agrees that you no longer need it. 

The fact that impermanence is a fundamental property of conditioned existence is one of the most basic Buddhist teachings. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche says "To say that Buddha discovered impermanence is like saying that Buddha discovered that water is wet." Tibetan Buddhists learn not to relate to illness as as enemy to be got rid of, but as part of ones life that one needs to understand.

Sometimes understanding how we are causing a problem is all that we need to do to resolve it — and the Medicine Buddha can help us to do that. Sometimes we need appropriate medical care — and the Medicine Buddha can help us to find the right doctor or the right medicine. Eventually, it will be time for us to let go of this life — and the Medicine Buddha can help us to accept our own death and the deaths of those who are dear to us. 

In Christian Science one is supposed to simply stop believing in the reality of ones illness. As Buddhists, that is not our way. We don't believe our illness has any real existence, but we don't have any real existence either! We don't treat illness as an enemy. One can have compassion for oneself and for others without being attached to preconceived notions of what should happen.

The Tibetan people had great confidence in the power of the Medicine Buddha, but they still used herbal medicine and other ordinary treatments like changes in the diet. It may be true that highly advanced meditators can live on sunlight, but most of the people reading this page should not expect the Medicine Buddha to free them from the need to go to the market, or to their doctor or dentist.

Tibetan doctors do the Medicine Buddha practice while they are making the herbal medicines, and while they are working with their patients. Dr. James Sacamano, author of the Meditation for Health course gave the following answer when asked if Medicine Buddha practice could replace ordinary health care: "Menla is peace, compassion, and wakefulness and is thus the basis for all health treatments. Whatever treatment we use, the spirit of Menla empowers it. Menla does not necessarily replace regular, individual health care. Menla brings the positive attitude of health and healing into our life which helps us achieve maximum benefit from whatever health approach we use.

"If we have an illness or problem that can be alleviated, Menla will help in some way. If it can not be cured, the suffering associated with that illness or problem can be lessened. By keeping our minds open to the spirit of Menla when we encounter negative situations in life we can release the negativity at its root so that we can avoid similar difficulties in the future. 

"In any event, it is important to continue to work with your health care provider, who in her or his own way, is trying to bring the spirit of Menla to you."

By developing a regular Medicine Buddha practice, we can support and enhance the efforts of health care professionals, those working for us and those helping others. No longer passive consumers of diagnostic and therapeutic services, we can actively foster health and healing.

In addition to Medicine Buddha practice, one can also learn to use some of the health enhancing practices, inspired by the Medicine Buddha, which are discussed on our page titled Tibetan Self Care.

Tibetan Self Care

One can adopt a style of life that will support health and healing. Diet, exercise, behavior, spiritual practice — each of us can learn how to be more healthy in all these aspects of life. 
 

"More important than how many deities you visualize is to understand what you are doing. And most important is to understand that by visualizing yourself as the Medicine Buddha you are not pretending to be something that you are not...."
 

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Resources for Medicine Buddha Practice
textsmantraimagesempowerment

Phases of the Moon Calendar
US Naval Observatory

Texts with Instructions

A simple practice suitable for beginners

Sadhana of the Medicine Buddha
by H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche

A short root text of the sadhana, published with commentaries and a glossary. Extremely concise and potent, it is said to radiate multitudes of blessings and realizations for those who practice it for the benefit of all.

According to Dudjom Rinpoche, this book transmits the empowerment for the practice.

Available from Snow Lion


Seven Branch Offering Prayer
Seven Branch Offering Prayer by Santideva



Recommended for Experienced Meditators -- 
 
Medicine Buddha Teachings
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche

Detailed commentaries on the Medicine Buddha Sadhana and the Medicine Buddha Sutra by one of the most respected of the Tibetan lamas working with Western students. The first half of the book explains the motivation for practicing and gives very generous instructions and explanations for a widely admired long version of the Sadhana.

These very clear and generous teachings are also available for free on the Web at Shenpen Ösel, where they were originally published. The following Web page gives an overview:

Teachings on The Medicine Buddha Sadhana

The teachings on the the Medicine Buddha Sadhana were published in the June 2000 issue of Shenpen Ösel (Volume 4, Number 1). The second part of the series, on the Medicine Buddha Sutra, were published in the September 2000 issue (Volume 4, Number 2).

The free version on the Web site gives only Thrangu Rinpoche's teachings. It does not include the sadhana text. However, you can purchase printed versions of either or both of these issues for $5 US each, including postage — or buy the book which includes both.

The free Online Editions of the magazine are not Web pages— they require the free Adobe Acrobat Reader (a 2 mb download). 



Audio Tapes with Instructions

Meditation for Health Tapes -- Featuring guided instruction on the Medicine Buddha meditation, sitting meditation, and body scan meditation, these crystal clear instructions for the healing practice of the Medicine Buddha, written and narrated by James Sacamano, MD, discuss the practice in the context of meditation as a whole and in relation to daily life.

Three cassettes, $30:

Meditation for Health
Tape 1, Side A: 25 minute guided body scan meditation 
Tape 1, Side B: 25 minute guided sitting meditation 
Tape 2: The story and meaning of Medicine Buddha meditation 
Tape 3, Side A: How to do all the meditations 
Tape 3, Side B: Practice session on Medicine Buddha
See the Heart of Healing Web site for more information. 

These tapes can be used by Medicine Buddha Practice Groups.



An audio cassette series by Khenpo Konchog Gyaltshen Rinpoche gives an oral commentary to the sadhana and guides practitioners through the meditation.

Medicine Buddha Teachings and Practice (tape series)
Two 90 minute audio cassettes; $17.00 

On one side of one of these tapes the Khenpo chants the Sadhana of the Medicine Buddha in Tibetan and Tibetanised Sanskrit. During the sadhana, Rinpoche chants the short form of the mantra for 13 minutes.


Printed Sadhana Texts (Various Lineages)

Dharmaware -- FPMT

Rangjung Yeshe -- Vajra Publications



Mantra and Mantra Garland — You'll need to know how to pronounce the mantra and, if you are working with a version of the sadhana that includes a "mantra garland," you might want to know what the mantra garland is supposed to look like. Our Medicine Buddha Resources page gives information on the Mantra of the Medicine Buddha and how it is pronounced.
 
Tibetan Script

Medicine Buddha Resources: Mantra


Sanskrit Pronunciation
Tad-ya-ta: Om Bhai-sha-jye Bhai-sha-jye Maha Bhai-sha-jye Ra-ja Sa-mud-ga-te Sva-ha

Tibetan Pronunciation
Tad-ya-ta: Om Be-kan-dze Be-kan-dze Ma-ha Be-kan-dze
Ra-dza Sa-mung-ga-te So-ha!

In some versions of the sadhana the mantra is visualized as spinning emerging from a seed syllable and spinning around and around in Sangye Menla's heart center. The card illustrated below shows the form of the seed syllable HUNG and of the syllables in the mantra garland. It's available from the artist.

Medicine Buddha
Seed Syllable
and Mantra Garland

an aid for the Medicine Buddha meditation and visualization practice

Art Card by 
Andy Weber

In his notes on Thrangu Rinpoche's Teachings on the Medicine Buddha Sadhana, Lama Tashi Namgyal explains the visualization of the seed syllable HUM and the mantra garland that circles around it:

"The syllable HUM standing in the center of the deity's heart in both the self and front visualization faces forward, in the same direction as the deity. The mantra garland, visualized in Tibetan, faces outward—which means that one could read it standing outside the Medicine Buddha but not from the perspective of the HUM in the heart, beginning with TAYATA directly in front of the central seed syllable HUM and arranged in a circle surrounding the seed syllable."


Medicine Buddha Image for Visualization — You'll also need to have a clear sense of what Medicine Buddha Sangye Menla looks like. With a color printer, you can make your own copy of one of the images available on the Web; or you can purchase a print from one of the Web sites listed on our Medicine Buddha Resources page. 

Thangka Paintings of the Medicine Buddha

Medicine Buddha Resources: Images

Thrangu Rinpoche makes it clear in his Teachings on the Medicine Buddha Sadhana that in the visualization we should see Sangye Menla not as a solid person but as somewhat transparent and radiant. 

"The deities’ bodies are not flesh and blood — coarse bodies like our own — nor are they inanimate solid objects, as though made of earth and stone or wood. They are the pure embodiment of wisdom, which means that they are the expression of emptiness in the form of a clear, vivid appearance. Practically speaking, when visualizing them, you should see them or imagine them as being a vivid appearance — with their distinct colors, ornaments, scepters and so on — that is nevertheless without any coarse substantiality. Their appearance is luminous and vivid but insubstantial, like that of a rainbow." 


Medicine Buddha Empowerment

Obtaining the Vajrayana empowerment (Tibetan: lung) for the practice from a qualified lama (meditation master) is also highly beneficial, but not required. Thrangu Rinpoche says "Medicine Buddha [practice] is a combination of what the Buddha taught about the Medicine Buddha in the sutras of the Medicine Buddha and in various tantras. Because it is connected with vajrayana, it is most appropriate to receive the empowerment to enhance the practice; but because it is also connected with the sutras, it is acceptable to do the practice without the empowerment as well." Tibetan Healing Meditation gives more details on this issue.

On Dharma Haven's Tibetan Medicine Resources page is a section where we post announcements of all the Medicine Buddha Empowerments we know about. 

Schedule of Medicine Buddha Empowerments

Also, you can check with nearby Tibetan Buddhist meditation centers to see if they are planning to offer a Medicine Buddha empowerment. If not, you can ask the lama to give the empowerment.

Tibetan Buddhist Centers

Please let us know if you learn of upcoming Medicine Buddha Empowerments anywhere in the world.

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Medicine Buddha and Health Pages

Tibetan Healing Meditation

Tibetan Self Care

Dying Without Shame, Without Panic

Tibetan Medicine Resources

A Brief Teaching on the Medicine Buddha
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

Teachings on the Medicine Buddha
Teachings on the Medicine Buddha Sadhana and Sutra
given by the Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche

Schedule of Medicine Buddha Empowerments

Medicine Buddha Resources

Thangka Paintings of the Medicine Buddha

Mandala of the Medicine Buddha

The Art of Healing: A Tibetan Buddhist Perspective


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Revised on May 22, 2003

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