Friday, July 9, 2010
Medicine Buddha Teachings
One of the key deities in the intricate pantheon of Vajrayana Buddhism is the Medicine Buddha. A person who appropriately venerates this figure is promised to experience an "increase in healing powers... and a decrease in physical and mental illness and suffering." In 1999, Thrangu (Everyday Consciousness and Buddha-Awakening) led a retreat in Washington State where he explicated the Medicine Buddha Sadhana (traditional liturgy) and the Sutra of the Medicine Buddha. Chapters in the book are edited transcripts of his teaching sessions at this retreat. The first portion of the book is largely a detailed, verse-by-verse commentary on and guide to practicing the sadhana, highlighting such topics as the importance of visualization, making offerings to the deity and why certain symbolic objects are auspicious. The next section is the text of the sadhana itself, in Sanskrit and in translation. Thrangu then exegetes the sutra (scripture) underlying the liturgy, explaining the Medicine Buddha's 12 "aspirations"-the vows he made to illuminate, benefit, heal and prosper all beings-and describing the benefits of "recollecting" and supplicating him. Thrangu rounds out the book with a discussion of the Vajrayana view of gods and spirits. This is no introduction to Vajrayana Buddhism: a working knowledge of basic concepts is assumed, and the text is dense and often extraordinarily detailed. Yet the book is informative and conversational in tone, and may benefit advanced students specifically seeking to understand the Medicine Buddha practice.