Medicine Buddha in Depth
We can now look into progressively deeper understandings of Medicine Buddha as a person, as a practice, as a way of being and as a way of helping our world.
The image of the crystal ball and the two Buddhas represent the three levels of wakefulness that are part of many Buddhist traditions.
The crystal ball represents a basic sense of wakefulness that open, connected to life and beyond concept. The middle figure is Menla, who embodies compassion-focused wakefulness and the core force of all healing methods. And here, the basic Buddha represents the actual physical presence of all the teachers, teachings and practices that we humans use in our daily life.
These three images are meant to represent what is called the Trikaya, or triple body of all wakefulness. Interestingly, this Trikaya principle operates in many religions and ordinary philosophical traditions. For a discussion of this, please see chapter 11 of Getting Back to Wholeness.
If you look closely at Menla, you can see that he differs from the Buddha to his left in how he holds his hands and what he holds in them.
In the left hand he holds a bowl symbolizing accepting and using as spiritual food everything that life presents. His right hand holds a flower known as Arura near his right knee, palm facing forward. The Arura is an ancient flower considered essential to all medicines in the Aryuvedic tradition. In his heart, which of course we cannot see, we can access the radiant forces of mental awareness that can turn all that we receive in our begging bowl into the medicine we offer to our world with our right hand. One aspect of this heart energy is known as The Five Wisdom Energies discussed further on this site.
In future teachings we will draw on Thrangu Rinpoche’s definitive text, Medicine Buddha Teachings, and my book, Getting Back to Wholeness, which investigates the synergistic relationship of two very powerful healing practices, Medicine Buddha and sitting meditation. We will look at how these practices support our capacity to invoke the unconditional health in our body, speech and mind, and how these practices together can be seen as reflecting the wisdom proclaimed in the famous Mahayana teaching known as The Heart Sutra.
If you are undertaking the study of Medicine Buddha at this level you would do well to read and study any of Thrangu Rinpoche’s other books on Buddhist theory and practice. He addresses the central issues the Buddhist teachings with clarity and freshness and a good understanding of modern life issues. In addition, if you ever have a chance to visit his monastery in Richmond British Columbia, you will be bathed in the healing light of the one thousand Menla statues that line the interior of the main shrine room. And if you can attend any of his teachings, or listen to recordings thereof, I am sure you will be inspired in your practice and you will be very glad that you did.
If you want to practice Medicine Buddha, it helps to have some connection to a spiritual path that recognizes and honors the inherent goodness in all humans.
It is good, though not required, to have a connection to a Buddhist teacher, either in a living person, or in the form of literature. It is good to have what is called an empowerment, or a ceremony focused on this practice. But none of this is required. Just hearing the story of Menla can help, and that is why I have prepared the audio program on Menla offered on this site called The Heart of Healing. I think it can give you some feeling for Menla. It also had a body scan and guided sitting meditation. Later, I hope to offer on line Menla sessions as well.