Medicine Buddha Today

Menla, HUM, and you

Posted on Jan 9, 2021

There are three issues I would like to discuss here. First is that just doing Medicine Buddha practice puts us in touch with this wisdom. The second is that when we touch into this wisdom, doors open for healing to follow. An third is the idea that when we know space as space in being rather than being spaced out, our practice and our life can become joyful and nothing can stop our progress.

To begin, when we practice Medicine Buddha, we hold a HUM in our heart. You can see a HUM syllable on our site at:

You may not always see or remember this HUM when you practice, but it is there. It is called a seed syllable, perhaps relating to the idea that it is a seed from which the tone of our relationship to life can bloom. Seed syllables are extremely important to the Vajrayana practice of working directly with cosmic energies, and when we work with those energies with the goal of moving directly to enlightenment ASAP, having an ongoing relationship to a teacher is essential. However, Medicine Buddha has the Mahayana vision recognizing that compassion for all is both needed in our world, and part of any path to enlightenment. So Thrangu Rinpoche discusses these energies in his book on Medicine even if we do not have a major connection to a Vajrayana teacher. And Trungpa Rinpoche has written taught extensively on the Five Wisdoms.

Trungpa Rinpoche says, “HUM represents that state of meditation when awareness breaks out of the limits of ego.” Later he says, “The Sanskrit word, HUM means gathering together,” which I think in Menla practice means gatherings all the forces of health to break out of the karmic bindings of our difficult situation. Interestingly, the origin of our word, good, also goes back to the idea of gathering together.  

In the iconography of HUM, the wisdom of Vairochana is represented by the upward shaped swoop between the little dew drop looking squiggle at the very top and the large rest of the syllable below that. It is associated with the sound, AH, that follows an initial HA. The UM sound comes next to complete the sound, HUM. So when we practice, if we can occasionally recall the HUM in our heart, an inner mechanism or force of healing arises in our mind and our world that breaks through the limits of ego to the fresh, open space of awareness at the heart of all healing. Further, when we recognize that all sentient beings have been our mother in some life experience, and that Menla vowed to help all beings have the necessities for attaining full release from the bondage of ego, we see that our heart is HUGE and we arouse the motivation to get on with opening to the needs of the universe and being the Menla we really are. 

Now for the second question of how does this wisdom support healing, it can help to remember two things. First, when there is space, there is room for all the jagged pieces of life to fit in that space in some way. Second is the idea co-dependent origination. This means that not only are our mind, body and life related, and thus capable of influencing each other, but we are also related energetically to all sentient beings. We all impact on each other. This could go bad, but here our motive is not ego satisfaction but rather compassion for all. And if we recall wisdom of Vairochana, or awareness of the emptiness of all things, we see that nothing is solid or set in stone, and we see that as Trungpa Rinpoche often said, everything is workable. 

Thus, the practice of Medicine Buddha can help us open to the space within and in all things, to see that we are all related, and it can help us further our desire to be helpful to others.

The third point is that, as Thrangu Rinpoche said, “Do not become depressed by obstruction of your practice. Always remember that merely encountering such dharma, even hearing it is extremely fortunate, extremely beneficial. Whatever contact you have made with dharma will never be lost. The benefits of it can never be destroyed or removed and will lead you sooner or later to complete liberation.”

Even only having seen an image of Menla, or heard the story of Menla we are on a road to realization. We know that from then on we are headed for enlightenment. If we forget to practice, it will likely take longer than if we apply ourselves to practice, but we will get there. Thus even when times are tough, we also know life is always workable. Happy! Even our sometimes half-baked practice helps, and from that, our practice takes on a celebratory tone. Menla is 100% compassion, and no matter what kind of mess we have in our life, the smile of health is always waiting in our heart and in our world. We may do other practices as we go along, but Menla is always there, supporting our mind, body and life so that we can move on to ultimate realization.