Translation - Click on Back Button to return to English

Healing in Buddhism

A personal view

(By Gordon Bell)

Copyright© Gordon Bell 1996, 1998

The Buddha's Four Noble Truths can be said to be a formula for healing, for in them is the recognition of the cause, and the path that treats the cause. The Pali sources of Buddhist literature and teachings often can be seen in the same way as a remedy or treatment for an incorrect or unskilful characteristic. Clinging to an idea of health and wellbeing as well as not coming to terms with old age, disease and death are hindrances which can be overcome by spiritual practice. So the basic Buddhist tenets can help take us from the confused, ignorant and deluded to the realms of Compassion, Wisdom & Love.

Image of Manjushri

The Buddha was also known as the Great Physician. He was able to diagnose, and administer instruction in a spiritual dimension, which would best bring about the fundamental change and progress. Sometimes He would instruct on the contemplation of impermanence, other times it is recorded that He suggested the contemplation of the Seven Limbs of Enlightenment: mindfulness; investigation of things (dharmas); striving; joy; tranquillity; meditative trance (samadhi); equanimity. So meditation on these factors was a method of overcoming internal poisons of lust, anger and delusion. He was also said to have healing abilities of 'supernatural' magnitude. Which ever method Shakyamuni used, the experience of disease or injury served as a catalytic factor leading to a new insight - and in some cases - Liberation.

This aspect of Enlightened Mind is graphically and poetically expressed in a few Pali texts and has been developed by the Mahayana. Apart from the Buddha fulfilling the role of a Great Physician, He also conferred on two others a particular roll regarding healing. In the distant past the two had made vows to help sentient beings. It has been prophesied that "Their excellence exceeds all other Bodhisattvas a million- fold. After Shakyamuni's parinirvana when the genuine teachings have perished, if there are any beings who hear the names of these two Bodhisattvas, they will be obtain whatever blessing they seek". The Buddha said "Beings of the future may hear the names of the two Bodhisattvas; King of Healing (Bhaisajya-raja) and Supreme Healer (Bhaisajya-samudgate) by achieving five prerequisites. What are the five?

Image of Medicine Buddha

1. One should unceasingly radiate loving kindness. One should perfect the Buddha's moral precepts.

2 One should see to the filial care of one's parents and practise the ten wholesome precepts in this world. {abstention from: wayward acts of the body, speech and mind: killing, stealing, adultery, lies slander, harsh language, frivolous talk, covetousness, malice and wayward views}.

3. One's mind and body should be peaceful and quiescent.

4. One should listen to the Mahayana {and Theravada} Texts. (originally written by a Mahayana follower).

5. One should believe in the eternity of the Buddha and the mind should unceasingly flow like a running stream towards ultimate truth".

If there are any living beings who are complete in these five qualities, in incarnation after incarnation they will always hear the names of these two Bodhisattvas, they will hear the names of the various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the Ten Directions. They will never sink to a woesome path of existence or have an untimely death.

Bhaisajya-raja (King of Healing) and Bhaisajya-samudgate (Supreme Healer) were said to have been physicians at the time they took their Bodhisattva vows, and King of Healing was the elder brother of Supreme Healer. Through their spiritual search, their spiritual accomplishment and awakening was confirmed by the Shakyamuni Buddha, who named them to reflect their abilities and characteristics.

Image of Medicine Buddha

The Buddha of Healing or Medicine Buddha (Bhaisajya-guru) appeared in later texts - there is no record in the Indian texts. This development brought greater importance to the relationship of the Buddha's teaching and healing and its "concept" was developed in the Chinese translations, of the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries. There were nine Buddhas of Healing which were represented in one - Master of Healing, the Lapis Lazuli Radiance Tathagata (Tibetan; Sange Meling).

Summary of Bhaisajya-guru's vows:

Image of Medicine Baisajyaguru with 7 healing Buddhas, Sunlight and Moonlight Bodhisattvas, and the 12 Vows (Taiwan)

1. May a radiant light blaze forth from my body after enlightenment, brightening countless realms, and may all beings have perfect physical form, identical to my own.

2. May my body be like pure radiant lapis lazuli, with a radiance more brilliant than the sun and moon, illuminating all who travel in darkness, enabling them to tread upon their paths.

3. By my limitless insight and means, may I enable all beings to obtain the necessities of life.

4. May all beings be shown the path of enlightenment and may adherents to the sravaka or pratyekabuddha paths become established in Mahayana practices.

5. May all beings be aided to follow the precepts of moral conduct. After hearing my name, those who have broken the precepts will be aided to regain their purity and prevented from sinking to a woesome path of existence.

6. May all who are deformed or handicapped in any way have their deformities removed upon hearing my name.

7. May all who are ill be cured upon hearing my name.

8. May all sentient beings who are restrained by their circumstances of birth find a favourable rebirth and progress towards Liberation.

9. May all who are caught in Mara's net, entangled in negative views, be caused to gain correct views and thus practice the Bodhisattva Way.

10. May all who are punished by the king be freed of their troubles.

11. May those who are desperately famished be given food. May they ultimately taste the sublime Teachings.

12. May all who are destitute of clothes obtain attractive garments and various adornments upon concentrating on my name.

There is great similarity between the role of the Buddha of Healing and Avalokiteshvara, particularly in being able to call on His name for assistance in averting disasters, ill-health, misfortunes. It is thought that the Sutra of Bhaisajya-guru was written after the Lotus Sutra and there was felt to be a need for a deity to be able to call upon in troubles as well as in ill-health. The Buddha of Healing is also known as the King of Healing so it could be assumed that Bhaisajya-raja developed into Bhaisajya-guru (from Bodhisattva to Buddha {a fully realised being}).

The Buddha of Healing is especially concerned with aiding beings to awaken to their past deeds and to seek to change their negative patterns. That is, He is especially concerned with prompting beings to a great awakening, a momentous turning-point at which the drifting life is cast aside for one of spiritual dedication. This is known, in Buddhist terms, as the arising of bodhicitta, the aspiration to attain enlightenment.

The Mystic Formula for Dispelling Disease and Suffering:

"Namo bhagavate, bhaisagyaguru - vaidura praha-rajaya tathagataya artate samyak- sambuddhaya tadyatha. Om bhaisajye bhaisajye bhaisajya-sumudgate savaha.


"I honour the Lord Master of Healing, the King of Lapis Lazuli Radiance, Tathagata. Arhat. Perfectly Enlightened One. Saying To the healing, to the healing, to the supreme healing hail!"

Followers of the Vajrayana schools of Buddhism use the above mantra (usually pronounced in Tibetan - OM BHAKENZAI BHAKENZAI MAHA BHAKENZAI BHAKENZAI RADZYA SAMUGATE SOHA - Om Healer! Healer! Great Healer! Supreme Healer! Svaha) in visualisation practices, and self- generation as Medicine Buddha. In this self-generated state the adept takes on the attributes and aspects of the deity, and can direct this additional deity energy to themselves and others for support and healing.

The Twelve Warriors of Bhaisajyaguru

Apart from the Healing Buddha (Jp-Yakushi Nyorai) being assisted by Sunlight and Moonlight Bodhisattvas (Suryaprabha Jp-Nikko Bosatsu and Candraprabha Jp-Gakko Bosatsu), he also commands twelve warriors (Yaksas). They are sometimes said to protect the faithful through the hours of the day, the months and the directions of space. They wage war on sickness and are said to command the 80,000 pores of the skin. They are said to relate to each of the twelve vows of Bhaisajyaguru. They are depicted as fearsome warriors in armour, in martial or menacing stances, with hair in spikes and wearing fearsome expressions. Their names are Khumbira (Jp-Kubira); Vajra (Jp-Bazara, Bajira); Mihira (Jp-Mekira); Andira (Jp-Anteira); Anila (Jp-Anira); Sandilya (Jp-sandeira); Indra (Jp-Indara, Indatsura); Pajra (Jp-Haira); Mahoraga (Jp-Makora, Makura); Sindura (Jp- Kimnara, Shindara); Catura (Jp-Shotora), and Vikarla (Jp Bikyara).

As an example of how we can call upon the Twelve Yaksas; one Soto Zen schools in the West (The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives) have a mantra practice which is used before sleep. It calls on one of the Yaksas (Makura) for support and protection. The mantra is sometimes used with a mudra (hand and body position) to help calm and sedate the flows of chi in the meridians and a repetition of Taking Refuge in the Three Jewels.


There is a concept in Buddhism of merit. Merits could be said to positive karmic influences. As the adept of Buddhist meditation practises there naturally arises merit, which can be dedicated to others. This is an expression of the Bodhisattva Vow to strive for perfection and enlightenment but to forego it to help all beings.

There are specific practices in Theravada Buddhism that monks and laity alike can do to bring about merit or positive influences for themselves and others. These usually revolve reciting Buddhist scriptures/rules etc., (one such scripture used is Bojjhanga Parrita) often in the presence of food or water which can be used as a medium for the transference of positive influence. Where water is used, it can anoint the sick, or be consumed.

Image of Vajrapani

In Mahayana Buddhism such as Zen, it is not unusual to dedicate the practice of meditation to the sick. In Vajrayana Buddhism it is taken a stage further - and the idea of a "merit-storehouse" is present. Again specific practises are performed, puja, ceremony, meditations, mantras etc., are used to "charge" or connect with the merit-storehouse. Specific deities; their aspects and attributes are called upon to activate and perform this Transfer of Merit. The adept, through the skilful practice calls upon the energetic qualities of the "springs" of the various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Again, intermediaries like food or water can be used to help the transfer of merit. Tibetan Buddhist lamas for instance use simple foods like flour and water to make "pills" which are "charged" through the spiritual practices. They are given as both physical and spiritual medicine.

In Shingon there are many practises which connect with enlightened energy and direct it for support and healing. Let us just mention two as an example: Kaji:(SK:Adhisthana) Transference of the Buddha's Grace Which Inspires a Scared Peace of Mind. Through the power of the mind, via words, mantra, sacred syllables or phrases (dharani) preached by the Buddha which contain mystic truth and joining the hands for prayer. The power and blessings of the Buddha's teachings are invoked for self and others.

Another practice of Shingon is Ajikan meditation. The meditator focuses on the Sanskrit 'A' syllable. The 'A' is in a moon disc over a lotus: the moon symbolises the pure heart hidden in a person, and the lotus symbolises the heart latent within a person trying to achieve an enlightened state. The mantra "A VI RA UNG KAN" is recited which helps integrate with the Cosmic Mind at the same time as concentrating on the moon disc. The disc and lotus is visualised in light and absorbed into the body, then expanded and direct towards others for assistance, healing and support. The mantra relates to Dainichi Nyorai or Mahavairocana - the Cosmic Buddha. This meditation has been kept secret within the Shingon priesthood until very recently, but now several priests teach it to Westerners, to help connect with Universal/Cosmic Mind and promote healing through the "Transference of the Buddha's Grace." Since Mikao Usui was involved in Japanese Mikkyo Buddhism Tendai/Shingon, then we can assume that such practices could have been a major influence in the development of his system of Reiki.

Image of 5 Buddha Family Mandala

Quote from the book "Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind" - Maura "Soshin" O'Halloran

Once renuciation and the awakened mind have been fully realised, the way to Buddhahood is clear. Liberation is complete and such liberated beings are then bodhisattvas and buddhas: "enlightened ones," or "empty dwellers." Their usefulness to others both before and after their physical death, is impossible to conceive. They are nothing but useful energy leading to liberation for all beings still caught in conditioned existence.

A question relating to this article on FAQ pages

Pictures of Medicine Buddha Triad and Heavenly Generals at Toji Temple in Kyoto

Sutra of the Buddha of Healing

Copyright© Gordon Bell 1996, 1998

Om Mani Padme Hum

Flashing Line

Go to Home Page

Return to the Articles Menu

Last Updated: August 2000