Healing Buddha is the heart of the Tibetan healing tradition. I’ve stripped the Healing Buddha teachings and practice down to some basics and fashioned a practice that is fairly simple and effective. For me anyway.
The goal is to become a Healing Buddha. This simply means to awaken all the healing qualities within you. Practice involves visualization meditation and recitation of mantra. It’s not absolutely necessary to do both, but both are there for you.
In Medicine Buddha Sadhana, scholar and teacher Thrangu Rinpoche has this to say,
“The primary technique in the meditation consists of imagining ourself to be the Medicine Buddha, conceiving of yourself as the Medicine Buddha. By replacing the thought of yourself as yourself with the thought of yourself as the Medicine Buddha, you gradually counteract and remove the fixation on your personal self. And as that fixation is removed, the power of the seventh consciousness is reduced. And as it is reduced, the kleshas or mental afflictions are gradually weakened, which causes you to experience greater and greater well-being in both body and mind.”
Buddhism divides the mind into eight consciousnesses. The first five consciousnesses correspond to our senses, the sixth to our thoughts, and the eighth is the base-consciousness, where all our potential energies are stored.
The 7th or mano-consciousness (mano = mind) bridges the conscious and sub-conscious realms of the mind. There is where illusions, particularly our false idea of a “self” originate.
The Healing Buddha is imaginary, of course. We use the Healing Buddha as a symbol, an archetype, an image-guide. To become a Healing Buddha is to manifest our Buddha-nature, to fully active all our inner qualities of compassion and wisdom.
According to the sutras, the Healing Buddha made twelve aspirations or vows that practitioners are encouraged to pledge themselves. However, for us it is enough to generate bodhicitta, the thought of awakening. Bodhicitta represents the aspirations of all Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and sages.
Visualization is an essential part of Healing Buddha practice. The theory behind visualization is that by creating a picture in the mind of an icon, image or symbol and using it for single-minded contemplation, facilitates the actualization of the qualities represented. Obviously, it is healing, wholeness, and compassion which are some of the quantities Healing Buddha represents.
At home, I often focus on a hanging scroll dharma mandala I made that displays the seed symbol for the Healing Buddha (right). When away from home I have a little card with an image of the Healing Buddha that I can use. Or, no matter where I am, I can just close my eyes and visualize.
At this point, though, you might wonder why go to all the trouble of visualizing buddhas and symbols when to simply sit, focus on your breath, and allow feelings of loving-kindness to arise should suffice. The breath is an object of meditation, no different from focusing on a mandala or visualizing Healing Buddha. The advantage visualization provides is that it helps us tap into one of our most powerful inner forces, the imagination.
Imagination plays a critical role in the creating of the false sense of ‘self’ as well as other illusions. Imagination is also said to rest in the 7th consciousness. So, with visualization, we use imagination as a counter-force, to reduce the power of flawed thinking that hinders the development of our positive inner qualities.
Lama Govinda in Creative Meditation says that the “power of creative imagination is not merely content with observing the world as it is [and] accepting a given reality.” So when we talk about “seeing the true aspect of reality” we don’t mean just the mundane reality of our phenomenal world. It also means going beyond our ordinary awareness of things. Concentration on a image produced by the mind adds a new dimension of absorption and engagement. Visualization gives our tool of meditation a little more heft.
It’s said that the root of the Healing Buddha’s power is his great compassion. We can interpret that to mean that healing power comes from developing our own great compassion.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche (Ultimate Healing) tells us,
“Compassion is the best healer. The most powerful healing comes from developing compassion for all other living beings, irrespective of their race, nationality, religious belief, or relationship to us.”
Healing Buddha practice is not limited to sickness, injury or death. The universality of the teachings and practice makes it a useful method for transforming the mind and transcending all forms of suffering.
Here is a simple Healing Buddha meditation to use. It is based on Medicine Buddha Sadhana by Ngawang Losang Tenpa Gyältsän, translated by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. The meditation can be done silently or while chanting the Healing Buddha mantra.
Visualize the Healing Buddha above the crown of your head. Purifying rays of light pour down from the Healing Buddha’s heart and body, eliminating your sicknesses and afflictions, and their causes, all your negative thoughts and emotions.
Imagine your body completely filled with light, becoming clean and clear like crystal. Then visualize rays of this light radiating out in all directions, purifying the sicknesses and afflictions of all sentient beings.
Conclude the meditation and/or mantra chanting by visualizing the Healing Buddha melting into light which you absorb into your heart.
When I get into this whole-heartedly, it feels very powerful.
Healing Buddha Mantra: Tayatha Om Bekandze Bekandze Maha Bekandze Radza Samudgate Soha