The central figure is Bhaisajyaguru [Tib.: sangye menla], the buddha of medicine, the physician of human passions, the unfailing healer of the ills of samsara. He is dark blue like lapis lazuli and hence called Vaiduryaprabharaja. As blue is also well known as Akshobhya´s color, Bhaishajyaguru receives some of the attributes of Akshobhya, who presides over the east. Bhaishajyaguru holds the myrobalan [arura] plant in his right hand; his left hand cradles a bowl of amrita - medicine. The bowl is made of lapis lazuli and is dodecagonal in form, symbolizing his twelve resolutions to help human beings. His expression is calm and serene, and he does not wear a crown on his head.
According to Hsuan Tsang and I-tsing, his paradise in the east is called "pure world created in lapis lazuli." He is flanked by the two chief Bodhisattvas of his cycle: Suryaprabha, Solar Radiance, to the right and Chandraprabha, Lunar Radiance, to the Left.
Sixteen Bodhisattvas are depicted along both sides of the Thangka's vertical panels. At the time of death, when a dying person invokes the Buddha in earnestness, these Bodhisattvas appear and help the dying person obtain birth on a lotus flower in Vaidurya-nirbhasa Heaven.
The twelve yaksha generals are charged to protect adepts by the divine grace of Bhaishajyaguru. Each yaksha general reigns over one of the twelve months and twelve parts of the day, while Suryaprabha and Chandraprabha rule over day and night. The yaksha generals hold an animal, probably a mongoose, the symbol of Vaishravana, who is the king of the yakshas.
There are different emanations of Bhaishajyaguru. Six emanations can be seen on the top panel, to which Shakyamuni Buddha has been added in the center.
The four guardians of the world [catur-maharajika] are illustrated in the corners of the Panel under the throne. The bottom panel depicts the ten keepers of the directions [dikpala]. They are, from left to right: Brahma on a goose, Indra on an elephant, Agni on a goat, Yama on a buffalo, Nairrita on a corpse, Varuna on a sea-monster, Vayu on a deer, Kubera on a horse, Ishana on a bull, Prithivi on a boar.
Sakya Pandita and inscriptions of his name are depicted on the tapestry hanging from Bhaisajyaguru's throne. This clearly indicates that the scroll was painted in Sakya circles. A number of lamas with red caps can see on the top panels as well as below the throne. Donors are painted at the top.
The sutra of Bhaisajyaguru represents dramatic changes in patterns of life, as illustrated in the life of the T'ang emperor Chung-tsung who lost the throne in 684 to his morher, Empress Wu, and later regained it upon her death in 705. His life was saved by the spiritual force of Bhaisajyaguru, whose name he had constantly repeated.
He requested the learned monk I-tsing, who had been on a pilgrimage to India, to translate the Bhaisajyaguru sutra from Sanskrit. The emperor assisted in the translation by acting as the scribe.
Source: Prof. Dr. Lokesh Chandra
|17.3 x 24" | 44 x 61 cm
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