He is depicted as deep blue in colour, dressed in bhiksu's robes, holding his begging bowl in his left hand and with his right hand making the varada mudra. Varada means « granting wishes, conferring a boon, ready to fulfil requests or answer prayers. » Sometimes, especially in East Asian iconography, the begging bowl is replaced by a medicine jar; in Tibetan images a myrobalan plant, thought to be a panacea, grows out of the bowl.
According to the Bhaisajyaguruvaidūryaprabharāja Sūtra, the Medicine Buddha Sutra, Bhaisajyaguru made the following Twelve Vows upon attaining Enlightenment :
- To illuminate countless realms with his radiance, enabling anyone to become a Buddha just like him.
- To awaken the minds of sentient beings through his light of lapis lazuli.
- To provide the sentient beings with whatever material needs they require.
- To correct heretical views and inspire beings toward the path of the Bodhisattva.
- To help beings follow the Moral Precepts, even if they failed before.
- To heal beings born with deformities, illness or other physical sufferings.
- To help relieve the destitute and the sick.
- To help women who wish to be reborn as men achieve their desired rebirth.
- To help heal mental afflictions and delusions.
- To help the oppressed be free from suffering.
- To relieve those who suffer from terrible hunger and thirst.
- To help clothe those who are destitute and suffering from cold and mosquitoes.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the practice of Medicine Buddha, the Supreme Healer (or Sangay Menla in Tibetan) is not only a very powerful method for healing and increasing healing powers both for oneself and others, but also for overcoming the inner sickness of attachment, hatred, and ignorance, thus to meditate on the Medicine Buddha can help decrease physical and mental illness and suffering.
The Medicine Buddha mantra is held to be extremely powerful for healing of physical illnesses and purification of negative karma. One form of practice based on the Medicine Buddha is done when one is stricken by disease. The patient is to recite the long Medicine Buddha mantra 108 times over a glass of water. The water is now believed to be blessed by the power of the mantra and the blessing of the Medicine Buddha himself, and the patient is to drink the water. This practice is then repeated each day until the illness is cured.
In the Bhaisajyaguruvaidūryaprabharāja Sūtra, the Medicine Buddha is described as having entered into a state of samadhi called « Eliminating All the Suffering and Afflictions of Sentient Beings. » From this samadhi state he spoke the Medicine Buddha Dharani :
namo bhagavate bhaisajyaguru
arhate samyaksambuddhāya tadyathā:
om bhaisajye bhaisajye bhaisajya-samudgate svāhā
The last line of the dharani is used as Bhaisajyaguru's short form mantra. There are several other mantras for the Medicine Buddha as well that are used in different schools of Vajrayana Buddhism.
The short form of the mantra could roughly be translated as « Hail! Appear, O Healer, O Healer, O Great Healer, O King of Healing! » The optional « tadyathā » at the beginning means « thus, » and it’s not really part of the mantra, but more of an introduction.
The long version could be rendered as « Homage to the Blessed One, The Master of Healing, The King of Lapis Lazuli Radiance, The One Thus-Come, The Worthy One, The Fully and Perfectly Awakened One, thus: ‘Hail! Appear, O Healer, O Healer, O Great Healer, O King of Healing!’ »
In Tibetan pronunciation, the mantra comes out as:
(Tad-ya-ta) Om Be-kan-dze Be-kan-dze Ma-ha Be-kan-dze Ra-dza Sa-mung-ga-te So-ha