Why it is here
The reason we have included this Thangka and it description in this page is because Jivaka Kumarabhacca and his teacher Atreya are appearing in it. Their names are clearly written next to their person. (see Jivaka and Atreya ). As said earlier it can be difficult to get back the history of Jivaka and Atreya as so much time as pass. We thought to share with you this interesting "discovery". Why a discovery? Because all people we questioned for many years about Jivaka Kumarabhacca could not tell us anything. Reputed Tibetan doctors, Tibetan scholars, and great Teachers had nothing in mind when we inquired. We had heard that Jivaka was part of the Tibetan Buddhist medical tradition but had not seen any evidence to support it. We thought it could have just been the idea of somebody wanting to fabricate a myth, a nice story. It is not.
Desciption of the Thangka
This is the first Thangka in the series of medical training Thangkas that provide illustrations for the basic Tibetan medical text, the "Blue Beryll" tantras. In this Thangka, Bhaisajyaguru, the Medicine Buddha, indirectly teaches the science of healing to his followers. The dieties in the upper section are representations of the lineage of medical teachings, including the 5th Dalai Lama, the eight Buddhas of Medicine, and several medical scholars.
This central palace of the Mandala of the Medicine Buddha is the site where the science of medicine is taught. Shakyamuni Buddha, as Bhaisajyaguru, the Medicine Buddha, sits on a throne engraved with gems at the center of the palace, at the center of Sudarsana, the city of medicine. In attendance are gods of the devaloka, hermit scholars, Hindu deities, and Buddhist followers, including Bodhisattvas and devout students. While holding his seat on the central throne, Bhaisajyaguru also manifests as the four sibling hermit scholars who instruct all types of students at the same time.
Each class of students receives teachings appropriate to their own level of understanding of the fundamental nature of reality and the lives of beings.
The book "Tantra of secret instructions on the Eight Branches, the Essence of the Elixir of Immortality", better known under the title the "Four Tantras" is the fundamental text of the Tibetan medicine. The original set of 77 medical paintings was composed in Lhasa (Tibet) from 1687 until 1703 under the aegis of the regent Sangye Gyamtso. It based partly on an old Tibetan text from Rinchen Zampo (958 - 1055). The main reason to create these illustrations was to avoid confusion when interpreting this old text. The paintings illustrate the entire contents of a seventeenth century commentary on the most fundamental treatise of Tibetan medicine.
Sowa Rigpa (gso-ba tig-pa), the Tibetan science of healing, can be numbered among the other great learned medical traditions of the world, alongside those of ancient Greece, China and India.
The Four Tantras can not be considered as a translation of a lost Sanskrit text. It appears to be the magnificent work, highly structured, of a Tibetan author of creative and original intelligence.
This text is based on "Tibetan Medical Paintings" from Yuri Parfinovitch, Gyurme Dorje and Fernand Meyer published by Serindia Publications, London.