Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice across Asia

Remedy for a Cold

bronze buddha sculpture with a seated buddha, hands on his knees
Medicine Buddha Bhaishajyaguru, S2015.25

What is it made of? High tin bronze
Where was it made? Indonesia, Central Java
When was it made? 8th–9th century

Discover

The medicine buddha (Bhaishajyaguru, pronounced Bye-sha-jya-gu-ru) is at the center of an important Buddhist tradition. Followers of Buddhism, a major world religion, worship the medicine buddha to relieve sickness and suffering—whether it’s from serious illnesses or itchy mosquito bites!

We can tell that this bronze represents a buddha from the mark on his forehead, the bump on top of his head, his long earlobes, and his monk’s robe. We know this is the medicine buddha because his right hand holds the amla fruit, which is very high in vitamin C.

Understand

The medicine buddha is understood to be a brilliant blue color. His complexion is compared to the blue of lapis lazuli, a type of precious stone. Many Buddhists value lapis because they believe it has healing powers. The stone can be ground into a fine powder and used as paint in Buddhist artworks.

These pages may be part of a Qur’an written by a calligrapher known as Omar Aqta‘. The story goes that he copied a Qur’an that was so small, it fit into a ring. Timur was unimpressed by the work. So, Omar Aqta‘ made a new copy so large that it had to be carried by a wheelbarrow! This time, Timur was extremely pleased and showered Omar Aqta‘ with praise and royal favors.

Imagine

Buddhism began in India, but this sculpture was made far away on the island of Java, Indonesia. Today, traveling from northeastern India, where the Buddha taught, to Java takes a ten-hour car ride followed by a seven-hour flight! Without planes, trains, and cars, the journey took much longer.

Create

Sacred verses called mantras are part of Buddhist practice. Some verses are believed to prevent illnesses or protect people from their fears. Write a poem or a song that you can sing when you experience something painful, like a skinned knee. Think of the song as a force field to take your mind away from the pain.

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