Enlarge Image

Deities and Devotion in Mongolian Buddhist Art

Eight Medicine Buddhas with Yaksha and Two Lamas
19th century
Pigments and gold on sized cloth; silver and glass case
11.1 x 8.9 cm.

Gift of David Kamansky and Gerald Wheaton, 2014.23.333

In an early sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha revealed that there are eight manifestations of the Medicine Buddha, each with his own healing powers. This painting portrays Bhaishajyaguru sitting in the center of the image with the remaining seven Medicine Buddhas sitting around him in an arc. The fierce-looking, blue-skinned figure standing below Bhaishajyaguru is Shanglon Dorje Dudul, a wrathful yaksha—or nature spirit—who guards the medicine tantras. The seated figure in the upper left corner of the painting is the monk Tsongkhapa, who founded the Gelug order that is dominant in Mongolia. The figure in the upper right corner is another Gelug lama, perhaps the Fourth Panchen Lama who first introduced worship of Bhaishajyaguru into Mongolia in the late 16th century, and who created a Medicine Buddha ritual that was traditionally performed in Mongolian temples on the eighth day of every lunar month to alleviate all suffering caused by sickness. The reverse of this painting is inscribed with the standard five-syllable consecration mantra.

References: Fleming, Zara (ed.). Mongolian Buddhist Art: Masterpieces from the Museums of Mongolia. Volume 1, Parts 1 & 2: Thangkas, Appliqués and Embroideries. Chicago: Serindia Publications, 2011, pp. 148-149; Meinert, Carmen (ed.). Buddha in the Yurt: Buddhist Art from Mongolia, Volumes 1 & 2. Munich: Hirmer Publishers, 2011, pp. 340-341.