This Medicine Buddha and Tibetan Plants Thangka features Medicine Buddha (Bhaishajyaguru) surrounded by different herbs used in traditional Tibetan medicine. He is sitting cross-legged on a lotus throne. His body is blue in colour like the sky, which is the symbol of clarity. A rainbow glow emanates from his heart and surrounds him.
In his right hand, Medicine buddha holds a myrobalan branch (arura), which is an important compound of several Tibetan medicine remedies. In his left hand, he holds a bowl containing the three nectars: to cure disease, counteracts ageing, and to illuminate the mind.
This Thangka representing the Medicine Buddha is surrounded by all the medicinal plants that are still in use today and can be found in Tibet and it proximate regions.
This particular Thangka was painted in a monastery over 20 years ago by a Monk who is a master painter, and who teaches based on direct transmission. As he is now quite elderly, it is almost impossible to get hold of new pieces that he has painted.
It has been painted on a canvas of cloth and cotton, and the two close-up shots show the application of gold gilt to Medicine Buddha.
The dyes used are natural of vegetable and mineral origin. Entirely handmade. Sanskrit and Tibetan descriptions. It is an unusual piece that does not come from a school of artists but from a practitioner of the Tibetan spiritual tradition.
This thangka measures 34 x 20 cm
About Tibetan herbal plants
In Tibetan medicine, plants are classified by their nature, taste, qualities and secondary qualities.
Nature – warming, cooling or neutral. For example, a cooling nature has a positive effect on a hot disease.
Taste – there are six. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, hot and astringent.
Qualities – there are eight. Heavy, oily, cool, hot, light, coarse, blunt, sharp.
There are 17 secondary qualities (some appear to be repeating the qualities) – oily, not-oily, blunt, cold, fluidity, warm, heavy, smooth, stable, cool, dry, flexible, hot, light, coarse, sharp, and mobile.
About Tibetan Thangka
Thangkas master painters create their artwork carefully and in a precise way, which follows six steps.
- Applying a priming layer of paint to the cloth to prepare the surface of the thangka.
- The artist then creates a separate sketch, carefully focusing on the figures and structure of the design in great detail.
- He then draws a grid of lines onto the cloth and transfers the design.
- The artist then applies the first layers of paint.
- He then grinds the pigments, usually from semi-precious stones and other natural ingredients.
- He finally applies more layers of paint to create shading effects and outlining until the painting is complete.