Medicine Buddha Bhaishajyaguru

Historical period(s)
8th-9th century
High tin bronze
H x W x D: 31.1 × 18 × 18.2 cm (12 1/4 × 7 1/16 × 7 3/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Ann and Gilbert Kinney
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Sculpture

Buddhist sculpture

Buddha, Buddhism, Indonesia
Provenance research underway.

This beautifully modeled and proportioned sculpture represents Bhaishajyaguru, the Buddha of medicine. Bhaishajyaguru is at the center of an important tradition associated with Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Early in the cult's development in northern India, Bhaishajyaguru multiplied into eight Medicine Buddhas; the tradition subsequently spread to China, Japan, Tibet and Southeast Asia. According to Buddhist texts, Bhaishajyaguru’s lapis lazuli body shines with a light greater than that of the sun and he dwells in the Eastern Pure Land of Vaiduryanirbhasa (Pure Lapis Lazuli). He is worshipped for his ability to cure physical and mental illness and alleviate suffering from cold, hunger, thirst, and even mosquitoes.

This Javanese Bhaishajyaguru closely recalls eighth-century Indian sculptures of the medicine Buddha. Monks frequently traveled from Java to northeastern India, where they visited sites associated with the Buddha’s life and studied at the great Buddhist universities. They brought home devotional images, which served as visual resources for local artists. Here, the figure is seated in padmasana on a double-lotus throne atop a multi-tiered rectangular base and encircled by a round halo with flamed border surmounted by the Buddhist parasol (chattra). Flower blossoms hover on the backplate, falling around the Buddha's head. He holds a myrobalan fruit in his open-palmed right hand, and a manuscript or possibly a bundle of medicine in his left. The gently swelling forms of the Buddha’s body, emphasized by the robe’s sinuous curve across his chest, exude vitality. His gentle smile and the downward gaze of his lotus petal-shaped eyes, accentuate his serenity.

Published References
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 52-53.
  • Donald S. Lopez Jr, Rebecca Bloom. Hyecho's Journey: The World of Buddhism. Chicago, December 2017. p. 83, fig. 7.
Collection Area(s)
Southeast Asian Art
Web Resources
F|S Southeast Asia
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