What is the Medicine Buddha Mantra?
Medicine Buddha Illustration by Sammy Ater
The Medicine Buddha Mantra comes from the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. The oldest known references to the Medicine Buddha are texts from the seventh century. “Bekandze” means “the elimination of suffering” and is repeated three times for the removal of suffering on the physical, emotional and spiritual levels. The three repetitions can also be viewed as eliminating the three poisons of ignorance, hatred, and attachment.
The Medicine Buddha is described as a doctor who cures suffering using the medicine of his teachings. He is also known as the Medicine Master.
An Extraordinary Experience with the Medicine Buddha Mantra
I got up that autumn morning with a desperate feeling. I had been taking my 15-year-old son to a doctor regularly for about three weeks to have an infected wound cleaned and packed with antibiotics. We had just discovered that he had a series of large cysts just below his spine. The cysts were interconnected and had broken through to the surface. It was a mess. The surgeon wanted to clear up the infection before doing surgery to remove the cysts. Unfortunately, things were going from bad to worse.
I had been chanting daily as a spiritual practice for almost four years, usually early in the morning. At the time I was doing a 30-minute session of livestream mantras each weekday online, usually joined by several others virtually. It was about 4am when I woke up that day. With the ominous feeling hanging over me, I immediately started searching on my phone for a mantra for healing.
Fortunately, I found the Medicine Buddha Mantra. After listening to several versions, I wrote a quick melody of my own. At the end of my livestream session that morning, I explained the situation with my son briefly and led the Medicine Buddha Mantra for the first time.
As the day went on, my feeling of dread grew. By lunchtime I was so stressed out that I was feeling physically ill. I went to bed. Then I had the idea that I should record the Medicine Buddha Mantra. I dragged myself out of bed, went downstairs to my basement and recorded the chant on a single take, then rushed off to pick up my son from school to take him to his medical appointment.
Unexpected Surgery for My Son
Arriving at the doctor’s office, we were informed to our great surprise that he was going in for surgery immediately. The infection was too significant to continue to treat with antibiotics. We were told to report upstairs to the operating room. The plan was for two surgeries. First the infection would be cleaned out. Then in a couple of months a second surgery would be performed to remove the cysts.
My son was prepped for the operation. I called family and friends to let them know what was going on. By the time the surgery was in progress, we were well into the evening and the hospital was deserted. This was September 2020 at the height of COVID concern. I was only allowed to remain on the premises because my son was a minor.
Playing the Medicine Buddha Mantra in the Waiting Room
No one else was in the waiting room. However, there was a beautiful grand piano. The piano was covered with a tarp and marked with a sign instructing musicians to call the central desk for permission to play. I called. The operator gave me permission immediately. By this time it was dark outside. The expected 45 minutes of surgery was passing rapidly. I sat down and played and sang the Medicine Buddha Mantra.
After about an hour, a nurse called to let me know that the surgery was going longer than expected. Finally the surgeon finally called to let me know he was finished. The problem had been more extensive than he had realized. He had to be very aggressive. Now. The only good news was that there would not be a second surgery.
The surgeon had removed a significant amount of soft tissue and skin, all the way to the bone and the fibrous connective tissue surrounding the spine. There was no way to suture the large surgical wound. My son would be on a wound machine for weeks or months to come to drain the site and prevent infection.
Hand-painted tanka of the Medicine Buddha.
Getting Through the Night with the Medicine Buddha Mantra
I was in shock. Just weeks ago, I had no idea that anything was wrong. The surgeon said he estimated that my son had been battling the infection and cysts at some level for one to two years. My son had not complained or even told anyone about the situation until the pain became constant. We discovered later that he had actually stopped growing during that period. He had been large for his age, so we had not noticed or been concerned.
I slept in a chair next to my son’s hospital bed that night. Every time I woke up, I could hear that somewhere in my consciousness the Medicine Buddha Mantra was playing. In the months that ensued, the Medicine Buddha Mantra became an anthem of hope and healing. Some of those who had been coming to my online events began to use this recording to chant and pray for my son.
A friend loaned me a hand-painted tanka of the Medicine Buddha in those early months after the surgery. This is the image used in the Medicine Buddha Mantra video. Another friend lent me a beautiful blue statue of the Medicine Buddha to put in my music room as a focus for my own chanting and prayers.
Recovery and Healing with the Medicine Buddha Mantra
My son was released from the hospital with a portable version of the wound vac machine. He was constantly connected to the machine for thirty-three days.
For the next four months, we went to the Wound Clinic three days a week for his bandages to be changed and the wound to be cleaned. Eventually I learned to do this twice a day myself. My son was finally able to return to school in late January.
The Medicine Buddha Mantra was a life raft for me during this difficult medical situation. The mantra has remained as a central part of my chanting repertoire. I find the Medicine Buddha Mantra appropriate for so many situations and for the world at large during challenging times.
I am so grateful for the Medicine Buddha Mantra and for all of those who chanted and prayed so faithfully on behalf of my son. Please feel free to use this as a musical meditation for any situation or loved one in your life in need of healing. I would love to hear your story! Contact me any time to share your own experiences with the Medicine Buddha mantra.
Medicine Buddha Symbols and Iconography
Healing has been a significant part of some Buddhist sects. The Medicine Buddha is one of eight healing Buddhas. There are seven other emanations of the Medicine Buddha, each which his own color and pure land. These lands are created as a form of compassionate action on the part of the buddha. They are havens for spiritual dedication.
The main Medicine Buddha is blue. Some of the others are gold, yellow, pink, and red. The eighth Medicine Buddha, who is gold, is believed to exist in this world. The Medicine Buddha is believed to be based on a being who once lived on earth and purified himself through many embodiments.
The central (blue) Medicine Buddha is often depicted holding a medicinal plant called myrobalan in his hand. Some believe the plant reduces inflammation and internal bleeding. The Medicine Buddha often holds an alms bowl or a medicine jar in the other hand. The Medicine Buddha is also associated with the semi-precious gemstone lapis lazuli.
Lapis lazuli is affiliated with intellect, wisdom, strength and courage. Lapis is said to provide the wearer with spiritual protection from negative influences. Within Vajrayana Buddhism, the deep blue color is thought to have a purifying and strengthening effect on those who meditate on the stone or visualize it. Some depictions of the Medicine Buddha show him with blue skin.
The Medicine Buddha
holding the myrobalan plant
and a medicine jar.
Illustration by Sammy Ater
Using Medicine Buddha Mantra
In an energetic universe, scientists are finding that matter is always divisible. The universe may be infinitely small as well as infinitely large. Therefore matter is never permanent and is always undergoing transformation. Mantras operate in this realm of energy, vibration and transformation.
Scientific evidence indicates that meditation and chanting are body-mind practices help to trigger repair mechanisms within our bodies. The Medicine Buddha Mantra can be given for oneself or for another. Some practitioners advise that the mantra be given 108 times.
According to Buddhist teachings, all the deeds we have performed in life have created our current state on all levels. Practices that purify the mind and soul can help to correct a negative state in the body. Visualization of rays of light can add to the effectiveness of mantras and meditation and assist in maintaining optimal health.
Medicine Buddha Vows
The Medicine Buddha is the name of a bodhisattva: one who has pledge to remain with earth until all beings are liberated. The Medicine Buddha made 12 great vows. A succinct version of these vows are as follows:
- I vow that my body shall shine as beams of brilliant light on this world and that my teachings shall remove all ignorance. May all beings attain enlightenment like the Buddha.
- I vow that my body be like crystal, radiating rays of light to every corner and bringing wisdom to all beings. May all beings strengthen their spiritual power and physical energy to fulfill their dreams and purposes in life.
- I vow that I shall grant through boundless wisdom all the things that beings require, and relieve them from pain and guilt resulting from materialistic desires. All shall be generously shared so that all live harmoniously together.
- I vow to lead those who have gone astray back to the path of righteousness. Let them be corrected and returned to the way of the Buddha.
- I vow that I shall enable all sentient beings to observe precepts for spiritual purity and moral conduct. All shall be guided by repentance.
- I vow that all beings who are physically disabled or sick shall be blessed with good health both physically and mentally.
- I vow to relieve all pain and poverty. The sick be cured, the helpless be helped, and the poor shall be assisted.
- I vow to help women who are undergoing suffering. By hearing my name, paying homage and praying, their wishes will be granted and they will ultimately attain Buddhahood.
- I vow to free all beings from evil thought. I shall lead them onto the path of light through righteousness and honor.
- I vow to save prisoners who have genuinely repented. I will save victims of natural disasters. My supreme powers will bless those who are sincere.
- I vow to save those who suffer from hunger and starvation. If they hear my name and faithfully cherish it, I favor them with the best food that they may eventually lead a tranquil and happy life.
- I vow to save those who suffer from poverty, tormented by mosquitoes and wasps day and night. If they cherish my name with sincerity and practice service to others, they will be able to achieve their wishes.
Mala beads include 108 beads, often used for counting mantras or prayers. This is similar to a Western roasary.
Medicine Buddha Mantra Lyrics
Tayata Om, Bekandze Bekandze
Maha Bekandze, Randze Samu Gate Soha
MEANING: May the many sentient beings who are suffering be freed of all pain including disease, death and karma and may this suffering never arise again.
Medicine Buddha Mantra:
Tayatha: like this
Om: signifies the totality of one’s being and the universe
Bekandze: eliminating pain or eliminating suffering
Maha bekandze: eliminating great pain, suffering in the soul
Radza: king or sovereign
Samudgate or Samu Gate: ocean of goodness
Soha: blessing, devotion, gratitude from which the realization comes
Additional Resources on the Web
Minute Mantra: Medicine Buddha Mantra
60 secs or Less for Busy Folks
Vocal Medicine Book
Learn more about using mantras and singing to invigorate your life! Explore concepts from East and West related to the power of singing. Explore the chakras and the impact of sound in every area of your life.
Author Kathleen Karlsen
Vocal Medicine reveals Kathleen Karlsen’s personal journey with mantras, chanting and kirtan. Benefit from Kathleen’s years of research into the power of sacred music. Topics include:
- Achieve improved emotional health through mantras
- Create a happy brain through singing
- Extensive discussion of sound and the chakras
- Connections between sound, color and healing
186 pages, $15.95
Deities of East and West including Hindu gods and goddesses, angels, nature spirits and buddhas. Unique inspirational artwork from multiple traditions. Produced in the United States. Flat rate shipping $4.95 per order (US only), unlimited items. Wholesale pricing available on request.