The Buddhist Tradition of Healing
- by Dr. Randolph E. Clayton
Twenty-five hundred years ago in a part of what would now be the Kingdom of Nepal, the first son of a clan chief was born with a multitude of auspicious signs. It is said that his birth caused his mother no pain and that from the first second from the womb he could stand on his own two feet. He took seven steps in each of the compass directions, and where his feet touched the ground, flowers bloomed. In front of his mother and her attendants, he vowed that this was to be his final lifetime and that he had been born to rip out the causes of suffering and to liberate all sentient beings. He was named Siddhartha, meaning "he whose aim is accomplished." We call him Shakyamuni Buddha (the Fully Enlightened One, the Sage of the Shakya Family).
From the time of Lord Buddha’s first teaching on the Four Noble Truths at the City of Sarnath and from the first assemblies of the Sangha, there have been physicians and healers who were themselves a part of the Buddhist tradition. Lord Buddha even called himself the Superior Physician because of his ability to offer refuge and nurturing to beings trapped within Samsara.
Mahayana Buddhism further expanded on these teachings with instruction in the practice of the Buddha of Spiritual Medicine, also known as the Buddha with the Body of Lapis Lazuli, and the practices of Compassionate Bodhisattvas, who vowed to help beings attain liberation until the very last being had been liberated.
Reiki and Buddhism
Reiki is the most well-known practice of healing that originates from the Buddhist Tradition. As we know it today, Reiki is the work of a Buddhist physician and teacher named Master Mikao Usui. Usui-sensei is said to have discovered a Tantra, or Esoteric teaching, originally given by Shakyamuni Buddha on the practice of the Buddha of Spiritual Medicine. Due to visions he had of the various Buddhas, and the guidance of his own spiritual teacher, he fasted and meditated on the practice and received empowerment directly from the Buddhas. He then adapted the teaching so that it could be practiced by anyone who wished, including non-Buddhists. Some believe that Usui-sensei transmitted several forms of Reiki – one for non-Buddhists, one for Buddhists, and one for Tantric (Vajrayana) Buddhists.
The most recent development in the Reiki story came due to the blessings of a local teacher, Lama Drügpa Yeshe Trinley Odzer, the Ninth Drügmar Rinpoché, a Tibetan Buddhist Lama in the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions. While in Japan, Rinpoché’s father embraced the Shingon School of Tantric Buddhism, and purchased a number of texts and teachings. Among these was a Medicine Buddha / Healing Teaching called the Tantra of the Lightning Flash Which Illumines the Mind and Heals the Body, as well as copies of the notebooks of Master Usui (the founder of Reiki) and Master Watanabe (his pupil). With these, Rinpoché worked to recreate the Reiki Tradition in keeping with both Lord Buddha’s and Master Usui’s teaching.
All Healing Is Buddhist
When you reach to the heart of what healing is – removing the causes of the suffering of others - you see how close it is to the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism and the Bodhisattva principles. To quote the poet Shantideva:
"May I be the doctor and the medicine, and may I be the nurse, for all sick beings in the world, until everyone is healed."
In keeping the Bodhisattva Vows of the Mahayana Doctrine, we vow to be all things to all people. We vow to be reborn in a variety of forms to assist others on the path of liberation. We vow to be reborn in forms where we can take on and remove the suffering of others and extend our blessings and merit to them.
"For as long as space endures, and for as long as living beings remain, until then may I too abide, to dispel the misery of the world."
We can continue this practice by remembering to dedicate all actions of good merit for the liberation of the sick and infirm, and for all sentient beings. We can practice meditation on Loving Kindness and Impermanence. We can do the Tibetan practice of Giving and Receiving (Töng-len). We can pray and make supplication to Awakened Beings.
There are a wealth of resources out there for people interested in studying the Buddhist Tradition of healing. Thanks to the kind patronage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan College of Astrology and Medicine has been rebuilt near the site of the Tibetan Government in Exile, in Dharmasala India.
However, you don’t need to be a Doctor of Medicine, Tibetan or otherwise, to accomplish the Healing tradition set down by Lord Buddha. You simply need to understand the nature of suffering, and truly want to remove it. I hope and pray that all physicians, therapists, and healers of all modalities will receive these teachings and put them to good use.
~ May any positive merit gained by any virtuous act I do be offered up to remove the sufferings of all sentient beings. May I take on their sufferings with a pure and open heart and see them purified. May any who read this find the fortune to completely Awaken. ~
Randolph E. "Raven" Clayton, D.Div. Randolph E. "Raven" Clayton, D.Div. is a teacher, massage therapist, master of seven different forms of reiki, and practicing Tibetan Buddhist in the Nyingma tradition. He is the administrator of North Carolina Dharma Online, and can be reached by email at energymed@....===================================From the Desk of Anyeot GraceWatcher
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