In Buddhist tradition the first and primordial healer was the great Buddha himself. Known popularly as the Medicine Buddha he is said to have revealed the teachings embodied in the sacred bodies of texts known as the Four Medical Tantras.
The characteristic color of the Medicine Buddha is blue. In visual representations, his left hand rests in his lap in the mudra of meditation, supporting an iron begging-bowl. His right palm faces outwards, offering, in a gesture of generosity, a stem of the myrobalan plant. This is a healing fruit well-known in Tibetan medicine and a symbol here of the botanical realm's restorative fecundity, reminding us that the earth provides freely, asking for nothing to sustain her fertility but gentle care.
The "paradise of the Medicine Buddha" was first depicted in 1687 by Desi Sangye Gyamtso, the regent of the Fifth Dalai Lama, to illustrate the origins and practices of Tibetan medical science. Seated in the center of a celestial paradise is the Buddha in the form of Bhaishajyaguru, "master of remedies." Surrounding him are numerous gods, sages, and other exalted beings, some of whom are described as sleeping at night under blankets of leaves and wearing only the barks of trees by day. Outside the jeweled walls of the palace are the fragrant and healing plants of the Tibetan pharmacopoeia. In the upper left, men and women bathe in medicinal springs emanating from stylized rock formations. At the top are snow mountains; on all sides are innumerable varieties of medicinal plants.
This paradise represents an idealized universe where remedies exist for every ailment. The Buddha himself is said to have stated, "For as many sentient beings as exist in this world system, there is a path to liberation." This is a reaffirmation of the Buddhist ideal where a spiritual path is available for all, according to his or her own individual need.