Continuing with the theme of retreats, I recently participated in a Medicine Buddha Teaching near my home. As I find myself following my passion of exploring the integration of the latest in neuroscience, quantum physics, consciousness studies, mind/body medicine with the essential truths of ancient traditions in order to help animals heal, I am always amazed at how much one documents the other.
The Medicine Buddha practice is part of an entire psychological and spiritual Buddhist tradition, and by no means do I intend to claim to understand the deepest foundations of these fascinating and invaluable teachings. I am merely an interested novice practitioner in the study and teachings of Buddhism and how they may be of benefit to all our kindred spirits. These personal explorations and study are part of my commitment to be of benefit to all sentient beings, including animal lovers and all our beloved animals. Along this healing journey I have found Medicine Buddha teachings to be of immense benefit in my own efforts to purify my thoughts and busy mind traffic and thereby improve my healing skills with animals.
One excellent Buddhist teacher, The Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, states that “We practice the Medicine Buddha in order to attain states of mental and physical health or balance, not merely for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others as well”. This practice can improve the health of our own mind and body as they are inseparable. As we improve our own mind and body health, we are able to be of more benefit to others.
I was privileged to experience these teachings again by Phakyab Rinpoche who had his own profound experiences with Medicine Buddha. While teaching in Tibet, Phakyab Rinoche became known for his ability to assist individuals in their physical and emotional healing. He was then faced with his own severe health challenges and left Tibet in 2003 where he was granted full political asylum by the U.S. government. He spent several months in a New York hospital where conventional medicine was unable to help him heal and three physicians recommended amputation of his leg. He consulted with his mentor, the Dalai Lama, and made the decision to not accept further medical intervention. He relied solely upon his spiritual practices to heal himself. To the astonishment of his doctors, his leg and his whole body healed and he brought himself back to radiant health. Phakyob Rinpoche is now part of an ongoing medical study as to how he was able to alter cellular changes through meditation that led to his complete recovery. He shared his story during the teachings with such humor and light. He shared that often when we are confronted with challenges, mental, physical or emotional, it is so we can develop further empathy for others going through similar challenges and really be there for them. Personally, I have found this to be so true in my own life numerous times. Each time I have been confronted with some health challenge, I learned from it and then was able to use my experiences to be of benefit to others. An old saying that I share in workshops that I teach is that “experience turns knowledge into wisdom”. There is no greater teacher than experience. Phakyob Rinpoche believes that the primary way to heal oneself is to cultivate compassion and loving kindness, as well as to practice forbearance and patience. I have found that the more I develop my commitment to cultivate compassion and loving kindness for all beings (including myself), the more I am able to be of benefit to all our kindred spirits.
As we understand more about mind/body medicine and neuroscience, we can appreciate the power of our thoughts on our health. For example, just close your eyes for a moment, take in a slow deep inhalation and then slowly exhale. As you slowly quiet your mind and your breath, think of a happy moment in your life, a loved one or a beloved pet. How does that make you feel? Do you feel a difference in your inner state of being? This simple exercise is a clear demonstration of how happy thoughts can make us feel good, releasing positive neurochemicals throughout our body. Another exercise is to close your eyes again and visualize that happy moment or a beloved animal or human companion and feel the difference in your body. Visualizations also help to transform our neurochemical balance. Neuroscientists have found through functional mri’s, that when Tibetan monks meditate on being of benefit to others that the areas in the prefrontal cortex for joy and bliss light up. Additional research continues to document that when we focus on being of benefit to others that we are happier and healthier. Research has also found that when meditation, visualization and breathing exercises are coordinated, that they stimulate connections between the areas of our brain related to each of these actions which then have positive health benefits for us. I think it is so incredibly fascinating that current research at well respected institutions like the University of Wisconsin Neuroscience laboratory by world renowned neuroscientists such as Dr. Richard Davidson, document these ancient teachings and how they are of benefit to us.
This particular teaching was supported by the Helen Graham Park Foundation. For readers of this post who may be interested in studying Medicine Buddha teachings further, The Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, offers a superb detailed explanation of Medicine Buddha online.
May the compassion and wisdom of Medicine Buddha be of benefit to all beings!