A long time ago, in a Himalayan paradise realm far, far away, an extraordinary gathering of gods, bodhisattvas, rishis, and sages, the likes of which the universe had never seen before, came together. They gathered within the great forests of Earth, full of medicines that can cure every disease known to humanity, to hear a four-year-long teaching given by the Buddha. This is the source code of Tibetan medicine.
If you wonder what the real origins of Shilajit are, you are in the right place. We are a globally recognized authority on Shilajit, both as suppliers of the finest medicine and also for our passion for the Himalayan regions that we have been so deeply involved with for decades.
Genuine Shilajit is solely Himalayan, and its roots are usually associated with the Indian medical science of Ayurveda. I had known for a long time that it is also intimately connected with the medicine of Tibetan Buddhism and wanted to get this information recorded, so read on for how this amazing substance connects to Tibet and the teachings of the Medicine Buddha, aka the King of Sapphire Light.
Some years ago my friend Romio Shrestha, personal artist to the Dalai Lama, introduced me to the Four Tantras, the medical paintings of Buddhism. At the time I was already well versed in the art and science of collecting and processing Shilajit. Gazing at the first painting, Heavenly Abode of the Medicine Buddha, I realized the fundamental relationship between Shilajit and traditional Tibetan medicine.
Sources for this blog post were sometimes in the original Tibetan, so translations were needed to confirm the connections between images and words. These texts are quite extraordinary, often highly detailed and complex, but also wonderfully expansive and inspiring. I hope that this post will give you a glimpse, and maybe even more, of the wondrous world of the Medicine Buddha, a boundless world of love and inclusivity, that we never need to reach for, as we are already an expression of it.
The Coming of the Medicine Buddha
On the summit of a mountain, there exists the celestial city of Sudarshana. This is where the Medicine Buddha is recorded as having appeared to the world. This mystical paradise is surrounded by great forests of extraordinary medicine, full of potent and powerful remedies that cure all diseases known to humanity.
The Medicine Buddha came in the form of a deity, and the world simultaneously transformed into a sacred realm. By the time he had finished teaching, everything that could be known about medicine had been communicated, the source of the Blue Beryl was born, and the importance of Shilajit within Tibetan medicine had been shared. The most significant references to this are in the Blue Beryl’s instructions for creating the super-revitalizing medicines the Greater Elixir of Rejuvenation and the Lesser Elixir of Rejuvenation, and also in the masterpiece painting titled Heavenly Abode of the Medicine Buddha Bhaisajyaguru, which includes precise descriptions of five different kinds of shilajit. A full breakdown of all the individual parts of this painting follows.
The many names of the Medicine Buddha
Bhaishajyaguru, the Medicine Buddha, is the master of remedies and the patron deity of Tibetan medicine. The supreme healer, he usually resides in one of the paradise realms. He goes by many names and is also known as Vaidurya Prabha Raja, translating as King of Sapphire Light, and as Sangyé Menla, which I’d say is: ‘to be awakening from ignorance and being purified from darkness, opening and blossoming like a lotus flower to all that is knowable’. Also known as the King of Beryl Radiance, the Medicine Buddha is the source of the Four Tantras.
Tanatuk, the mystical medical paradise
The Four Tantras is still used as the primary source of knowledge for physicians of Tibetan medicine. For centuries scholars have speculated where the Medicine Buddha’s teaching happened. Some say that it took place in one of the heavens, a paradise such as Trāyastriṃśa at the summit of Mount Meru, or in Akanishtha, a pure and pristine abode. As far as a physical location goes, it was possibly in Uddiyana – Northwest India or Afghanistan, the source of many diverse tantric texts and sciences. However it appeared, and wherever it happened, it was a place of absolute perfection, a mystical medical paradise that is known as Tanatuk, literally “pleasing when looked upon”, a place beyond subject and object.
Sudarshana, the celestial city of medicine
At the center of Tanatuk is Sudarshana, the city of medicine. There are three realms to Sudarshana. The first is the outer Sudarshana, referring to the actual emanational or geographical location in which the Buddha teaches all the medical science. The second is the inner Sudarshana which is the physician’s actual environment. The third is the secret Sudarshana which is the energy inside the physician’s own body. If you are interested in chakras, these would be the energy centers of which the texts speak.
At the center of Sudarshana arises a magnificent celestial palace, made of gold, silver, white and red pearls, and beryl. It has walls constructed in five bands and has battlements built of precious gemstones which when turned into medicines, can cure all four hundred and four diseases caused by an imbalance of the three humours, and remove all the one thousand and eighty obstacles to health, fulfilling all wishes. Standing guard at the palace gates are the four Great Kings of the cardinal directions.
The Four Tantras and the Blue Beryl – the Tibetan medical masterpieces
Desi Sangye Gyatso (1653-1705), was a significant figure in Tibet. He was a revered confidant and advisor to the Fifth Dalai Lama. He was recognized as a reincarnated Tibetan high lama as a child and was raised under the special care of the Dalai Lama. Between 1687 and 1703, Sangye Gyatso collaborated with many scholars and artists to create a set of seventy-nine stunning paintings that illustrated the Four Tantras, the teaching of the Medicine Buddha. At the same time that the Four Tantras were being painted, Sangye Gyatso also wrote the classic Blue Beryl, a written explanation of the Four Tantras, 156 chapters and 5,900 verses long, covering the equivalent of some 4,800 pages, and to this day the main reference of traditional Tibetan medical knowledge. The sixteen-year project was a truly epic undertaking, and the finished works were presented to the newly enthroned Sixth Dalai Lama.
Heavenly Abode of the Medicine Buddha, Bhaisajyaguru