Tibet
Painted Banner (Thangka) with Bhaishajyaguru, the Medicine Buddha
13th/14th century

Pigment and gold on cotton
104 x 82.7 cm (41 x 32 1/2 in.)
Kate S. Buckingham Fund, 1996.29

This thangka, or scroll painting, represents the Buddha as the master of medicine or teacher of healers. As the patron deity of Tibetan medicine, he is a healer of the body and spirit. With his right hand he holds the myrobalan fruit, his distinctive attribute, believed to hold healing properties. He is surrounded on either side by bodhisattvas who represent the bright splendor of the sun and the moon.

Apart from meditation, a focus of Buddhist monastic life continues to be the preservation of Tibetan Buddhist culture. This includes the creation of images used in worship, as seen on this thangka. They are representations of Tibetan faith and include portraits of Buddha, images of historical lamas (highly respected teachers), and mandalas. A thangka, which literally means "rolled measure of cloth," is a portable icon, usually painted on cotton and framed in silk brocade. Because thangkas can be rolled, they travel easily with monks who move from village to village.