Medicine Buddha: “Transforming” the Heart to be like Liuli—A Story of Saints and Spirituality in Art
The mortal can not obtain enlightenment because their life is spent in sickness. Sickness of the body can be cured through medicine while sickness of the heart must be cured with medicine for the mind. What is medicine for the mind? That can only be dharma, Buddhist doctrine. Buddhist doctrine can be found everywhere. The world is full of medicine, everything around us can be the cure. Take the right medicine and anything can be remedied. Sorrow, joy, division, unity, birth, ageing, sickness and death are unavoidable components of modern life. But during these life lessons, to find a way to help others, to help yourself and to inspire hearts is one of the most potent medicines.
By the time the kilns started working in the intense and fiery workshop that was Tamshui’s fledgling LIULI studio in 1987, Loretta H. Yang had already survived 124 lifetimes. Through the heartbreaking work of 1980s film making, receiving golden horse acting awards, she had achieved what few others had—truly living and struggling through the lives of those whom she portrayed. That is why Yang took the culmination of so many lives to transcend with liuli art.
Indeed, the interconnectedness of lapis lazuli (liuli glass) and spirituality are intertwined in both spiritual practice and history. While simultaneously perfecting the art and studying the Medicine Sutra, Yang discovered that the medium possesses a sacred element of energy to it.
The second vow of the “Medicine Buddha” in this ancient scripture states, “May the moment come when I attain enlightenment, the body, even the soul, become as liuli, transparent inside and out, pure and flawless.” Loretta H. Yang, even at that time, or perhaps one should say especially since that time, understood through having struggled so many lifetimes, that the practice of creating pure art creates a pure heart.
“I often think, one thousand years ago, did Buddhist philosophers in India truly imagine that the body would one day turn into liuli? Or if not the body, then what? The heart? A heart like liuli, full of clarity and flawless[ness]. What would that state be?”－Loretta H. Yang
Through years of practicing selfless compassion and clarity, Yang has perfected the art of liuli Buddha sculpture work, earning the praise of having her works been collected by the likes of Yakushi-ji Temple’s chief priest Koin Tamara.
Upon collecting one of Yang’s proudest Buddha works, when noticing that its ring finger was broken in transport, Takada explained that the ring finger on medicine Buddhas is often broken, inexplicably—as it is also incidentally the symbolic finger of the Buddha for medicine. “Perhaps it has bore too much suffering…” The master lamented at the time.
Within a short time, Yang also prepared—at the request of the 1300-year-old temple’s master—a lapis lazuli Buddha in blue, resonating with the artwork’s history. Blue, as it represents the ultimate clarity—that of the sky, the heavens, and the pure heart—is more than symbolic, it is healing.
In reflecting upon the sentiments exchanged between Yang and Takada during this sacred conversation of spirituality and compassion, the medicine Buddha invokes a sense of harmony blessed on the now billions of lives that walk the Earth. Inscribed in beautiful calligraphy on the Yakushi-ji walls is a scroll with the words “transformation.” Perhaps this is the understanding lost in the broken ring finger—to be at peace in the serenity of calm healing like the medicine Buddha, to be clear of heart and pure of mind.
*In Buddhism—a place where enlightenment is achieved.
Want to know more about Medicine Buddha…
English version: Blue Medicine Buddha, his 12 vows, and Mantra
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