For the next few weeks, Dew on the Grass is featuring writing and artwork around the theme of the colour Blue. To kick things off, we have a short post by Karen Richards who writes about lapis lazuli and its associations with healing.
The blue of lapis lazuli is intensely deep and often contains gold-coloured flecks of pyrite, giving the impression of faint stars in a darkening sky (1). Lapis lazuli has been associated with medicine for centuries and, in the ancient world, was thought to have mystical and healing power, especially the ability to reduce inflammation. In Vajrayana Buddhism, the deep blue colour of lapis is thought to have a purifying and strengthening effect on those who visualise it. It is not surprising, therefore, that lapis lazuli was incorporated into the iconography depicting the Bodhisattva Bhaisajyaguru, also known as The Healing or Medicine Buddha.
All very apt, when we consider that the colour blue also has associations with the NHS, and so it’s fitting perhaps that, at the beginning of two days of strike action by NHS medical staff, in pursuit of better pay, conditions and improved patient safety that we should give a hat tip to the service.
According to Raoul Birnbaum, in his book The Healing Buddha (2), medical healing was seen as important to the Buddha who, in His wisdom, saw that a strong body was conducive to a strong meditative practice. Further, it is said that He directed the early monks to tend to those who were sick as part of their practice. So, whilst the Medicine Buddha points towards the healing of spiritual afflictions – the three poisons of greed, hatred and delusion – he also represents the healing of the physical body.
Some years ago, now, my husband had his lower left leg amputated because of an infection. During this time of acute illness, he was drawn to Birnbaum’s book and kept it by him to study. He also developed a love of lapis lazuli. So, on his 60th birthday, I sought out a piece of the semi-precious stone, finally settling on the piece, below.
I found it in a crystal shop, in the town of Ironbridge, and I was intrigued by its shape, which looked uncannily like a foot or boot. My husband loved it. For him, it represented the foot that he had lost and he found strength and comfort in it. He still keeps it by him, ready to hold should he feels the need.
For those who are in physical and mental suffering, alongside the medical treatments of the modern world, getting to know a little about The Healing Buddha and the associated semi-precious stone, lapis lazuli, may bring a different healing dimension.
1. Information and introductory photograph by Wikipedia
2. The Healing Buddha by Raoul Birnbaum ISBN 0 09 142451 8 First published in Great Britain in 1980
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