89.1 x 44.2 cm
Yakushi (sansk. Bhaisajyaguru) is the name of the Buddha associated with healing. According to the 'Yakushikyō' ('Sutra of the Master of Healing'), Yakushi made 12 vows, two of which specifically dealt with physical healing, when he was still a Bodhisattva. Upon fulfilment of these vows, he became the Buddha of the realm known as 'Jōruri' (sansk. Vaiduryanirbha-sa) or 'Pure Lapis Lazuli' in the eastern quarter. The Yakushi cult started in the late 7th century in Japan, whereby the followers were among the imperial household and court nobility rather than the common populace. From the Muromachi period onwards, his healing functions were taken over by the increasingly popular Jizō Bosatsu. Yakushi, however, has continued into the present day to figure among the 13 Buddhas, presiding over the important memorial service on the 49th day after a person’s death.
Although not specified in the sutras, Yakushi Nyorai is often depicted with a jar containing medicine in his left hand, while his right hand is raised, palm out, showing the gesture of 'bestowing fearlessness' ('semuiin'). He is accompanied by Nikkō Bosatsu (Bodhisattva of the Sunlight) on his left and Gekkō Bosatsu (Bodhisattva of the Moonlight) to his right.
Asian Art Department, AGNSW, August 2008.