When all is well with the world, and you’re in peak health, it’s probably enough to eat well, exercise and see a family doctor once a year. But, if that annual doctor’s visit brings dreaded news, a diagnosis of a serious disease or condition, your doctor will probably refer to a specialist.
Specialized healing with specialized Buddha aspects
Similarly, in Mahayana Buddhism, we might be happy with our daily meditation on Shakyamuni Buddha, or your personal Yidam (meditational deity) — our metaphorical family doctor, attending to our spiritual health. In times of special need, we might turn to visualized “labeled” aspects of Buddha. Ultimately, all aspects of the Enlightened Buddha — various “labeled” deities — are one, but it can be helpful to reinforce specialized meditation goals with a focus on a particular property. For instance, if we receive that dreaded diagnosis from our doctor, we might think of “the specialists” — Enlightened aspects of Buddha that focus specifically on our problem.
NOTE: Healing meditation is NOT a replacement or alternative to traditional medical healing. These healing meditations use the power of the mind to heal and should be considered as supportive but effective.
Aggressive and assertive diseases such as cancer call for aggressive and assertive meditational deity aspects for our healing meditations. For cancer, Aids, heart disease and virulent viruses the most often recommended “specialist” is Black Manjushri. Black Manjushri practice is one of the famous Golden Dharmas of the Sakya tradition, and is widely practiced by Gelug practitioners and others under the direction of their teachers.
His Holiness Sakya Trizin: Black Manjushri purifies contaminations and impurities
How does Black Manjushri meditation help? An event with H.H. Sakya Trizin described Black Manjushri practice this way: “Black Manjushri purifies contaminations and impurities such as contagious diseases (like Ebola), and obstacles caused by disturbing nature and natural spirits by cutting trees, dirtying pure springs, digging up mountains, disturbing nature. It also purifies contaminations caused by eating the wrong food, going to impure places, wearing contaminated clothes, and the like.”
Zasep Rinpoche: Black Manjushri – “the healing benefit is there… as long as you have faith”
“Black Manjushri practice, Medicine Buddha practice, Hayagriva practice, all of those are beneficial for healing,” said Zasep Tulku Rinpoche when asked about Black Manjushri practice in a recent teaching on Ngondro at Gaden Choling Toronto.
“The healing benefit is there,” explained. “The benefit is there, certainly. Any deity yoga — Medicine Buddha, Tara, Kalachakra — all are helpful, as long as you have strong faith.”  (To read our extensive three-part interview with Zasep Tulku Rinpoche, view here>>)
For instance, in Mahayana Buddhism, the specialist in “protection” could be Tara, while “wisdom” is attributed to Majushri, “compassion” to Avaolokiteshvara (Guanyin), and “healing” to Bhaisajyaguru, the Medicine Buddha. All of these are ultimately aspects of the Enlightened, of Buddha.
For Buddha Weekly features on these deities see:
Meditating on Buddha can be healing generally. Meditating on the “specialist” aspect can help signal to our minds that we seek specialized healing for cancer, or some other “life threatening disease.” Such labels are not necessary; you could just turn to Buddha (without labels) for healing. But the increased focus, the precision of visualization on healing, specialized mediations, and working with specialized “deities” can be profoundly effective.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche: the power of a laugh to heal. The power of the mind to heal.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche: Power of the mind to heal
The power of the mind to heal is well accepted by Western medicine. Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Tibetan Medicine nearly always strongly supplement therapies with mind-therapies and meditation.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche of FPMT explains in a commentary of SARS (during the SARS crisis): “The clinical way of explaining the sickness (SARS) in the West, even if it is correct, is not a complete explanation. This is because to fully understand the cause of the sickness you have to understand and have full knowledge of the mind. There is so much to learn about even just the conventional nature of the mind. In the sutras there is the explanation of the gross mind and in the tantras the explanation of the subtle mind and its functions. If the education of the mind is limited in its understanding of the causes of sickness, then the explanation of how to cure it will always be incomplete.” 
Lama Zopa explains that positive thinking and meditation are generally helpful, and he also mapped out practices more targeted at handling serious diseases, including strong emphasis on Black Manjushri or Black Garuda practices.
Specialist versus general practitioner
In terms of health practices, many Mahayana Buddhists would turn to Medicine Buddha — the general practitioner. For aggressive healing of life-threatening diseases, many experienced meditators turn to Black Manjushri for a more “assertive” meditation that goes right to the heart of visualized healing.
Zasep Tulku Rinpoche, in a recent retreat, told the story of a student who attributed Black Manjushri practice in part to his success against cancer: “Last year a student came to me and said, ‘I discovered I have prostrate cancer.’ … Right away, I gave him Black Manjushri mantra, no initiation, just the “lung” of mantra. I told him to do the sadhana and mantra every day. Then, he went back to Australia and had the surgery. The surgery was successful. He felt that throughout that time, Black Manjushri was with him. He felt it made a huge difference for him, overcoming fear. It gave him the strength to fight, and gave him the energy. Then, later, his doctors told him ‘your cancer is completely cleared.'” Later, the student — who had in a rush asked Rinpoche for the mantra lung — came back for full initiation in Black Manjushri. 
Black Manjushri: a prescription for life-threatening illness
For dangerous diseases, life-threatening illnesses, maladies or obstacles, Black Manjushri is one of the most powerful practices. Manjushri, normally a peaceful Buddha of Wisdom, takes on the fiercer aspect of Black Manjushri — a signal to our minds that we are taking aggressive action against the invader. It is well established that mind certainly has powerful healing influences over the body it inhabits. Black Manjushri meditation assertively focuses our minds on the organisms or obstacles that attack our bodies.
For instance, you might think of the Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, as the family doctor. The analogy of “doctor” is often used in Mahayana practice when referring to the three jewels: Buddha (doctor), Dharma (medicine), and Sangha (nurses and support). Some of us meditate on the beautiful Medicine Buddha as our meditation object analogous with the “family doctor.” Others might think of White Tara, and engage in “long life” meditations.
If Shakyamuni or Medicine Buddha or White Tara are your family doctor, Black Manjushri would be your skilled specialist, the metaphorical cardiac, cancer or Aids specialist. His practice helps the meditator agressively focus the healing power of the mind on these dangerous conditions.
For serious ailments, requiring “assertive” forms of meditation, Black Manjushri is the meditation frequently recommended by many Buddhist teachers. Since it typically requires training from a teaching and initiation, it might be best to meditate on healing with Medicine Buddha of your Yidam, while seeking out instruction of a qualified teacher.
Healing for others
Zasep Rinpoche, when asked by a student about healing for others using Black Manjushri or Medicine Buddha (after initiation), he answered: “Yes, you can do the healing for others. You can do the mantras for them. You can do them together. You can coach and guide. Or, if the person is not able to do mantras or visualization, but is seeking help, then you do it for the person. You visualize yourself as Black Manjushri or Medicine Buddha, do the mantras, and visualize divine light coming from your heart and going into the person, descending into his or her body, giving lots of energy and purifying the sickness.”
When the student asked, “Does the person have to be with you in the room to receive healing?” Rinpoche answered:
“No, you don’t have to be in the same room. You can heal from a distance. It is good, and beneficial, if you can do it face to face, but if needed you can do healing from a distance.”
 From a two day retreat on April 2-3, 2016 on Ngondro Foundation practices, with teacher Zasep Tulku Rinpoche at Gaden Choling Toronto.
 “Practices to Counteract the SARS Virus“, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, FPMT