The Buddha, Healing and Medicine

During the Buddha’s lifetime he was given numerous epithets to highlight or praise his outstanding qualities. Some of these include the Happy One, Teacher of Gods and Humans, Lord of Creatures, Teacher, etc. One of the most interesting of these epithets, found in the Itivuttaka and several other places, is Supreme Physician (Anuttara Bhisakka). It is usually thought that this refers to the Buddha’s ability to sooth and ultimately heal the afflictions of samsara – hatred and greed, fear and longing, ignorance and selfishness. Certainly this is how the Paramatthajotika understands it: “The Buddha is like a skilled physician in that he is able to heal the sickness of the defilements.” While this is a legitimate interpretation of the epithet, it is only part of the reason the Buddha was equated with and praised as a skilled and compassionate physician. He also had insightful and practical things to say about doctoring and nursing, sickness, healing and health in the conventional sense.



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