Since the dawn of humanity, lapis lazuli has been one of the most sought-after stones in existence. The beautiful color was enchanting and even useful; ultramarine dye was produced from it and used to create robes for royalty, as the color symbolized holiness and humility.
Blue, the color of the sky, appears in many religious traditions as the symbol of heaven, sky gods, eternity and spiritual life. Blue is the coolest, most detached and least “material” of all hues.
In Buddhism both light (sky blue) and dark aspects of this mysterious color are important. The significance of the blue shade is reflected in the supremacy of the semi-precious stone in the daily spiritual and religious life of the devout Buddhist, who holds various beliefs about this stone. In general terms lapsi lazuli is a symbol of the blue of the sea and the sky. Infinity in the sky speaks of the limitless heights of ascension. The stone is opaque as the earth, yet it lifts the spirit high, laying bare to us the wisdom of both the earth and the sky.
Nothing illustrates more the spectacular influence of the darker blue on Buddhist aesthetics than the ‘Blue Buddha’, also known as the Buddha of Medicine or Healing. The most distinctive feature of this Medicine Buddha is his color, the deep blue of lapis lazuli. This precious stone has been greatly prized by Asian and European cultures for more than six thousand years and, until relatively recently, its ornamental value was on a par with, or even exceeded, that of the diamond. An aura of mystery surrounds this gemstone, perhaps because of its principal mines are located in the remote Badakshan region of northeast Afghanistan, an all-but-inaccessible area located behind the Hindu Kush. One commentator has written, “the finest specimens of lapis, intensely blue with speckled waves and swirls of shining gold-colored pyrite, resemble the night aglow with myriads of stars.”
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E.H. Schafer summarizes the Buddhist interest in lapis lazuli:
The Chinese were not alone among the Far Eastern peoples in their admiration for the blue mineral. The Tibetans valued it above all others, even ahead of gold, and those highlanders saw in it the image of the azure sky, and said that the hair of their goddess had its color. Both men and women wore it on their heads.
Indeed to this day, statues prepared in Tibet and the Himalayn kingdom of Nepal have their hair painted blue.
Traditionally this beautiful stone was used to symbolize that which is pure or rare. It is said to have a curative or strengthening effect on those who wear it, and its natural smoothness allows it to be polished to a high degree of reflectivity. Specifically in alternative medicine, because of it being associated with a certain ‘coolness’, it is used when inflammation is present, or when any internal bleeding or nervous condition exists. For all these reasons, plus the fact that deep blue light has a demonstrable healing effect on those who use it in visualization practices, lapis is the color of the principal Medicine Buddha, making this stone an important one in Buddhist mysticism.
Indeed the Lapis Healing Master is one of the most honored figures in the Buddhist pantheon. In one of the main sutras (canonical texts) concerning the Medicine Buddha, Shakyamuni tells his close disciple and attendant Ananda:
I beseech you, Blessed Medicine Guru, Whose sky-colored, holy body of lapis lazuli Signifies omniscient wisdom and compassion As vast as limitless space, Please grant me your blessings.
Medicine Buddha is one of many Buddha’s who have attained the state of perfect enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. The enlightened mind has eliminated all negativity and perfected all positive qualities.
Hand-carved Lapis Lazuli
Lapis Lazuli Pure Land is far to the east and its ground is made of lapis and its streets are paved with precious stones and marked off with gold. The boundaries are demarcated with golden cords, the towns, towers, palaces, pavilions, as well as the balconies, windows and draperies are all made of the Seven Treasures.
Just take a look at this Buddha carved in Lapis Lazuli with Nepalese filigree work and gemstones.
The Lapis Healing Master is often shown in the company of seven other Medicine Buddhas. The Healing Master in his eastern Buddha realm known as Pure Lapis Lazuli is generally flanked by the two leading bodhisattvas of that pure land, Suryaprabha and Chandraprabha, respectively All-pervading Solar and Lunar Radiance.
Medicine Master Thus come one Lapis Lazuli Light
With his splendor blazing net, how matchlessly adorned!
Limitless practice, boundless vows, benefit all living beings.
He accords with each one’s wish and never will retreat.
Namo Medicine Lapis Lazuli Light thus come one of the Eastern Pure Lapis Lazuli land