By David Crow, L.Ac.
Over the years I have been blessed with rare opportunities to study with many teachers of
classical medical systems, especially in Nepal and India. Many of those teachers are gone now,
which makes their teachings even more precious, and more important for me to share. This short
excerpt is from my book In Search of the Medicine Buddha, with some teachings from one of
Nepal’s greatest herbalists and botanists, the late Dr. Narendra Tiwari.
I am floating, lost among the sky's reflections somewhere on Lake Fewa. Machupuchare's snow-draped peak is close, the fertility goddess watching over us, looking down as my tiny boat glides across the water. Waves of ferns fall from the mountainsides above, reaching the water's edge to brush against my outstretched hand. Dragonflies with fragile wings of painted velvet hang from heart-shaped creepers, and butterflies navigate invisible air currents.
Along the water, herbs are growing in abundance. Climbers and shrubs compete for space, weaving leaves of yellows and greens into layers of living colors, starburst flowers hiding in their shade. Dr. Tiwari would know them all, of course, having documented them here in the Gorkha district. I hear echoes of his voice, melodically reciting an ancient Vedic invocation to the plants, asking the blessings of Soma's nutriment to come forth.
"Those that are dark and that are bright, the red and the spotted, the brown and the black herbs, all of them do we address. Let them save this man from disease sent by the gods. The plants whose father is heaven, earth the mother, ocean the roots, what power is yours, ye powerful ones, what heroism and strength is yours, herewith, o herbs, free this man from sickness. Now I make a remedy. Let the thoughtful ones come hither, allies of my spell, that we may make this man pass forth out of difficulty. Let the powerful plants that are praised save this village, cow, horse, man, and beast. Rich in sweets the root, rich in sweets the tip of them, rich in sweets the middle of the plants, rich in sweets the leaf, rich in sweets the lower of them. Partaking of sweet, a drink of nectar, let them milk out ghee and food, with milk as chief. However many may be these herbs upon the earth, let them, thousand-leafed, free me from death, from distress.”
"I want to discuss one word here," my teacher had said when finished. "It is madhu, the sweet taste. In the old days there was a branch of science known as madhu vidya. It was the science of increasing the life span, giving freedom from the aging process, stress, desires, and lust. This prayer belongs to those used for potentizing drugs. Rich in sweets means the person takes the plant and prays, 'O God, you enrich the root, you enrich the leaf, you enrich the stem, you enrich the flower, the seeds.' It means you activate these parts of the plants for medicinal purposes and elimination of disease."
As the wind dies down and the heat of the day recedes from the oncoming coolness of evening, the lake's surface becomes a silky skin, moist with impressionistic reflections. The sun departs with regal farewells, painting another noble Himalayan sunset with lavender, orange, violet, and rose. High above, the clouds become weightless worlds of opalescent landscapes. Slowly, imperceptibly, the vision changes to shining bronze, dies down to flaming orange, then fades into the gray tones of approaching night. The peaks around Machupuchare recede in fading gray hues, disappearing into the approaching evening. The invisible veil between inner and outer, earth, sky, and water, vanishes in the stillness. Unknowingly, I have drifted into samadhi, suspended in open expanses of evening light.
I am floating, somewhere between worlds. Outside, the crickets and fireflies are still awake, while inside, my dreams are coming to life. The stars begin to speak in ancient voices, words of light older than this world, roaring suns filling the firmament with quiet wonder. The winds breathe secret languages, inhaling and exhaling the perfumes of the seasons; they have been everywhere, and know everything. Womblike caves enclose the space of contemplative emptiness, mouths agape with the mountain's call to hear the silence of all-knowing. Playful flowers open the iris of their single chakra, giving birth to realms of color and fragrance; anemones and seashells lie in sensual pools of liquid mandalas.
I wander, enchanted, through the invisible landscapes of sleep. Goddess Moon unwraps her silk cloud-kimono, revealing her milky radiance; sighs of poetry rise on coiling incense dragons as she undulates the currents of the night.
In Search of The Medicine Buddha is currently out of print, but will be updated and republished in the near future.