Medical Analogy of Triple Gem

A message written for Singapore Buddhist Free Clinic’s magazine:

There is a famous medical analogy in Buddhism used to describe the Triple Gem. The Buddha, with his perfect compassion and wisdom, is likened to a great doctor, who dispenses the pure medicine that is the precious teachings of the Dharma, for alleviating suffering. Members of the Sangha are those who practise the Dharma well, who, like nurses, assist the Buddha in sharing the Dharma with the masses.

Although the analogy is in terms of spirituality, the Buddha was clearly mindful of the physical human condition, of us all being subject to suffering via cyclical birth, ageing, sickness and death. He was thus aware of the pressing need to care for our physicality while looking after our spirituality.

Once, the Buddha came across Tissa, a monk who was lying in his own waste, incapacitated due to severe illness. He was left there as the other fellow monks had shunned him in disgust. Teaching by example, the Buddha nursed Tissa in person. As the repentant monks crowded around to help, the Buddha remarked, ‘If you do not take care of each other, who will take care of you? One who tends the sick tends me.’

Inspired by this incident, and so many more other instances of the Buddha’s great compassion, the Singapore Buddhist Free Clinic (SBFC) strives to live up to the Buddha’s vision of a better world, where we care for one and all with unconditional love. Indeed, we are all of one community on this small planet, interdependent upon one another for our collective well-being. If we do not take care of one another, who will?

This year, as we celebrate the 41st Anniversary of SBFC, may we renew our vows to continue to be of service to our fellow brothers and sisters. Like the Buddhas’ vows that never end till all beings are liberated from suffering, with your support in terms of dedication of time, donations and efforts, may SBFC’s noble mission continue to benefit many. Thank you. Amituofo!

Namo Bhagavate Bhaisajya Guru Vaidurya Prabhaya Tathagataya
(Homage to the Medicine Master, the Tathagata of Lapis Lazuli Light)

7 thoughts on “Medical Analogy of Triple Gem

  1. Pls correct me if I’m wrong,

    based on what I understand in Buddhism, the answer to our problems lies within us i.e. we are the source of our problems, we are also our own answer.

    In medicine, the most reliable doctor lies within us too. It’s just that we have ignored our body for too long. Actually, our body is an amazing “piece of work”, with its own maintance abilities, it’s just that it needs our help to keep it going.

    Sadly, too often have we taken our body for granted, and seek the doctors to take care of our health.

  2. You reap what you sow… interestingly, growing old, falling sick, encountering mishaps and so on will still happen… not knowing when it will happen doesn’t mean it won’t happen…

    So the question to ask ourselves is: What are you going to do about it? Reactive: wait for things to happen and find the cure or Proactive: prevent it from happen or at least cut down the degree of infliction when it happens…

    A good inspirational read will be: 了凡四训 (liao fan si xun)

    PS: The cundi fa is covered briefly in liao fan si xun (cundi is one of avalokiteshvara manifestation in the human realm)

  3. Though the answers to our problems lie within, seeking answers from without can help us find them within too. (That’s why we learn the Dharma, so as to guide us to realise it within.)

    Our body too, though is the best doctor, needs nutrition from without to function well! Amituofo


  4. 🙂 That’s true.

    However, although the doctor can advise us on what to take/do to get well, it is up to us to take the medication and maintain our health.

    So do, although the Dharma can guide us on how to live without suffering, it is still up to us to carry out the actual journey.

    However, we often wait till we have fallen ill, before we realised the importance of health; we often wait till great sufferings/misfortunes, before we pondered about the meaning of life.
    Either way, we often forget about all our promises, once the “calamity” had passed…
    The difficult thing is not in listening/following when the times are bad, it is the carrying on even when times are good, from moment to moment.

  5. Well said Jet… sometimes it’s easier to preach a good “medication” during bad times than good ones since that’s when most of us realize what sufferings really meant…

    On the other hand, when things become better, the sufferings are gone, we tend to forget again… Ironically, those who nearly died e.g. recovered from some incurable sickness will tend to remember and practice harder…

    That’s why it’s so difficult to be a good teacher… how to tell someone about sufferings, etc when one is for example, so healthy, rich, and powerful?

    So sickness, aging, mishaps sometimes can be good teachers too… Those who are very sick or going to die will give anything so long as it reduces their sufferings or prolong their lives…

    Well, on good times we probably had to coat the Dharma with a layer of sugar just like those medical pills for small kids… and coax/tell the “kids”: this is a sweet, it’s very nice, it’s not bitter, you won’t fall sick again after taking this, you’ll pass everything with flying colors if you take it, so on…

    There are other ways of course…


  6. “So sickness, aging, mishaps sometimes can be good teachers too…”

    🙂 heard a saying that goes:
    Our problems are here to make us better,
    not to make us suffer.
    (Just like if the ground is too smooth, there will be not enough friction for us to stand upon or walk.)

    Though I’m not that sure about the coating part…
    how about more like breaking down, and adjusting-adapting to help others understand better.

  7. Whether our problems make us suffer or learn is up to us. They are in essence neutral, depending on our attitude.

    If there is no resistance in air, we can’t fly. If the ground we fall on is not hard enough, we can’t lift ourselves off to stand on it. Amituofo


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