Pacifier of all intense pain, Destroyer of all sickness, Mistress of all well-being, You deserve universal honor. As long as there is suffering, Do not abandon the world! ~Drikung ritual prayer
Who is Parnashavari?
She is the goddess of the healing mysteries as she holds the power to cure even serious illnesses and epidemics. She has a close relationship with nature. When she is invoked ritually, she is visualized on a gem-laden mountain with dense groves of magical trees and multicolored flowers.
Parnashavari dwells in a forest high on a mountainside. The forest where she dwells is full of botanical richness and medicinal sacredness. Her beauty reflects the allure of the forest and her skin is radiant with emerald light. The sap of trees with healing powers run through her veins.
Parnashavari adorns herself with feathers, flowers, fruit, and berries. Her skirt is made of leaves. And it sways around her hips as she dances. Arrayed in tribal splendor, she wanders joyfully, being completely alive to the colors, fragrances of the forest.
The Iconographic Portrayal of Parnashavari Thangka:
Parnasavari means “Tribal Woman Clothed in Leaves". She is an important healing deity in Indian Buddhism and also belongs to the pantheon of Tibetan deities. Her clothes represent her deep connection with nature as she derives her healing powers from it. Her leaf skirt blends harmoniously with the surroundings and offers a ready supply of her remedies. It is further adorned with fruit, flowers, and feathers.
She wears a white snake on her neck, crowned with flowers. She also has small snakes as hair ribbons. She wields a small ax (parasu) with a long handle and a small blade. The ax is used for harvesting fruit, herbs, and medicinal plants.
She has six arms and wields different attributes.
With her three right hands, she holds Vajra, ax, and arrow.
In her left hand are the noose, bow, and freshly cut tree branch.
She is visualized as radiant yellow color with the golden glow of supernal well-being. Parnashavari personifies robust vitality. She is youthful, vibrant, and muscular. She has a plump and firm body.
In thangka paintings, she is depicted with a stocky, rotund body form. It is a sign of her good health and the capacity to trample disease demons.
The Healing Nature of Parnashavari
Everything in the universe has healing power, as per the tradition of Buddhism. A healer knows this omnipresent force.
So, Parnashavari personifies the magical healing quality of nature. She tapped this power through her dance, trance, and incantation. Her curative powers are channeled through meditation, ritual, and mantra.
For example, the use of tree leaves as assorted healing rituals is still prevalent in India. Fanning the patient with leaves or tying a leaf garland around the patient's neck or waist, or applying leaves paste or leaf rinse water to the affected area, are some of the popular practices.
The leaves of her skirt have rustic, medicinal, and ritual associations. Her implantation also serves in the ritual capture and binding of diseases. In Himalayan medical theory, diseases are considered not only as bodily conditions but more to this.
When Parnashavari is invoked to perform, she uses her vajra-tipped noose to lasso the negative forces. She clasps the noose with a threatening hand gesture (Tarjani mudra). This signals the entrapment of harmful spirits. Once she extracts the disease demons, she uses her ax to chop them. Her bow and arrow pierce their hearts, rendering them impotent. The ritual dimension of her healing activity is her Vajra. It symbolizes her adamant insight into the illusory nature of all phenomena.
A healer holds the wisdom to recognize the ultimate insubstantiality of a disease. Sacred hand gestures, during the ritual practice, channel the patient’s energy. The physical symptom is the tangible manifestation of negative energy. This energy is embedded in the patient’s psyche due to toxic substances. These are harmful psychological forces. A healer understands that the nature of the disease is to block the energy flow. The practice is to restore a balanced, healthy pattern.
Vajra is a way to direct the energy and address this metaphysical level of the healing process. It strikes through the physical manifestation to the core of the problem.
Following is the song of praise, from a Tibetan meditation manual:
Goddess whose practice pacifies every illness
And all disease-causing demons, I bow before you, divine mother.
Manifesting in every field and village,
Especially appearing in forested places
Homage to you, powerful mountain lady.
Homage to you, playful goddess.
You know all the methods of taming,
adorned with clothing of fresh tree leaves,
Ornamented by many fruits and flowers,
Homage to you, goddess wearing leaves.
With the roar of peaceful mantras,
You pacify epidemics and suffering;
With the thunder of wrathful mantras,
You destroy poisonous spirits;
Homage to your holy speech.
Your peaceful heart soothes living beings;
With deep affection and delight,
You magnify life and glory
0 goddess whose mind is spacious and free, I worship you!
The Healing Method
Buddhist practitioners have access to the healing powers of Parnasavarl in several ways. It begins with the creation of a clear mental image of her. The meditator then absorbs the image and works with her divine healing energies. This is in a mental state of unity with her.
In one method, colored light from the meditator’s body is transmitted to a specific person or location, that are threatened by contagious epidemics. Another method is to make amulets that are imbued with her presence by Dharani recitation. Such an amulet is worn to protect against infectious disease.
A healing practitioner compounds medicinal pellets from herbs, foods, and gemstones as per rituals. And generate her clear image and envision her dissolving into the pills while performing mantra recitations.
Public teachings and initiation ceremonies are staged in Tibetan communities to disseminate her curative influence.
Even though these methods involve physical and ritual acts, it is clearly a process of spiritual purification.
The inner dimension of healing operates on the most subtle levels, eliminating the underlying causes of illness. They clear the blockages for the normal flow of energy. And supplies with resilient to prevent a recurrence of the disease.
Source: Buddhist Goddesses of India, by Miranda Shaw