Immediately after being born, Jivaka was abandoned and left to die on a rubbish heap by his Mother. Later that day however, Prince Abaya was passing the nearby rubbish dump on his way to the palace when he heard the baby crying. He was so moved to find the baby still alive that he committed to adopt the child and raise him as his own.
At a very young age Jivaka showed unusually high intelligence and profound capacity as a healer. After studying medicine for 7 years he became a renowned physician that treated many kings and noble figures, and eventually he became personal physician to the Buddha himself.
Jivaka was an accomplished yogi that is said to have attained sainthood from his selfless devotion to Buddha Shakyamuni and to the countless numbers of sentient beings he healed. He is mentioned in many Tibetan medical texts and was an influential figure in the development of Ayurveda. He is also regarded as the founder of traditional Thai medicine.
From Jivaka’s story we can see that the compassion it took to save his young life actually led towards him achieving unrivalled greatness as a physician. This enabled him to apply complex knowledge to his own practice of compassion, which of course blossomed into genuine wisdom.
The inspiration that I take from Jivaka’s story is that no matter how advanced or complex our understanding of a particular subject may be, no matter how much power we may have accumulated – it is essentially impotent without the pure simplicity of wanting to help others. Compassion saved Jivaka from an early demise, and the greatness he achieved in his life allowed him to propagate that stream of compassion towards all sentient beings, leaving a healing legacy thousands of years old that is still in the process of ripening…
…and it all started with the will to help a stranger in need.