Jivaka was the physician of the Buddha and the Sangha and a close disciple of the Buddha. The story of Prince Siddhartha who wished to transcend suffering and gain release from the infinite cycles of birth and death led him to the search for truth and final enlightenment. This gives hope to mankind that each one can undertake this journey as the Buddha did and attain liberation. In this journey the Buddha encountered many problems including illnesses and injuries which he bore with dignity and reason.

Birth and early life

There are various versions of his birth. Some state that he was the son of King Bimbisara of Magadha and Amrapali the courtesan and other accounts state that King Bimbisara’s son Prince Abhaya found an abandoned new born baby and adopted him. The child was named Jivaka meaning ‘the one who lives’ as he survived his abandonment. The Prince having raised him, he was also called Kumarabhacca(one who is nourished by the prince). He enjoyed a happy childhood and as he grew up he wished to become a physician. He went to Takshashila to study medicine and after several years of study he returned to Rajagriha the capital of Magadha. On his way he cured the wife of a very rich merchant from chronic headache and in gratitude she paid him a large amount of money. Happy with his success he performed a number of operations and cures. King Bimbisara had a fistula problem and Jivaka cured it successfully. He was paid a huge fee and appointed as the physician to the King. It is said that the Prince Abhaya was delighted at Jivaka’s success and showered him with riches as he regarded him as his own son.

Turning Point

When Ananda came to Jivaka one day to request him to treat the Buddha he did it successfully. On another occasion, a splinter from the rock hurled by Buddha’s cousin Devadutta injured Buddha in his foot and Jivaka treated it till it was cured. Jivaka became an ardent disciple and admirer of the Buddha. In his own Ambavana he built a monastery and dedicated it to Buddha and his monks. He suggested a number of measures to the monks which were diligently followed like cleanliness, protecting the feet and exercises. A number of lay disciples also made use of the free facilities provided by Jivaka. In this way he took great care of the physical health of Buddha and the Sangha. Once, Jivaka presented a beautiful shawl to the Buddha who accepted it to avoid hurting Jivaka who had given it out of love and compassion. To teach the other monks to cultivate non attachment and avoid it being robbed by thieves, Buddha asked Ananda to cut it into strips and sew it up again. The custom of wearing patched garments thus came into practice in the Sangha.

Jivaka’s awakening

Attending to the Buddha and the other monks, hearing his discourses and leading a virtuous life, Jivaka’s inner eye slowly awakened.


Jivaka was influence by Buddhist doctrines and became a firm follower of the Buddha. He even brought the Princes of the royal kingdom to Buddha which enabled them to become lay disciples of the Buddha. He lovingly took care of the Buddha and the monks free of cost and felt blessed to be using his great knowledge and expertise for this great noble purpose.

1.    Wikipedia.com
2.   Buddhanet.net
3.   Alandiashram.org
4.   Accesstoinsight.org
5.   Creative.sulekha.com
6.   buddhismnow.com