The Tibetan System Of medicine

The Tibetan System Of medicine

The Tibetan System Of medicine


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The Tibetan System Of medicine

“In this age made totally dark By the five great degenerations, The sentient being constantly tossed In waves of disease, sorrow and pain. Thus Buddha, out of great compassion, Emanates as Bendurya, the Medicine Guru. To shine as a sun in the skies of the world, And dry up the water giving birth to all ills.” A Benediction to the Medicine Budddha. By Gyalwa Kalzang Gyatso

Originally, Tibetan medicine dates back to the pre – Buddhist era. During the Bon Period, various healing techniques were devised and practiced. With the coming  of Buddhism, medical knowledge became an integral part of religious doctrines and monastic discipline. Buddha’s key teachings of the middle way between worldly indulgence and self – denial gave wandering physicians of the period a radically different view of the world and of humankind’s place in it; this was further fostered by their intensely meditative discipline. Medicine thus became a part of Buddhism – providing the means to maintain a healthy bodily state of equilibrium.

Some have suggested that the Buddha’s key teaching of the Four Noble Truths was based on a medical paradigm, whereby suffering, its cause, its suppression, and the method for its elimination find a parallel in midicine to disease, its cause, health and the reedy. But actually the four fold division that occurs in Charaka Samhita is different from the Four Noble Truths. “ The best physician, one fit to treat a king, is he whose knowledge is four fold: (he knows) the cause (hetu), symptom (linga), cure (prasmana), and non-recurrence (apunarbhava) of diseases. Knowledge of medical theory and practice among the sarmanic, Buddhists, however, is indisputable, and the Buddhist sangha, or  monastic community where wandering intellectuals would gather and exchange information, soon became the principal vehicle for the preservation, advancement and transmission of medical lore.

Some of the repository of medical lore was codified at these Sanghas, thereby giving rise to a Buddhist medical monastic tradition. In the early Sangha, membership was quite unrestricted and wanderers joined and left at will. These comings and goings increased the volume of new information available. Debates among the temporary residents were common and luckily included topics related to medicine. As fixed Sangha establishments with permanent resident monks became more common, the knowledge discussed and exchanged was gradually accumulated, filtered and codified, eventually becoming Buddhist doctrine. The symbiotic relationship between Buddhism and medicine led to the teaching of medicine in the large conglomerate monasteries or viharas.

However, even after the establishment of settled monasteries, medicines requisite in sickness remained among the monk’s necessities and constituted one of his four possessions along with a robe, a begging bowl, and a bed.

Tibetan medicine continued to progress due to the efforts of Buddhist monks and the emphasis laid on it by religion. In the process, it derived influences from various external sources. In the second century A.D., it was further influenced by arrival of two physicians from India by the names of Bijay and Gazay. The Brahmin physicians Bijay was given the princess Cham – sing - yekyireoja as his bride by King Lhatho – thori – nyentsen. Their son, named Thung – ki – thorchok, too became a famous physician.

The development of the Tibetan system got an impetus during the 7th and 8th centuries when physicians from Persia, Greece, India, Nepal, China, Sinkiang and other neighbouring states were invited to Tibet by the Kings Sorngstsen Gampa and Trisong Detsen, to exchange knowledge with Tibetan scholars and physicians. Many young Tibetans were enrolled as medical students and nine among them became learned physicians. At this period the great Tibetan translator and scholar, Beru Tsana  (Vaircana) translated the “Ghyushi” (Four Tantras) teachings given by the Kashmiri scholar Chandranandna (Panchen Dawa Ngoenpa), into the Tibetan  language and presented the work to the king. Beside Beru Tsana, the renowned Tibetan physician, Elder Yuthong Yonten Gompo (708 –833 A.D.) too received the “Ghyu – Shi” teachings from India. It is said that the spread of “Ghyu – shi” teachings was not ripe for revelation at that period and Guru Padmasambhavahid the works, until Dapa Ngoenshay revealed this hidden work from the top of the Samye Monastery in the eleventh century.

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