History of Tibetan medicine
The Tibetan medical system is one of the world's oldest known medical traditions. It is an integral part of Tibetan culture and has been developed through many centuries. We believe that the origin of the Tibetan medical tradition is as old as civilization itself.
Because humankind has depended on nature for sustenance and survival, the instinctive urge to health and accumulated knowledge has guided us to discover certain remedies for common ailments from natural sources. For example, applying residual barley from chang (Tibetan wine) on swollen body parts, drinking hot water for indigestion, and using melted butter for bleeding are some of the therapies that arose from pratical experience and gradually formed the basis for the art of healing in Tibet. The Tibetan medical heritage is based on the book of the Four Tantras (rgyud-bzhi), which remains the fundamental medical text even today.
During the pre-buddhist era, Tibet had religious and cultural influences from the indigenous Bon tradition. There is some evidence to suggest that several forms of medical practice existed at that time. The precise influence of these practices on the evolution of the Tibetan medical tradition, however, is unclear.
Buddha Shakya Muni
The historical Buddha taught the medical text Vimalagotra (Tib: Dri-med Rigs; Eng: Immaculate Lineage) simultaneously with the first turning of the wheel of Dharma at Sarnath on Four Noble Truths.
At the time of the teaching on Jagoe Phungpo'i Ri(Vulture's Peak), the Buddha taught the text gso-dpyad 'bum-pa (One hundred thousand verses of Healing). He also taught gCer-mthong Rig-pa'i rGyud (The Tantra of Bare Vision) to the Avalokisteshvara, Brahma, Shariputra and other Mahayana disciples at Beta Groves. Some believe the OneHundred Thousand Verses of Healing and the Tantra of Bare Vision are the same text with two different names.During the third turning of the wheel, the Buddha taught the gSer-'od dam-pa'i mdo (Supreme Golden Rays Sutra), which contains a chapter entitled "Nad-thams cad zhi-bar byed-pa'i rGyud" (The Ways of Completely Curing Diseases). Buddha also expounded the Gawo mNgal Jug gi mdoj (Sutra of Gawo Entering the Womb in Konchok Tsekpas), VIth Volume. Although Vinaya Sastra (Tib:'dul-ba lung) is a teaching on moral discipline, it contains medical teachings also. In it, Gautam Buddha taught the Sanghas (monastic communities) how to cope with the miscellaneous disorders they faced during their three month summer retreats. It is one of the three basic observances for monks prescribed by Buddha Shakyamuni.
TRADITIONAL TIBETAN MEDICINE
Tibetan medicine is a science, art and philosophy that provides a holistic approach to health care. It is a science because its principles are enumerated in a systematic and logical framework based on an understanding of the body and its relationship to the environment. It is an art because it uses diagnostic techniques based on the creativity, insight, subtlety and compassion of the medical practitioner. And it is a philosophy because it embraces the key Buddhist principles of altruism, karma and ethics.
Buddhist philosophy states that everything in the universe is in a constant state of flux - that all phenomenon are characterised by impermanence, and that the only permanent feature is impermanence itself. As Buddha said, "No matter whether perfect beings arise or not, it remains a fact, and a hard necessity of existence, that all creations are transitory." It is this impermanence that causes each and every being to suffer at one stage or another. Suffering is thus not accidental but springs from a specific cause, whether from this life or a previous life. Only through proper learning and the genuine practice of Dharma can liberate from the vicious cycle of suffering.
Tibetan medical theory states that everything in the universe is made up of the five proto-elements:
1. sa ( Earth )
2. chu ( Water )
3. me ( Fire )
4. rLung ( Wind )
5. Nam-mkha ( Space )Although all five proto-elements are responsible for the formation of each tissue cell, each element has a specific influence:
1. sa exerts a greater influence over the formation of muscle cells, bones, the nose and the sense of smell
2. chu is responsible for the formation of blood, body fluids, tongue and the sense of taste
3. me is responsible for body temperature, complexion, the eyes and the sense of sight
4. rLung is responsible for breathing, skin and the sense of touch and
5. nam-mkha is responsible for body cavities, the ears and the sense of hearing