In Part 1 of this 2-part article on Traditional Tibetan Medicine, I discussed the history of this ancient form of medicine.
Today I’ll take a look at how it works.
Tibet’s culture is deeply embedded in the Buddhist way. Accordingly, Traditional Tibetan Medicine is also deeply informed by Buddhism.
Because of this, Tibetan Medicine understands that good health is attained not just by being physically healthy, but also by having a healthy mind as well.
Based on the centuries-old Buddhist study of the mind, Tibetan Medicine gives priority to factors of psychological and spiritual development in its definition of health. It seeks to understand and explain the nature and reason for the suffering people experience in their lives.
It teaches acceptance of and gives meaning to the cycle of birth, sickness, old age, and death we all encounter. Common experiences such as not getting what we want, not wanting what we get, being separated from whomever or whatever is dear to us, and being joined with people and things we dislike becomes a basis of spiritual understanding and growth.
Tibetan Medicine explains how hatred, anger and aggression, ignorance and incomprehension and a materialist view of the world result in states of mind which are at the root of our suffering, and how our habitual patterns of thinking and behaving are the primary cause of illness.
It also asserts that through study and spiritual practice an understanding and awareness can gradually be achieved which transcends that suffering.
Tibetan Medicine attempts to help people become aware of the process of physiological, spiritual and psychological evolution as it originates from what people do, what people say, and what people think.
Every action sows its seed in the mind and will eventually ripen in accordance with its nature, and no experience is seen as causeless. The transient, ever-changing nature of all things is embraced. The conclusion which is reached from this view is the interdependent nature of all things. The highest value is placed on the attainment of compassion and what is termed loving kindness.
Because of this philosophy, I think it is safe to say that Traditional Tibetan Medicine is a deeply spiritual medicine.
Regarding developing good physical health, Tibetan medical theory states that it is necessary to maintain balance in the body’s three principles of function: rLüng (pron. Loong), mKhris-pa (pron. Tree-pa), and Bad-kan (pron. Pay-gen) often mistranslated as phlegm.
Lung is the source of the body’s ability to circulate physical substances (e.g. blood), energy (e.g. nervous system impulses), and the non-physical (e.g. thoughts). In embryological development, the mind’s expression of materialism is manifested as the system of rLüng. There are five distinct subcategories of rLüng each with specific locations and functions: Srog-’Dzin rLüng, Gyen-rGyu rLüng, Khyab-Byed rLüng, Me-mNyam rLüng, Thur-Sel rLüng.
mKhris-pa is characterized by the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of heat, and is the source of many functions such as thermoregulation, metabolism, liver function and discriminating intellect. In embryological development, the mind’s expression of aggression is manifested as the system of mKhris-pa. There are five distinct subcategories of mKhris-pa each with specific locations and functions: ‘Ju-Byed mKhris-pa, sGrub-Byed mKhris-pa, mDangs-sGyur mKhris-pa, mThong-Byed mKhris-pa, mDog-Sel mKhris-pa.
Bad-kan is characterized by the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of cold, and is the source of many functions such as aspects of digestion, the maintenance of physical structure, joint health and mental stability. In embryological development, the mind’s expression of ignorance is manifested as the system of Bad-kan. There are five distinct subcategories of Bad-kan each with specific locations and functions: rTen-Byed Bad-kan, Myag-byed Bad-kan, Myong-Byed Bad-kan, Tsim-Byed Bad-kan, ‘Byor-Byed Bad-kan.
In practice, the Tibetan Medical Doctor begins by interviewing the patient and finding out the pertinent medical history.
The doctor then does a urine analysis, in which the urine sample is examined. In the urine analysis the doctor looks for such things as the color of the specimen and its odor, and then after vigorous stirring, the size, color, amount, and persistence of bubbles, and any deposits. From this the doctor can begin to confirm the nature of the illness, the presence of infection and the localization of the illness among other things.
After that, the doctor feels the pulses in order to perform pulse diagnosis. In pulse diagnosis, the doctor is feeling twelve separate pulses – six distinct pulses at the radial artery of each wrist. The doctor feels for such things as the width, depth, strength, speed and quality of the pulse. Each of those factors when understood properly allows the doctor to clearly define the illness, its location, hidden complications and its etiology.
Once diagnosis is made, treatment can begin. The first consideration in treatment is the principle that all illness ultimately originates in the mind. This does not mean that all illness is psychological or psychosomatic.
Instead, it means that due to ignorance people misperceive the nature of reality and act in ways which create suffering such as illness. Given this basic principle, when treating an illness physicians first begin by recommending specific behavioral and lifestyle modifications.
If this is not sufficient, then physicians work at the level of dietary therapy. If these are not enough to cure the problem, physicians employ herbal medicines or, if needed, physical
therapies such as acupuncture.
Tibetan Medicine believes that the treatment ultimately must fit the patient; that is, treatment must be formulated in a manner which can and will be effective for that individual.
Behavioral and lifestyle modifications can include meditation instruction, spiritual advice, counseling, exercise, or the reorganization of habitual patterns such as sleep habits and eating schedules.
Herbal medicine is a big part of Traditional Tibetan Medicine. It utilizes up to two thousand types of plants, forty animal species, and fifty minerals. Herbal treatments range from simple to very complex, using anywhere from 3 to 150 herbs per formula. Each formula or set of formulas is prescribed to fit the manifestation of the disease and the evolving condition of the individual patient. As a result, herbal medicines often need to be modified at each visit.
If the behavioral modification, diet therapy, and herbal medicine are not sufficient to cure the illness, physicians can also employ therapies such as acupuncture, moxabustion, cupping, massage, and inhalation therapy.
Now I will expand beyond discussing healing approaches and begin to discuss various systems of medicine. As medicine begins to be part of a society’s way of life, it becomes more systematized and formalized, in order that it can be used by the masses.
Ayurvedic medicine is one such system of medicine, and it is the oldest known system of medicine on the planet.
Ayurvedic medicine is native to India. The word Ayurveda comes from the Sanskrit and means, “Science of Life.” In Sanskrit the word ayurveda consists of the words āyus, meaning “longevity,” and veda, meaning “related to knowledge” or “science.”
Ayurveda springs from the Hindu tradition, although Buddhism has also had a major influence on Ayurvedic ideas.
Ayurveda traces its origins to the Vedas, the ancient classical sacred texts of Hinduism. There are four Vedas, and Ayurveda is said to stem from the Veda known as Atharvaveda, which contains 114 hymns or formulations for the treatment of diseases. Ayurveda originated in and developed from these hymns. In this sense, ayurveda is considered by some to have divine origin.
According to legend, the system of medicine was received by a man named Dhanavantari from Brahma, and Dhanavantari was deified as the god of medicine.
Dhanavantari is said to be an avatar of Vishnu from the Hindu tradition, and god of ayurvedic medicine. Dhanavantari was an early Indian medical practitioner and one of the world’s first surgeons.
Based on Vedic traditions, he is regarded as the source of ayurveda. He perfected many herbal based cures and natural remedies and was credited with the discovery of the antiseptic properties of turmeric and the preservative properties of salt, which he incorporated in his cures.
There is a quote attributed to Dhanavantri, in which he says, “I the Lord Dhanavantri brought this healing science on earth from heaven.”
Ayurveda is a medicine of the body, mind and soul, and is closely associated with the other Hindu disciplines of yoga and tantra, which together are seen as the three paths of Vedic knowledge.
According to Robert Svoboda, a doctor of Ayurvedic medicine:
“Because every embodied individual is composed of a body, a mind and a spirit, the ancient Rishis of India who developed the Science of Life organized their wisdom into three bodies of knowledge: Ayurveda, which deals mainly with the physical body; Yoga, which deals mainly with spirit; and Tantra, which is mainly concerned with the mind. The philosophy of all three is identical; their manifestations differ because of their differing emphases. Ayurveda is most concerned with the physical basis of life, concentrating on its harmony of mind and spirit. Yoga controls body and mind to enable them to harmonize with spirit, and Tantra seeks to use the mind to balance the demands of body and spirit.”
Within Ayurveda, there are eight disciplines of treatment, known as Ashtangas. They are:
* Internal medicine (Kaaya-chikitsa)
* Paediatrics (Kaumarabhrtyam)
* Surgery (Shalya-chikitsa)
* Eye and ENT (Shalakya tantra)
* Demonic possession (Bhuta vidya): Bhuta vidya has been
* Toxicology (Agadatantram)
* Prevention diseases and improving immunity and
* Aphrodisiacs and improving health of progeny
Balance is a central theme in Ayurveda. Balance is emphasized; suppressing natural urges is seen to be unhealthy, and doing so may almost certainly lead to illness.
To stay within the limits of reasonable balance and measure is stressed upon. Ayurveda places an emphasis on moderation in food intake, sleep, sexual intercourse, and the intake of medicine.
Ayurveda incorporates an entire system of dietary recommendations, along with lifestyle recommendations, in order to help achieve balance.
To be continued tomorrow…
I’ve discussed about how connecting to the spiritual dimension is an important aspect of living a Low Density Lifestyle, and also the important of silence in connecting you to that spiritual dimension.
At the core of Eastern thought and philosophy is this understanding – that in silencing the mind, you silence the noise, the static, and the chatter that stops you from touching the spiritual force that is the central pulse of the universe.
Ultimately, according to Eastern philosophy, when you touch that spiritual force, you are cultivating the seeds of becoming enlightened, more self-aware, and more self-realized.
Enlightenment is one of the things that living a Low Density Lifestyle can do for you, because, as I said above, when you quiet the noise, you come into contact with both the universe within your soul and the universe of the cosmos.
Above, is a video that tells the story of Prince Siddhartha, who 500 years before Christ, went on a path of seeking that lead to spiritual transformation that turned him into the Buddha. Born into a life of opulence and great material wealth, he gave it all up to become a seeker – to find the answers to life’s deepest questions.
He founded the world’s first religion, and with it altered the way we all understand the nature and meaning of life.
You don’t have to be a Buddhist to enjoy this beautiful film – you can be Hindu, Jew, Christian, Muslim, Sufi, Sikh or any other religion.
Inherent within the film is a universal message: that spirituality plays a core role in life, and that it can be practiced just through the simple acts of kindness, compassion and love.