These pages are dedicated to giving a voice to practitioners and students of Tibetan medicine. There are by now many pages on the web devoted to Tibetan medicine, but few are written from the uniquely informed point of view of those who have dedicated years to its study and practice. In Tibetan medicine it is thought that all suffering (and therefore all illness) results from ignorance. We can then safely assume that education is one way to reduce ignorance and its results. I hope a point of view informed by study and practice can benefit all those who are interested in Tibetan medicine and what it has to teach about health and the causes of illness.
With the recent explosion
of fascination with Tibet and Tibetan culture, Tibetan medicine is receiving
greater attention from the public, scholars and the media. As with many
aspects of Tibetan culture, significant and complex issues determine whether
or not Tibetan medicine will continue to survive as a living tradition.
As Tibetan medicine becomes more accessible in the U.S., it is important
to realize that there is a significant difference between Tibetan medicine and
the other rich information and knowledge which the Tibetan people have
already communicated to the West. Whereas religion, culture, and politics
can be freely disseminated here under our First Amendment, the conditions
under which medicine can be practiced in this country are limited by our
culture, science, economics and law.
By synthesizing knowledge from various medical systems, Tibetans created a approach to medical science drawn from thousands of years of accumulated empirical knowledge and intuition about the nature of health and illness. Centuries ago, before Buddhism entered Tibet, Tibetans like all ancient people had a significant degree of medical knowledge. According to traditional sources, in the beginning of the 4th century many new ideas regarding medicine began to enter the country. At first influences came from India in the form of what is now called Ayurvedic medicine, as well as more spiritual and psychologically based systems from Buddhist and other sources. Around the 7th-8th centuries the Tibetan government began sponsoring conferences where doctors skilled in the medical systems of China, Persia, India and Greece presented and debated their ideas regarding health and the treatment of illness. Those with superior abilities in the diagnosis, treatment and understanding of illness were invited to stay and contribute to the country's medical knowledge base. In the 11th century, this knowledge was codified into a unique system containing a synthesis of the principals of physical and psychological medicine imbued with a Buddhist spiritual understanding. This understanding formed a foundation for Tibetan medicine and benefited patients and doctors alike. It acknowledged how health and illness resulted both from the relationship between the mind and the body and people's connectedness to the natural world and sense of spirituality.
For a Biography of the Author:
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Copyright 1998, Eliot Tokar