Tibetan Medical System

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The Tibetan medical system, centers around restoring and maintaining balance between three physical factors- the three humors called wind, bile and phlegm and its treatment through diet, behaviors, medicine and accessory therapy.


[edit] Introduction

This medical system is based on Compassion, is dedicated to eliminate sufferings and maintain balance of body humor so that one can stay happy. The great strength of Tibetan medicine is that it is oriented around patient’s symptoms and so is delicately responsive to symptom clusters, no complaint being disregarded. The basic system has been enhanced by the practical findings of Tibetan physicians who have used the system for more than a thousand years.

Tibetan Medicine believes that the root cause of all illness is ignorance and due to its force, one is caught in cyclic existence, in the round of repeated birth, aging, sickness and death. Though this system involves medicines and diet suggestions, the Tibetan medical system also uses healing tantric rituals and symbolism and all come together to create a spiritual pattern of healing. Iconography, musical chants, prayer mantras, objects of worship such as prayer wheels and prayer flags, mandalas (geometric paintings or drawings) and visualizations are utilized to focus and objectify the source and are all brought together to create a holistic healing power.

[edit] Origins of Illness

Sakhyamuni Buddha said that there are 84,000 different types of afflictive emotions, such as desire and hatred, which have corresponding effects on humans, thus producing 84,000 different types of disorders. These can be condensed into 1016 types of disorders, which can be further condensed into 404.

The factor that result in the disorders can be divided into causes and conditions. Causes are of two kinds- distant and proximate. The proximate causes are wind, bile, phlegm whereas the distant causes have their origins in the emotions of the past.

[edit] Classification of Disease

Disorders can be classified by different methods in terms of location in the body, type, environmental factors and so forth.

  • 101 disorders that are under the strong influence of actions in previous lifetimes.
  • 101 disorders of this lifetime -- which have their causes in an early period of life and manifest later in this lifetime.
  • 101 disorders involving spirits.
  • 101 superficial disorders, called so because by simply following proper diet and behavior patterns one can correct them without having to take medication and therapy.

With respect to diseases that involve interference by spirits, there are, according to the Buddhist explanation, unseen forces that can harm an individual and thus, even if there is not a visible cause of disorder, the person can be afflicted with pain and different forms of illness.

[edit] Diseases Cured

In theory, According to the Buddhist belief, Buddha taught everything about pathologies and their cures. However, the system also believes that everyone’s life is ruled by his or her own karma or destiny that eventually leads to death and rebirth. Therefore there are some diseases that cannot be cured by medicine. In Tibetan Medicine, they are called karmic diseases. But, despite that, medicine and therapies do restore the system and relieve pain and suffering throughout life.

Like many of the alternative therapies, the Tibetan Medical system also takes a holistic view of the person and problems and aims at promoting a better way of life. Tibetan medicine has been particularly successful at treating many chronic conditions such as rheumatism, arthritis, stomach ulcers and digestive problems, asthma, skin problems such as eczema and liver disorders. It has also been successful in curing emotional disorders and nervous system problems.

[edit] Treatment

In Tibetan medical system the diagnosis is done in three steps-

  • Visual observation
  • Touch or pulse reading
  • Interrogation.

It also looks at treatment from a four pronged direction-

  • Diet Consideration- The diet therapy is based on the individual's constitution and the particular humoral disorder.For example, people who suffer from the wind disorder should avoid coffe, tea, spinach, apple, lettuce, papaya etc and they are asked to consume milk, meat, chestnuts, eggplant, spicy food, garlic and eggs amonng othe things. Those who suffer from Bile disorders should not eat fatty meats, alcohol, seafood, spicy food, lemon etc and should have lentils, carrots, soy milk, banana, bread, rice, pine apple and such. And those who suffer from Phlegm disorder should avoid sweets, pre cooked food, raw vegetables, fats, yogurt, cold tea, carrots while consuming mlamb, barley, nettles, parsley, honey, cherries and spicy food.
  • The way of living- Patients are asked to lead a dharmic life practising generosity and altruism.
  • Prescription of medicine
  • and if required,surgery.

Both medicines and surgery are not normally reccommended by the experts. Medicines are normally made of different herbs and are in powder, pill or decoction and syrup form. If done in the right manner, there are no known side efexts to this medicine.

[edit] Texts of Tibetan Medical Sysytem

The basic medical literatures of the Buddha are four –

  • Root Tantra -- It is a short text and mainly presents an outline of the whole medical teaching.
  • Explanatory Tantra- It deals with the formation of the human body, anatomy, signs of death etc.
  • Oral tradition Tantra- It identifies the different types of disorders- their causation and nature and therapy.
  • Last Tantra – It deals with methods of diagnosis as well as manufacture of medicines.

The three physical factors can be further divided into –

  • Five biles – Digestive bile, colour regulating bile, determining bile, sight bile, complexion clearing.
  • Five Phlegm- supportive phlegm, decomposing phlegm, experiencing phlegm, satisfying phlegm, connective phlegm.
  • Five winds- life-sustaining wind, ascending wind, pervasive wind, fire-accompanying wind, descending wind.

Tibetan Medical system considers heart, lungs, liver, spleen and kidneys as the five vital organs and the practitioners of Tibetan medicine holistically consider factors of personality, season, age, climatic conditions, diet, behavior and physical surroundings in addressing the means for restoring health.

[edit] Conclusion

Everyone wants happiness and a long life and does not want suffering. This system of medicine believes that in order to get rid of suffering, disease and to lengthen life span, there are various methods which one can employ. And so Buddhist medicines are not like non-Buddhist medicine, for it utilizes three levels of potency- the entities of medicinal ingredients, the power of mantra, and the power of meditative stabilization. The ingredients basically may be the same but in the Buddhist system various medicines are activated through the practice of specific deities.

In case, more information is required or one wants to contact a qualified medical practitioner, one can visit TibetMed

[edit] Did You Know

  • It is a unique system where medical science & spirituality are blended harmoniously together to offer total health to all
  • Yuthog Yonten Gonpo Nying-ma is known as the Father of Tibetan Medicine
  • Passed down through the centuries in a most closely guarded secret, Tibetan medicine still enjoys unbroken continuity.
  • The medicines used are chiefly natural herbs. Besides, some precious & semi-precious stones, salts, minerals & some animal extract are also being used.
  • One of the unique features of the TMS is its close relationship with the Tibetan Astronomy & Astrological aspect.

[edit] References

  • Tibetan Medical & Astro. Institute
  • Introduction to Tibetan Medicine
  • Tsarong, T.J. Fundamentals of Tibetan Medicine.