This is a general introduction to the fascinating yet complex subject of this ancient science of healing from Tibet. In it, the late Dr. Dolma lectures on many of the fundamental concepts of Tibetan medicine and answers the numerous questions that students of Tibetan medicine have. Mainly compiled from her lectures on the subject during her tour of Australia and Holland, this compilation provides the readers with one of best introductions to Tibetan medicine, its history and the various cures and concepts propounded in its general and secret medical tantras. Being one of the foremost practitioners of Tibetan medicine for over two decades, Dr. Dolma was among the undisputed authorities on the practice and theory of Tibetan medicine. As such, Lectures on Tibetan Medicine will be of interest and use to all the readers interested in Tibetan medicine.
I have always wanted to compile Dr. Dolma's lectures on Tibetan medicine and publish them under one cover. As her son-in- law, I have had easy access to the tapes and typescripts of her lectures translated by different translators at different times in different countries. For this compilation, I have drawn mainly from the lectures at Kolmas in Holland where Dr. Dolma gave a month-long course after attending the first International Conference on Tibetan Medicine at Milan in Italy. I have also drawn from her Australian lectures where she attended the International Conference on Traditional Asian Medicine at the University of Canberra and spoke extensively on different aspects of Tibetan medicine to appreciative audiences everywhere. Whenever and wherever it was possible and necessary, I have personally consulted Dr. Dolma for corrections, clarifications and textual references. Yet in a work of such a nature where much remains to be translated and interpreted in western medical terminology, many theories and concepts are still unclear and mistakes of interpretation and translations remain. For such drawbacks in this edition, I judge myself personally responsible.
As she was always involved with the task of relieving the distress of the patients, Dr. Dolma had neither the time nor the energy to sit for long hours of discussion on a particular aspect of Tibetan medicine. Frankly speaking, she considers the treatment of patients as the most important field of her work as a doctor. In her dedication to her profession and in her compassion for the sick and the suffering patients, she gave no importance to a compilation and publication of her lectures on Tibetan medicine.
It was with some difficulty that I finally succeeded in getting her full consent to bring out the present edition. Though many of the chapters have been re-written and edited after careful consultation with Dr. Dolma, I have tried to keep the essence and original flavor of the lectures, as well as the question and answer sessions that followed the lectures. Suggestions and criticisms from the readers, especially the Tibetan medical community, are always welcome.
Dr. Dolma is a great doctor. Not because she is my mother- in-law, but because she is one of the most magnificent manifestations of the compassionate and selfless Buddhist physicians to whom relieving the pains and suffering of the patients acquire the greatest importance above anything else. Those who have closely observed her during her working hours will attest to the sublime dedication with which she upholds her profession, and the sincerity and compassion with which she applies her immense skill and knowledge of her art to dispel the psychological and physical stress and distress of her patients. Observing Dr. Dolma in action makes the fact clear that knowledge and skill by themselves are not enough to become a good doctor. Love, kindness and compassion towards the patients and a sincere effort to share their hardship is an equal-if not more-important and essential quality of a doctor. Dr. Dolma has both the qualities in ample measure.
Today Tibetan medicine is popular. With a little more effort, it is destined to relieve the sickness and suffering of millions throughout the world. For Tibetan medicine to become such a healing force, more and more doctors must be trained, not only in the traditional medical science itself, but also in the allied sciences of allopathy and other alternative disciplines. This way, Tibetan doctors can combine their traditional skills with the scientific urge to discover and create new skills that can take up the challenge of curing the psychological and physical ailments of Out violent times. For this to happen, the small community of the Tibetan doctors must themselves shed their shell and come out in the open to form a professional community, exchange and enrich their medical ideas and thereby develop an honest sense of appreciation and respect for each other. Only then can this ancient healing science of Tibet become a force that can contribute something substantial and lasting to the world. If in the name of preserving culture, doctors remain chained to an insensitive and mediocre bureaucracy without getting the respect and freedom that they deserve, Tibetan medicine will die a natural death. Once in a while, one doctor or another may become a little famous and have a flourishing practice. Though praiseworthy, this will not be a lasting Tibetan contribution to humanity itself. For that to happen, doctors must have the social and economic respect and freedom to practice their art and refine their skill in a way that is beneficial both to themselves, to their community and to the human society at large.
Tibetan medicine, in theory, is complicated, intriguing and almost pseudo-scientific with its many mythological and religious references. However, in practice, it is simple, convenient and almost scientific. The patient sits in front of the doctor who examines the pulse. If the patient has brought his or her urine, it is also examined. Some questions are asked. According to the reading of the pulse, the urine sample and the answers of the patient, the patient's problem is identified. A medication is prescribed. Some precautions relating to diet and behavior, ete. are given and there ends the scene. No complicated, time consuming, expensive or even painful tests are performed. If a week's medicine is of some help, the patient is advised to continue with the same medication. If it has been of no help, a fresh pulse and other examinations are made and the prescription of the medication undergoes the necessary changes. In this simple way, the treatment continues. Through such an uncomplicated and convenient treatment, many have been cured of chronic diseases like asthma, arthritis, diabetes, ulcer and even cancer, to mention a few. Such a science, so simple yet so secret, has something more to contribute to the world. It is for the Tibetan doctors to take up the initiative and share this almost unique system of healing with the rest of humanity.
Yet sharing this skill of healing with others will be truly challenging. No one, least of all the medical community that exists outside the Tibetan cultural world, will welcome it with open arms. In fact, it will be heard with skepticism and observed with the most analytic, if not negative and condescending attitude by both the lay and professional non-Tibetan medical community. In Holland, Dr. Dolma successfully treated a girl who was suffering from epilepsy. When her parents took the girl to her own doctors who had diagnosed her as epileptic and given up her case as hope- less and incurable, the doctors, instead of appreciating and welcoming the girl patient's remarkable response to Tibetan medicine as prescribed by Dr. Dolma, went back on their original diagnosis and claimed they may have made a mistake in diagnosing the girl as epileptic since, according to them, epilepsy is incurable. This is just one example. In our time of extreme cynicism, Tibetan medicine and doctors will face many uncomfortable challenges of doubt and suspicion. They must overcome such crises of faith and healing with their medical skill and spiritual wisdom. For example, either surprised or shocked by the cures of Tibetan medicine, many wrongly whisper that a strong allopathic drug is being secretly mixed with the Tibetan pills which apparently adds the curative power that has miraculously cured many chronic cases. This accusation may be out of genuine concern. It may also be professional jealousy. Whatever the case, the Tibetan doctors must be prepared to stand up to the challenge of demonstrating their skill and cures to those that are interested in it. They have everything to win. My personal experience of involvement with Tibetan medicine gives me enough courage to state that Tibetan medicine is among the most useful sciences that mankind presently has.
Today at the Kosmos I am meeting all of you who show special interest in Tibetan medicine. And to all of you I extend my greetings and wish that all of us may remain healthy in body and Spirit.
To begin with, there are certain conditions to be met by the doctor who gives the medical teachings and by the students who receives the same teachings. There are three particular qualities concerning the doctor who is giving the teachings. First and foremost, the doctor should consider the place where the teaching is being given as a Buddha-field and not just an ordinary place. Secondly, the doctor should not take himself or herself as an ordinary being but, at this particular moment, they should meditate and visualize that he or she is a deity of the Medicine Buddha and is imparting the medical teachings in such a form and spirit. And lastly, the doctor should not condescendingly consider the students as ordinary beings but as gods and goddesses who have come to receive the teachings with a clear and pure mind.
As to the students receiving the teachings, they also have three requisite qualities. Their mental attitude, metaphorically speaking, should not be like a vase which is turned upside-down; or one with a hole in the bottom and lastly they should avoid being like a vase which is filled with the poison of extreme attitudes. In essence, the students should be open, aware and receptive like a flower vase and the teachings of the doctor is the water that is being poured into the open, aware and receptive vase.
In the first example, the vase turned upside-down shows that when the students do not have the openness to receive the medical teachings, then it would be like the doctor trying to pour the water of medical knowledge into a vase that is turned upside- down. Not even a single drop of water will go in.
The second vase that has a hole in the bottom refers to students who do not seriously concentrate or remember the medical teachings. The student merely hears the teachings but forgets them soon afterwards, like the water poured into a vase that has a hole in the bottom. Slowly the water goes out from the hole. Similarly the student slowly forgets the teachings they has merely heard from the doctor.
The third vase which is filled with poison refers to students who have intelligently grasped the teachings properly but who mix and confuse the teachings with the teachings of other traditions and systems, whether it be another system of medicine or of religion or whatever. So whenever he confuses the teachings of one system with another, it becomes perverted and turns into poison. Therefore, whatever medical teachings that one gets, one must keep it clean, pure and true to its tradition. It should not be adulterated.
When one is receiving the medical teachings, the attitude or the intention should be to eventually help and bring benefit to suffering patients. With such a refined and humanitarian attitude, the teachings cannot be polluted and become poisonous. When
we are receiving this medical teaching, we should not consider that it is for the use and benefit of this particular life as we might die very soon-no one can be certain about the hour of our death. Receiving a teaching is like planting a seed which creates propensity. If it does not benefit in this particular life, it will surely benefit in the next life. It will be very easy to continue study of the system of medicine or whatever in the next life as the propensity is there from the teachings received in this life.
So, I have explained the qualities and defects concerning the doctor and the medical students.
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