Tibetan medicine, developed over the course of over one thousand years in the isolated mountainous terrain of Tibet and preserved despite China’s decimation of Tibetan customs, views healing in a much different way than Western physicians. Tibetan medicine emphasizes science, faith, perception, spirituality, karma, and philosophy, whereas Western medicine is based almost entirely on science. In the West, religion and spirituality are believed to have absolutely nothing to do with healing and medical practice. Without looking at Tibetan medicine in depth, the Westerner could easily dismiss Tibetan medicine as superstitious and unscientific; however, Tibetan Medicine is often very successful at treating illness, and Tibetan physicians can often cure the root of the problem, rather than merely performing a quick fix to a localized part of the body as in the West. Tibetan doctors do not recommend simply popping a pill. Instead, they see illness as a manifestation of the body’s imbalance and seek to correct this imbalance. In order to cure a disease, behavior, lifestyle, and one’s individual ‘humoral constitution’ (the three humors and the way in which they function in the body will be fully explained later) are all very important.
In order to gain a fuller understanding of the Tibetan approach, as well as appreciate why it has remained so unknown to Westerners despite its lengthy existence, one must consider the Tibetan and Western medical traditions simultaneously. One is also inclined to consider if aspects or methods of diagnoses from the Tibetan tradition could be incorporated into Western medicine since each form of practice has own benefits – Western medicine has highly sophisticated technology and the ability to perform complicated surgical procedures, while Tibetan medicine is effective in treating the underlying cause of illness and healing more than just superficial symptoms. Unfortunately, it seems that due to such dramatically different philosophies concerning medicine and the human body, as well as a different view concerning the usefulness of religion and spirituality in medicine, it would be quite difficult to merge these two approaches.
The ancient discipline of Tibetan medicine can be traced back to approximately to 367 CE, when the twenty-eighth king, Thothori Nyenthsen reigned. Introduced by Biji Gadjé and Bilha Gadzey, Tibetan medicine had an Indian origin and began as an exclusively oral tradition. Years later, during the reign of King Songtsen Gampo (617-650 CE), Tibetan medicine became a written tradition. Years later, during the reign of King Trisong Detsen (742-797), both the practice of Tibetan medicine and the spiritual practice of Buddhism became widespread. According to tradition, Tibetan medicine can be traced back to the Buddha himself. It is said that the Buddha revealed the Four Tantras (The Root Tantra, The Explanatory Tantra, The Oral Instruction Tantra, and The Final Tantra), which...