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History of Traditional Tibetan medicine

By Source:China Tibet News 2015年10月15日 17:48

Traditional Tibetan medicine is a centuries-old traditional medical system that employs a complex approach to diagnosis, incorporating techniques such as pulse analysis and urinalysis, and utilizes behavior and dietary modification, medicines composed of natural materials (e.g., herbs and minerals) and physical therapies (e.g. Tibetan acupuncture, moxabustion, etc.) to treat illness.

The Tibetan medical system is based upon IndianBuddhist literature (for example Abhidharma and Vajrayanatantras) and Ayurveda. It continues to be practiced in Tibet, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Ladakh, Siberia, China and Mongolia, as well as more recently in parts of Europe and North America. It embraces the traditional Buddhist belief that all illness ultimately results from the three poisons: ignorance, attachment and aversion. Tibetan medicine follows the Buddha's Four Noble Truths which apply medical diagnostic logic to suffering.

As Indian culture flooded Tibet in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, a number of Indian medical texts were also transmitted. Tibet also absorbed the early Indian Abhidharma literature, which expounds upon medical topics, such as fetal development. A wide range of Indian Vajrayana tantras, containing practices based on medical anatomy, were subsequently absorbed into Tibet.

Some scholars believe the Four Tantras was told by the Lord Buddha, while some believe it is the primary work of Yuthok Yontan Gonpo (708 AD). The former opinion is often refuted by saying "If it was told by the Lord Buddha, Four Tantras should have a Sanskrit version". However, there is no such version and also no Indian practitioners who have received unbroken lineage of Four Tantras. Thus, the later thought should be scholarly considered authentic and practical. The provenance is uncertain.

Youthog Yontag Gonopo adapted and synthesized the Four Tantras in the 12th Century. The Four Tantras are scholarly debated as having Indian origins or, as authentically Tibetan with Chinese origins. It was not formally taught in schools at first but, intertwined with Tibetan Buddhism. The pioneering Chagpori College of Medicine was found in 1696. Chagpori taught Gyamtso's Blue Beryl as well as the Four Tantras in a model that spread throughout Tibet along with the oral tradition.

Some believe the Four Tantra to be the authentic teachings of the Buddha 'Master of remedies' which was translated from sanskrit, others believe it to be solely Tibetan in creation by Yuthog the Elder or Yuthog the Younger. Noting these two theories there remain others sceptical as to its original author.

Believers in the Buddhist origin of the Four Tantras and how it came to be in Tibet believe it was first taught in India by the Buddha. The Four Tantra was then in the eighth century translated and offered to Padmasambhava by Vairocana and concealed in a monastery called samye. In the second half of the eleventh century it was rediscovered and in the following century it was in the hands of Yuthog the Younger who completed the Four Tantras and included elements of Tibetan medicine, which would explain all the Indian elements to the Four Tantras.

Although there is clear written instruction in the Four Tantra, the oral transmission of medical knowledge still remained a strong element in Tibetan Medicine, for example oral instruction may have been needed to know how to perform a moxibustion technique.

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