Tibetan Medicine and Mental Health
Tibetan medicine is like a time-capsule, holding intact the ancient Greek medical system, which it assimilated via Persia; the Ayurvedic medical tradition, which it imported with Buddhism from India; and many forms of Chinese medicine which were gradually incorporated. These layers of medical knowledge and traditions merged with pre-Buddhist shamanic traditions and have continued to develop up to the present as a thriving and highly effective indigenous medical system.

The philosophical basis of Tibetan medicine is rooted in Buddhism. The historical Buddha Shakyamuni, sometimes called the Supreme Physician, is said to have first taught a healing system in India during the 6th century BCE. In many of his teachings, the Buddha used disease and healing as metaphors to illustrate his philosophy of the human condition. From the Buddhist perspective, physical illness is inextricably bound with mental, social and spiritual illness. Thus the Buddhist medical system is more than studies of anatomy, physiopathology and pharmacopoeia. It is a guide to ‘right living’ and involves the spiritual aspects of healing as well.

During the first half of the 7th century, Buddhism was adopted in Tibet by King Songsten Gampo. It was during his reign that physicians from India, China, Nepal, Byzantium and Persia were invited to Tibet for an international medical conference and as well as that importation of Sanskrit leading to the reformulation of Tibetan scriptures later led to translate their medical texts into Tibetan new scriptures. This became the basis for the founding of a sophisticated medical system in Tibet, and led to many years of academic and intellectual exchange.

To this spiritual and philosophical core, based on the unique concept of healing as developed by Buddhist philosophy, (which sees the mind as inextricably linked to all phenomena, including illness and wellness), the Tibetans added a whole array of ideas and concepts along with actual treatments and medications. This original blend created a complex system of healing which interweaves spiritual, ‘magical’ and rational healing practices based on the view of health as a harmonious balance between Man’s deep relationship with his physical, mental, spiritual and natural worlds.

The Tibetan medical system developed a vast body of medical literature, the oldest surviving written system of medical psychiatry, an enormous herbal pharmacopoeia and a complete system of diagnosis and treatment. The diverse and complex elements that constitute Tibetan medicine — its highly refined ethical principles, its philosophical and psychological structure — deserve serious attention, study, documentation and preservation by the international scientific community.

Essence of Tibetan Medicine

The basic theory of Tibetan medicine is to keep in balance the Nyipa sum – they are rLung (pronounced loong), mKhris-pa and Bad-kan. The long-term causative factors of Nyipa sumare the three poisons of desire, hatred and delusion which show how closely connected Tibetan medicine is with Buddhist philosophy.

The science of medicine from the snowy land of Tibet… has methods to bring about a long and healthy life. In general, Tibetan medicine is an excellent science that is able to prevent illness and cause people to live long, as well as to heal illness and alleviate the sufferings which accompany illness when it does occur. ”  – (ref- Dr. Tashi Pedon)

Tibetan culture maintains a deep and powerful integration of spiritual and practical understanding.

The Tibetan healing tradition respects both influences as well as its fundamental concern with the doctor-patient relationship.
There is a single general cause of all different illnesses which find its roots in the concept of humors. In short, to be in good health all these humors have to be balanced. When a humor becomes weak or too strong it creates some unbalance which therefore leads to disease. The concept of disease is itself linked to the Buddhist philosophy premises called self-grasping, one of the so-called: Poisons. The imbalance causes of the Three Humors leading to diseases are accordingly: desire, anger and stupidity, linked to ignorance.

The various psychiatric disorders are caused by internal and external factors that can be categorized as follows on the basis of various online sources.

Internally, basic mental disequilibrium and three humors pathology are the ones while externally, intoxication, microbes and wicked forces can be summoned upon.

A site on Tibetan Medicine education describes various methods and therapies to cure the diseases according to their origin and pathological conditions on the foundation of Tibetan Medical psychiatry. In short, the following methods can be applied to recover from the imbalance of mind and restore the body kingdom.

•    Medication
•    Mantra recitation
•    Soul retrieval
•    Nutrition
•    Change of lifestyle
•    Golden needle
•    Moxibustion
•    Meditation
•    Tibetan Yoga
•    Maning Hadhon practice
•    Bodhicitta cultivation
•    Receive initiation
•    Wear amulets
•    Use of incenses
•    Oil massage, etc