Traditional Tibetan Medicine
Sowa Rigpa (Tib. གསོ་བ་རིག་པ་), the ‘Science of Healing’, is the medical system of Tibet and other Himalayan regions including Bhutan, Nepal, Ladakh, Sikkim, and Mongolia. It is one of the oldest healing traditions in existence, yet it remains fully alive and intact even today. It is unique in that it has incorporated elements from the foreign medical systems of India, China, and Ancient Greece, while retaining its own distinctly Himalayan character, shaped by both Buddhist and pre-Buddhist thought. Sowa Rigpa has the fourfold aim of preventing illness, curing illness, extending life, and cultivating happiness.
The Four Medical Tantras
The essence of Tibetan medical theory and practice is contained within the Four Medical Tantras (Tib. རྒྱུད་བཞི་ “gyüd zhi”): the Root Tantra, the Explanatory Tantra, the Oral Transmission Tantra, and the Final Tantra. The Four Tantras were composed by Yuthok Yönten Gönpo the Elder (729-854 AD) and revised by Yuthok Yönten Gönpo the Younger (1126-1202). Within these volumes are a detailed explanation of the basis of both health and disease; an extremely sophisticated understanding of anatomy (both physical and subtle), embryology, and pathology; a highly effective diagnostic system with emphasis on pulse and urine diagnosis; and a wide variety of treatment modalities including a regimen for diet and lifestyle, herbal medicines, and external therapies such as Ku Nye massage, acupuncture, bloodletting, moxibustion, hot and cold compresses.
"My wish is that Tibetan Medicine would spread
like the infinite expanse of the sky
in order to benefit all sentient beings."
— Yuthok Yönten Gönpo, Father of Tibetan Medicine