Traditional Tibetan Medicine (Sowa Rigpa)
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, and stick therapy.
The Yuthok Nyingthig
The Yuthok Nyingthik (Tib. གཡུ་ཐོག་སྙིང་ཐིག་), the ‘Heart Essence of Yuthok’, composed by Yuthok the Younger, is a complete cycle of Vajrayana Buddhist practice, beginning with the preliminary practices (Tib. སྔོན་འགྲོ་ “ngöndro”) and progressing through the development and completion stage practices to the highest practices of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. It is characterized by its concise and simple methods which bring about both worldly benefits, including improved health and longevity, as well as the ultimate benefit of complete spiritual liberation. The Yuthok Nyingthik is the main spiritual practice of Tibetan physicians, and it contains many unique techniques to heighten the intuition and healing capacities of the doctor.