Tibetan medicine history

Nowadays, as well as hundreds of years ago, the issue of the origin of Tibetan medicine remains open. The reason for this was both religious and political motives, which, as it turns out, were of great importance not only in modern society, but also in ancient times.

The origins of Tibetan medicine come from the ancient state of Shang-shung (the existence of which until recently was denied by both Tibetan politicians and some “spiritual” leaders). The state religion of Shang-shung, as well as the “pre-Buddhist” Tibet, was the Doctrine of Yundrun Bon (“the Doctrine of the Swastika”). This teaching was passed by Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche. The chief guardians, protectors and propagators of the Shenrab Miwoche doctrine were his own sons and the chiefs of his disciples. In the “Texts of the Seven Treasuries” it is said: The Queen Halme from HE born sons Tobu Bumsan and Chebu Triche. It was Chebu Trishe who collected all the tantras of medicine, (diagnostics) and compiled the” Four Collections ” – BUM SHI.

 The eternal confrontation between the traditional Tibetan religion of Yundrun Bon and Buddhism brought from India is the stumbling block that all Tibetan historians (and not only) stumble over in the study of issues related to the history of the origin of Tibetan medicine, astrology, writing, culture and traditions.

According to the Bon sources, the first medical treatise “Bum-Shi” (“Four collections”) was translated into Tibetan from the Shang-Shung language more than 2000 years ago. There is no doubt that for hundreds of years of development of Tibetan medicine, there were borrowings from various medical traditions: Indian, Chinese, Mongol, and Persian,

and we can find numerous confirmations of this in the historical treatises of any of the schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Purpose of borrowings was no to develop a single tradition, but to a study and a  use as many methods of treatment as possible to relieve living beings from suffering.

Thus, two main medical traditions are currently preserved and practiced in Tibet: 1) Buddhist based on the treatise “Gyushi” and 2) Bon based on the text “Bum-Shi”. There is minimal difference between two traditions, both are using similar methods of diagnosis, treatment, preparation of medicines, etc.

Whichever of the two main versions of the origin of Tibetan medicine we accept (Buddhist or Bon), the main thing that combines and unites these two traditions remains one – relief of all living beings from suffering (regardless of religious beliefs).

According to the Buddhist version of the origin of Tibetan medicine – starting in the fifth century ad, the first Buddhist missionaries began to enter Tibet from neighboring India and China. In the seventh century ad, the Tibetan king Songzang-gampo marries Chinese and Nepalese princesses, along with whom doctors, astrologers and philosophers come to Tibet, carrying a large amount of Buddhist literature. Translation of texts in the Tibetan language begans. The Indian doctor Bharatraja, the Chinese doctor Han Wanghan, and the Persian physician Galenos translate one treatise of their medical systems into Tibetan and this leads to the creation of Tibetan medical text “Weapons of fearlessness”. The Persian physician Galenos, who had extensive experience in performing surgical operations, started a whole line of physicians, thanks to his three sons, who practiced in different regions of Tibet.

Shakyamuni Buddha was born around 961 BC and lived until 881 BC. During his life, he mentored the Buddha Dharma (known as Buddhism). This religion came to Tibet during the reign of king Totori Nyantsen 245-364 ad, (according to the treatise Sorig Kuns Dus)

Later on, Buddhist teachings spread and were able to penetrate in all areas of local culture, becoming the state religion.

In the eighth century ad, the Tibetan physician Yutog Yonden Gonpo (Yutog-pa senior) creates the text “Gyushi” (“Four tantras”) based on medical sources, which is still the main guide to the study of Tibetan medicine. Special attention should be paid to the life of this outstanding doctor.

At the age of three, Yutog-pa told his father, Shung-po Dorje, that he could read and write, and that he remembered by heart numerous treatises on medicine, astrology, and philosophy from his past lives .

When he reached the age of ten, all of Lhasa knew the doctor Yutog-pa. At the age of 15, he cured the king of Tibet, Trisondecen. Trisondecen invited nine doctors from nine countries to Tibet, and yutog-PA won all the arguments amomg them. Later they asked Him to become their Teacher. At the age of 25, Yutog-pa makes three trips to India, where he meets various wisemans and saint hermits.

At the age of 85, Yutog-pa marries the 15-year-old beauty Dorje Zomo (who was considered as a dakini and was the daughter of Hayagriva and Vajravaraha). At the age of 90, Yutog-pa’s first son, Boomsen, is born, and at 96, his second son, Hagen, is born. At the age of 125, together with his wife Dorje Zomo, Yutog-pa realizes the “Rainbow body” and goes to the”Heavenly city of medicine” – Sudurshan. The entire life of this Great Teacher and true Practitioner is replete with amazing events and supernatural deeds. By the Tibetan tradition, he is considered as one of the incarnations of the Buddha of Healing.