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Treatment is specific to each of the four diagnostic categories. The
first consideration in treatment is the principle that all illness
ultimately originates in the mind. This does not mean that all illness is
psychological or psychosomatic.
Rather, it means that due to ignorance
we misperceive the nature of reality and act in ways which create suffering
such as illness. Given this basic principle, when treating an illness
physicians first begin by recommending specific behavioral and lifestyle
modifications. If this is not sufficient, then physicians work at the level
of dietary therapy. If these are not enough to cure the problem, physicians
employ herbal medicines or, if needed, physical t herapies such as
acupuncture. As stated by Dr. Trogawa Rinpoche, the treatment ultimately
must fit the patient; that is, treatment must be formulated in a manner
which can and will be effective for that individual.
Behavioral modification can include meditation instruction,
spiritual advice, counseling, exercise, or the reorganization of
habitual patterns such as sleep habits and eating schedules.
Initial stages of meditation generally include simple breathing
practice and working with one's thoughts in a manner which calms the
mind. Meditation then evolves beyond that point to include specific
contemplations and visualizations which begin a process leading to a
new understanding and perception of the world.
This aspect of the treatment may vary slightly with the diagnosis.
For example, in the case of Lüng disorders, meditation may be
specifically directed toward understanding the impermanent nature of
physical phenomena as a cure for materialism and attachment. In the
case of Tripa disorders, emphasis may be placed on generating a
deep feeling of love and compassion as a cure for aggression and
anger. In Bädkën disorders, meditation will focus more on
developing wisdom as a cure for ignorance.
Physical activity, lifestyle, exercise and habits are also
considered. For example, patients with Lüng disorders are told
to pay special attention to regularity of lifestyle (eg.
eating, sleeping and excretory function), find time for calm
activities and socializing, and exercise in ways that promote good
overall circulation, using techniques such as yoga. Individuals
suffering from a Tripa disorder should avoid situations causing
conflict. They should avoid direct, excessive exposure to the sun and
engage in physical activities which relax them. Patients with Bädkën
disorders should keep warm and perform vigorous exercise such as
running or dancing. Swimming is not appropriate if it involves
immersion in cold water. In the case of a combined disorder such as Mukpo
, behavioral modification is tailored to the particular form the
In recommending an appropriate diet, Tibetan physicians consider
which types of food are harmful and which might be beneficial, the
amount of food to be eaten, the number of meals per day and the
proper meal times. Food is analyzed based on its qualities and
nature as defined by a five element theory. The characteristics and
therefore the nature of all matter then result from the qualities of
these elements individually or in combination. Specific arrangements
of the five elements which occur during embryological development
form the three basic principles of physical function (Wind, Bile,
Phlegm). This is important because the taste of different
foods, their resulting natures, and therefore their effects on the
human organism are also dictated by the specific arrangements of
elements which make up the food. This principle enables
practitioners to think intelligently about diet and health relative
to each individual patient's lifestyle, environment and health
If the above approaches are not sufficient in relieving the
condition, herbal medicines are prescribed. In Tibetan medicine,
herbal treatments range from simple to very complex, in a using
approx. 3 to 150 herbs per formula. Each formula or set of formulas is
prescribed to fit the manifestation of the disease and the evolving
condition of the individual patient. As a result, herbal medicines
often need to be modified at each visit.
Typically, two to four formulas are prescribed, to be taken each
day at specific times. Morning remedies commonly include those for Bädkën
disorders or digestive disorders. Afternoon remedies are typically
used to treat Tripa disorders. Remedies given in the late
afternoon or evening are usually given to treat Lüng
disorders. Ultimately, the organization of the prescription is based
on both the doctor's judgment and the patient's lifestyle.
If the above treatments are not sufficient to cure the illness,
physicians employ therapies such as acupuncture, moxabustion, cupping,
massage, and inhalation therapy.
But despite even the best use of medical treatment we cannot attain good
health simply by being physically healthy. We need to have a healthy mind as
Based on the centuries-old Buddhist study of the mind, Tibetan medicine
gives priority to factors of psychological and spiritual development in its
definition of health. It seeks to understand and explain the nature and
reason for the suffering we experience in our lives.
It teaches acceptance of and gives meaning to the cycle of birth,
sickness, old age, and death we all encounter. Common experiences such as
not getting what we want, not wanting what we get, being separated from
whomever or whatever is dear to us, and being joined with people and things
we dislike becomes a basis of spiritual understanding and growth.
Tibetan medicine explains how hatred, anger and aggression, ignorance and
incomprehension and a materialist view of the world result in states of mind
which are at the root of our suffering. How our habitual patterns of
thinking and behaving are the primary cause of illness. Finally, it asserts
that through study and spiritual practice an understanding and awareness can
gradually be achieved which transcends that suffering.
In Tibetan medicine we attempt to become aware of the process of our
physiological, spiritual and psychological evolution as it originates from
what we do what we say and what we think. Every action sows its seed in the
mind and will eventually ripen in accordance with its nature. No experience
is seen as causeless. The transient, ever-changing nature of all things is
embraced. The conclusion which is reached from this view is the
interdependent nature of all things. The highest value is placed on the
attainment of compassion and what is termed loving kindness.
H.H. The Dalai
Lama on Tibetan medicine
- Basis of
medicine - How
and Why it works
- Future of