Tibetan medicine – Elements, Energies, and Diagnosis
Tibetan medicine is a science, art, and philosophy that provides a holistic approach to health care. It is a science because its principles are enumerated in a systematic and logical framework based on an understanding of the body and its relationship to the environment.
It is an art because it uses diagnostic techniques based on the creativity, insight, subtlety, and compassion of the medical practitioner. And it is a philosophy because it embraces the key Buddhist principles of altruism, karma, and ethics.
Buddhist philosophy states that everything in the universe is in a constant state of flux – that all phenomenon is characterized by impermanence, and that the only permanent feature is impermanence itself.
As Buddha said,
“No matter whether perfect beings arise or not, it remains a fact, and a hard necessity of existence, that all creations are transitory.”
It is this impermanence that causes each and every being to suffer at one stage or another. Suffering is thus not accidental but springs from a specific cause, whether from this life or a previous life. Only through proper learning and the genuine practice, of Dharma can liberate from the vicious cycle of suffering.
Table of Contents
Five Elements in Tibetan Medicine
Although all five proto-elements are responsible for the formation of each tissue cell, each element has a specific influence: sa (Earth) a exerts a greater influence over the formation of muscle cells, bones, the nose and the sense of smell; chu (Water) is responsible for the formation of blood, body fluids, tongue and the sense of taste; me (Fire) is responsible for body temperature, complexion, the eyes and the sense of sight; rLung (Wind) is responsible for breathing, skin and the sense of touch; and nam mkha (Space) is responsible for body cavities, the ears and the sense of hearing.
A healthy body
gSowa rigpa (the art and science of healing or traditional Tibetan medicine, astronomy, and astrology) involves the proper alignment of these divisions that is, the 3 humors, 7 bodily constituents, and 3 excretions — into a state of equilibrium. If this is accomplished, then the body is said to be in a state of health or free from psycho-physiological disorders; whereas a non-equilibrium in any of these energies constitutes a state of disorder or ill-health.
Diagnosis in Tibetan Medicine
The diagnostic techniques include visual observation, touch, and interrogation.
This involves checking a patient’s skin complexion, the color, and texture of his/her blood, nails, sputum, feces, and other general conditions. Special attention is paid to the condition of the patient’s tongue and urine.
Pulse reading forms the most important touching method employed in Tibetan medicine. Only after ensuring an important set of preconditions, the physician proceeds with a pulse diagnosis. This involves placing the three middle fingers at a patient’s radial arteries.
Interrogation forms the most important clinical aspect of the diagnosis. There are three main elements to a medical interrogation:
- determining the causative factors
- determining the site of the illness
- studying the signs and symptoms: this involves the doctor asking the patient about the sort of food and drink s/he has been consuming, and what kind of physical and mental behavior
Tibetan medicines take various forms, from decoctions, powders, general pills, precious pills, and syrups, and are prescribed in small doses a fact that reflects the emphasis Tibetan medicine places on gentle treatment.