Did you know that Tibetan medicine is one of the greatest surviving natural medical systems of the world, along with Ayurveda ? Tibetan medicine strives to keep in balance within the body the subtle flow of energy, or Nyipa sum, which is made out of the five elements: air, fire, water, earth and space. And as in Ayurveda, 95% of Tibetan medicine is based on herbs, and precious metals, which are used for the seven kinds of precious pills known as Rinchen rilpo. The methods of diagnosis differ though from Ayurveda – and thereby lies the genius of Tibetan medicine – as the observation of the tongue, along with questioning and palpation, is the principal tool of diagnosis. Tibetan medicine always treats the cause or the root of the disease and illness and not the symptoms. The school of medicine began to flourish 1,200 years ago when Tibet drew on medicinal knowledge from China, Persia and India, buts its origins are shrouded in mystery and many of its secrets have been passed on by word of mouth or are buried in Tibetan writings. The four main medical ‘Tantras’, said to be taught by Buddha himself and written down in Sanskrit more than 800 years ago, are still used by Tibetan doctors today.
And what about Tibetan spirituality ? It is probably one of the finest in the world and as in Tibetan medicine, the emphasis is on self development. There are two ways to create happiness, says Tibetan spirituality: the first is external. By obtaining better clothes, better shelter, and better friends, we can find a certain measure of happiness and satisfaction. The second is through mental development, which yields inner happiness. However, these two approaches are not equally viable, as external happiness cannot last long without its counterpart…. “But, if you have peace of mind, emphasizes His Holiness the Dalai-lama, you can find happiness even under the most difficult circumstances”. The Dalai Lama also reminds us that developing peace of mind means paying attention to our daily attitudes and choices as well as taking the time to meditate and be prayerful.
Tibetan Buddhism helps us too in preparing for a good death by coming to terms with negative emotions – such as anger, attachment, hatred and jealousy – that restrict our freedom, block our joy and cause us to experience suffering. Reading the remarkable Tibetan Book of Living and Dying makes it easier to overcome your own fear of dying and helps you take the responsibility to prepare for your death. It also helps you prepare yourself for the death and dying of your dear and loved ones. Tibetan spirituality could also offer a word or two of advice to terrorists who blow themselves up or ram planes against buildings: “There is no such thing as a doomed soul in Buddhism. But there is such a thing as a prolonged period of suffering over many lives brought on by negative karma. Karma truly means cause and effect, says again the Dalai-lama.’ The terrorists, by killing so many people, are creating a negative karma that keeps them in hell for a long time through many lifetimes of suffering.” And indeed, If you see the Dalai lama today, he radiates so much peace and compassion.
Unfortunately, China does not seem to understand the great value of Tibetan medicine and spirituality. A report by the United States Congress (Resolution Number 63) states that since 1950, when the Chinese invaded this wonderful, peace loving nation, which boasted the highest (although quite feudal) spiritualised society in the world, 1,2 million Tibetans have been killed, either directly: shooting, death squads, torture – or indirectly: concentration camps, prison, or famines. 6254 monasteries, most of them ancient, have been razed to the ground. 60% of religious, historical and cultural archives have been destroyed. A quarter million Chinese troops are occupying Tibet. One Tibetan out of ten is still in jail. There are today In Tibet 7,5 million Chinese settlers for six million Tibetans- in many places such as the capital, Lhassa, Tibetans are outnumbered two to one…
It is not over at all: The summer and autumn of 2001 saw the dismantling of the Serthar Institute, the leading centre for Buddhist scholarship and practice on the Tibetan plateau. Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok founded Serthar Institute in Larung Valley near Serthar town, Karze Prefecture, Sichuan Province in 1980, to meet the pressing need for renewal of meditation and scholarship all over Tibet in the wake of China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-77). This non-sectarian academy of over 8,000 monks and nuns, drew nearly 1,000 Mainland and Overseas Chinese practitioners as students. They were the first group to face expulsion and deportation to their places of origin in June and July 2001. The Chinese- appointed “work teams” next targeted the over 4,000 Tibetan nuns forming Serthar’s affiliated nunnery. The official Beijing directive was to reduce their number to 400 and destroy their meditation huts to ensure the eviction was permanent. According to western monitoring agencies, such as Human Rights Watch, over 1,000 dwellings had been destroyed at Serthar by the beginning of this year, thousands of monks and nuns had been successfully evicted, and Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok is believed to be incommunicado in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan.
Places like the Serthar Institute, house Tibetan treasures – spiritual, medical, cultural and social – which should be conserved, otherwise they will be lost to humanity for ever. “The Chinese should understand that they are destroying the last great living spirituality of their continent. The highlighting of the secrets and the vast knowledge based on the various inner sciences adopted by the Tibetans, goes beyond the research with sophisticated equipment and the Chinese Government should take-up its study in earnest”, says Claude Arpi, the author of the Fate of Tibet (Har Anand, New Delhi). “Above all, he continues, it is ethical learning which did not need the sacrifice of lives. These sacrifices are both in terms of lives lost and pain induced. It is clear that China, which has embarked on a fury of materialistic endeavours, needs spirituality”.
Germans have taken up the language of Sanskrit through their ancient roots and this sets an example for a country like China to take up the wealth of knowledge that is prevalent in Tibet. Tibet is a land of inner sciences and self development processes which can be learnt through various disciplines. These need to be preserved like treasures for the world before it is too late. Tibet in no way presents any danger to China. The Dalai Lama himself said recently : “I am only asking for the Tibetans that they should have full power in the fields where they are capable of managing their own affairs. In the case of defence or foreign affairs, the Chinese can manage our affairs. We are not asking for a separation from China”.