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Origin and Development of Tibetan Medicine (part 2)


"The First Medical Texts


Under the rule of King Songsten Gampo many texts from India were translated into

Tibetan.  There was a lively cultural exchange between India and Tibet and the Chinese

princess Weng Cheng is said to have brought a medical text from her homeland that was

translated into Tibetan.  Songsten Gampo gathered many scholars from India, China and

Persia at his court, including doctors, but the king's  most outstanding achievement was to develop the Tibetan script.  Since this time Tibet's history has been recorded.


In the 8th c. King Tisong Detsen (742-98) succeeded in creating a broader base for Bud-

dhism by raising it to the status of national religion in Greater Tibet.  It is also thanks to

this king that Indian medical texts were translated into Tibetan for the first time, and these are said to have contributed to the development of Tibetan medicine.


The texts which King Tisong Detsen had collected were very extensive but they were also confusing and sometimes contradictory. His physician, the learned Yuthong Yonten

Gonpo the Elder, took it upon himself to make sense of them.  Born in 786, Yuthong lived to the age of 125, and is still known as one of Tibet's most famous doctors.  Many regarded him as the incarnation of the Medicine Buddha.


Yuthong the elder journeyed to India three times to learn from doctors there.  In order to deepen his understanding of the medical texts, he even arranged a debate between a number of Asian medical experts.  Afterwards he interwove the best parts of these texts and created a new whole, which became the original Tibetan doctrine of medicine.


The time was not yet ripe for this knowledge and so the medical texts were concealed

so that they might be rediscovered later by the people who were destined to dissemin-

ate them.  That is why they lay hidden in the Samye monastery for 300 years.  The texts

were not found until the 12th century, when they fell into the hands of Yuthong Gonpo

the Younger (1126-1212).  Like his namesake, this Yuthong was not only regarded as a great scholar but also as a Tantric master.  He probably added to the texts from other sources and adapted them to the needs of the time, creating a medical treatise known as the 'Four Tantras', which even modern researchers have come to describe as a 'mag-

nificent, highly complex work by a Tibetan author of high creative intelligence.'"

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