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Origin and Development of Tibetan Medicine (part 3)

"Tibetan Medicine"  Gerti Samel


                                                    "The Four Tantras


The Four Tantras are also known under their Tibetan name of rGyudhzi, which is pro-

nounced (and sometimes written as) 'Gyushi'.  It means 'the secret oral traditioin of the

eight branches of the science of healing'.  The rGyudhzi possesses a similar fundamental

character to the Huangdi Neijing of Chinese medicine, or the Samhitas of Ayurvedic me-

dicine.  To this day, it is the central work upon which Tibetan medicine is based.


In the rGyudzhi, the Ayurvedic teaching of the threefold nature of bodily energies (the

doctrinne of the three 'body fluids') is combined with Chinese astrology and teachings about the pulse.  This treatise is composed of four separate works, each one of which examines medical knowledge from a different perspective.


                                                   The Fifth Dalai Lama


Lobsang Gyatso (1617 - 82), 5th Dalai Lama, is regarded as one of the greatest promoters of Tibetan medicine.  During his rule,Tibetan medical practice and culture reached a high point.  Under the aegis of the Yellow Church, to which he belonged, the 'Great 5th' reestablished  Buddhism as the national religion and ordered that Tibet should once more become centrally ruled, which it had not been for a long time.


This Dalai Lama was particularly interested in the Four Tantras.  He commisioned a new

block-printed edition of the texts, and promoted the manufacture of the 'jewel' or 'pre-

cious' pills described in them.


He was keen to clarify the still-disputed origin of the Four Tantras.  He used his authority to promote the view that the Buddha Shakyamuni had proclaimed this medicine in India towards the end of his life, by taking the form of the 'Master of Remedies'.  Many fundamentalist Buddhist doctors and scholars adhered to this belief right up to the 21st century.  The work itself states that it is a translation from Sanskrit of the 'Master of Remedies Buddha.'


This Buddha bears the name Bhaishaiyaguru (the radiant king) because healing rays em-

anate from him.  He is almost always portrayed in a blue-green aquamarine color and is also known as Vaidurya - King of Aquamarine Light.  Over the centuries, seven further

Buddhas joined the Medicine Buddha.  Their common distinguishing feature is that they carry a branch or fruit of the myrobalan tree in their right hand.


The 5th Dalai Lama appointed his spiritual son, Sangye Gyamtso (1653 - 1705) as his re-

gent, to assume rule until the next Dalai Lama took office.  This extremely learned man continued the work of his master in an ambitious and perfectionist manner.  His efforts culminated in a new version of the Four Tantras.  He also added to it his famous com-

mentary, known as the 'Blue Beryl', making it more comprehensible to posterity.  This new edition and its commentary have been the foundation of Tibetan medicine ever

since.  Medical students still spend most of the first four years of their study learning the Four Tantras by heart."

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