The Tibetan medical
system is one of the world's oldest known medical traditions.
It is an integral part of Tibetan culture and has been
developed through many centuries. We believe that the
origin of the Tibetan medical tradition is as old as civilization
Because humankind has depended on nature
for sustenance and survival, the instinctive urge to health
and accumulated knowledge has guided us to discover certain
remedies for common ailments from natural sources. For
example, applying residual barley from chang (Tibetan
wine) on swollen body parts, drinking hot water for indigestion,
and using melted butter for bleeding are some of the therapies
that arose from pratical experience and gradually formed
the basis for the art of healing in Tibet. The Tibetan
medical heritage is based on the book of the Four
which remains the fundamental medical text even today.
During the pre-buddhist era, Tibet had
religious and cultural influences from the indigenous
Bon tradition. There is some evidence to suggest that
several forms of medical practice existed at that time.
The precise influence of these practices on the evolution
of the Tibetan medical tradition, however, is unclear.
Buddha Shakya Muni
The historical Buddha taught the medical text Vimalagotra
(Tib: Dri-med Rigs; Eng: Immaculate Lineage) simultaneously
with the first turning of the wheel of Dharma at Sarnath
on Four Noble Truths.
At the time of the teaching on Jagoe Phungpo'i
Ri(Vulture's Peak), the Buddha taught the text gso-dpyad
'bum-pa (One hundred thousand verses of Healing).
He also taught gCer-mthong Rig-pa'i rGyud (The
Tantra of Bare Vision) to the Avalokisteshvara, Brahma,
Shariputra and other Mahayana disciples at Beta Groves.
Some believe the One Hundred Thousand Verses of Healing
and the Tantra of Bare Vision are the same text with two
During the third turning of the wheel,
the Buddha taught the gSer-'od dam-pa'i mdo (Supreme
Golden Rays Sutra), which contains a chapter entitled
"Nad-thams cad zhi-bar byed-pa'i rGyud" (The Ways
of Completely Curing Diseases). Buddha also expounded
the Gawo mNgal Jug gi mdoj (Sutra of Gawo Entering
the Womb in Konchok Tsekpas), VIth Volume. Although Vinaya
Sastra (Tib:'dul-ba lung) is a teaching on
moral discipline, it contains medical teachings also.
In it, Gautam Buddha taught the Sanghas (monastic communities)
how to cope with the miscellaneous disorders they faced
during their three month summer retreats. It is one of
the three basic observances for monks prescribed by Buddha
Lha Thothori Nyantsan
The Indian physicians Biji Gaje and Bilha
Gaje were born to rNga-Chenpo, the King of Vajrasana
(BodhGaya), and his two wives, on the daughter of a drum
maker and the othert the daughter of a bell maker. The
mothers offered ten drums and ten bells to the Mahabodhi
Stupa of Vajrasana and made prayers for their Children''
success in benefitting sentient beings. When the boy and
girl grew older, they requested of their parents to learn
the Science of Healing. After getting permission, they
went to Taxilla in Pakistan and studied medicine under
the great Physician Atreya. Afterwards, they travelled
throughout India and also visited China, Nepal and East
Turkistan (which is now under China and called Xinjiang
Autonomous Region). They also received medical teachings
from another great physician, Kumara Jivaka, at Magadha.
When they were in Vajrasana, Arya Tara
prophesied that they would go to Tibet and propagate the
Medical Science. During the reign of the 28th King, Lha
Thotho-Ri-Nyantsen, Biji Gaje and Bilha Gaje did visit
Tibet. The King invited them to his Palace, Yumbu Lakhar,
after hearing news about the healings they rendered to
Tibetans. He requested them to remain there to teach and
practice, and he gave his daughter Yidkyi Rolcha as a
bride to Biji Gaje. It is believed that Biji Gaje and
Bilha Gaje are still alive and exist in a forest of sandalwood
after attaining immortality during retreat with empowerment
from their medicines.
Dung gi Thorchog (Dates Unknown)
From Biji Gaje and Yidkyi Rolcha the first
known physician in Yuthog lineage, Dung gi Thorchog, was
born in the 4th century. He learned the art of pulse reading,
pharmacology, moxibustion, blood letting, and dressing
and treatment of wounds from his father at an early ae.
He became eminent in his field and was
personal physician to his grandfather, King Lha Thothori
Nyantsen, and Trinyan Zungtsan. He was one of the most
innovative physicians in Tibet and under his lineage the
famous Yuthog Yonten Gonpo is said to have been born.
His successive sons continued the lineage and served as
personal physicians to the kings of their times for four
King Songtsen Gampo
During the reign of the 33rd King, Songtsen Gampo, eminent
physicians from India (Bhardvaj), China (Han Wang Hang
De), and Persia (Galenos) were invited to share their
kinowledge with Tibetan physicians. Each physician wrote
a treatise that was later incorporated into a text called
Mijigpe-Tsoncha (A Fearless Weapon), which contains
seven volumes. This was presented to the king.
Although the Indian and Chinese physicians
returned to their countries, Ganlenos remained in Tibet
to practice and teach, and wrote several texts on medicine.
In addition, King Songtsen Gampos's Chinese wife Kong-jo
had brought a Chinese medical text with her, which was
translated into Tibetan by Hashang Maha Deva and Dharma
Trisong Deutsen (718-785 A.D.)
In the 8th century, King Trisong-Deutsen
invited several great physicians for the first ever known
medical conference at Samye, Tibet. In attendance were
eminent physicians from India, China, Persia, East Turkistan,
and Nepal. Elder Yuthog Yonten Gonpo represented Tibet.
The conference lasted for several days, during which time
the delegates discussed the theoris and practices of their
medical systems in comparison to those of the others.
Elder Yuthog Yonten
Gonpo ( 708-833 A.D.)
Yuthog Yonten Gonpo was born at Toelung Kyina to Yuthog
Khyungpo Dorjee and Gyapa Choeky Dolma on the 25th June.
In the tradition and father-son lineage, he learned from
his father and started practicing basic elements of medicals
science at early age. In order to test his knowledge,
the King Me-Agtsom summoned him at the age of ten for
a debate with the famed Tibetan physician Drangti Gyalnye
Kharphug and many others. Yuthog emerged victorious and
became supreme among the nine eminent physicians of Tibet.
His clever answers to the visiting scholars, such as Shanti
Garhwa of India and Tongsum Gangwa of China, earned Yuthog
a great reputations amongst them, and he was respected
by all as an emanation of the medicine Buddha.
Yuthog Yonten Gonpo became the personal
physician to the Tibetan kings Me-Agtsom and Trisong Deutsen.
He visited India several times to study with eminent physicians
and travelled to China as well. He established Tibet's
first medical institute called "Tanadug" at Kongpo Manlung
in the south in 763 A. D., which no longer exists. He
devoted his whole life to the propagation and promotion
of Tibetan medical science.
Lang Darma (863-906
In A.D. 896, the King Tri Ralpa Chen (866-896
A.D.) was murdered and his elder brother Lang Darma enthroned.
Due to Lang Darma's poor administration of the central
government, Tibet disintegrated into civil war. Buddhism
was completely destroyed in the central parts of Tibet,
but survived in the far east and west. For the next 364
years Tibet was decentralized and weakened.
Lochen Rinchen Sangpo
Lochen Rinchen Sangpo was born in 958,
amidst portentous signs, in a small hamlet called Radni,
situated in present Tibetan territory beyond the Shipki
pass, which separated Kinnaur and Spiti from the province
of Guge to their east. From his birth he displayed uncommon
qualities that soon led him to master the Buddhist scriptures.
In the later development of Buddhism, the
great translator Lochen Rinchen Sangpo (958-1056 A.D.)
with all his effort revived Buddhism and Tibetan Medicine.
He travelled to Kashmir and received medical teachings
such as Ashtanga Samhita (Tib: Yan-lag brGyad-pa'i
sNying-po bsdus-pa; Eng: Condensation of the Essences
of Eight Branches) and its commentary, Dhaser (Moonlight)
and the veterinary text Shali Hotra from the great
Pandit Chandra Ananda, which later he translated into
Tibetan. His work enhanced the development of Buddhism
as well as medicine in Tibet.
Junior Yuthog Yonten Gonpo (1126-1202
Junior Yuthog Yonten Gonpo was the 13th
in the lineage of the Elder Yuthog Yonten Gonpo. Born
in Goshi Rethang to Yuthog Khyungpo Dorjee and Padma Oden,
he began studying medicine at the age of eight. At ten,
he received the whole teachings of rGyud-bzhi from
Rogton Konchok Kyab, and from the age of eighteen he visited
India six times and received teachings from Dakini Palden
Trengwa and the sage Caraka.
On his return to Tibet, Yuthog Yonten Gonpo
dedicated his life to the practice of medicine for the
benefit of all sentient beings. He wrote Serchen (Golden
Notes), Zongchen (Wealthy Notes), cha-lag bco-brGyad
(Eighteen Supplementary Works), and Nyingpo Duspa
(Condensation of the Essences) and a commentary on its
theoretical points called Thongway Melong. He gave
his entire teachings to his best disciple Yeshe Sung.
Of his many disciples, three hundred of them are well
Jangpa Namgyal Dragsang (1295-1376
Jangpa Namgyal Dragsang was the seventh
in the lineage of King Se'u of Minyag. He was awarded
the title Rinpoche Thamks by the King Gongma-Sechen. He
was born to Gu'i-ging Chodrak Palsang and Bumkyong-Gyalmo,
the daughter of Situ Chorin, at Ngam-ring. At the age
of ten, he learned Sutra, Tantra and medicines from Palden
Naggi Rinchen and Bodong Chogle Namgyal. He wrote many
books on Buddhist Philosphy, Crafts, and Astrology, and
eleven books on Medicine. He is one of the two renowned
founders of the Jangpa tradition of Tibetan medicine.
Mi'i Nyima Thong-wa Donden was one of his best disciples.
Zurkhar Nyamnyi Dorjee (1439-1476
Zurkhar Nyamnyi Dorjee was born to Rigzin
Phuntsok and the daughter of Kunkyen Tashi Namgyal in
the Earth Sheep year. He learned Buddhist philosophy and
medicine from many renowned scholars and, at the age of
16, he wrote Manngag-Jewa-Ringsel (Pith Instructions,
Relics in Crores) and many other treatises. He was the
founder of the Zurlug tradition of Tibetan medicine.
Later, his grandson Zurkhar Lodoe Gyalpo wrote a commentary
on rGyud-bzhi called Mepoi Zallung (Oral
Instructions of my Forefathers).
Regent Sangye Gyatso (1653-1705 A. D.)
Sangye Gyatso was born to Asug and Buthi
Gyalmo in the Water Snake year. He began his studies at
the age of five and when he was eight, he learned Sutras
and Tantras from the Great Fifth Dalai Lama. He learned
Astrology and grammar from Darpo Lotsa, Yangchar
(Arisal of Vowels, an Astrology) from Lugo Dachen Ngag
gi Wangpo, and medicine from Jangpa Lhunding Namgyal Dorjee,
and he became an expert in all these fields.
Sangye Gyatso was appointed Regent by the Great Fifth
Dalai Lama (1617-1682). During his 26 years in this position,
the Potala Palace was rebuilt and expanded to its present
size and the golden stupa of the Great Fifth Dalai Lama
was built. Under his guidance, seventy nine medical thangkas
were produced, the rGyud-bzhi was edited and published,
and the Chagpori Medical College was established in Lhasa
in 1696, the Fire Mouse year. Sangye Gyatso wrote many
books on astrology, especially Vaidurya-Karpo (White
Beryl), and medicine, including Vaidurya sNgon-po
(Blue Beryl), the most popular commentary on the rGyud-bzhi.
| Rev. Khyenrab Norbu (1883-1962
Rev. Khyenrab Norbu
was born to Astrologer Ngawo-che and Yangchen in
the Water Sheep year at Tsethang, southern Tibet.
He was admitted to Ngachoe Monastery, and was known
to be good in his studies, intelligent, compassionate
and humble. As a result, he was selected from many
young monks as a candidate to study medicine and
went to Chagpori Medical College in Lhasa. There
he was taught by Dr. Ngawang Choden. He passed his
exams in a relatively short time.
In order to preserve and expand Tibetan
medicine, the Great Thirteenth Dalai Lama (1876-1933)
in 1897 appointed Tekhang Jampa Thubwang and Jabung
Damchoe Palden as his senior and junior physicians
respectively, and ordered them to teach selected
students. Khyenrab Norbu, Tenpa Yarphel and Tsultrim
Nyandrag were chosen from Chagpori Medical College
to study under the senior physician and they received
teachings on rGyud-bzhi and its various commentaries
such as Vaidurya sNgon-po (The Blue Lapis
Lazuli). Khyenrab Norbu also learned medicine, astrology,
poetry and grammar. He was named Yangchen rgyas
pai Lodoe as an honor to his hard work. When
he was 29, in the Iron Dog year (1912), he took
responsibility of the Medical Clinic at Drepung
Monastery - to maintain the health of the monks.
He began writing books and doing research on Tibetan
Rev. Khyenrab Norbu
The XIIIth Dalai Lama
Lhasa Men-Tsee-Khang, Tibet
Great Thirteenth Dalai Lama, in the year of the Fire
Dragon, 1916, appointed Khyenrab Norbu as Director
of both the Chagpori Medical College and Men-Tsee-Khang
(Tibetan Medical & Astrological Institute). In 1918,
he was appointed to the post of Junior Physician to
H. H. The Dalai Lama. He spent his entire life promoting
Tibetan culture, especially medicine and astrology.
He wrote and compiled many
books. Such as:
- a description on RCTA Tantra's
Eng: Essences from the Ocean of Medical Healing)
- a book on medicinal plants (Tib:
Ngotsar-sergyi-nyema; Eng: Wonderful Golden
- books on the uses of medicines
(Tib: Man-byor-nuspa-phyogdus; Eng: Condensation
of the Effects of the Medicine;
- books on the uses of medicine (
Tib: Duetsi-'bumsang; Eng: One Hundred
Thousand Good Nectars)
- a book on astrology (Tib: Rigden-nyingthig;
Eng: Endowment of Knowledge of the Heart-Drop)
Some of the present eminent physicians
such as the Senior and Junior physicians to H. H.
The XIV Dalai Lama, Tenzin Choedak and Lobsang Wangyal
respectively, former personal physician to H. H.
The XIV Dalai Lama Yeshi Dhonden, and the former
director of Lhasa Men-Tsee-Khang Jampa Thinley were
He died at the age of eighty in the
Water Tiger year, 1962.
A Dark Period in Tibetan History
The Chinese invaded Tibet from the east
in 1949. On 10th March, 1959, the chinese ruthlessly suppressed
peaceful Tibetan demonstrations in Lhasa by artillery
fire and bombardment. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama,
followed by thousands of Tibetans, escaped into exile
During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976
) the Chinese destroyed more than 6,000 monastries, demolished
statues, burnt religious and astrological-medicine books,
destroyed forests, and wreaked unimaginable destruction
to flora and fauna. As a direct consequence of Chinese
repression, more than 1.2 million Tibetans died.
Men-Tsee-Khang Under The Government in
Chinese are using every possible medthod to exterminate
the culture and identity of the Tibetan people. In order
to preserve and promote the richness of Tibetan culture,
under the auspices of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
many institutions, monastries and schools were re-established
in India. Men-Tsee-Khang (the Tibetan Medical and Astrological
Institute) was established on March 23rd, 1961, with Dr.
Yeshi Dhonden and Ven. Lodoe Gyatso as the heads of the
Medical and Astrological sections, respectively.
Initially, Men-Tsee-Khang lacked necessary
facilities, money, and staff, and was situated in a room
on the upper floor of an old house in Mcleod Ganj, Dharamsala,
in Himachal Pradesh. Mcleod Ganj is a small town known
as "Little Lhasa", situated at the base of the Dhauladhar
mountains at 1768 meters above main sea level. At present,
the Institute's headquarters in Dharamsala oversees the
operation of nearly 40 branch clinics in India, Nepal
Since beginning operations in exile, the
work of Men-Tsee-Khang has undergone significant development
with the creation of the Pharmaceutical, Research & Development,
Materia Medica, and Editoral & Publication department,
as well as the College for training new doctors and astrologers.
Astrology department produces range of annual almanac,
calenders, amulets and horoscopes for individuals. Also
produce marriage compatibility charts for the sick, yearly
progression charts, after death charts, the date and time
for different religion, ceremonies and the timing of preparation
of traditional medicine.
In addition, Men-Tsee-Khang, which distributes
Men-Tsee-Khang products internationally, operates from
New Delhi. Most of the medicine produced by the Pharmaceutical
Department goes to Indians and foreigners. Today, the
Institute's staff numbers 350. With the increasing popularity
of Tibetan medicine, Men-Tsee-Khang doctors and astrologers
regularly visit Europe, Canada, USA, Russia, Japan and
many places in India for conferences, seminars, consulations,
new email Id