With a history going back over 2,500 years, traditional Tibetan medicine is one of the oldest continuously-practised healing systems on Earth. Regarded as science, art, and philosophy, Tibetan Medicine is an ancient form of holistic health care indigenous to the Tibetan people, and as such it integrates the core Buddhist principles of altruism, karma, and ethics. It combines practical, holistic health care with psychological and spiritual healing.
It originally developed during the pre-Buddhist era in the kingdom known as Shang Shung. Over thousands of years this native Tibetan science synthesized with accumulated knowledge from China, Persia (Unani), India (Ayurveda) and Greece. Since this time it has been practiced continuously throughout Tibet, the Himalayan regions, India, Mongolia, and Siberia, as well as in the Western world wherever Tibetans live in exile.
The fundamental theory of Tibetan Medicine sees a healthy body composed of three humours, seven basic constituents and three excretory substances. An imbalance in these components causes disease. Diagnosis is performed through observation, palpation, questioning, urine, pulse, and tongue analysis. The first and most important aspect is to discover the individual’s humoral constitution, (wind, fire or earth and water) and differences observed between the three include, for example, body type, head shape, digestion, sleeping patterns and emotional expressions. Each humour pre-disposes the individual to various diseases. Thus appropriate targeted prevention can be taken predicting diseases before they arise and subsequently avoiding them. Tibetan medicine also teaches that death is not separate from life, but part of life and encourages the art of accepting death and dying peacefully.
A patient’s treatment must be specifically tailored to fit their individual condition. Tibetan medicine doctors traditionally begin by recommending specific behavioural and lifestyle modifications. If this is not sufficient to remedy the problem, they utilize dietary therapy. If these approaches are not enough to address the condition, Tibetan medicine employs herbal medicines. If these are not adequate then physical therapies such as massage, moxibustion, cupping, acupuncture, herbal bath therapies may be utilized.
Not only does Tibetan medicine help in all aspects of living well but it focuses on how to die well so that one can face death with acceptance, peace and joy.
The International Shang Shung Institute was founded in Italy in 1989 by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, and inaugurated in 1990 by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Its aim is to deepen the knowledge and understanding of Tibetan cultural traditions in order to ensure their survival and preservation. The International Institute currently has three main branches, located in Italy, Austria,
and the USA, which work together as one to promote all initiatives to this end. The mission of the Shang Shung Institute is to deepen the knowledge and the understanding of the Tibetan cultural traditions in its religious, historical, philosophical, artistic, medical, and social aspects in order to contribute to the survival and preservation of this culture. Its purpose is to encourage cooperation among interested groups and individuals, thus keeping alive the essential values of these traditions.