Sowa-Rigpa commonly known as Tibetan or Amchi medicine is among the oldest surviving well-documented medical traditions of the world. With the living history of more than 2500 years it has been popularly practiced in Himalayan regions throughout central Asia. In India it has been popularly practiced in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Darjeeling and now in Tibetan settlements all over India. Originated from India Sowa-Rigpa is based on Jung-wa-lna (Panch Mahabhuta /five elements) and Nespa gSum (Tri-dosh/ three humours) theories.
A general outline of the principles of Tibetan medicine, it discusses the humors in the body and their imbalances and their link to illness. The Four Tantra uses visual observation to diagnose predominantly the analysis of the pulse, tongue and analysis of the urine (in modern terms known as urinalysis).
This section discusses in greater detail the theory behind the Four Tantras and gives general theory on subjects such as anatomy, physiology, psychopathology, embryology and treatment.
The longest of the Tantras is mainly a practical application of treatment, it explains in detail illnesses and which humoral imbalance which causes the illness. This section also describes their specific treatments.
Diagnosis and therapies, including the preparation of Tibetan medicine and cleansing of the body internally and externally with the use of techniques such as moxibustion, massage and minor surgeries.
The basic theory
Sowa-Rigpa is based on the principles of Jung-wa-lna (English ─ five elements, Sanskrit ─ Panchmahabhuta) and Nespa gsum (English ─ three humours, Sanskrit ─ Tri- dosh). All animate and inanimate phenomena of this universe are composed of Jung- wa-lna; namely sa, Chu, Mai, rlung and Nam mkha (Roughly translated as earth, water, fire, air and space, Sanskrit ─ Dharti, Jal, Agni, Vayu and Akash). The science of physiology, pathology and pharmacology of this system is established on these theories. Which means our body is composed of these five cosmo-physical elements of Jung- wa-lna; when the ratio of these elements becomes imbalanced in our body, disorders result. The medicine and diet used for the treatment of disorders are also composed of the same five basic elements. In the body these elements are present in the form of Nespa gsum (Three humours) Luszung- Ldun (English ─ seven physical constituents, Sanskrit ─ Sapt Dhatu) and Tema gsum (English ─ three excretion, Sanskrit ─ Tri mala). In drugs, diet and drinks they exist in the form of Ro-tug (Six tastes), Nuspa (potencies), Yontan (quality) and Zurjes (post digestive taste).
Healthy and unhealthy body
A healthy body is typified as a state of balance of three humours (Nespa-gsum), seven physical constituents (Luszungsldun) and three excretions (Tema-gsum) in the body with complete harmony of five aggregates (five senses). The three humours are air (rlung), bile (mkris-pa) and phlegm (pad-kan), which are further divided into fifteen types of humours. Seven physical constituents are nutritional essence, blood, muscle tissue, fat tissue, bone tissue, bone marrow and regenerative fluid; the three excretions are stool, urine and sweat. Humours are the biological representative of five elements; physical constituents are the basic tissue elements of the body and excretions are the waste product of the body whose proper elimination is essential for good health. Healthy and unhealthy state of body is largely dependent on the balance and imbalance of these twenty-five elements due to proper diet and behavioral patterns.
A physician of Sowa-Rigpa employs three main tools for diagnosing a patient i.e. visual diagnosis, diagnosis by touch and diagnosis by questioning. Visual diagnosis comprises of two main methods of tongue examination and Urine analysis. Various diseases can be diagnosed by checking the nature, color and smoothness etc. of the tongue; urine can be analyzed on three different stages of fresh urine, while it is cooling down and when it is cold by looking at its color, speed of discoloring, vapor, odor, bubbles, sediments, etc. Diagnosis by touch is represented by the advanced technique of pulse examination followed by touching the body for temperature and smoothness, etc. Pulse is the most important and major diagnostic tool in Sowa-Rigpa, which is explained under thirteen general topics like preparatory conduct, proper time for examination, place, pressure of physician’s finger, technique, constitutional pulse, astonishing pulse, general and specific pulse, death pulse, etc. Questioning is another mode of diagnosing a patient; history of case, present condition, family background and changes in body, etc. are main questions asked.
The treatment has four major sections ─ diet, behaviour, medicine and accessory/external therapies. Right administration of these four sections is very important for treating a patient in an appropriate manner. Minor ailments can be treated with proper regulation of diet and behavior only; a patient with medium state of condition can be treated with medicine like decoction, powder, pills, purgatives, emetics, etc. and in advanced stages disease can be cured by application of accessory/external therapies like moxabustion, venesection, fomentation, massage, surgery, etc. As mentioned above in the outline of disease all disorders can be condensed into three humours, accordingly the treatment of disease is also possible under three-humour basis. Buddhist rituals and mantra also play a very important role in the treatment of disease and in pharmaceutical process, etc.
Types of Treatment
The types of treatment can broadly be classified as:
Tibetan medicine equally considers diet, nutrition, behavior and lifestyle as essential elements of successful treatment
These therapies may include Golden needle technique, blood-letting, Me-tzar (Tibetan moxibustion), heat or cold external therapies, natural hot springs or medicinal baths, enemas, vomiting, purgatives, and Ku-nye (Tibetan massage).
Based on the theory of Jung-wa-lna, Sowa-Rigpa believes that every substance on the earth has medicinal value and therapeutic efficacy. Medicinal substances are classified into eight major categories i.e. Rinpoche sman (prized metal and stone), sa sman (drugs from mud and earth), rdo sman (stones), shing sman (drugs from trees), rtsi sman (essence and exudates medicines), thang sman (plant ingredient for decoction/ shrub), sno sman (herb) and srog chags sman (animal parts).
Sowa-Rigpa Degree Course - The degree awarded is Bachelor Of Tibetan Medicine And Science (BTMS). The duration of Course is 5 years 6 months. The minimum amission qualification is 12th Standard with 50% aggregate marks in Physics, Chemistry and Biology.
Sowa-Rigpa Post Graduation Degree Course - The degree awarded are Tsojed Menrampa, (MD) & Sojed Menrampa (MS). The duration of Course is 3 years. The minimum amission qualification is Kacupa (BTMS) with an admissiion test.
Sowa-Rigpa Ph.D Course - Degree awarded Ph.D Sowa-Rigpa.
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