Tibetan medicine was originally influenced in the 8 Century by the principles of Ayurvedic medicine and the religious concepts of Buddhism. From the 11 Century, it gradually developed into an original framework of medical and spiritual science which until recently was very commonly practised in that country.
Tibetan medicine claims that we are born, not brand new as we believe in the West, but already one year old. So before our first breath we have already been conditioned by our physical and emotional experience in the womb.
According to Tibetan medicine, the body is the physical expression of mental energies generated by the brain.
The nature of these energies is created by the way each person interprets the world around him or herself. Over time, extremely intense experiences, good or bad, slowly affect the body and the mind as they infiltrate the nervous system. They leave their influence behind in the form of deeply rooted energies that affect our mental and physical health.
Similar to Ayurvedic medicine, the Tibetan spiritual philosophy teaches that everything in the universe – from plants to animals and the human body – is composed of five elements named Earth, Fire, Water, Air and Space. These elements have a nurturing and controlling relationship with each other. So if one of them becomes out of balance through excess or deficiency, specific symptoms will gradually appear in the body affecting both this element and, in time, all other elements as well.
Also, in accordance with Buddhism philosophy, in Tibetan medicine there is a belief that three negative energies, Anger, Lust and Greed, impel thoughts and actions (karma), which deeply affect our health.
Over time, these negative states of mind will develop into one of the three humoral disorders (Nyepas) of Wind, Bile and Phlegm.
The disorder of wind relates to the activities of the mind, thought and reasoning, as well as the function of the nervous system, respiration and excretion. There is a tendency towards attachment, desire, and a materialistic view of the world.
In contrast, the disorder of bile is more closely related to metabolism, liver function, the process of digestion and the emotions of aggression, hatred and anger.
Finally, the disorder of phlegm refers to the physical condition of the body, the strength of bones and muscles, as well as the regulation of body fluids, and sleep. It is associated mentally with ignorance and incomprehension.
Each individual from the moment of their birth will have a predisposition towards one or two of these disorders.
While the three negative emotions are often the result of disorders, which have been affecting the mind and behaviour for a long time, the patient can also suffer from short term dysfunctions, whether as the result of physical trauma, injury, improper diet or sudden and acute illness. Therefore, the Tibetan traditional practitioner’s primary task will be to first diagnose the original cause of the disorder after which a treatment will be prescribed.
In Tibetan medicine, there are four main curative approaches to health – diet, behavioural modification, herbal medicine and external therapies.
One of the external therapies commonly used is Ku Nye massage.
During treatment, the therapist will work on some 250 points in the body. These points, which are similar to acupuncture points, are stimulated with different digital techniques including pressure and rotation. They can also be tapped with the fingers or with a special stick called Yuk Cha. This type of massage may also include other therapies such as moxibustion, which is the use of lighted herbal sticks to stimulate points. Other techniques involving the use of stones, shells or chakra massage can also be prescribed according to the patient’s condition.
Otherwise, if one of the three Nyepas is involved, negative emotions can be healed through behavioural modification. In this case, specific meditation exercises would be devised to prevent these destructive patterns of thoughts or behaviour from generating.
In the initial stages, the meditation would include simple breathing practice to calm the mind, after which specific contemplations and visualisation techniques will be incorporated to begin a process leading to a new understanding and perception of the world. This would range from generating a deep feeling of love and compassion through meditation as a cure for aggression or anger, to developing understanding of the temporary nature of material satisfaction to alleviate greed and attachment. In other cases, specific meditative exercises would be devised to develop wisdom as a cure for ignorance and prejudice.
The world can only hope this medical and spiritual system will survive long enough to have a lasting effect in our lifetime.
Olivier Lejus BHSc.MHSc. is a registered acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist practising in Sydney. A former casual university lecturer and tutor in Oriental medicine with over 15 years experience in clinical practice, Olivier specialises in Japanese- style acupuncture for the treatment of male and female infertility, migraine, pain, and insomnia.www.olejusacupuncture.com