Browse results

Series:

Edited by Roger R. Jackson and Klaus-Dieter Mathes

Mahāmudrā in India and Tibet presents cutting-edge research by European and North American scholars on the Indian origins and Tibetan interpretations of one of the most popular and influential of all Tibetan meditation traditions, Mahāmudrā, or the great seal. The contributions shed fresh light on important areas of Mahāmudrā studies, exploring the Great Seal’s place in the Mahāyāna Samādhirājasūtra, the Indian tantric Seven Siddhi Texts, Dunhuang Yogatantra texts, Mar pa’s Rngog lineage, and the Dgongs gcig literature of the ’Bri gung, as well as in the works of Yu mo Mi bskyod rdo rje, the Fourth Zhwa dmar pa Chos grags ye shes, the Eighth Karma pa Mi-bskyod rdo rje, and various Dge lugs masters of the 17th–18th centuries.
Contributors are: Jacob Dalton, Martina Draszczyk, Cecile Ducher, David Higgins, Roger R. Jackson, Casey Kemp, Adam Krug, Klaus-Dieter Mathes, Jan-Ulrich Sobisch, and Paul Thomas.

Series:

Edited by William A. McGrath

Knowledge and Context in Tibetan Medicine is a collection of ten essays in which a team of international scholars describe and interpret Tibetan medical knowledge. With subjects ranging from the relationship between Tibetan and Greco-Arab conceptions of the bodily humors, to the rebranding of Tibetan precious pills for cross-cultural consumption in the People’s Republic of China, each chapter explores representations and transformations of medical concepts across different historical, cultural, and/or intellectual contexts. Taken together this volume offers new perspectives on both well-known Tibetan medical texts and previously unstudied sources, blazing new trails and expanding the scope of the academic study of Tibetan medicine.
Contributors include: Henk W.A. Blezer, Yang Ga, Tony Chui, Katharina Sabernig, Tawni Tidwell, Tsering Samdrup, Carmen Simioli, William A. McGrath, Susannah Deane and Barbara Gerke

Series:

Carmen Simioli

Abstract

This paper intends to historically and conceptually analyze selected pre-modern Tibetan sources, outlining the medical and religious descriptions of a hybrid class of diseases called nyenné (gnyan nad) and rimné (rims nad). Among these sources, this essay focuses primarily on the diagnostic and ritual sections of the Great Vase of the Amṛta of Immortality (’chi med bdud rtsi bum chen). This Nyingma “treasure text” (gter ma) is representative of the magic-alchemical tradition that became an integral constituent of scholastic medical literature in Tibet from the thirteenth century onwards. Drawing on the contents of the Vase of Amṛta, the paper aims at situating this medical-oriented text in the broader context of Tibetan medical and tantric literatures.

Series:

Susannah Deane

Abstract

This paper examines some of the ways in which spirits and deities may be involved in mental illness in ethnically Tibetan contexts, resulting in symptoms such as confusion, aggression, and even madness. Whilst some such entities are discussed in the seminal Tibetan medical text, the Four Tantras (rgyud bzhi), in reality, Tibetan medical specialists are often not the first port of call for afflicted individuals and their families. Instead, lay Tibetans often describe ritual specialists as the best practitioners to consult, due to the “spiritual power” they are understood to possess, an understanding which reflects some long-standing beliefs about spirits and their relationship with Buddhism. However, in a contemporary Tibetan community, where such practitioners may no longer be available, we hear of afflicted individuals and their families often consulting a variety of medical and religious specialists from different traditions. Here I describe two narratives of spirit-caused illness in Darjeeling, India, which illustrate some enduring perspectives on spirits and their ability to cause illness, and explore some perspectives on related healing modalities within this community.

Series:

Barbara Gerke

Abstract

This chapter explores how the pharmaceuticalization of Sowa Rigpa has affected the material representations of Tibetan precious pills (rin chen ril bu). With the example of a translated leaflet of the precious pill “Jikmé’s Old Turquoise-70” (’jigs med g.yu rnying bdun cu), made in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), I analyze how the current trend towards an expanding pharmaceuticalization of precious pills reflects in their material representation and specific instructions offered in bi- or tri-lingual leaflets. I show that in the PRC Sowa Rigpa’s specific terminology and disease etiologies are largely sidelined while catering to a Chinese-speaking patient and consumer clientele, whereas in India we find elements from Buddhism and Tibetan identity integrated in the presentation and packaging of precious pills. Each serves the commodification of precious pills, but in different ways. I also highlight how the commodification and over-the-counter sales of precious pills, found largely in the PRC but also at certain clinics in India, might easily lead to their misuse.

Series:

Tawni Tidwell

Abstract

This paper provides an hermeneutical and praxis-based comparative analysis of the biomedical conception of cancer into the most proximate Tibetan medical etiological categories. Recent Tibetan medical clinical practice, scholarly work and public forums refer to cancer as dréné (’bras nad) or drétren (’bras skran) as a simple shorthand. This paper analyzes the etiological and diagnostic bases for such a categorical collapse—using the Four Tantras as the analytical base with several modern commentarial contributions as clarifying additions, including The New Dawn by Samten, one of the first publications to appeal to a biomedical sensibility in its presentation of Tibetan medical categories. This paper argues for a more complex mapping that draws upon the additional categories of méwel (me dbal), surya (surya), and other conditions related to “metabolic disruptions of nutritional essence” (dwangs ma ma zhu ba), as well as distinguishing non-cancer dréné or drétren. Interest from the Tibetan medical community in providing a one-to-one categorical mapping between Euroamerican and Tibetan medical illness categories aims to garner recognition and legitimacy amidst the broader biomedical and scientific context in which Tibetan medicine is practiced and in dialogue. However, such oversimplification threatens to entangle Tibetan medical paradigms with those of biomedicine, ignoring historical, theoretical, etiological and practical distinctions of each system and how each tradition approaches disease and health. Although both medical systems engage a single body and human experience, each also assesses salient concerns of the body and experience differentially, and therefore applies a different set of diagnostic and treatment modalities to enact healing and wellness. Comparisons of Tibetan medical categories related to biomedical cancer and other neoplasms, such as dréné and drétren are instructive in that they provide fertile grounds to compare, relate, and distinguish biomedical and Tibetan medical understandings and approaches. Likewise, the severity of disease, the presence of concrete physical morphologies, and the importance of differential diagnostics for effective treatment each reflects an urgency for understanding such distinctions.

Series:

Henk Blezer

Abstract

Based on a wide cross section of Tibetan and Greco-Arab medical sources, Henk Blezer argues that the articulations of the, apparently, novel category of “brown phlegm” disorders in Tibetan medicine may derive from an earlier Greco-Arab prototype of “black bile” disorders, particularly those of the hypochondriac subtype (that is, melancholia pertaining to the viscera below the sternal cartilage of the ribs, or in this case the diaphragm). The article builds on his earlier hypothesis, yet to be conclusively argued, that Tibetan canonical descriptions of “brown phlegm” disorders seem to show signs of a confluence or, perhaps, even a clash of “humoral” systems that seem to pertain to different medical epistemes (Greco-Arab and Indo-Tibetan in origin). He posits a plausible trajectory of development in the construction of “brown phlegm” disorders in Tibet, where treatises that presumably have developed later, eventually, seem to set the “brown phlegm” disorders apart as a so-called “combined disease” (that is a category of diseases in which several noxious substances, the so-called “humors”, appear together). Lastly, on a more speculative vein, the author addresses relevant surviving indications, if not traces, in Tibetan historical narratives for Greco-Arab influence on Tibetan medicine.

Series:

Tsering Samdrup

Abstract

This chapter investigates a newly discovered Tibetan medical text on wound-healing entitled the Nine-fold Magical Cord Cycle. The primary goal of the chapter is to find out the origin, dates, title, and contents of the manuscript through presenting anatomical typologies, diagnosis, and therapeutics mentioned in the text. After examining the writing style, language, and palaeography as well as various topics mentioned in the text, I argue that this manuscript pre-dates the twelfth century, and therefore provides a rare window into the practices of traumatology in premodern Tibet.