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In: Asian Medicine
Author: Barbara Gerke

Abstract

Bcud len (pronounced chulen) or ‘essence extraction’ practices have been described in classical Tibetan medical and religious texts as an element of rejuvenation therapies and preventive anti-ageing methods. These practices include the ingestion of bcud len pills taken as a dietary supplement or as a substitute for food during meditation and fasting retreats. This paper discusses how ideas of bcud len are interpreted by Men-Tsee-Khang-trained Tibetan doctors in India as ‘health tonics’ and ‘dietary supplements.’ What underlies contemporary Tibetan medical ideas of an ‘essence extraction’ in relation to Tibetan rejuvenation therapies and pharmacological manufacturing practices of such ‘tonics’? I argue that not all bcud len are ‘essence extractions’ and that what constitutes an ‘essence’ receives various interpretations by contemporary Tibetan doctors. Ethnographic examples presented are based on postdoctoral fieldwork in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India (2009–2010).

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In: Asian Medicine
Life-Span Concepts and Longevity Practices among Tibetans in the Darjeeling Hills, India
Author: Barbara Gerke
Longevity and long-life practices have been a pan-Tibetan concern for a very long time, but have hardly been studied by anthropologists. This book presents ethnographic accounts and textual material demonstrating how Tibetans in the Darjeeling Hills, India, view the life-span and map out certain life-forces in various areas of knowledge. These life-forces follow daily, monthly, and annual cycles. Divinations and astrological calculations are widely but varyingly used by Tibetans to assess the strength of life-forces and forecast difficult periods in their lives. Loss, exhaustion, or periodic weaknesses of life-forces are treated medically or through Tibetan Buddhist practices and rituals. In all these events, temporality and agency are deeply interlinked in the ways in which Tibetans enhance their vitality, prolong their life-spans, and avoid ‘untimely deaths.’
Author: 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.

In: Knowledge and Context in Tibetan Medicine
Author: 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.

In: Knowledge and Context in Tibetan Medicine
In: Long Lives and Untimely Deaths
In: Long Lives and Untimely Deaths
In: Long Lives and Untimely Deaths