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Tibetan Medicine: Health & Happiness

INTERDEPENDENCE OF BODY, MIND & ENERGY

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Tibetan Medicine is a holistic system that understands the deep interdependence of body, mind and energy. Because of this interdependence, both illness and healing can take place at any of these three levels.

For example, at the level of the mind, disease is often caused by one of the three mental poisons of ignorance, anger or attachment. The presence of these negative emotions alters the functioning and balance of the body in real ways. Alternatively, if one of the body’s fundamental substances is out of balance because of, for example, wrong diet, this can in turn manifest through the emotions, causing mental suffering. This means that we can affect our health and happiness by making positive changes on the level of the body or mind.

For example, at the level of the mind, disease is often caused by one of the three mental poisons of ignorance, anger or attachment. The presence of these negative emotions alters the functioning and balance of the body in real ways. Alternatively, if one of the body’s fundamental substances is out of balance because of, for example, wrong diet, this can in turn manifest through the emotions, causing mental suffering. This means that we can affect our health and happiness by making positive changes on the level of the body or mind.

VITAL SUBSTANCES

Tibetan Medicine recognizes the five elements of earth, water, fire, wind and space as archetypal energies that also manifest into the more substantial components of the body, such as the three humors. The humors—bile (tripa), wind (lung) and phlegm (beken)—are vital substances and primary energies, which, in their various forms, perform all functions of the body. The balance of the humors relative to each other determines whether the body is strong and healthy or if it is experiencing illness. Many factors affect the balance of the humors, such as: diet, exercise, inner body temperature, external environment and mental state. In all things, we strive for the harmonious balance of these primary energies. All else then follows.

The diagnostic systems used in Tibetan Medicine—observation, pulse and urinalysis—categorize all disease as either hot or cold. Next, the imbalance of the humors is assessed. Treatments include herbal medicine, moxibustion, massage and behavioral advice (diet, sleep, meditation).

ANCIENT WISDOM, MODERN TIMES

Although it is a deep-rooted system, with evidence of its practice as early as 200 BC, Tibetan Medicine remains very relevant today. It is possible to study and practice this healing art in our modern circumstances. Tulku Lobsang also offers a certification program in Traditional Tibetan Medicine. A deeper recognition between the body and mind can be a benefit to us all.

Buddhism: It's About Nature

FULL OF POTENTIAL

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Each of us has the potential for achieving a pure state of being, free of illness and mental suffering and full of love and compassion. Each of us has the potential to come to know the nature of our minds and, in this way, dissolve the illusions that cause misunderstandings, confusion and pain. We only need to make the right effort and find the path that works for us.

WISDOM & METHODS

Tibetan Buddhism has the wisdom and methods for us to cultivate lasting health and happiness. It is a path of experience. We do not need a certain set of beliefs, or to take the word of others. We can know for ourselves by trying the methods offered and seeing whether they make us happier and healthier, or not.

MANY PATHS, ONE RESULT

There are many paths in Buddhism, you only need to find the one that works with you and your character. For example, the Hinayana (or Theravada) path gives us moral precepts for right behavior and right thinking and teaches us meditation techniques for calming the mind and lessening negative emotions. The Mahayana path encourages us to explore the nature of the mind and come to know for ourselves what it means that the nature of phenomena is emptiness. Finally, Tantrayana offers us methods for working with the body and its system of subtle energy channels in order to transform ourselves into purer states of being and directly experience the bliss of wisdom.

NATURE OF THE MIND

Ultimately, all Buddhist paths lead to a greater understanding of our true nature. The mind is like the clear sky—open, vast, pure, but often obstructed by cloudiness. Like an undisturbed lake, when we calm the mind and let the muck settle, we clearly see into its depths, which contain great wisdom. We do this through mindfulness. By cultivating mindfulness, we can watch how we react in various situations. Learning from this, we come to know ourselves deeply. From this knowing, comes all knowing.

Tantrayana: Transform into a Diamond

SELF-TRANSFORMATION

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Tantrayana is one of the three major paths, or yanas, in Tibetan Buddhism. It is the path of the transformation of the self. What do we transform into? We transform into a diamond! (This path is also called Vajrayana, vajra meaning diamond in Sanskrit.) In body, speech and mind we become indestructible, strong, clear and pure.  And we need to be strong to practice these direct methods.

Anything can be used as a tool for transformation, which is why nothing is rejected in Tantrayana, including negative emotions. Rather than push them away, we learn how to use these emotions, to transform them in to wisdom. Problems are our best teachers, which is why we should always respect those that cause us problems in life.

GREAT METHODS

It is said that Tantrayana is the most direct route to enlightenment (the dissolution of ignorance and realization of our true, pure nature). This is because Tantrayana has great methods that enable us to directly experience the end result. We learn to experience what it feels like to have a pure body filled with energy and bliss, and a pure mind filled with wisdom and compassion. Once we have a taste, our motivation sky-rockets!

BODY AS VEHICLE

What is unique about Tantrayana is our use of the body as the vehicle of the mind. Rather than training our minds directly, as many meditation practices do, we can use our bodies to affect the mind. This is particularly powerful for us Western people as our thoughts seem particularly difficult to subdue, perhaps because of our fast-paced world, or the psychological influences of toxins in our environment. However, when we use the body in healthy ways, our minds naturally focus and become calm.

This works because of the deep interconnectedness between the body and mind. We can better understand this when we understand more about our subtle bodies. In the famous Kalachakra Tantra, Buddha taught about the external cycles of the universe, the internal cycles of the body and practices to harmonize the two. The subtle body was explained in great detail. It is composed of the channels, the vital winds that flow in the channels, and the essences. When the channels are clear and open, our energies flow harmoniously. This results not only in physical and energetic health, but also mental. This is because our consciousness also flows in the channels. When unobstructed, deep levels of awareness and our innate wisdom are accessible to us. Contrarily, when the channels are blocked (as happens naturally as we age and is accelerated by improper lifestyle choices), the mind gets stuck. We find ourselves in repeated negative patterns, with blocked emotions, unable to move forward or make progress in our health or happiness. Love is not felt.

Here is where Tantrayana becomes particularly powerful. With amazing methods and practices specifically for releasing blockages and opening more and more subtle channels, we can make leaps and bounds in all dimensions of our being: physical, emotional, energetic and spiritual.

DEVOTION

Another very important aspect of Tantrayana is devotion to a master. Cultivating deep devotion benefits us by lessening the most major obstacle on the path—our concepts of our ego-self. Ego and the perspective of “me, me, me” prevents us from receiving the teachings properly and can even make them go in a bad way. Through devotion to a guru we dissolve our ego and receive many blessings for our development.

Traditionally, Tantrayana practices were always passed on directly from teacher to student. This unadulterated transmission and the guidance of the teacher ensured that the practices were passed on safely and correctly, preserving the lineage. It is because of this that we are able to receive these powerful, precious practices today. Of course, modern times call for some flexibility and modification, but we should always keep our devotion to the lineage of teachers strongly in our hearts and have the utmost respect for them.