Yuthok + Sowa Rigpa: Intro to Tibetan Healing with Dr Nida Chenagtsang

The Yuthok Nyingthik or ‘Heart-drop of Yuthok’ is the secret heart precious and special teaching of the King of Doctors, Yuthok Yonten Gonpo the younger (1126-1202). There are two most primary teachings or heart-jewels of Yuthok the Great, these are said to be the Four Medical Tantras of Sowa Rigpa of relative truth or conventional reality for common disciples and the Yuthok Nyingthik of ultimate truth or absolute reality for uncommon disciples. Of these, the Four Tantras are Sowa Rigpa, the Science of Healing of the system of the rishis or sages. This is a science of medicine that keeps oneself and others well when not sick and that heals them when ill without looking down upon or discriminating against anyone by virtue of their religious, race or ethnicity, or status, and that also teaches how to bring about the religious insights, wealth and happiness desired by common disciples.

The Four Tantras

The Four Tantras of Sowa Rigpa are the most famous medical texts in Tibetan medical history. They were composed by the King of Doctors Yuthok Yonten Gonpo (the Elder) in the eight century and re-edited by Yuthok the Younger in the twelfth century. Sumton Yeshe Zung first copied and block-printed the text and also first began writing commentaries. Over more than 800 years many expert commentaries of the Tantras appeared. The Four Tantras of Sowa Rigpa are the basis for all of the practices and original sources for the entirety of Tibetan medical culture, and so it has become nothing short of an indispensable foundation for an education in Tibetan medicine.

Four Tantras Sowa Riga at Menla in Phoenicia New York

The Four Tantras of Sowa Rigpa comprise: The Root, Explanatory, Pith Instructions & the Subsequent Tantras

The Root Tantra: The introduction to the root-tantra of Tibetan medicine completely introduces the Four Tantras and the reality of their having the five perfections (i.e. they constitute a perfect  teaching, from a perfect teacher, at the perfect time, place, and with the perfect retinue of disciples). The Root Tantra clearly lays out a summary of all these: the basic nature of disease according to an uncommon tree trunk-like model, the identification and diagnosis of diseases, and methods for curing them.

The Explanatory Tantra: This contains the more essential aspects of traditional knowledge truly needed for the study of medicine. It teaches about the production, maintenance, and destruction of elements and constituents in the human body and how sickness enters the body in that regard, expert methods or technologies for remedying disease, about diet, lifestyle, and medical treatment, about ways to protect healthy people from disease (i.e. preventative medicine), methods of diagnosis, the basics of curing, and doctors’ ethics.

The Pith Instructions Tantra: this deals with the science of the elements of disease. It teaches in fine and extensive detail about diseases of the three humours, about the causes and conditions (etiology) of bodily and mental diseases, about symptomology, and cures and preventative measures related to the fourfold antidotes.

The Subsequent Tantra: This teaches the primary explanations on practice, methods of pulse and urine analysis, formulas for pacifying diseases, purifying functions and the science of treatment and cure.

The first foreign language into which the Four Tantras were translated was Mongolian. They were then translated into Russian and also Chinese and published in these languages. The Indian Ayurvedic doctor Bhagwan Dhash translated most of the Four Tantras into Sanskrit and English and recently the Root Tantra and Explanatory Tantra have also both been translated together into English. Some of the Sorig Khangs are also currently in the process of translating the Four Tantras into roughly ten other languages. Because the authentic spread and development of Sowa Rigpa or Tibetan traditional medicine depends on the Four Tantras, just obtaining, promoting or translating the Tantras is not enough – what we really need is new commentaries that fit with truly contemporary environmental, climate, diet and lifestyle, psychological, scientific and legal realities and concerns. Research that is relevant for our times is indispensable for the future development of Sowa Rigpa.

This is an excerpt from 2017 Interview with Dr Nida from www.perfumedskull.com.

To learn more about Tibetan Medicine, Sowa Rigpa + The Four Tantras please join Robert AF Thruman + Dr Nida Chenagtsang this June 14th-18th at Menla for the Tibetan Secrets of Longevity: Ancient Practices for Increased Health & Long Life Retreat.

Dr Nida Chenagtsang

Dr Nida Chenagtsang

Dr. Nida Chenagtsang studied the local medical system in his home-region of Amdo, Tibet and completed his formal training at the Lhasa Tibetan Medical University. Later, he practiced in various hospitals in Tibet, and has published many works on Traditional Tibetan Medicine. He has extensively researched ancient Tibetan medicinal treatments, specializing in the revival of external therapies, which has brought him high acclaim in the field of Tibetan Medicine in both the East and West. Director of the International Academy for Traditional Tibetan Medicine (IATTM), he also co-founded the International Ngak-Mang Institutes (NMI), established to preserve and maintain the Rebkong Ngakpa culture within modern Tibetan society.
Dr Nida Chenagtsang