The Gyud-shi

The Gyud-shi

Tibetan medicine history and the Gyud-shi

Tibetan Medicine is called in Tibetan Sowa Rigpa (gso ba rigpa), the science of healing. It developed in Tibet during the 7th century CE, although as in other ancient countries, there were already natural healers and shamans in Tibet. During the reigns of powerful Tibetan emperors in Asia from the 7th to 10th centuries, Buddhism and other sciences, including Sowa Rigpa medicine, flourished, especially during the 8th century under the reign of Trisong Deutsan, who established the great central Tibet. There, Buddhism and medicine texts were intensively translated from Sanskrit, and medical schools were set up. A few of these translated medicine texts still exist today. Among them the most important work of medicine is Gyud-shi (rgyud-bzhi), the Four Medical Tantras. It has a legendary and mystical origin. Traditional teaching of the Gyud-shi holds that Gyud-shi was taught by Buddha Shakyamuni in the form of Medicine Buddha. Therefore Gyud-shi or The Four Tantra’s entire structure is the Medicine Buddha’s five Dhyani Buddhas and their teachings on the body-mind, disease and treatment.

The Gyud-shi came to Tibet in the 8th century. It was completed and expounded by Yuthok Yonten Gonpo the Younger in the 12th century according to the Tibetan environmental conditions and culture then existing. Gyud-shi was warmly embraced by Tibetan scholars and the public alike, and soon became the basic healing science study material for body-mind. Naturally Tibet became the center for its study, and students came from various neighbouring countries such as Mongolia, China, Nepal, India (Ladakh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh), Russia and Bhutan. Along with the Buddhist teaching, Gyud-shi’s own core mind training teaching on love and compassion soon became the powerful system by which one could transform into a ‘saint physician’ with abilities to help the poor and sick patients. Gyud-shi came to be regarded as a sacred book of healing, and Yuthok Gonpo the Younger as the emanation of Medicine Buddha. From then onwards, thousands of physicians studied the Gyud-shi in Tibet and spread its precious knowledge and the Sowa Rigpa medical system to the rest of the world.


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