My path to the study of Traditional Tibetan Medicine began with my interest in Tibetan Buddhism, beginning in 2003. Soon after I began to study the Dharma, I met my Teacher, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu. He is a world-renowned master of Tibetan Dzogchen teachings, Buddhism in general, as well as an acclaimed scholar of Tibetan cultural studies.
As I began to study the Dharma, I experienced many transformative insights which shed light and inspiration on my path forward in the world. I connected strongly with the idea of studying an ancient tradition of medicine. I aspired to benefit others, and help relieve pain and suffering. I felt drawn to learn medicine in the context of an ancient tradition, rich in cultural history and spiritual philosophy.
It was close to this time that I discovered the Shang Shung Institute School of Tibetan Medicine. This school, founded by my Teacher, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, is one of his greatest projects to promote Tibetan cultural studies around the world. He explained that Tibetan Medicine is one of the pillars of classical Tibetan cultural heritage, and that it offers real and important benefits to modern people today. He urged anyone sincerely interested in studying Tibetan Medicine to consider the Shang Shung program.
Chögyal Namkhai Norbu founded the international Shang Shung Institute in 1989, which was inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Archi Dosso, Italy in 1990. The Shang Shung Institute is an international non-profit heritage organization, dedicated to the preservation and study of Tibetan culture. There are major branches of the institute in Europe, North America, South American and Australia.
The principal endeavor of the Shang Shung Institute in America is the Shang Shung School of Tibetan Medicine, located in Western Massachusetts. It is a small campus, housed in the converted old-town schoolhouse, in the beautiful, forested foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. I enrolled in 2006, when classes were mainly held onsite at the original campus schoolhouse. Our cohort was a small group of dedicated students from various countries. These days, the Shang Shung School has programs in various locations around the world.
I studied at the Shang Shung School of Tibetan Medicine for four years. There I had the honor to learn from renowned Tibetan Medicine Practitioners. In particular I studied with two highly influential teachers, Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo, the head instructor and director of the Shang Shung School, and Dr. Tenzin Dakpa, a renowned Tibetan physician from Dharamsala, India. These two teachers helped me immensely. They shared the knowledge of Tibetan Medicine academic theory, and also demonstrated the ethics of dedication and compassion which define a truly master-level medical practitioner.
After completing the Shang Shung School Four-Year Program, I had the fabulous good fortune to travel to Tibet, and study at the Tso Ngon Tibetan Medicine College at Qinghai University. I studied with many traditional older-generation physicians, as well as young up and coming doctors of Tibetan Medicine. It was fantastic to see the young Tibetans continuing the tradition of Tibetan Medicine. They are highly dedicated, working tirelessly to serve their elder teachers, and their patients. The young Tibetan Doctors in Tibet were truly inspirational to work with, and a joy to know as friends.
The inspiration and blessings of these teachings led my colleagues and I to found the Sowa cooperative. Through this project we share the core theories and values of traditional Tibetan Medicine. This knowledge has stood the test of time, benefitting generations of people for many centuries. Likewise, today we still have much to learn and benefit from Tibetan Medicine. These teachings are alive and well; in fact they are growing and thriving as more people experience and apply Tibetan Medicine to manage the challenges of modern life.
Tibetan Medicine is my path to develop a balanced lifestyle. It helps me understand the fundamental nature of the elements of the universe, and how they operate in the human body. It helped me understand the nature of health, and the nature of disease. It gave me so many tools and insight to promote balance, considering factors such as season, location, and elemental personality. Most importantly, the study of Tibetan Medicine articulates my deeply heartfelt aspiration to help others, and return back some of the great blessings of kindness and good fortune I have enjoyed in my life.