Medicine Tantras –The Gyu-zhi

Medicine Buddha Thangka from the Tibetan Healing Center in San Diego

The four Medicine Tantras consist of 156 chapters. They are first mentioned in Tibetan sources in the eighth century in works attributed to Great Dharma King Padmasambhava. These texts were said to have been given by either Shakyamuni Buddha himself or his personal physician, Jivaka. They formed the basis for Ayurvedic Medicine that is still practiced in India. A Tibetan Doctor would memorize these texts as part of his or her training.

The First Tantra, the RCTA, is called the “Root Tantra.” Its 6 chapters contain a very brief outline of the entire text, comparing the medical system with a tree. The Second Tantra, composed of 31 chapters, is called “Explanatory Tantra”. It explains the anatomy and physiology of our body; the process of birth and dying as well as the functioning of the three humors (wind, bile, and phlegm) and signs of death. It specifies the properties of medicinal ingredients and explain in detail diet, behavior and the rules for maintaining health, etc. It also contains a code which the physician should up-hold in conducting his profession. These two tantras have been translated by Dr. Barry Clark in The Quintessence Tantras of Tibetan Medicine.

The Third Tantra is composed of 92 chapters. It is called the “Oral Transmissions or Tradition Tantra (The Pith Instructions) ” and deals with the cause, the nature, and the treatment of the 101 disorders of the three humors. The three chapters that deal with psychiatry have been translated in Tibetan Buddhist Medicine Psychiatry: The Diamond Healing by Terry Clifford.

The Fourth Tantra, composed of 27 chapters, is called “Last Tantra” and it explains the 18 methods of diagnosis (such as urine analysis and pulse reading), medicinal ingredients and their preparations (pills, powders, syrups, medicinal butters, etc.) pacifying medication (purgatives and emetics) and additional treatments (moxibustion, golden-needle therapy) which are applied when all other medicinal preparations have failed to cure the patient.

All four tantras are discussed in two books by Dr. Yeshi Dhonden, a Tibetan physician: Healing Through Balance: An Introduction to Tibetan Medicine and Healing from the Source: The Science and Lore of Tibetan Medicine. These tantras can be found on this site at the Xuanfa Book Store.

Medicine Buddha

Medicine Buddha Sutra