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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Health: ‘Disharmony primary cause of illness’

March 3, 2010

Martin Gibson
The Gisborne Herald (New Zealand)
March 1, 2010

Two practitioners of Tibetan medicine and
astrology enlightened Gisborne during their New Zealand tour.

Dr Aepa Sonam Rinchen is one of the main teachers
at the Tibetan Medical and Astrology Institute of
HH the Dalai Lama. A practising doctor, he is
also the author of several books on the
relationship between medicine and astrology.

He is travelling with his student and interpreter
Ogyen Tenzang, who was born in a Nyingmapa
Buddhist centre in the Southern French Alps.

The roots of Tibetan medicine date back thousands
of years and are an amalgamation of Chinese,
Indian and other Eastern philosophies,
particularly Buddhism. It has operated as a
complete system for about 1000 years.

It is based on four tantras that explain the
relationship between the body and the world
outside, with the goal of making human beings happier.

Disharmony is seen as the primary cause of illness, says Dr Rinchen.

"For us, all ailments spring from either
unbalance in our environment or karma, which can
make us more vulnerable to certain diseases, or a mixture of the two.

"Karma, too, can be either from a past life, the
present life or a mixture of the two."

By examining all the ailments, the Tibetan doctor
diagnoses by examination of patients’ urine and pulse.

The two men have been in New Zealand for a month
-- Dr Rinchen’s first trip through a Western country.

New Zealanders need to be a little easier on themselves, he says.

"The main type of disease seems to be in the mind
-- people carry a lot of mental stress.

"People think they are bad and have low
self-esteem. For us, whatever happens in life is
not very important because we see it as related to past and future lives.

"It is a part of the nature of human beings not
to be perfect -- expecting to be perfect brings about a lot of suffering.

"Something very helpful for people is to
recognise the relationship between the mind and
body. If we accept our faults and the faults of
others, we can learn to live with them."

New Zealanders have been receptive to their
traditions, especially Maori, whose culture and
philosophy on life, spirits and water have similarities to Tibetan beliefs.

A challenge for Maori is to listen to their bodies, he says.

"They often carry on eating when they should
stop. Listen to your bodies and perhaps a little
exercise after eating would be helpful."

The better you know yourself, the easier it is to
keep healthy -- and this is where astrology is helpful, he says.

"In our medical tradition, the first step is to
know our own nature and adapt to know the right
time of the day or year to do things. As a
general rule, health problems are triggered by the wrong diet or lifestyle.

"In the West, they say a food is good or a food
is bad. We think some things are good for some and bad for others.

"This knowledge is not just good for Tibet -- it is good for all people."

Western medicine is increasingly used in Tibet.

"Of course Western medicine is better at things
like surgery, but Tibetan medicine and most
traditional medicine seem better at providing
quality of life. It is studied not just by
doctors, but also by lay people so they can care for themselves."

It traditionally takes nine years of training to
become a Tibetan doctor, although now most
schools have shortened training to five years of
theoretical training followed by a year apprenticed to a doctor.

Once qualified it is still a case of "physician heal thyself."

"Spiritual practice is important for a doctor to
generate strongest compassion, strongest
altruism. This includes periods of fasting and daily meditation."

The two men will be back tomorrow to do more
consultations in feng shui, astrology and traditional medicine.

The Buddhist Centre hopes to have the men back
annually to do treatments and teaching, says trustee Tracy Walker.

"Gisborne’s Indian community have really embraced
it, along with Chinese Buddhists and open-minded
people generally. We are planning a retreat here
over Easter and people are flying in from Auckland and Wellington.

"We’re incredibly lucky to have these two men
here. They are very well-regarded."

People wanting a consultation can contact Tracey
Walker at Physical Therapy in Wainui Road.

CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
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