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Can the Dalai Lama Impact the Collaboration of Eastern & Western Medicine?

December 11, 2012

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Should Western doctors follow more integrated medical practices like Tibetan Medicine?

According to the doctor of 14th Dalai Lama, yes. When Dr. Tsewang Tamdin recently spoke at Emory University in Atlanta, he attempted to enlighten those in attendance on the Tibetan medical tradition.  Tamden also expressed a desire for a closer look at the 2,500-year-old tradition, saying:

"While others might consider the holistic practice of Tibetan medicine 'alternative medicine' or a kind of side practice, I would like for others outside of our system to consider the Tibetan healing system full-fledged healing, Tibetan medical knowledge has tremendous potential to add to modern medicine."

While Western medicine is science-based and treats symptoms of the physical body, Eastern traditions approach health and healing with a holistic view. Tibetan medicine believes sickness happens when a person has imbalances in their physical, psychological and spiritual well-being.

Centuries-old practices like Tibetan Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and Homeopathy are categorized as alternative or complementary medicine and are not considered to have evidence-based empirical scientific data. However, these alternative practices have seen a rise in popularity in the West and they have moved from the fringe to the mainstream. Insurance companies now even honor acupuncture and massage therapy among other alternative treatments.

A Tibetan doctor will utilize diagnostic tests like urine analysis and pulse rate when examining someone, in addition to asking questions that will give them insight into a patients state of mind. Are they angry or anxious? “Modern medicine treats symptoms, but a patient will never get better if they fail to attend to psychological issues,” Tamdin said.

A Tibetan physician may prescribe a combination of dietary changes, medicine and something you may not hear in a Western doctors office: compassion meditation.

Compassion meditation is a mind training that develops the sense of interconnectivity of all things, increased minds of love, and wishing for others to be free from suffering. As views that the self is the most important are reduced, mental and physical health are improved. 

Recent studies show the benefits of mindfulness meditation on physical and psychological health. Contemplating interconnectivity, compassion, and mindfulness cultivates views that tend toward peace and wellness and reduces views that are divisive and angry, which create psychological and physical symptoms of ill health.

The 14th Dalai Lama suggests the Tibetan healing system should be studied more closely to better understand the human condition and how to impact wellbeing with a more holistic approach. 

Find out more:

Medical Advice From the Dalai Lama's Doctor

What Meditation and Sex Have in Common + How to Meditate

Free 15 Minute Meditation for Health and Wellbeing

Have you ever benefitted from alternative medicine?