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Conference Paper: Socially-determined esoteric medicinal substances in the Tibetan medical tradition.

TitleSocially-determined esoteric medicinal substances in the Tibetan medical tradition.
Authors
Issue Date2019
Citation
15th International Association of Tibetan Studies How to Cite?
AbstractWhat do a widow, a tantric monk, a brave warrior, and a bastard child have in common? They each occupy particular positions of social status and, in the Tibetan context, such social and economic positioning has played an important role in influencing the course of a treatment and the practice of healing. While many studies have focused on the social and economic conditions influencing the conceptualization of health and disease, the issue of how social status actually determines the potency of medicinal substances has received little investigation. In this study, the potency of Tibetan medicinal substances deriving from individuals from a range of social status will be examined. Ingredients vary in their potency relative to the source from which they are obtained. For example, the menses of a widow and the excrement of a tantric monk have been considered to be particularly potent substances. Accounts of these materials are hardly mentioned in the root text of Tibetan medicine, i.e. the Four Tantras (Rgyud bzhi). Despite the fact that such products are rarely used in modern times, the records of human products obtained from people of different social status are evident in later Tibetan medical literatures, especially those elaborating the Four Tantras. The present study focuses on the Extended Commentary to the Instructional Tantra of the Four Tantras (Man ngag yon tan rgyud kyi lhan thabs) by Sanggyé Gyatso (1653–1705), an important medical work that records the use of such ingredients. Sanggyé Gyatso’s Extended Commentary suggests that these materials are potent esoteric medicinal sources and seeks to maintain their secrecy within the medical tradition. Further investigation of these substances shows that such status-related prescriptions can also be found in other medical traditions such as the Roman, Greek, Indian, and Chinese. This paper investigates similarities in the use of such substances in Tibetan and non-Tibetan medical traditions, and explores the cultural significance of the social statuses invoked. We will discuss the possibility of the assimilation, alteration, and substitution of these socially-situated medicinal resources both during the development of Tibetan medicine itself and in comparison with the medical systems of Tibet’s neighbours.
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/279549

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorChui, KT-
dc.date.accessioned2019-11-01T07:19:29Z-
dc.date.available2019-11-01T07:19:29Z-
dc.date.issued2019-
dc.identifier.citation15th International Association of Tibetan Studies-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/279549-
dc.description.abstractWhat do a widow, a tantric monk, a brave warrior, and a bastard child have in common? They each occupy particular positions of social status and, in the Tibetan context, such social and economic positioning has played an important role in influencing the course of a treatment and the practice of healing. While many studies have focused on the social and economic conditions influencing the conceptualization of health and disease, the issue of how social status actually determines the potency of medicinal substances has received little investigation. In this study, the potency of Tibetan medicinal substances deriving from individuals from a range of social status will be examined. Ingredients vary in their potency relative to the source from which they are obtained. For example, the menses of a widow and the excrement of a tantric monk have been considered to be particularly potent substances. Accounts of these materials are hardly mentioned in the root text of Tibetan medicine, i.e. the Four Tantras (Rgyud bzhi). Despite the fact that such products are rarely used in modern times, the records of human products obtained from people of different social status are evident in later Tibetan medical literatures, especially those elaborating the Four Tantras. The present study focuses on the Extended Commentary to the Instructional Tantra of the Four Tantras (Man ngag yon tan rgyud kyi lhan thabs) by Sanggyé Gyatso (1653–1705), an important medical work that records the use of such ingredients. Sanggyé Gyatso’s Extended Commentary suggests that these materials are potent esoteric medicinal sources and seeks to maintain their secrecy within the medical tradition. Further investigation of these substances shows that such status-related prescriptions can also be found in other medical traditions such as the Roman, Greek, Indian, and Chinese. This paper investigates similarities in the use of such substances in Tibetan and non-Tibetan medical traditions, and explores the cultural significance of the social statuses invoked. We will discuss the possibility of the assimilation, alteration, and substitution of these socially-situated medicinal resources both during the development of Tibetan medicine itself and in comparison with the medical systems of Tibet’s neighbours.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.relation.ispartof15th International Association of Tibetan Studies-
dc.titleSocially-determined esoteric medicinal substances in the Tibetan medical tradition.-
dc.typeConference_Paper-
dc.identifier.emailChui, KT: tonychui@hku.hk-
dc.identifier.hkuros308434-

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