Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Herbal in Bhutan: The Land of Medicinal Herbs.

The Land of Medicinal Herbs.

One of the ancient names for Bhutan was Menjung – ‘the Land of Medicinal Herbs’.

The Himalayan Buddhist system of medicine is called So-ba Rig-pa and is practised in many countries today. Because it originally developed in ancient Tibet, it is commonly known as Tibetan medicine.

It is believed that at the beginning of time, the art of healing was a prerogative of the gods. It wasn't until Kashiraja Dewadas, an ancient Indian king, went to heaven to learn medicine that medicine could be offered to humans as a means to fight suffering. He taught the principles and the practice of healing, and this knowledge was spread as part of early Buddhist sacred writings. Some of the fundamental beliefs of this system are the basis of Buddhism itself.

When Buddhism was first brought to Tibet in the seventh century, some of these medicinal texts were translated into Tibetan and the rulers became interested in the subject. From that time, So-ba Rig-pa was considered a single system of medicine, although some differences are found in the different lineages based on the discovery of terma, which occasionally include medicinal teachings.

When Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal came to Bhutan, his minister of religion, Tenzin Drukey, an esteemed physician, spread the teaching of So-ba Rig-pa. Though the basic texts are the same, the Bhutanese tradition of So-ba Rig-pa has developed independently from its Tibetan origins. Today, the Himalayan Buddhist tradition is the most common type of medicine practised in Bhutan. It has been recognised by the government as the official medical tradition of the country and has been included in the national health system since 1967.