NATURE THE GREAT HEALER
I asked Lama [who also suggested I research Egyptian medicine] if he had any clues to give me for searching. He answered, “No! You research…” Twenty years later, I have come to understand that Tibetan medicine is first a Buddhist medicine, taking into account consciousness, karma, the body, the universe, all phenomena around and how they interrelate. Basically the whole understanding of Tibetan medicine can be found in the Tripitaka (Hinayana teachings); in the Abhidharma (the five aggregates and so on); and in the Vinaya which shows us the behaviour we need to adopt in order to avoid suffering, obstacles and sickness. The sutras help us to understand the principles of healing. Developing all that with the compassionate mind will lead us to the Prajnaparamita. According to my experience there is no need to be Buddhist to agree with these points, as they are so logical, so scientific!
Living in the countryside, every day nature teaches me that we really are in the mandala. For instance, at the end of last spring I saw an incredible amount of St John’s Wort, poppies and oregano – all related to certain types of troubles that may affect blood, lungs, bowels, mind, sleep and so on. So I knew already in advance what people would come to me with and the way to respond to it.
The Tibetan system says a person’s pulse, taken in early summer, will feel like the sound of the cuckoo. With the seasonal conditions and the particular qualities of the environment at the time, certain herbs will bring specific insects, which in turn bring birds like the cuckoo. So continuously nature is teaching us what happens in ourselves and, at the same time, gives us whatever is necessary.
Unfortunately artificial conditions in the environment – genetically modified foods, pesticides, herbicides, etc. – are affecting nature, and make it increasingly difficult to practice.
Lama Yeshe was quite right advising me not to use Tibetan medicines. He was doubly right because taking more and more medicines from the Himalayan mountains will not only deplete the resources and destroy the fragile balance of the environment, but will also deprive the poor local people who are using these herbs to heal themselves.
So as Lama used to put it, “Take the essence from what we have to give you…”. In this way, the principles of Tibetan medicine can be preserved and used as a marvelous treasury for all mankind. It can be adapted in whatever part of the world, in whatever time. For example, along with Western medicine, it may give us a lost thread back to how to deal with infectious diseases: instead of using vaccinations, antibiotics and so on to crush the body’s instinct to get rid of sicknesses through fever or infection, we would understand how to ripen the infection without risk and get rid of the problem.
We face the challenge of using more powerful antibiotics to deal with always more powerful germs, leading to increasingly costly medicines, which less and less people will be able to afford, not to mention the increasingly harmful side effects.
Some fifty or sixty years ago, before we started to treat cancer with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, doctors used to induce and maintain external infections, sometimes for months. They knew that it was the only way to get out of the physical cause of that problem.
Buddhist teachings tell us that we have interdependence with the whole environment, and that there is no enemy existing from its own side. This includes germs, of course, and even if anti-germ methods may be used during emergencies, they can’t be used in the medium or long term without danger. This should bring a revolutionary approach to immunology. For instance, we can see that antibodies and antigens are not antagonistic since they have specific links between themselves. In this (or indeed any relationship!) there may be some fighting but with good mental and physical work it stops. Sometimes the force of familiarity is sufficient to get that result, because that is a tendency in the whole of nature – and if we need more, we can call it “developing love for the enemy”.
In the biology of symbiosis, for example, a bacteria attacks an insect, and the insect dies, but eventually that type of insect adapts itself to the bacteria, and the bacteria to the host, so that they become indispensable to each other’s life. Thus they pass from a limited individual life to an increased life – marvellous, isn’t it?
So I see Tibetan medicine as a way of educating ourselves in how to keep healthy, which is implicit in the structure represented by the medicinal tree: The first trunk of the first root presents three flowers – long life, no sickness and clarity of complexion (aura). All this is based on the understanding of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path taught by the Buddha Shakyamuni. Only in the second stage of practice does it become a way of healing.
You can contact Jacques Haesaert by email: Yuthog@aol.com