Tibetan ‘Yogi-Doctors’ Today: Professor Gojo Wangdu’s Preface to Dr Nida’s new book on Mantra Healing

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The following is a translation of Professor Gojo Wangdu’s preface to Dr Nida Chenagtsang’s new Tibetan-language volume on the ‘Interdependent/Auspicious Science of Mantra Healing’. In his preface, the Professor supplies a brief overview of Dr Nida’s upbringing, education, and achievements. He describes the important contributions that Dr Nida has made to re-invigorating Tibetan traditional medicine, like his efforts to preserve and revive lapsed oral lineage practices such as the ‘stick-therapy’ methods that were taught by Padampa Sangye and others centuries ago. The Professor makes a strong case for why Tibetan doctors today should practice as the founding lineage masters of Tibetan traditional medicine did, as ‘yogi or ngakpa doctors’, that is, as practitioners who seamlessly integrate mantra healing rituals, yogic practice, and medicine. He also responds to questions readers might have about the issue of secrecy, and of the pre-requisites – the transmissions and training – required to put mantra healing into practice to benefit beings. While the Professor follows the traditional Tibetan style of modestly talking-down his own achievements, he is a highly respected and learned scholar, and his endorsement of Dr Nida’s book speaks to its value.

In just a few concise pages Professor Gojo Wangdu touches on a range of fascinating topics, from Tibetan nomads’ forms of early education, to the continued transmission of alchemical practices of medical mercury preparation in contemporary Tibet, to the use of such things as blessed burning metal and saliva, empowered wrathful gazes, and the interesting category of ‘mantra stamps’ pressed directly onto the body for healing. His comments about the lack of historical precedent for and artificiality of separating ‘magic’ and medicine mirror Dr Nyida’s own thoughts in an earlier essay on mantra healing which I translated in a previous post here (that post also includes a full translation of the contents page of Dr Nyida’s new volume). Interestingly, one of the motivations Professor Gojo Wangdu lists for a new generation of Tibetan doctors to embrace sngags sman or mantra-yogi-ngakpa doctor practice, recalls some of the sentiments in my last post about Tibetan fears of cultural loss and cultural appropriation by foreigners:
“Thirdly, in the current moment, healing therapies and methods have now diversified all over the world. Integrated mantra-medicine healing is easy to apply and deeply meaningful, so if we put it into practice it will completely meet patients’ hopes or expectations. If we fail to realize the significance of mantra healing, if we fall into misconceptions about it and then fail to practice it ourselves, when one day all sorts of other ethnicities and cultures are practicing it, we Tibetans will really get a shock, so it’s important and necessary and the time is now ripe for us to make use of it.”
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this small taste of the incredibly rich historical tradition and
contemporary practice of Tibetan medicine and mantra healing, and the sense of its importance that Professor Gojo Wangdu so strongly conveys.

“Picture caption: Protector of the oral instructions, Shanglon Dorje Duddul)

A Brief Overview of the Author and the Conception of this Book

The author of this book on the science of mantra healing, the auspicious/interdependent auxiliary practices of Sowa Rigpa, or the Tibetan medical tradition, is Dr Nyida (Sun Moon), a physician endowed with expansive intellect and discriminating reason, and whose heart is completely filled with a positive and pure intention to help others. He was born in Amdo, one of the three great provinces of Tibet, popularly known as Domed, ‘the province of horses’, in the region of Malho, (which is) the birth place of the great preserver of culture Chogyal Ngawang Dargye and others, and a region full of the ten virtues. He was born into a nomad family by the name of Chenak (lce nak, ‘black tongue’) in 1971, in the female metal pig year of the sixteenth sixty-year Tibetan cycle, as son to his happy parents, his father, Jamyang Thubten and his mother Agay Drolkar.

When he was little he was extremely intelligent, and learned to write and read Tibetan while he shepherded the calves. Then, in a black yak-hide nomad tent school, he listened to and reflected on the principal and foundational traditional teachings on spelling and grammar. Following this he enrolled successively in the Malho Sok (‘Mongolian’) county ethnic minorities middle school and in the Rebgong teacher training college. Having listened to and exerted himself in the many inner and outer sciences, he received outstanding results and taught at the Malho Sok county ethnic minorities middle school as an instructor in the foundational texts of Tibetan spelling and grammar.

At that time, in accordance with (previous life) aspirations and karmic connections, a desire arose in him to study Tibetan traditional medicine, and so in his spare time he studied the foundational texts of Sowa Rigpa with a few local doctors at the Malho Sok hospital. In August of 1991, he went to Lhasa in the Central Tibetan region and enrolled in the Institute of Tibetan Traditional Medicine, where, with proper reverence and constancy, he studied closely with great experts like esteemed Wangpo Throru Tsenam Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyaltsen. He was fortunate enough as a student to receive the three-fold empowerment, reading transmission, and oral instructions for Yuthok’s essence of mind guru sadhana,’The Sunlight of Compassion, which Dissolves Darkness and Suffering’, and to receive many pith instructions on various subtle and important points relating to Dharma and traditional culture. Specifically, far from just hearing and comprehending the original scriptures of the glorious Four-Tantras of Tibetan curative medicine, he listened to and reflected on these, and, by thoroughly mastering them, received top grades. At the same time, he received proper instruction from Menrampa Dr Jamyang Lhundrup of the Lhoka medical and astrological institute in the practice of the great refining and cleansing of mercury which comes from the lineage of the Mahasiddha Orgyenpa Rinchen Pel , and which is a lineage-practice of ‘seeing with confidence’ (i.e. one that requires direct demonstration).

In this way, he completed his studies in many different ‘seeing-lineage’ practices of Lhasa and Tsethang medical and astrological institutes, and in June of 1996 graduated from the Sorig educational institution. During his free time while studying in Lhasa, not allowing himself to fall prey to distractions or laziness, he touched (his head) to the feet of the esteemed Ngawang Gyaltsen, the face-to-face disciple of the yogini Shugseb Jetsunma, Chonyi Zangmo, and requested various reading transmissions and oral instructions on the principle Ancient Translation school Great Perfection from the various Dharma-cycles of the Longchen Nyingthik. Together with this, he attended in the appropriate fashion upon the lotus-feet of the lamp of the Nyingma teachings, Kyabje Chonyi Longdrol Rinpoche and the great treasure-revealer Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje’s daughter Khandroma Dechen Yudron and received the three-fold empowerments, reading transmissions, and oral instructions for the Dudjom Tersar. In 1998, in accordance with an invitation from the Shangshung school in Italy, he taught Sowa Rigpa and worked as a doctor there, and [*un?]-interruptedly disseminated teachings on Tibetan traditional medicine for many fortunate students who had come from all over the world. In particular, he gave direct and practical instructions (dmar khrid) on the practice of massage and other therapies, which proved of great visible and tangible benefit. Through these actions, he has ensured that traditional Tibetan medicine will not be erased, that it will be recuperated and will increase without deteriorating. Moreover, even though something like ‘stick therapy’ (dbyug bcos), which was not written down in the glorious Four-Tantras, was in existence and was disseminated in Tibet from ancient times, the tradition of its practice has declined in the interim, and today practitioners of the technique have all but disappeared. In this instance, by gathering together traditional texts, investigating oral traditions, and actually applying (these insights) on patients and clearly demonstrating real and beneficial results, (he has ensured that) these practices have spread to many parts of the world. He is (currently) preparing a book called ‘The Stick-Treatment Anthology’ (dbyug bcos phyog sgrig), which is a collection of those traditional texts on stick-treatment produced by ancient masters which he has recently found and gathered together, and which he will in not too long offer up for the perusal of readers, for which we ought to thank him from the bottom of our hearts.

Likewise, in his spare time, he has published two books, one after the other, “Nyida’s Choice Essays on Traditional Tibetan Medicine’ (nyi zla’i gso rig ched rtsom gces btus) and “The Massage Manual” (bsku mnye’i lag deb). In both books, the meaning (of the material) is explicit, easy to understand, and clearly articulated. One can judge for oneself that (Nyida’s work) doesn’t merely follow the erroneous paths of other’s opinions, that far from being just empty words, (his writing) is able to demonstrate essential points of practice. One can see that rather than merely copying others’ words, he has thoroughly confirmed his positions solely through the three kinds of rational analysis. On account of this, as is written in the front address of his respective ‘Yuthok Medical Community Book Series’ books, he has followed the tradition of the Venerable Yuthok, and is truly an elucidating ornament of the teachings. In times to come he will absolutely benefit the teachings and traditions of Tibetan healing, and for this I am extremely glad.
This current published volume on the science of mantra healing, for example, those auspicious, auxiliary practices of the Tibetan medical tradition, has sixteen chapters that cover all of the various stages of progress in mantra healing in their entirety. The contents of these are clear, deeply profound, easy to execute and very meaningful. One can see that these are not the kind of pith instructions that can only be fathomed with great difficulty. If one is able to do these practices properly, one will without a doubt experience great benefits from disease-curing mantra healing practices. There are several reasons for this: one, the mantra healing practices the author (describes) are solely the vajra-speech of various earlier scholar-practitioner adepts, those holy beings from the second age (of the aeon), and nothing else. (They are presented) by him without even an ounce of fabrication, adulteration, or error. What need is there then to hope or pray that results will manifest, (when they are thus guaranteed?). Two: mantra healing practices are complimentary to and inseparable from Tibetan traditional medicine – thus, if one is (a true) preserver of Tibetan medicine, it’s entirely appropriate that one should really practice these methods. Our medical founder the Venerable Yuthok and his disciples, Biji and his disciples, Drangti and his disciples, the various successive Jang and Zur lineages have (all) worked for the benefit of beings and the sick as yogi-doctors through the practice of integrated mantra-medicine. For example, not only is there a specially compiled section of disease curing methods exclusively involving mantras called ‘The White Collection of Mantras that Benefit’ (that is part of) the eighteen auxiliary practices of the lineages practiced by Yuthok Yonten Gonpo the Younger, but also as is stated in the contents list of the Eighteen Auxiliary Practices, ‘The Garland of Flowers’, “This White Collection of Mantras that Benefit, the cherished eighteen practices, exist for the purpose of beautifully ornamenting (the teachings).” This is the oral commandment (that shows) the need for disciples to practice mantra healing and medicine inseparably.

Accordingly, Biji, the high physician of the Dharma-king Songtsen Gampo, slowly passed on (this approach), and the unification of mantra-medicine was practiced in an unbroken lineage by all of Biji’s descendants up until Umar Geshe Tenzin Phuntsok. It has been written that Biji’s hereditary-lineage is the principal Tibetan medical and ‘black mantra’ (lineage). Merely by performing the ‘phurpa stabbing’ gaze, Jangpa Namgyal Drakzang (the founder of the Jang medical lineage) also liberated patients who were severely afflicted by demons, and Zurkarpa Nyamnyi Dorje’s method of combining the practice of mantra and medicine can be gleaned from his biography and his respective religious commentaries too. Not only have most of the great beings and holders of the teachings of Tibetan traditional medicine like Ruler Sangye Gyatso and Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche practiced mantra and medicine inseparably, but in their day, many doctors used ‘mantra stamp treatments’ to treat illnesses caused by planetary forces and diseases of the ‘white channels’ (i.e. neurological diseases). For different types of infectious plague and swellings (caused by gnyan spirits) they heated up metal and said mantras over it, licked it, and then spat out saliva together with mantra-water from their mouths onto the sick. As is demonstrated in their respective writings, (we can) see how they employed edible mantra-charms which were ingested as contraceptives (i.e. ‘[so beings] will not re-cycle in wombs’) or to protect babies, and how they actually received positive benefits from these practices. Thirdly, in the current moment, healing therapies and methods have now diversified all over the world. Integrated mantra-medicine healing is easy to apply and deeply meaningful, so if we put it into practice it will completely meet patients’ hopes or expectations. If we fail to realize the significance of mantra healing, if we fall into misconceptions about it and then fail to practice it ourselves, when one day all sorts of other ethnicities and cultures are practicing it, we Tibetans will really get a shock, so it’s important and necessary and the time is now ripe for us to make use of it.

Further, it’s true that some readers may say, “Mantras – aren’t those secret, and not something to be done by everyone? They won’t be beneficial or have power before one has done the accumulations for each respective mantra” and so on. ‘Ngak’ (sngags) is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘mantra’, which is composed of mana and traya, which mean ‘mind’ and ‘protect’ respectively. It thus has the meaning of ‘protecting the mind’ from conceptual thoughts (about conventional things or attributes, mtshan rtogs). If we divide mantras into internal categories, there are three: ‘secret mantras’, ‘awareness/gnosis mantras’, and ‘speech/dharani mantras’. There are also mantras connected with each of the four magical or ritual actions of pacifying, increasing, magnetizing, and subjugating – mantras that pacify sickness, demons, negative actions, and pollution or obscurations; mantras that increase life, fortune, and wealth; mantras that bring the three realms under one’s sway; and mantras that liberate the five poisons, enemies and (demonic) hindrances.

From among these compiled mantras, those various mantras which are meant to benefit, and which don’t overlap with wrathful magical activities of suppressing, killing, and casting out, and so on, are said to be appropriate for everyone to use. Still, it’s important and absolutely necessary that those who put the science of mantra healing into practice obtain a reading transmission either directly from the author or from a master in whom an unbroken lineage of transmissions for the respective collection of mantras resides. If one does this, one will surely and necessarily manifest results as is taught in the texts of the tradition.

Finally, my hope for my respected student Nyida is as follows: that as before, he will conduct research uninterruptedly into Tibetan traditional medicine, and that in particular, he will be inspired to work hard to once again restore inner, ‘direct seeing’ lineage practices of Tibetan medicine which have deteriorated, such as acupuncture, from decline.


By the compassion of the Medicine Guru Buddha (i.e. the Sugata guru, or enlightened lama who ‘has gone to bliss’)
By the truth of the sage Yuthok
By the magical power of all the classes of oath-bound medical protectors
May all your planned projects be accomplished!

Composed in Rome, the Italian capital, in the year of the male water horse in the seventeenth Tibetan cycle, or June 25th 2002, by someone still sick with stupidity and ignorant confusion, to whom the Panchen Ertini, the manifest-display emanation of the Lord of the Pure-Land of Sukhavati Amitabha, the victory-banner of the Dharma, and so on, and some other holy beings, gave the name Gojo Wangdu (go ‘jo dbang dus).”