Important Achievements in Traditional Medicine in Bhutan over the Last Decade
Over the past decade, Bhutan has made significant strides in advancing traditional medicine. In 2004, with support from the Royal Government of Bhutan, the origin of Sowa Rigpa was developed and published. The country also began hosting an annual Traditional Medicine Conference with support from the World Health Organization.
In 2005, Bhutan developed and published a Traditional Classification of Diseases and related health problems with support from the Royal Government of Bhutan. The country also organized the Bhutan-Japan Symposium on Conservation and Utilization of Himalayan Resources with support from the Royal Government of Bhutan and JICA. Additionally, Bhutan developed and published a Standard Treatment Guide for Traditional Medicine and a High Altitude and Low Altitude Medicinal Plants of Bhutan with support from the World Health Organization and the Royal Government of Bhutan.
In 2007, Bhutan developed and published a Traditional Medicine Formulary of Bhutan and Adverse Drug Reaction Guidelines with support from the Royal Government of Bhutan. The country also began sending Traditional Medicine doctors to Mongolia to pursue a master’s degree in Traditional Medicine with support from the Royal Government of Bhutan and the World Health Organization. Furthermore, Bhutan developed and published National Traditional Medicine Professional Service Standards and reviewed and revised the curriculum for Bachelor’s degree and Diploma in Traditional Medicine as per the University requirement with support from the Royal Government of Bhutan. The country also developed and published Therapy Guidelines for Traditional Medicine Practitioners.
In 2009, Bhutan began publishing the Menjong Sorig Journal for Traditional Medicine practitioners with support from the Royal Government of Bhutan and the World Health Organization. The country also hosted the Seventh International Congress on Traditional Asian Medicine (ICTAM VII) with support from the Royal Government of Bhutan and the International Association for the Study of Traditional Asian Medicine (IASTAM). Additionally, Bhutan developed and published a Handbook on Quality Control of Raw Materials and a Monograph on Medicinal Plants of Bhutan Vol. 1 and Vol. II with support from the World Health Organization.
Although gSo-ba Rig-pa originated in Tibet, it is still practiced in Bhutan and is characterized by a diversity of origins. The medical tradition is based on Indian and Chinese traditions and also incorporates ancient medical practices connected with magic and religion. However, it is based on the principles of Buddhism and provides a comprehensive way of understanding the universe, man, and his sickness.
Local influences also had an impact on Bhutanese traditional medicine. In many ancient accounts, sickness is usually attributed to demonic causes, and local gods, demons, and spirits of all kinds could be considered responsible for certain illnesses. To obtain healing, it was necessary to practice particular rituals, and only monks or magicians were in a position to do so. This medical practice thus involved much divination for the means of diagnosing and recognizing the spells causing the illness and exorcism as the way of treating the patient. Even though medical techniques in Tibet and Bhutan developed subsequently from observation, experience, study, and knowledge, popular beliefs had a definite influence on the way traditional medicine evolved.
Buddhism itself is at the heart of Bhutanese medical traditions. Buddhism teaches that the existence of phenomena and suffering (sickness, old age, and death) have a single origin that prevents man from reaching enlightenment, namely ignorance. This is the origin of the three moral poisons: desire, hatred, and delusion. In turn, these three moral poisons will produce the three pathogenic agents – air, bile, and phlegm, which are the origin of sickness if they are imbalanced. With its overall conception of the universe and life, Buddhism is thus a way of linking medical theory to the same single