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Behaviors to Engage In & Refrain From According To The Explanatory Tantra of Tibetan Medicine

February 5th, 2010 Posted in Tibetan Medicine

© Nashalla G. Nyinda 2010 all rights reserved

The instructions for the behaviors to increase health and long life are directed by the Tibetan Doctor to their patients according to the ancient Tibetan Medical Text known as the rGyud bZhi (4 Medical Tantras).

Within the second Tibetan Medical Tantra, known as the Explanatory Tantra, there 31 Chapters total. Three of these chapters are dedicated to the behavior recommendations having their own specific instructions to follow for optimal health based on anatomy, physiology, the relationship of cosmology and the external elements as well as Buddhist belief systems. I will discuss from Chapter 13, 14 and 15.

Because Tibetan Medicine is complex this is not a line by line translation only. Though the all the translated information is contained here I have added some of my own reflections which have come from studying this system for over 10 years. I feel by doing this it can help explain some of the translation. However I feel it is important to say this is only one way to translate the text. The Tibetan language is very complex and each translator will have their own words of metaphors used to explain things. That is why it is vital that of one wishes to truly understand the Tibetan Medical Theory as it is presented in its original form, you must first learn to read and speak the Tibetan Language.

Sections in this Article

1. Routine (Daily) behavior – Chapter 13

2. Seasonal behavior – Chapter 14

3. Permanent (Incidental) behavior – Chapter 15

Daily Routine Behavior: Chapter 13 of the Explanatory Tantra

One who wishes to cultivate health and a long life should wear a protection cord, (blessed by high lamas and realized beings) or gold, silver, dZi stone (ancient precious stone among the Tibetan peoples), jewelry from precious stones such as diamond, pearl, coral or turquoise. Ideally, these should be blessed by the high practitioners to increase their power of protection.

Each and every moment one should be careful with ones diet and behavior. One should know that which will affect you in a harmful or imbalanced way and be careful to avoid these actions and foods.

One should always be honest and truthful in their body, mind and speech. Try to avoid negative thoughts, or harmful thoughts about others or yourself. If one is thinking negatively all the time, one should consider the effect or result this will bring. Ask yourself, will this help or hurt me more, will this thinking produce a good and positive outcome? If not then best let the thoughts go. In this way one should try to think positive thoughts and be of strong confidence in ones body, mind and speech.

Many masters have said that all suffering comes from selfishness, and peace will come from ones compassion for others. If you give up yourself, this concept of “I” and follow the path like a bodhisattva, (one who is giving up their comforts and desires to instead work to benefit others who are suffering) you will cultivate peace. Otherwise the Buddhist viewpoint maintains that your attachments will always bring you suffering and pain.

Therefore, in this modern world (also called the dark-age in Buddhist terms) there is so much selfishness, aggressive thoughts going out towards others, pervading the environment with negativity. The result is we humans are in a time of great suffering. This is exactly why we must strive to act compassionately towards all beings and make a good effort to cultivate peace.

One must be careful and mindful always of the two manifesting conditions that ripen the fruits of disease within the three humors of rLung– pronounced loong (Wind), mKrispa– pronounced Tripa (Bile) and Badkan– pronounced pay-ken (Phlegm).  These are the causes meeting the conditions that lead to a changed state from health and balance to excess, deficient or disturbed.

These are:

1. Wrong diet

2. Wrong behavior

The five sense faculties must be used in appropriate proportions. For example, watching too much TV or reading in front of the computer all day can damage the eyes. Listening to music that is too loud too frequently can damage the ears. Taking too much of any one taste in excess ruins the sense faculty of the tongue. Smelling too many chemicals or even good smells of perfume and such can damage the nose sense. Excesses in the sensations of feeling, for example, too much hot, too much cold, staying too long in the water and such things can damage the sense of feeling.

Never travel in a doubtful situation, such as a car that is not in good working order, a plane that has had technical issues, that which raises doubt, a faulty ship taken to the water that is unsure of its course. One should not ride a wild animal unused to having a human ride upon them, nor should you go in front of a wild animal that may attack you. Never go into a butcher’s area where they are constantly killing animals, or generally in any area that is constantly used to kill anything. Never go alone to a river or ocean that you don’t know, or else the water will sweep you away and no one will know where you have gone. One should not climb on cliffs in monsoon, or climb onto a steep cliff sides. Both in summer and winter, one should not climb to the tops of the trees. If there is a big fire burning do not venture to the site where it is burning. If one is traveling, first check your route and path and determine if the road is passable and a safe for travel. If you plan to sit, sleep or simply stay in any location, first look carefully at the surroundings, make sure it is suitable and safe. One should not travel at night, but if you must proceed go with a companion and carry a stick for protection.

Because sleep is important for one’s health, if you cannot sleep at nighttime you should fast in the morning and get some sleep (nap) in the daytime. If you have been upset with grief, frightened, intoxicated with alcohol, if your body is weak, if you are of old age, or speak too frequently, it is recommended to take oily foods to keep the winds (rLung) down. Treatment for insomnia includes drinking warm milk, taking yogurt, meat or bone soup, rubbing warm sesame oil on the top of the head and in the ears. However generally speaking one should not sleep in the daytime, otherwise it will increase the Phlegm (Badkan) nature and you may feel heavy in your head and possibly will make you vulnerable to getting a fever. If one commonly oversleeps it is recommended that one can enjoy sexual relations a bit more frequently.

Regular massage oil will keep one healthy, slow ageing, fatigue, and calm any wind disorders. If one has a Bile (mKrispa) disorder, massage is not recommended, as it is too heating and would thus aggravate the heat disorder. Massage by chickpea power is good for Phlegm (Badkan) disorders as oily is too heavy for them as well, this will invigorate the skin, excess body fat and helps stabilize the joints.

On should have moderate and regular exercise. Those with Wind (rLung) and Bile (mKrispa) disorders should not have excessive exercise; instead they should rest and cultivate calm. One should never overexert themselves with any physical activities nor change their body temperature or cool down too quickly after exercising.

In regards to showers, they are considered helpful to keep a good complexion, increase body energy, remove perspiration, and increase ones sexual appetite. Do not put hot water directly onto the head, otherwise it can weaken the eye energy, make the hair fall out and change color. One should not take a shower immediately after eating, instead wait a half hour. Do not take a shower if one has dysentery, a gaseous, boated or indigestion feeling. Diseases of the nose and of the eye should refrain from taking any hot showers.

Because the eyes are the nature of the fire element, the satisfying phlegm can impair them. Tears can flow as a result of the phlegm disturbing the fire and as you age this is a particularly common issue. Therefore the remedy is to use a concoction of barberry bark once every seven days to wash the eyes.

One should refrain from intercourse with non-humans, a person who is married to another, a pregnant woman, one who is unattractive to you, one who is weak or ill. One should refrain from sex during a woman’s menstrual cycle as the blood is considered impure at this time and can harm both the woman and the man during this shedding of bad blood phase.

Seasonal Behavior: Chapter 14 of the Explanatory Tantra

There six seasons according to the texts. In this way there are seasonal behaviors according to how each cycle influences and affects the three humors.

1. Early winter

2. Late winter

3. Spring

4. Summer

5. Monsoon

6. Autumn

Each season is two months in duration. There are two branches of thought and opinion to the looking at the seasons, the Medical Tantra (rGyud bZhi) view and the Astrological (Tsee) viewpoint.

In the medical texts, starting in the early winter month each season is 2 months long. This is because there are one hundred and twenty mental impulses that make one single ‘second’. Sixty of these fast impulses make one ‘minuet’, thirty ‘minuets’ make one ‘hour’ and twenty-four ‘hours’ make one ‘day’. From this thirty ‘days’ make one ‘month’ and twelve ‘months’ make one year.

There are many calculations regarding solstices and equinox times and the direction the sun moves in the sky as the seasons shift, but as this is a whole other complicated subject I will not cover that here. However I will tell you that in astrology these seasons are divided up into four sections according to the elements influence in that season. This means there are 72 days for each element, and 18 days at the end of each 72-day cycle. The last 18 days always represents the spleen or earth element time and a time of transition into the next season.

In the winter when the male’s seed is considered strong one may have sexual relations as many times as one may wish. In the spring one should have sex no more than every two days. In the summer one (the man) should have sex only two times a month. Autumn is the same as spring with only every two days being the maximum. This is due in part to the heat power that is said to ‘blaze in winter when the skin pours close’ making all of the 7 body sustainers stronger in an ideally balanced individual.

For this reason, in the winter ones strength is at its peak. At this time the power of the wind and sun will assume a sharp, course, and hot quality and consumes the qualities of the earth and moon elements and the oily and cool nature. Men will be wise at this time to avoid foods with astringent, hot and bitter flavor otherwise it affects their stamina and sexual abilities. As I mentioned above at this time the skins pours are tight and the internal heat and equalizing wind is boosted.

During this time be careful not to decrease your food consumption as this will lead to a dramatic decrease in the 7 body sustainers. This is because the internal heat is so strong at this time any lack of food will confuse the strong digestive heat and lead to problems. One should always wear warm clothing at this time, receive hot sesame oil massage, and take warm foods, meats and oily foods. Late winter is especially cold and therefore there is emphasis in the texts to staying warm, wearing shoes, sitting by a fire or taking a bath in the suns rays and living in a house with earthen exterior walls and wooden walls on the interior. Also in the later winter Phlegm (Badkan) will accumulate in the abdomen.

In the spring ones strength is at a medium level. At this time the digestive heat declines because the warmth and rays of the sun make the skin pores open again and the internal heat diminishes compared to winter. Because Phlegm has accumulated in winter, it will now manifest at this time by rising up. This will slow digestion down a bit more than usual. Therefore one should have a diet with bitter, hot and astringent tastes to assist the digestion. One should have aged grains, dried meats, honey, ginger tea, hot boiled water and general course and dry foods as course is a quality which antidotes the Phlegm’s heavy, wet and sticky nature. Vigorous exercise and massage by chickpea flour will help pacify accumulated phlegm and various phlegm natures (Badkan) disorders.

In the summer ones strength is at it’s lowest. The heat is very powerful and can drain you of strength. Therefore, one should consume foods that are cool, sweet, light and (limited) oily in power. Avoid heating foods which are salty, pungent, and sour. Exercise should be slowed and only done in the cool of the morning or evening because one should avoid prolonged exposure to the sun. Never drink alcohol that is not mixed in water, bath in cool water, wear thin and light clothing and sit in the shade of trees in a fragrant garden with a cool breeze.

In the monsoon time ones strength again gains its power and cool qualities are naturally increased. The earth and moons qualities will become strong again. This is because the heat is pacified by the rain and wind. At this time sour, sweet, and salty tastes are suitable for this season. Contaminated water can harm the digestive heat at this time and thus one should eat foods that are more heating in nature. Foods that are light, warm, oily, sweet, sour and salty as well as grain alcohol should be consumed. Avoid cool damp places and remain warm.

In the autumn ones strength is at a medium level. While the cool rains cover the earth at monsoon, the sun comes out after and scorches the sky. Thus the accumulated bile and heat from monsoon rises up in autumn. To calm the bile energy one should take foods that are sweet, bitter and astringent. Wearing sandalwood and clothes perfumed with camphor as well as sprinkling fragrant water (such as jasmine) in the room will help dispel accumulated heat.

Basics to remember for food and the seasons:

In summer and winter take sweet, sour and salty food (the first three tastes which increase all three humors). In spring take bitter, hot, and astringent food (last three tastes). In autumn take sweet, bitter and astringent food.

Permanent / Incidental Behavior: Chapter 15 of the Explanatory Tantra

These activities are mainly focused on the practices that direct one towards maintaining a foundation in life filled with good qualities and noble actions. There are ten categories, (the ten Buddhist commandments if you will.)

Three are for body (physical), three are for the mind, and four are for speech.

3 for Body:

  • Abstain from killing all living beings.
  • Abstain from stealing.
  • Abstain from impure sexual activities.

4 for Speech:

  • Abstain from lying.
  • Abstain from meaningless talk.
  • Abstain from harmful speech or talk, which divides people (worst of all).
  • Abstain from speech of others that is harsh and creates propaganda and ill feeling.

3 for Mind:

  • Abstain from jealousy over another’s possessions.
  • Abstain from wishing harm on another and wrong view, which is disbelief in the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha.
  • Abstain from the belief in cause and effect (karma) or distorted views.

Positive Viewpoints of the 10 commandments:

3 for Body:

  • We should not only just avoid killing living beings, but we should also try to save the lives of all beings to the best of our ability.
  • Instead of stealing we should cultivate generosity and give our possessions away.
  • Instead of impure sexual relations, we should maintain sexual relations with only our one wife / husband, girlfriend / boyfriend whom we love and is close to our hearts.

4 for Speech:

  • Instead of lying, we should speak only the truth.
  • Instead of meaningless talk and gossip, speak only of things which will bring benefit to others.
  • Instead of harmful / wrongful speech, we should cultivate soft and helpful speech.
  • Instead of harsh / propaganda speech, cultivate the making of good relations between all peoples.

3 for Mind:

  • Instead of feeling jealously, one should appreciate the luck and merit of others.
  • Instead of wishing harm, one should practice the ways of the bodhisattva and be helpful and compassionate in ones mind towards others.
  • Rather than holding distorted views of reality and cause and effect, one should have faith and trust in the reality, which is always present, yet clouded by our basic ignorance.

Therefore these ten negative actions, words and thoughts should be avoided daily, in each and every minuet. Rather one should follow a code of conduct that cultivates the ten positive virtues and qualities of the body, speech and mind in each and every minuet of each and every day.

If one ignores these ten negative actions of the body, speech and mind it will only leads to the creation of negative karma. However, if one acts according to the ten virtuous behaviors of the body, speech and mind it will help us to accumulate good merit from this life to the next and so on. If you can fully practice these ten in each minuet of each and every day; there is no need for any other spiritual practice or retreat. This is the power of these ten virtuous behaviors or commandments. Therefore these ten are the main practices of a bodhisattva.

Do not go without food and ignore the sensations of hunger. Otherwise it can weaken not only the body but also the mind. Ignoring hunger will make the mind unclear and destroy focus. This will then make you loose your appetite over a long time and create such problems as dizziness and circulatory problems where you loose your body heat. This eating disorder also increases the winds. If you have lost your appetite and natural sensation of hunger, it is important to avoid the immediately taking in of heavy foods. First, take only light foods and then slowly as your belly has something in it can you increase your intake of heavy food. Otherwise if you take heavy food right away it will disturb your digestion which has been weakened by lack of food and result in the indigestion which leads to all chronic disorders.

Do not stop drinking fluids, as this will give rise to a thirst disease. This situation will produce disturbances such as dizziness, heart disease, and mental problems. To remedy these problems, take cool foods and drinks.

Do not suppress the urge to vomit. Otherwise this can create anorexia, respiratory diseases and asthma and disturb the flow of ones inhalation and exhalation. This can also bring diseases that make the body swell, leprosy, infectious diseases and eye diseases. The remedies for these disturbances are to fast from food temporally and wash the mouth with licorice soup.

Do not suppress sneezing, as it will disturb all the five senses. This makes the five senses unclear, brings headaches, stiffens the back of the neck and creates TMJ problems or a twisted and stiff jaw. To remedy this, look towards the sun, and use medicated drops in the nose.

Do not suppress the urge to yawn, as it will create the same problems resulting from suppression of seasoning. General Wind (rLung) treatment protocols are the remedy for yawning.

Do not suppress your breath; or if you have exerted yourself do not suppress heavy panting. Otherwise it can create disease of the heart, mental disturbance and possible tumors. Remedy for this is rest and general Wind (rLung) treatment.

Do not deny oneself of the necessary sleep needed. This can give rise to yawning, heaviness of the head, cataracts, and digestive disturbances. The remedies for this are meat soup, alcohol, oil massage and sleep.

Do not suppress the urge to clear the throat of mucous. This can lead to asthma, emaciation, hiccups, heart disease and congestion of the esophagus. To remedy this simply spit it out, take ginger, long pepper, and raw cane sugar.

Retention of tears in the eyes can cause pain in the heart and head, dryness of the nostrils, vertigo and congestion in the throat and esophagus and loss of appetite. To remedy this drink alcohol, take rest and get good sleep, have good conversations, which are sweet and pleasant.

Do not suppress or withhold intestinal gas. This makes the stools dry, brings constipation, inability to expel gas, shooting pain in the intestines, tumors, weak eyesight, deterioration of the body heat and heart disease. (The remedies for this are the same for all the waste products. The same treatment is used for gas, stools, and urination retention.)

Do not suppress ones evacuation motions. This will cause the stagnation of waste matter and it will be absorbed into the blood stream. This causes headaches in the brain, pain in the calf muscles, influenza, and the same results from withholding gas.

Do not suppress the urge to urinate. This gives rise to disorders of the urinary tract, the male genitals, the thighs and the same problems gained from suppressing gas. To remedy these problems take suppositories, get massaged, and ingest medicated butter medicines.

Do not withhold your semen. This can lead to involuntary emissions, disorders of the male genitals and emaciation. To remedy this apply suppositories, have sexual relations with a woman, take sesame oil, milk, alcohol and chicken.

These are the routine (daily) behaviors, seasonal behavior and permanent (incidental) behaviors taught in Tibetan Medicine. The careful observation of the relationship of the bodily humors with outside environmental influence when observed is very profound in prevention of disorders.

I have often reflected about how if we were more in tune with the seasons and how our foods carry powers of various elemental qualities which can affect us as both a unique individual with our very personal balance of the humors we could find ourselves much more happy and healthy in making diet and behavior choices.

Diet and Behavior are the pillars of Tibetan medicine treatment and prevention and time and again when these are regulated there is often little or no need for medicines or accessory therapies. The key is in knowing your own humeral dominance and which humors tend to get out of balance in which season, by what foods and by what mental habits and afflictions.

This is just a glimpse of the behaviors which can be followed for each humor. From my perspective, the more you begin to interact with the qualities and expressions of the elements which make up your unique humeral balance, the easier it is to apply these principles. The behavior regarding morality and life choices is completely from the Buddhist viewpoint of action and resulting karma, but many of the points can be found in all the major religious and political views practiced in the world today. I originally wrote this article many years ago in 2004 when I was a student and have been re-visiting my old writings. I have added a few minor changes and personal comments. May you find it useful.

Tashi Delek!

© 2010 Nashalla G. Nyinda

All articles are written personally by Nashalla G. Nyinda and are copyrighted. Please do not duplicate any info published by Tibetan Medicine & Holistic Healing on this or any other sight. © 2010

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