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Healthy Digestion In Developing The Tantric Body

August 5th, 2017 Posted in Articles

Dr. Nashalla G. Nyinda Menpa TMD

Within the myriad forms of illness, 98% of problems can be traced back to Ma Zhu Ba, or indigestion. Diet, as a treatment, is profoundly important because first, you don’t need the physician once you are given guidance to match your condition or elemental makeup; and second, food is medicine. Healthy digestion is fundamental to prevention and healing of diseases as well as to developing stability on the tantric path of Buddhism.

When I arrived at the Chagpori clinic, Darjeeling, to study, I had a bucket list. Seeking comprehension of common diseases, I assumed my focus should pinpoint specific disorders. My teacher skillfully asked, “What do you want to learn exactly?” In my naïveté, I read my list: heart disease, IBS, neurological illness such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s, neuropathy, diabetes, cancers, tumors, depression, acid reflux and other common western afflictions. He looked at me deeply and said, “We start with indigestion.”

Longchenpa stated, “By understanding the characteristics of the body’s origination, you attain certainty as to the Reality Body.”

Patients seeking longevity and enlightenment through Buddhist practice can become flustered when facing the truth of physical sickness and impermanence. Then the question becomes: how much cultivation of the Vajra body comes from practice alone and how much is derived from proper nutrition and balance of the Three Humors? Rarely explored in Western Buddhism, this question is important to ponder. Seldom understood, there are actually two ways to increase the most re ned Life Force essence of Thig le, a substance which supports both physical health and spiritual evolution.

The Tibetan medical perspective states that formation of the coarse body begins from a spark cre- ated by the merging of the red and white drops, or re ned essences, known as Thig le from each parent and due to the propensity for reincarnation driven by our consciousness. There are different kinds of Thig le. The indestructible Thig le refers to base conscious- ness, or all ground consciousness (kun gzhi’i rnam par shes pa) and is located in the heart chakra where also the most subtle body essence goes and supports mental consciousness. Thig le produces radiance, which circulates to all parts and surfaces of the body. A white Thig le comes from the father, while a red Thig le comes from the mother. These “drops” are refined essences giving power to the mind and also become the seats of consciousness.

A human life begins by the consciousness merging and forming our navel chakra at the navel center with 500 major and minor channels. By increasing and sustaining Thig le, one’s Life Sustaining channel is healthy and enduring. Physical stamina and meditation stabilization automatically expands. One method to develop longevity and mental clarity stems from meditation practice itself. Another method derives from healthy Digestive Power known as the Me Drod.

The Tibetan medical tradition traces the most important concept of nutrition to preserving what is known as the Lus Zungs, translated as the Seven Bodily Sustainers. Our entire system of physical and mental health is based upon re ned nutritional elements be- ing properly absorbed, divided and transformed into various gross and subtle bodily substances which sustain life and support all Five Elements and the Three Humors. The entire process takes 6 days. On the 7th day, the most re ned aspect become Thig le. Residing in the heart, Thig le assists the Life Sustaining Wind in maintaining the separation of the red and white drops within the Life Force channel. Thus, increasing Thig le via the Seven Bodily Sustainers improves vitality, consciousness and one’s life-force. The process itself is both complex, yet precise. Once understood we can support repairing imbalances of major illness and mental disorders through basic digestion.


1. Nutritional Essence — dang ma དངས་མ་

  • The good nourishing aspect of nutriment derived from our food.
  • Gives rise to the production of the hair and other bodily constituents.

2. Blood — khrag ཁྲག་

  • Derived from and made from the essence of # 1 (Nutritional Essence).
  • Moistens the body and sustains life.

3. Muscle — sha ཤ་

  • Derived / made from the essence of # 2 (Blood).
  • Covers the internal, external and intermediate parts of the body.

4. Fats — tsil ཚིལ་

  • Derived / made from the essence of # 3 (Muscles).
  • Lubricates the internal, external and intermediate parts of the body.

5. Bone — rus pa རུས་པ་

  • Derived / made from the essence of # 4 (Fats).
  • Provides the framework for the body.

6. Bone Marrow — rkang pa རྐང་པ་

  • Derived / made from the essence of # 5 (Bones).
  • Transforms its essence into the regenerative fluid.

7. Reproductive Essence / Regenerative Fluid — khu ba ཁུ་བ་

  • Derived / made from the essence of # 6 (Bone Marrow).
  • Enables conception to occur.

In the fifth Chapter of the Explanatory Tantra, the sage Rigpa Yeshe explains the characteristics of the body as twofold: Nod Ja Kham, translates roughly as “The Basis of Afflictions”; and Nod Jed Nad Pa, translates as “The Factors Which Inflict Harm.”

The concept of what harms the body can be construed as that which hampers or slows meditation and spiritual development. When distracted by ill- ness and mental afflictions, dualistic concepts firmly establish “I” and “my body,” eclipsing the nature of reality. Interdependent origination, also known as emptiness is shrouded in the distraction of our suffering. This directly relates to disordered indigestion contributing not only to diseased states, but obscurations experienced daily as perceived binary reality.

Bodily functions are de ned by the role of Nye pa, the Three Humors, Lus Zungs, the Seven Bodily Sustainers and the Dri Ma gSum, the Three Wastes. These three aspects of the body are considered interdependent with regard to their nature and function. This serves as the basis for birth, life and the dissolution of energies occurring at death. Re- member the word “Humor,” Nye pa, literally means “faults” and is a direct reminder of impermanence and change. Striving for homeostatic balance, the body is constantly influenced by food via elements, qualities and environmental factors. This directly validates the interdependent nature of reality within the healing sciences on a bodily level. Subsequently, this demonstrates why dietary prescriptions and proper digestion are powerful healing methods. When indigestion exists, the whole organism can- not function well at the precise level of dependent origination.

The Nod Ja Kham “the basis of afflictions” includes classification, a functional role known as Me Drod or “The Three Digestive Heats or Digestive Powers,” plus the transformation and stability of the process.

“The Basis of Afflictions” or Nod Ja Kham, is divided into two types: Lus Zungs or the Seven Bodily Sustainers, and Dri Ma gSum or the Three Waste Products.


The Me Drod is the basis of the entire digestive process. Digestive power maintains health and lon- gevity, promotes diligence (an aspect of bile), pro- vides healthy complexion, and assists to help supply heat for the bodily sustainers to mature properly.

Digestive power serves as a catalyst for the devel- opment of the subsequent Seven Bodily Sustainers, complexion, health, function of the waste process, and Lus Kyi sTobs or “strength of the body.” When the body is consistently nourished and preserved, this assures a long healthy life. Central to spiritual health is having clear channels, by which we maintain through meditation practices and develop results as intended.

Primary within Tibetan Medicine is repairing and nourishing digestive power. Be it restoration from physical ailments or assisting tantric practice, both aspects are the aim of a sustained healthy digestion. The health of Me Dro is both dependent upon and assisted by a healthy Life Sustaining Wind, Srog rLung; and a well maintained essence of Thig le stored with- in the Life Force channel. Training to control subtle channels not only relies on the physical form to support spiritual results, but is reciprocal to physical health itself. Spiritual systems which transform coarse or subtle body channels must be clear to operate basic bodily functions and perform higher tantric functions.

The ultimate refined essence which itself is the supreme vitality of the body is known as mDangs ma. Through the process of refinement, nutrition transforms into our bodily substances. The end result of this 7 part process, when functioning properly, generates Thig le stored within our Life Sustaining channel. This aspect of the essence re ning itself in the nal stages of the 7 Bodily Sustainers is rarely discussed. So too can this process diminish under mental suffering or through poor nutrition and in- digestion related issues. Therefore, when a person suffers from the loss of this most precious re ned substance responsible for supporting the physical body, mind and emotions, then the patient suffers from great fears, emaciation, weakness, depression and loss of physical radiance. This is yet another example of the interdependent nature of reality mirrored in our physical form. The antidote for such a patient suffering from the loss of their mDangs ma is rejuvenation therapies. Primarily this is treated by giving nutritious foods such as meat, bone broth, milk, and medicine formulas to restore vitality to the body, mind, and spirit.

Our modern age is one of grasping for material objects, war and conflict. Increased mental suffering results in ultimate harm to the Life Force channel via indigestion and weakening of the Seven Bodily Sustainer processes. Western medicine has found that the small intestine, (location of the re-accompanying wind or Me mNyam rLung, one of the 3 aspects of the Me Dro and partially responsible for the initial stages of transformation within the Seven Bodily Sustainers), is full of as many neurotransmitters as within the brain. Literally, this is why when the nervous system is disrupted by trauma or prolonged over-stimulation as in mental suffering, then the Seven Bodily Sustainers process of absorption and refinement of essence weaken.

Further perpetuated by insubstantial foods, preservatives, man-made additives which cause cellular harm, sugars, excess fats and animal products, our Me Drod and thus the resulting Seven Bodily Sustainers often cannot function optimally. Nearly every patient encountered is treated for indigestion before focusing on other symptoms.

Nourishing ourselves and properly maintaining the Seven Bodily Sustainers function will serve us on many levels. The body is a vehicle for enlightenment. It is important to properly learn spiritual practices to clean and maintain health of the channels. Vital to the success of Tantric practices is proper physical nourishment. Indigestion directly hampers our spiritual development. The relevance of interdependence is

clear to the Tibetan physician, supporting the trans- formation of the Five Elements, Three Humors and ultimately the Three Root Poisons themselves. This cannot be achieved if we disregard or lack cultivation of the interdependence of nutrition and spirituality together. These aspects are a normal part of healing for Tibetan doctors who observe and provide antidotes for indigestion. Healthy digestion not only physically contributes to the creation of the ultimate re ned essence, dang ma, providing our stable health, it also bolsters spiritual longevity and metamorphosis as well. Proper nutrition should therefore be considered a part of the spiritual path.


1. Germano, David 1992. Poetic Thought, The Intelligent Uni- verse, and The Mystery of Self: the tantric synthesis of rD- zogs chen in fourteenth-century Tibet, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1992.

2. Gonpo, Yuthok Yonten 1982, 2002 rGyud bzhi — The Four Tantras, Tibet / China: bod lzongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang 3. Gonpo, Yuthok Yonten 2011. The Root Tantra and the Explanatory Tantra, Dharamsala: Men-Tsee-Khang Publications

4. Clark, Berry 1995. e Quintessence Tantras of Tibetan Medicine. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications.
5. Hall, Amelia and Nyinda, Nashalla, 2016 (Forthcoming) Channels, Winds and Drops: applying knowledge of the physical body to tantric Buddhist practice. (unpublished monograph).

DR. NASHALLA GWYN NYINDA  TMD began the study of Tibetan་Medicine in 1999 and treating patients with permission in 2004. She was encouraged by
her root teacher, VV Thrangu Rinpoche, to complete her medical studies in Darjeeling, India. Nashalla then earned her Menpa degree (Doctor of Tibetan Medicine) from Qinghai Tibetan Medical College, Tibet and The Shang Shung Institute of Tibetan Medicine USA in 2009. She has a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Naropa University, with a focus on Asian Medicines and Buddhist Psychology. Nashalla has taught Tibetan Medicine and meditation techniques worldwide to Tibetan and western students, practitioners and doctors. She is currently an adjunct faculty at Naropa University and the director of the Tibetan Medicine & Holistic Healing Clinic in Boulder, Colorado USA.

  • ©Sowa Rigpa Journal 1: 2017 Republished here on my blog with permission from the editor