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Exploring the Healing Practices of Tibetan Buddhism: Interview with Tulku Lobsang
According to Buddhist belief, the mind is the creator of all problems, including physical sickness. The traditional Buddhist method of dealing with diseases thus combines healing techniques that affect the body and mind in a holistic approach. Tibetan medicine, an integral part of Vajrayana Buddhism, suggests that for lasting healing to occur, it is necessary to treat the disease not only with medicine and other forms of therapy, but also target the cause originating from the mind as well. It is believed that if the mind is not healed, the problems will occur again and again.
I was fortunate to explore the healing practices of Tibetan Buddhism with Buddhist teacher and doctor Tulku Lobsang Rinpoche during his program in Mallorca from 6-9 April.
The program in Mallorca included a public talk titled “Developing Our Healing Potential,” held at the capital of the island, Palma de Mallorca, and a Tsa Lung (Tibetan yoga of channels and energy) retreat in the municipality of Calvià. In between the events of the program, organized by the Nangten Menlang Islas Baleares, Tulku Lobsang also offered medical consultations, as a doctor of Tibetan medicine and as a spiritual advisor. During the consultations, he would examine the conditions of the organs, the blood, and the three humours (wind, bile, phlegm) by checking the pulse, and give advice on how to treat any imbalances in the body through nutrition, physical movements, and breathing or meditation techniques.
During the public talk in Palma de Mallorca, which was attended by people around the world, Tulku Lobsang explained how we can attain happiness and health by overcoming negative emotions and using our innate healing energies. Weather, food, and behavior can affect our health but negative emotions have a direct impact on our body. Among negative emotions such as ignorance, attachment, anger, jealousy, and hatred, anger has the strongest negative impact on our health. Tulku Lobsang stressed the fact that fear is another factor that provokes health problems and can attract sickness. These are the real enemies of our health and happiness.
In his talk, Tulku Lobsang distinguished three types of diseases: conditional diseases, for instance caused by the weather or wrong behavior, karmic diseases, which are more difficult to treat, and diseases caused by a projection of the mind. During my interview with Rinpoche, I asked him to elaborate on the treatment of this last type of sickness. He explained: “Diseases caused by mental projection are difficult to recognize because of our ignorance. Sometimes it is complicated to diagnose them. You have symptoms but doctors cannot find the problem and say that you are healthy, even though you do not feel good.”
According to Rinpoche, these problems can be healed by a doctor of Tibetan medicine-cum-Buddhist teacher, who is able to give proper advice, guidance, and blessings. In the West, however, the spiritual training is usually replaced by psychology and psychotherapy. He explained that diseases caused by mental projection can be treated by Tibetan medicine and shamanic practices. This last remark provoked my curiosity, and I asked what he meant by shamanic practices. According to Rinpoche: “With shamanic practices I mean particular Buddhist rituals. Tibetan Buddhism accepts shamanism, it is not our primary practice but it is part of our culture.”
Tulku Lobsang described emotional problems as a specific diseases that need to be healed with deep Buddhist practices. These diseases usually take longer to heal, because negative emotions such as ignorance, anger, and attachment are deeply rooted in our minds and need a special doctor, who cures suffering like the Buddha, as well as medicine in the form of great compassion and wisdom. He advised that if one has a “normal problem,” one should visit a doctor, physiologist, or psychotherapist, but if they have a more specific problem, which goes beyond medicine and psychology, then Buddhist teachings or other spiritual teachings can help.
Tibetan medicine provides a holistic approach to healing that takes the whole person into consideration; addressing their physical, mental and emotional health, lifestyle, and their interaction with the environment. As a practicing Tibetan doctor, Rinpoche follows this approach: “If you are a good doctor, you need to look at the whole and only then do you go into details. But you should never lose the holistic view because everything is connected.”
Apart from searching help from a doctor or spiritual teacher, Tulku Lobsang also advised us on how to use our innate healing potential. Self-healing practices work with the power of the mind: “Life is a projection of the mind. The mind is the most powerful instrument in space. It has the power to make you happy or sad, healthy or sick. If the mind is doing what we want, this is a liberation from the limitations of the mind. That is why we train our mind, and develop wisdom and compassion.”
In Palma de Mallorca, Tulku Lobsang taught us three self-healing exercises that use the unlimited potential of the mind: the power of nature, the power of opposite, and the power of visualization. The power of nature requires abiding to the natural state of mind, it is a complete relaxation of the mind. The power of opposite means that instead of rejecting the sickness from which we are suffering, we should welcome it: “I like this sickness and I want more.” Rinpoche pointed out that this idea might sound crazy, but if one practices this method it will gradually change the mind. The power of visualization includes the visualization of our body as an empty healing body of red light. This universal healing practice reduces pain, releases tension in the body, and removes blockages in the mind.
The Tsa Lung retreat lead by Tulku Lobsang in Calvià was a healing and inspiring experience. Tsa Lung is a powerful technique that combines movement with breath retention, in order to release blockages in the subtle body (the energetic body), which is composed of tsa (channels) and lung (wind-energy). According to Tibetan medicine, the health of our subtle body is of primary importance for the health of our physical body and our mind. Tsa Lung is a Tibetan practice that aims to heal the subtle body. When the channels are open and the wind flows freely, then this energy can be used for self-healing and healing others.
It goes without saying that we need proper outer and inner conditions—outer conditions of proper place, environment and inner conditions of proper motivation, emotional state, understanding—in order to develop our healing potential. Spiritual and peaceful places, like the beaches of Mallorca, undoubtedly help us to connect to the healing power of nature and to recover from physical or mental problems. However, according to Buddhism the main healer is our mind. The mind is the creator of the world in which we live. It is the cause of some of our suffering and diseases, but also the cure for them. Perhaps we can say that the mind is the sole author of the book called “life.” Or is there something more beyond the mind? The smiling face of the Buddha may answer: “The truth lies in the middle.”
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