“So-wa-rigpa” or “Chikitsavidya” or “Ancient Science of Healing” is one of most advanced form of
healing science, having its root in Indian Ayurveda system and Buddha’s teaching. During the 8th 9th
Century A.D., the great Indian Pandits and Tibetan translators have introduced this invaluable science in
Tibetan plateau and since then, a number of new developments with addition of some original ideas and
genuine works have evolved into the system which we today known as So-wa-rigpa or Ancient Science
of Healing, in both sides of Himalayan bordering regions as result of its popularity and flourishing in
those areas as well.
For the people living in this part of world, the faith and dependency in medical need is far
greater on traditional medicine than on its allopathic counterpart. This system of healing being a holistic
healthcare can treat cause of disease associated with different lifestyle.
In the growing restless world of population explosion in third world countries, economic
inflation everywhere coupled with challenges of poverty, health degrading hectic lifestyle of majority of
population, that which all throws up plethora of diseases unheard of, and mental disturbances, I feel the
traditional or alternative medicine system of healthy mind and body, holds the key in maintaining
balance and harmony of individual sanity.
This book is highly valuable source to the students and practitioner of Ancient Science of
Healing and provides for handy reference to those interested in this system of healing. I believe this
contribution by Dr. Smanla T. Phuntsog la is big leap for So-wa-rigpa.
About the Book
The book is a treasure-house of the traditional system of Tibetan medicine. Dr. Smanla T. Phuntsog’s
keen observations and understanding of the system makes it a valuable source of information for
students and research scholars alike.
The book deals with the fundamental knowledge of human physiology and medication by
traditional as well as modern methods. The chapter on dharmic physiology explains and illustrates the
teachings of the Buddha and its response to various curative applications and its true nature of
Of great importance is the listing o rare 493 herbs formulations and their therapeutic value.
This surely will come handy as a “ready-made” presentation of medicinal formulations and curative
The chapter on the names of Tibetan medicines with their Romanised versions and their
translation into Latin/English shows that the author has taken great pains to make the book appealing
both for the domestic as well as international readers. One surely can claim that the book offers a
synthesis of the Eastern and the Western values of medicinal systems. The pictorial illustrations of
herbal medicines add to the visual value and hence to the significance of the book as a valuable
In short, the book shows the mastery of the author on Tibetan medicine and functional system
of health. The correlation of many aspects of Tibetan and modern medicinal applications gives us a
clearer concept of the human physiology and its functional and curative systems.
Extremely nostalgic of the day in 1965, when fortunately I had the opportunity of having the holy
Darshan of His Holiness The Dalai Lama at Gangchen Kyishong, Daramshala, I cannot resist the
temptation of giving here a brief account of the most precious event concerning me. Having the high
spirit of youth and further having been detailed on duty at the Jammu Secretariat, I was to be found well
dressed invariably those days. Finding a man with Mongolian features in proper western dress, among a
group of Darshan – seekers, His Holiness apparently became curious at my sight and enquired about my
place of origin and profession. I hesitatingly answered in broken Tibetan that I belonged to Ladakh and
was a doctor by profession. His usual hypnotizing smile, inspired reverence and awe. He embraced me
with grace and affection.
His Holiness second query was, “O, ya (well, well) do you know Tibetan medicine?” Yes,
your holiness. Belonging, as I do, to a family of Amchi lineage, I have made the preliminary studies and
undergone the customary examination (Rgyugs) of an Amchi,” was my reply. When the other devotees
dispersed after receiving His blessing, His Holiness, holding my right hand with his life, led me to His
study room, which was moderately decorated in Tibetan style. Then he ordered for tea and to my
greatest amazement, His Holiness started preparing and serving it to me. Gathering sufficient mental
strength, I beseeched His Holiness not to take the trouble as I was feeling greatly uneasy, but all in vain.
Eventually, we had soothing Darjeeling tea. Its preparation and serving by His Holiness kept me, through
its entire course, in awe. His simplicity, humbleness and humility overwhelmed me.
Later, in a relaxed mood, His Holiness asked questions on the relation between the three
nadis, Tsa Dbuma, Roma and Rkyangma and its releation with human physiology. Being a fresh
medical graduate (1962) and well conversant with human physiology, I was able to give satisfactory
explanations on the subject of physiology, but my scanty knowledge of Tantricism did not put me in a
position to offer much concrete answer on the subject. Thereafter, we took up other topics like the
relationship of the brain with the mind, the nervous system, the five organs of consciousness, etc. Our
discussions on these topics went on for hours together.
When we called it a day, His Holiness asked me to stay put for a few days, but regretfully I
had to express my inability to accept the kind and precious offer, for I had to rush back to Ladakh to
attend to an epidemic of whooping cough among children, then prevailing in Ladakh. I was the only
doctor there. In one way, I felt bad for not being able to fulfil the invaluable desire of His Holiness. Yet
in another, I felt happy that, with my scanty knowledge, I could have a satisfying discussion with His
Holiness. I paid my utmost reverence and supplication to His Holiness and took his leave. I felt ashamed
and yet elated to receive the nectar of teachings. Lastly, while parting, His Holiness impressed upon me
thus, “amchi La, you have a great responsibility to contribute towards, the development of so-wa-rigpa.”
Since then the holistic words of His Holiness have constantly been vibrating in my mind and soul. And I
have kept doing whatever little I could to develop so-wa-rigpa whenever I got the opportunity.
Ever since the publication of my first book, Amchi pharmacotherapeutic, in Tibetan in 1991,
there has been a consistent prodding from my colleagues and friends, particularly from those living
abroad, to write a book on so-wa-rigpa. This system of science has remained in a water-tight
compartment, not much known to the outside world, though it is widely practiced in Tibet and the
trans-Himalayan regions of India including Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim.
Its practice is also seen in a few countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia and China and in some pockets
of Russia. Owing to my training and experience in both the disciplines of medicine, allopathic and
so-wa-rigpa, (the latter being my ancestral lineage) and, much more, to carry out the holy words of his
holiness, I consider it obligatory on my part to contribute towards the development and propagation of
so-wa-rigpa medicine (Amchi). Further, I feel lucky in having taken birth in a family of Amchi lineage
where, for generations, at least one of its family members remained involved in the practice of this
system, rendering free service to the society. Destiny and Karma made me an Eye Surgeon, and I
practiced for forty years in that capacity. I luckily find that my initial interest in the study of Amchi
medicine has not dissipated. Today, when medical science has made tremendous advance, a
complementary medicine like the so-wa-rigpa medicine (Tibetan Medicine) too has started gaining
more and more recognition. I think this is due to the openness of the present generation towards
exploring the ancient medicine and also due to the popularity gained by Tibetan healthcare system
globally beyond the ethnic existence. This is a significant trend and needs further encouragement.
The preparation of this book, which is titled (Ancient Matria Medica of Tibet), required an
extensive study and a lot of literary research. I had to take great pains while translating the so-wa-rigpa
medicine terminologies, including the names of the herbal ingredients, into English and Latin due to
lack of proper references and also because of other constraints.
Tibetan medicine has a history of mystery, mythology, tantricism and philosophical
connotation and it is difficult for me here to identify them separately and explain. However, to serve the
interest of the readers, an attempt has been made to explain some aspects of the physiology through the
Amchi textual sources. The idea behind bringing out this book was to collect the scattered formulation
in the various Amchi classics and to put them in a concise form on the pattern of Allopatic
pharmacopoeia. I hope that this publication will go a long way in the propagation of the Tibetan
Medicine for the treatment of various diseases and also serve as a source of reference for Amchi
About the Author
Dr. Smanla T. Phuntsog, popularly known as Dr. Smanla was born in a Amchi lineage family in a
remote village of Tingmosgang, Ladakh. He received his early education in a small school of his village,
Tingmospam and studied upto matric standard in High school, Leh. He did his pre-university course
from the university of Jammu and Kashmir and obtained his medical graduation (M.B.B.S degree) from
the university of Assam. He received a gold medal during his academic career and enjoys the distinction
of being the first medical graduate in the history of Ladakh region.
While in service, he did his postgraduate course in Ophthalmology (M.S.) from the university
of Punjab. Thereafter, he served in the state medical department as a senior ophthalmic consultant and
administrator. The government of Jammu and Kashmir conferred upon him a prestigious award of Gold
Medal in recognition of his sincere, honest, efficient and dedicated service.
Dr. Smanla is also a qualified Physician in traditional system of medicine (Tibetan Medicine)
and contributed a lot to its development. He is the author of several books. His book on Amchi
Pharmaco-Therapeutic is popular amongst the Amchi practitioners.
He is a multifaceted personality and has visited the whole of Europe, the Scandinavian
countries, U.S.S.R., Southeast Asian countries and Mongolia in connection with goodwill missions,
seminars, conferences, and lecture series in different disciplines.
He is an ardent social worker, and a Buddhist scholar who is now the Director of Mahabodhi
Karuna Charitable Hospital, Devachan, Leh – Ladakh (J & K State).
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