When we travel in the mountains we often wonder how do people live in such remote locations without modern medicine and access to these services ? But going deeper into communities we know that, traditional healing is what sustains the life of the people and environment here.
Known as Sowa Rigpa, it is practiced in the Himalayas of Nepal, India, Tibet, Bhutan, China and Mongolia. The system relies on the ‘Four medical Tantras (’Bum zhi ) as well as (rGyud zhi) which depends on plants and other natural resources in their pharmacology. The disease is understood through the balance of ‘three humors’’ of wind, bile and Phlegm with the root causes of three mental poisons: attachment, anger and ignorance and the five elements: earth, air, water, fire and space. ‘Health’ is understood as a state of balance of these aspects. Disease is understood to have biophysical, environmental, and psycho–‐spiritual roots.
Amchi here in the Himalayas are mostly lineage practitioners, where they learn the medical practice, production of medicine, and prescription from their fathers or other male relatives; at times they also learn medicine from religious teachers. In the past, Nepal’s amchi were required by their fathers or other teachers to complete a three year, three month, and three day retreat as part of their training. During this time, novice amchi devoted themselves to the memorization of fundamental medical texts and to get deeper experience in meditation so that the natural wisdom and compassion manifests gaining legitimacy as healers.
With the advent of the modern medicine many people in the Himalayas utilize modern medicine but the Amchis still play a key role in public health and services as the strong alternative. In addition, the tradition is also gaining attention world-wide as a viable alternative healing system.
We have been working to support the Amchi tradition in preserving their tradition and also try to incorporate these elements in our travel trips. Please let us know if you are interested to learn more about the tradition and or join a trip to observe and learn from the traditional healers, herbal medical practitioners.