Support to the Gaden Jangtse Tibetan Medical Institute

Project location: INDIA, Mundgod
Project start date: February 2002 - Project end date: February 2005
Project number: 2001-18
Beneficiary: Gaden Jangtse Norling College

In early 2002 the Nando Peretti Foundation awarded a grant to the Gaden Jangtse Norling College of Buddhist Cultural and Welfare Association for a three-year project supporting the institution of an intensive course of study in Traditional Tibetan Medicine within the Monastery.

The Gaden Jangtse Norling College of Buddhist Cultural and Welfare Association was founded by the great Lama Je Tsong Khapa in the year 1409 near Lhasa (Tibet). The military occupation of Tibet by China in 1959 had forced H.H. the Dalai Lama and Tibetan monks from Gaden Jangtse College to ask for political asylum in India. The Indian government in 1969 allowed the monks to settle in Mundgod (Southern India), where they have rebuilt the monastery and the Tibetan medical centre.

Before the Chinese invasion of 1959, more than 1600 monks lived in Gaden. Later on, with the start of the occupation, the destruction of the Tibetan culture and tradition began, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama was forced to flee, together with a large group of abbots, geshes, monks and laypeople.

By its very nature, the Tibetan culture is permeated with religion, and is inseparable from it. The monasteries were, and still are, the cradles of their civilisation. Within these monasteries, or around them, ancient Tibetan medicine is also taught, which has its origins in no less than the teachings of the Buddha Shakyamuni himself.

Following the exodus, and after much hardship, a group of lamas and monks from the Gaden Monastery finally reached Mundgod in 1969. There they began the reconstruction of the Education Centres, on 107 acres of wooded ground granted by the Indian Government, in the State of Karnataka.

These were years of hard work, carried out by hand and with primitive and inadequate tools. Many lamas died at a young age due to fatigue, poverty, and illness. In the meantime, a continual stream of exiles, monks and laypeople arrived from Tibet, exactly as it is happening now. In 1982, finally, His Holiness the Dalai Lama inaugurated the first reconstruction of the Monastery, completed with enormous sacrifice and meagre materials. In that same year the College was registered by the Karnataka Government as a Cultural Association.

Currently the Gaden Jangtse Monastery (abbreviated to "Gajang") has over 1300 monks. More than half of these are under 30 years old, with a few hundred children, and the majority of the young students are orphan, have lost a parent, or come from very poor families.

The College provides education to the level of Geshe Lharampa (Doctor of Buddhist Philosophy), and alongside the religious education there are courses in English, Mathematics and Social Sciences. Until the launch of the "Gaden Jangtse Tibetan Medical Institute Support" Project, medical education was lacking, even though it had its own special value in the Tibetan culture. As holders of the Tibetan culture and tradition, the Gaden Jangtse Norling College of Buddhist Cultural and Welfare Association has the important task of preserving that heritage.

The aim of the TIBETAN MEDICAL INSTITUTE PROJECT was to launch a three-year intensive course of study in Traditional Tibetan Medicine. Such a course was intended to form a selected group of student monks, as so to ensure the continuity of the ancient methods of traditional treatment, based on the combined use of particular medicinal herbs, gem particles and precious metals. The course was also meant to preserve the traditional treatment of Tibetan Medicine which is at risk of extinction since it is a property of senior Doctors. As a matter of fact, since many of the older Tibetan doctors and lama-doctors have passed away, it is the younger generation's turn to keep alive the ancient Tibetan treatments and the methods of preparing their famous medicines, which have a peculiar absence of collateral effects.

These treatments incite the body to react against the illness, reinforcing the natural defences and purifying both the physical mechanism and the subtle energy channels. These medicines are antidotes which act against the effects of all types of poisoning deriving from foods, plants, insects, animals and chemical agents. They assist, moreover, in the treatment of hemiplegics, paralysis, limb stiffness, nervous disorders and joint problems. They also act against high blood pressure, cardiac disorders, ulcers, cancer in its early stages, etc.

As in the Monastery there was not a resident doctor, and assistance for the sick and infirm people was a major problem - only since July 2001 they have been able to offer a minimum of local medical assistance thanks to the voluntary service of a group of Italian doctors, who alternate for short periods on a rotating basis - the primary goal of the Project was to allow for a skilled Tibetan doctor from Dharamsala to teach the traditional Tibetan treatment to 21 young monks and to produce Tibetan pills (Men-tsee-khang) for selling and/or free allotment. After the completion of the three year's course of Tibetan Medicine studies, the students/monks were to serve not only the Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries but also the secular Tibetan people nearby, as well as the Indian natives from the surrounding territory.

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