时间:2022-10-30 03:52:21


According to the most ancient Bonpo texts, Don-pa Shen-rab, forefather of Bon religion, descended from heaven on the sacred Mt. Gang-rin-po-che. Today, in front of the sacred Mt. Kailas, there lies a mysterious triangular area composed of Chos-lung, rGya-nyi-ma and Mon-rtsher (the sources of the Elephant-like River), where stands the only surviving monastery of Bon religion in mNgav-ris. bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags Rin-po-che, who enjoys the highest position in Bon religion, acts as both abbot of the monastery and president of mNgav-ris Tibetan Medicine Hospital.

It is believed that bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags holds two keys in his mysterious yet chaotic mind. One is to find the distant and mysterious history of Bon religion, the other serves to search for the secrets of the remote Zhang-zhung civilization.

However, in fact, the author tells us that bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags still keeps another key in his hand, that is, the key to find the clue of mysterious history of Tibetan medicine.

I finally interviewed bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags Rin-po-che on September 8, 1999, several years after I heard of his name.

In the past, I felt so remote from him, but now so close to each other that I believed that we had been together all the time

and never separated. He is kind and amiable. I presented him a piece of Hata (ceremonial scarf) while he returned on to me

together with a box of saffron crocus and a box with something inside, which is, actually, a kind of Tibetan medicine made from materials collected from Mt. Gang-rin-po-che and Ma-phan-g yu-mtsho Lake. (It is said that Tibetan doctors use it to cure diseases after baking it over fire.) He told me that this medicine was of great significance as far as religion was concerned. Just at this moment, came in two Tibetan women patients who came over to seek for his medical advice. They kowtowed to him, half-kneeling in front of his seat while he made diagnoses. I saw that he was very patient with the two women patients.

As for the relations between Buddhism and Bon religion, bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags said: “The water in the Yar-klung-gtsang-po, Lhasa and Seng-ge-gtsang-po rivers are the same, and people can drink it to quench thirst. The names of these rivers differ, but water is the same.”

bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags treated patients and received guests in his inner room on the first floor where a low cupboard was covered with all kinds of pictures and photos, including photos of him taken in various places of Tibetan-inhabited areas as well as postcards of the Potala Palace and many other monasteries. On the Tibetan-style bookshelf is displayed his work entitled “Ancient History of mNgav-ris” in Tibetan, which was specially printed in Lhasa. Although there were only 500 copies, they were printed on traditional strips of Tibetan paper in an ancient printing technique, evoking a sense of the past. Touching it looks like touching remove antiquity.

bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags related his story in an unhurried manner. In these two days, I kept on sitting in front of his bed quietly. It seems to me that his narrating with a strong mNgav-ris accent was more like chanting a classical epic.

Born in sBra-chen County, northern Tibet, bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags became a monk at the age of 5, and received the degree of dGe-bshes (Doctor of Divinity) at 16. And he began to learn Tibetan medicine at 23. By virtue of his diligence, he is proficient in religion, history, Tibetan grammar, astronomy and calculation as well as Tibetan medicine. It is said that he only sleeps 5-6 hours a day. Legends say that he meditates in the Sutra Hall instead of sleeping and I verified it true in my interviews. He begins to have a meal, the only one each day, at 1:30 in the afternoon, usually including rTsam-pa (barley flour), milk residues and butter tea. Occasionally, he has Chinese cabbage. That is all he has. He never eats sugar while having milk residues, nor eats meat. He drinks a little butter tea, only one kettle a day. He conducts isolated meditation in a mountain cave near sGur-ru-rgya monastery from October to March every year. Even in this unusual period, he would find 3 hours (from 1:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon everyday) to treat patients, only leaving 5 minutes for him to eat some rTsam-pa. Generally speaking, nothing is more important for monks than meditation and nothing can interfere with it. bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags, perhaps, the only exception, believes that treating patients is also a way of meditation.

I came to see him in order to find out answers to some questions about Tibetan medicine. So we extended our conversation along this direction. 78-year-old Rin-po-che has been working in mNgav-ris Tibetan Medicine Hospital for 37 years. There used to be only one doctor of Tibetan medicine and one house in the entire mNgav-ris area when the hospital was set up. Now, there are more than 200 local Tibetan doctors in mNgav-ris. “I remembered the year when President Jiang Zemin was to inspect Tibetan Autonomous Region Hospital, I reported to the government of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, applying for increasing quotas for regular doctors of Tibetan medicine in mNgav-ris area. As a result, there were 900 qualified doctor of Tibetan medicine in the entire Autonomous Region and 35 in mNgav-ris.” mNgav-ris Tibetan Medicine Hospital is now in use, and its construction cost RMB 4,000,000 supported financially from Hebei Province and RMB 1,500,000 from the government of Tibet Autonomous Region. The building is the best in the entire mNgav-ris area. bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags spent more than RMB 20,000 on scriptures and classics of Tibetan medicine. He is ready to spend another RMB 50,000, plus the equal amount of money from the government of the Prefecture, on procuring more medical equipment. He offers all his wages (over RMB 2,400 each month) to Tibetan medical and cultural undertakings.

bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags lives together bsTan-chos and bsTan-vdzin-phun-tshogs. 26-year-old bsTan-chos, his disciple, is from Sum-pa County, Aba Tibet Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan Province. Over the past seven years, he has been learning medicine under the direction of bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags while taking care of him. He is a qualified village sub-medic. Two days ago, when I saw him, he looked childish, simple and lovely, smiling all the time. bsTan-vdzin-phun-tshogs, Rin-po-che’s nephew, used to be his student, who now works in a Tibetan medicine hospital. bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags in good health never suffers from any serious diseases, only occasionally catching cold. He has never taken any medicine except some anti-cold tablets. He lives a quite regular life. He has never watched TV programs nor has he answered any telephone calls. He seldom hangs out in gLing-kas unless he has something important to do. Whenever he has time, he would chant scriptures.

bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags, both a Rin-po-che and a doctor, still plays various roles in mNgav-ris, this unique region. Nowadays, large numbers of people come to see him for his medical advice instead of religious transmission.

Which status does he regard as important?

“I am a Rin-po-che. I should mainly handle religious affairs, but I also practice medicine. I began to learn Tibetan history, culture and medicine at the age of 6. When I reached 20, my teacher passed away, leaving his will that I would be his successor. So I did what I had been told. Within the territory of mNgav-ris, I treat patients and try to make Tibetan medicine influential. Treating patients is true materialism as well as real service for the people. But I have more extensive influence in aspects of religion.”

On a small cupboard by his bed is placed a group photo taken with Kong Fansen, the former secretary of mNgav-ris Prefecture Party Committee. They were good friends. When he was alive, Kong Fansen would sit chatting with bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags whenever he had spare time. The old man said that he missed Secretary Kong very much.

As for the relations between Buddhism and Bon religion, he said, both of them serve the people, only in different names and different ways of practice. “The two religions are the same,” he said by comparing them to the water in the Yar-klung-btsangs-po, Lhasa and Seng-ge-btsangs-po rivers. The water is the same, and people can drink it to quench thirst. The names differ, but the water is the same.” bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags Rin-po-che has fostered more than 200 students, but only a dozen of Bonpo believers. He is a Bonpo Rin-po-che enjoying the highest position. People in mNgav-ris, old and young, call him “sMad-dge-lung”(an elderly grand Rin-po-che ordained as Bhiksu). sGur-ru-rgya monastery in sGar County is his seat monastery, the only Bonpo one in mNgav-ris. There are 14 Bonpo lamas and nuns in the entire mNgav-ris region, but there are over 300 Bonpo monasteries in Tibetan-inhabited areas in Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan. He told me that there is a Bonpo monastery with over 1,000 lamas in Aba of Sichuan Province and more Bonpo monasteries and Bonpo believers in Chab-mdo of Tibet. Buddhists go for circumambulation circling around sacred mountains in a clockwise way while Bonpo believers in an anti-clockwise.

Tibetan medicine has a long history of 16,500 years, says bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags.

How did Bon religion exert influence on Tibetan medicine, then? “In Bonpo classics, there exist works on Tibetan medicine as well as astronomy and calculation. I’m a Bonpo Rin-po-che, so I’m somehow different from others in some specific practices, but we chant the same scriptures. Some patients seek medical advice from Tibetan secular doctors or lamas, who follow Buddhist practices. But I do the same thing as Tibetan doctors do in other places. We should treat patients according to Four Medical Classics. Just like Byams-pa-vphrin-las and Khro-ru-tshe-rnam (famous Tibetan doctors in history), we all follow the practice of traditional Tibetan medicine, but my treatment level is not as superb as theirs.” bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags compared Tibetan medicine to vast oceans. He asserted that Tibetan medicine has a history of 16,500 years. Treating patients completely based on Four Medical Classics is not an easy job. “What we have applied and mastered merely occupy about 10%¡«30% requested in Four Medical Classics and applying 50% would be considerable. Nowadays, theories on Tibetan medicine are still confined within the framework of Four Medical Classics. Understanding these theories thoroughly and putting them into practice needs popularization of culture and painstaking efforts.”

As for the relations between Bon religion and Tibetan medicines, according to G. Tucci, a renowned Italian Tibetologist, Mt. Kailas is also called “Mountain of Bonpo Religion”, where stands a soul snow-capped mountain. The Celestial Goddess is the mother of Tibetan medicine, who resides on the mountain and enjoys the highest prestige in Bon religion. sMan-bons (Bonpo doctors) in charge of anti-diseases herbal medicine must be included in prominent figures who played important roles in the early stage of Bon religion. Another legend says that the witch suggested the queen who fell ill to consult Shen-rab-mi-bo, because only he knew the cause of diseases and the demons attached to her body. In that case, she could get some medicine. Shen-rab-mi-bo, an important forefather of Bon religion, was well versed in medicine. His son was also a doctor, who left behind a medical work entitled Treatment of Poisoning.

When asked whom he respected best, bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags mentioned two Bonpo Rin-po-ches in history as well as seven other distinguished religious figures. “Respecting them means learning from them, especially the essence of their learning.” Later, I was told that the golden roof and Wheels of Dharma were placed on the roof of new hospital so as to maintain its religious style due to strong insistence of bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags. He said: “This is a Tibetan medicine hospital, not an administrative building of the Prefecture Party Committee.”

He has treated more than 200,000 patients

So far, bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags has treated more than 200,000 patients since the Democratic Reform in Tibet. “It is my rule that I refuse to accept anything while treating patients, who often show their respect and give me rTsam-pa with some money in their rTsam-pa bags. This is an expression of their good will, anyway.” And then, he paused, bursting into childish laughter and saying that he has had much rTsam-pa given by masses.

In November 1997, at the invitation of some organizations in Switzerland, he visited Zurich and stayed there for two months. Before leaving, he bought more than RMB 10,000 worth of medicine from a prefecture pharmaceutical factory and distributed them free of charge among Tibetans in Switzerland and only received a small sum of money from foreigners. He went on pilgrimage to India and Nepal 50 years ago. He once visited many places in the mainland, and Beijing was the farthest one. However, to my surprise, he has never been to Site of Gu-ge Kingdom in mNgav-ris. Even so, he is proficient in history of the Gu-ge Kingdom and yearns for Zhang-zhung civilization, once prosperous in the past.

bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags told me: “In the past, Tibetan medicine was linked with astronomy and calculation. Now equal stress is laid on both Tibetan and Western medicines, and I ask my disciples to develop both of them. Tibetan medicine is in great prosperity, and the state should continuously support traditional medicine.” He has conveyed the same message to Bonpo believers in America.

Rin-po-che bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags initiated Kailas Tibetan Medical School and recruited more than 40 peasants and herders’ children. The school undertakes all their life expenses and tuition. I wanted to know more about the school, but bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags’ reply quite surprised me. “I initiated the school, inspired by Deng Xiaoping’s reform and open-up policies.” In fact, I quite understand his feeling of gratitude to Deng Xiaoping. Thanks to Deng Xiaoping’s policies, everybody, including me, and every corner in China, even remote mNgav-ris, has changed his or its fate.

The school has special requests on enrolling students. Students must be orphans or poor farmers and herders’ children. “Although they are not well grounded in learning,” he said, “it would benefit both the country and the people if they are well trained.” I have learned that that the Swiss donate RMB 280,000 every year (RMB 200,000 for teaching work and RMB 80,000 for clinical practice). Besides, they provided RMB 300,000 last year and RMB 400,000 this year for the construction of new classrooms, dormitories, libraries and clinics. The students there needn’t pay any money, and after graduation, they can also bring back some medical instruments and medicine to their hometowns. It is said that from the next year on, the prefecture government will appropriate funds to the school at 10% annual growth rate.

bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags is fully occupied with routine work. He can only visit the school once or twice a year. Each time, he would give a piece of Hata and RMB 10 to each student.

In the afternoon of the last day in my interview, he took me upstairs to see his Sutra Hall and dispensary. Basically, his Sutra Hall has the same layout and pattern as other masters’. The hall is full of Thang-kas depicting portraits of Sakyamuni, Tsong-kha-pa and g?Yu-thog-yon-tan-mgon-po, Saint of Medicine. In addition, there are 12 Thang-kas about history of Bon religion, describing the life stories of Bonpo forefather and his 11 disciples. A plate painted with the portrait of Kong Fansen looks very unique among them.

Sutras are not his complete collections. Sutras preserved in sGur-ru-rgya Monastery and Tibetan Medicine Hospital and his collections may total to 15,000 copies. Among them, more than 300 are on Tibetan medicine. Some books were written by his teacher, the only renowned doctor in mNgav-ris, whose works are the targets collected by foreign research organizations. I was lucky to have got two copies of works written by bsTan-vdzin-dbang-grags. One is 1993 Astronomy and Calendar of mNgav-ris Area, the other is about history of Bon religion. The latter is a book printed on common long strips of paper and clipped by two pieces of dark red wooden boards tied up by a one-span wide yellow plastic ribbon. In this book, he relates his several years’ experience in aspects of religion and life. Unfortunately, however, I was unable to read this Tibetan book, unique in both content and form.

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