Making Prosperity

In this film, Buddhist monks prepare for a ritual in which they ask a deity for luck and prosperity. The ritual is performed in the filmmaker’s village in Eastern Tibet. The film offers a rare study of one of the most important tasks in preparing a Tibetan ritual, the making of torma, elaborate sculptures made …

Smoke and Sky, Faith and Fortune

This film documents a Buddhist ritual practice conducted in the home of the filmmaker’s family in an Eastern Tibetan region of China. The practice involves creating elaborate decorated sculptures out of dough, which are known in Tibetan as torma. In this film, these are offered as food for non-human spirits who may otherwise harm people …

Eating Letters in the Tibetan Treasure Tradition

This paper discusses the presence of a practice referred to as “edible letters” (za yig) in Tibetan Treasure texts (gter ma) and medical literature. The eating of these small papers on which letters are written serves a wide range of practical needs, from increasing one’s wisdom or winning arguments, to protecting against disease, spirit possession …

What Children Need

In this article I explore the care of children in Tibetan culture as expressed through several works on the medical and ritual treatment and protection of children. These texts describe a remarkably broad range of technologies aimed and healing and protecting children, recommending the feeding of pills, soups, butters, beers, or texts to children, parents, …

Narratives of Hospitality and Feeding in Tibetan Ritual

This essay proposes that many Tibetan rituals are shaped by a language of creating, giving and eating food. Drawing on a range of pre-modern texts and observation of a week-long Accomplishing Medicine (sman sgrub) ritual based on those texts, we explore ritualized food interactions from a narrative perspective. Through the creation, offering, and consumption of …

Mercury, Mad Dogs and Smallpox

Famous for his contributions to art and grammar, Situ Panchen is also claimed by Tibetan medical historians as one of the great figures of medicine. He was a major supporter of institutional medicine, sponsoring the reprinting of a number of important medical works, and establishing a medical college at Dpal spungs monastery. Not only did …

The Making of Medical History

This essay addresses the transmission of medical knowledge in Tibet spanning a period of roughly six hundred years. I begin with an overview of several of the major traditions of Tibetan medicine during this period, emphasizing both how intertwined they are with each other and how connected they are to contemporaneous Buddhist traditions. I then …

Hidden Paradises of the Himalaya

“A distant view of a snowy range…has a strange power of moving all poets and persons of imagination,” wrote Douglas Freshfield in his 1903 memoir, Round Kangchenjunga. The British mountaineer was describing his vision of the 8586-meter Mt. Kangchenjunga from the hill-station of Darjeeling. Kangchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world and has …

Gesar’s Therapeutic Geographies

This article explores how practices of healing or information about medicine operate in the Gesar epic. I begin with a discussion of a few relevant examples from commonly known Gesar episodes, proposing that beyond being of significant interest in themselves, these stories may be rich sources for questioning how the category of ‘medicine’ may be …

Studies of Medical Pluralism

Sienna Craig, Mingji Coumo, Frances Garrett and Mona Schrempf (Editors):  Studies of Medical Pluralism in Tibetan History and Society [PIATS 2006: Proceedings of the Eleventh Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies. Königswinter 2006.], 2010, 470 pages, 76,50 Euro. ISBN: 978-3-03809-108-0 The two Tibetan medical panels at the XIth seminar at Königswinter, Germany, in 2006 included thirty-four papers …