Without health life is not life; it is only a state of langour and suffering – an image of death.
Alone among the world’s religions, Buddhism locates suffering at the heart of the world. Indeed according to Buddhism, existence is suffering (dukkha). The main question that Guatama (c.566 BC – c.480 BC), the traditional founder of Buddhism, sought to answer was: “Why do pain and suffering exist?”
Here Buddhism is very practical. All of the Dharma is based on Buddha’s discovery that suffering is unnecessary: Like a disease, once we really face the fact that suffering exists, we can look more deeply and discover it’s cause; and when we discover that the cause is dependent on certain conditions, we can explore the possibility of removing those conditions. Buddha taught many methods for doing that, and the Tibetans have preserved and refined many of them over the centuries.
The spiritual and psychological entanglements that lead to suffering also can result in illness of all sorts. Many Tibetan Buddhist methods and tools for awakening, for removing those entanglements, also promote relaxation and healing. In traditional Tibetan culture, practicing meditation and using prayer wheels, incense, prayer flags and other methods all work together with Tibetan herbal medicine in healing illness and maintaining health.
1 – Meditation
Meditation is a means of transforming the mind. Buddhist meditation practices are techniques that encourage and develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calm seeing of the true nature of things. By engaging with a particular meditation practice you learn the patterns and habits of your mind, and the practice offers a means to cultivate new, more positive ways of being. With regular work and patience these nourishing, focused states of mind can deepen into profoundly peaceful and energised states of mind. Such experiences can have a transformative effect and can lead to a new understanding of life.
For some of us, especially those who have problems related to stress and alienation, finding a meditation practice that is easy for Western people to connect to in a genuine and whole hearted way may be the best approach, even if it is not traditionally considered to be a meditation especially connected with health and healing.
2 – Prayer Wheels
The Tibetan prayer wheels also called as the Mani Wheels, are used to spread spiritual blessings and overall well-being. These devices are rolls of thin paper with imprints of several mantras or prayer like Om Mani Padme Hum, wound around an axle in a protective container. It is believed that spinning the written form of the mantra around in a prayer wheel gives the same benefit as saying the mantra. Tibetan Buddhists are of the opinion that chanting the mantra loud or silently to oneself while spinning the wheel invokes the great, benign attention and blessings of Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche preaches, “Just touching and turning a prayer wheel brings incredible purification and accumulates unbelievable merit.” Based on this teaching, one can find huge prayer wheels mounted in rows in the pathways of a shrine so that people can spin them along the route. This practice is called as circumambulation.
Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels are always spun clockwise because it rotates the syllables of the mantra in a way that the viewer can read them. It follows the direction of the sun and matches the clockwise circumambulation of the stupas. However, the Bon practitioners follow the pre-Buddhist spiritual tradition of Tibet and spin their prayer wheels’ counter clockwise which is the same direction used in circumambulation.
Since the introduction of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, many types of Mani wheels have made their debut. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, stated that having a mantra on our computer works in a similar pattern like a traditional prayer wheel. A computer’s hard disk spins several times per hour and can contain many copies of the mantra. So, anyone can turn their computer into a prayer wheel.
3 – Prayer Flags
Tibetans follow a tradition of printing prayers from hand-carved wood blocks onto colored squares of cotton. These flags are strung together and hung in various places like homes, mountain passes, temples or any open space where the wind will blow. The Tibetans believe that when the wind blows, the prayers are sent to the universe to appease the local spirit powers. As a result, the wishes of the person who hangs the flags are granted. The hanging prayer flags are believed to bring in happiness, peace and health to all those residing in the area where the flags are hung.
4 – Mantra
“Mantras are also among the most ancient healing techniques. One very important use of mantra for healers is in invoking the Medicine Buddha to bless medicines or produce other healing effects. Mantras are also dedicated to healing specific illnesses or to bring about specific results such as long life, clearing obstacles from one’s life path, spiritually purifying food and offerings, and so on.” Peter Fenton
Om Mani Padme Hum, Om Mani Padme Hum, the famous mantra of Chenrezig, written in Tibetan script is said to contain all the teachings of the Buddha. Tibetan Buddhists believe that by chanting this mantra or prayer, one can invoke the powerful benevolent attention. (read more)
5 – Incense Sticks
The incense sticks are made using different Tibetan herbs. These incense sticks provide relief from symptoms related to stress, asthma, tension, headache, and depression.
6 – Distant healing
Many Tibetan lamas of all traditions will perform special spiritual practices (pujas) for the benefit of individuals who are ill or recently deceased. A donation is appropriate to cover the cost of the materials (incense, etc.) used in the practice. Additional funds to support the work of the lamas are always welcome; Tibetans believe that such gifts add to the effectiveness of the blessing ceremony.
7 – Stupas
“Because a stupa is built in the open air many beings, human and non-human, will go around it and thus many will benefit.”
Stupas were previously a mound where the Buddha’s relics were kept. However, with time, the stupa became an important artistic and architectural form. In Tibet, when a great meditation master dies, a stupa is built to enshrine his remains. The stupa acts as a focal point for the students and others.
When Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, a meditation master who introduced the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism to the West, died in 1987, his disciples built a stupa which was 108 feet tall. It is made of specially designed reinforced concrete and is called as the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, That Liberates on Seeing. It is intended to last a thousand years.