Buddhist Medicine


Buddhist Medicine

Think of Traditional Thai medicine as a multi-national “Soup” with a robust animistic foundation.

The recipe draws from the regional practices of people who occupied the region we now know as Thailand before the migration of people from southern China who also contribute to the stew.  Another strong flavor in the “Soup” is the Indian medical knowledge coming through the area because it exists along popular trade routes between India and China. 

Massage and herbal healing remedies are likely as old as the human race.

After hunter-gatherers came home with aching limbs, their mates presumably tried to rub away muscles’ soreness and the stiffness in joints. While foraging abroad, people likely discovered that some plants had helpful qualities beyond satisfying their hunger. Over time, the knowledge was refined and passed down, first orally from generation to generation.

In the part of the world we now know as Thailand,

there is evidence that people existed earlier than almost anywhere in the world. According to the story, Samut Khoi, (Thai: สมุดไทย, [sā. mùt tʰāj]) were produced. These are a type of folding-book manuscript that were historically widely used in many Buddhist cultures, including Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, and in Myanmar, where they are known as parabaik. As trade and relations began to develop between villages, then city-states, and finally kingdoms, this knowledge was shared and adopted. 

Traditional Thai Medicine…

persist, all components must receive equal support and consideration. To master TTM, the concepts you should study are: 
The threefold division into the essences of a human being. Three essences: body, energy, and mind/heart. Each branch of Traditional Thai Medicine focuses on one of these while their goals and effects overlap. For example, herbs and diet not only heal the body, they also help purify the mind. Thai massage makes contact with the physical body, but the benefits extend into the mental and spiritual spheres.  
Chitta, or the mind/heart of a being, in the realm of Buddhist practice and native folk beliefs that have persisted despite the mainstream Buddhist religion.    Lom or Lifeforce. Pran in Thai and Prana in Sanskrit. Thai massage and yoga, whose movements are designed to optimize the flow of vital energies in the body, concern themselves with unblocking and maintaining the pathways.

Legend tells us that Thai medicine’s origin ultimately traces back to Shivagakomarpaj,

a historical figure who served as a physician to the Buddha’s Sangha (community of monks and nuns). Although he was a minor personality in the scriptures, Shivago holds a deified status in Thai Buddhism. He is lauded throughout the country as the Father Doctor, and statues of him appear alongside the Buddha’s on nearly every healing practitioner’s altar everywhere you go.  At the Grand Palace entrance, we see a figure of the divine physician overlooking the area. Also referred to as Shivago, the guardian spirit Traditional Thai Medicine practitioners pay homage to was an Ayurvedic practitioner who treated the Buddha and is considered the father of Thai traditional medicine.  

Respect for the teacher.

masters who have kept the tradition alive. The devotee makes offerings (usually incense) and recites the mantra at an altar, taking care never to turn his or her back on it after the ceremony. The wai khru which opens with the words Om Namo Shivago, is performed in schools and massage facilities throughout the land.

Ruesri Dat Ton

Unknown to many, Thailand has its own version of yoga-like stretches known as ruesri dat ton or ” hermit’s self-stretching.” These exercises are similar to Hatha Yoga, and a link between the two is obvious.  A number of schools in the country still teach this little-known gem of Traditional Thai Medicine even though many locals themselves are unfamiliar with it.  A master of Thai Yoga called a ruesri or rishi was traditionally the same as an ascetic, hermit, seer, etc. who practiced meditation and developed the powers on the path to spiritual realization. The ruesri are depicted as a hermit wearing a tiger’s skin, symbolic of his accomplishments and mastery. Some have suggested that Thai massage originated in individual yoga practices such as Ruesri Dat Ton and Hatha Yoga. Many Thai massage positions do resemble yoga poses.  



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