Centuries ago, before Buddhism entered Tibet, Tibetans like all ancient people had a significant degree of medical knowledge. According to traditional sources, in the beginning of the 4th century many new ideas regarding medicine began to enter the country.
At first influences came from India in the form of what is now called Ayurvedic medicine, as well as more spiritual and psychologically based systems from Buddhist and other sources.
Around the 7th-8th centuries the Tibetan government began sponsoring conferences where doctors skilled in the medical systems of China, Persia, India and Greece presented and debated their ideas regarding health and the treatment of illness. Those with superior abilities in the diagnosis, treatment and understanding of illness were invited to stay and contribute to the country’s medical knowledge base.
In the 11th century, this knowledge was codified into a unique system containing a synthesis of the principals of physical and psychological medicine imbued with a Buddhist spiritual understanding.
This understanding formed a foundation for Tibetan medicine and benefited patients and doctors alike. It acknowledged how health and illness resulted both from the relationship between the mind and the body and people’s connectedness to the natural world and sense of spirituality.