remained open to other views.Dr. Trogawa was a Tibetan doctor who truly practicedin the classical fashion. He was the first Tibetan doctor that I saw who would not always prescribe herbalremedies. In fact, the first level of cure in our system isto simply advise a person about their lifestyle, behavior,the state of their mind, etc. Therefore, if such behavior modification was all that was required to cure a patient,Dr. Trogawa would leave it at that. If it wasn’t sufficient,he would add dietary recommendations that werespecifically tailored to the patient’s condition. Finally, if he felt that these steps alone weren’t sufficient, hewould then recommend herbal medicines and perhapsphysical treatments.It is unfortunate that in the West (and even in Asia)people too often confuse Tibetan medicines, meaningherbal compounds, with the Tibetan medical system. Thisis a big problem, because any kind of herbal compound,acupuncture or moxibustion technique is merely a kind of device that requires a medical system to come into beingand to have any meaning.
Do any memorable stories come to mind thatdemonstrate the skill of Dr. Trogawa, or the Tibetanmedical approach in general?
Iremember a patient that Dr. Trogawa saw inSan Francisco. The woman had a psychiatric history of hospitalizations, medication and quite a lot of difficulty.She came to see us accompanied by her psychotherapist,and expressed to Rinpoche that her main concern wasTrogawa. I then did a great deal of additional clinical andtextual studies with a number of other Tibetan doctors.Dr.Trogawa was very generous to me; when I methim in 1984 and asked if I could apprentice with him, hesaid yes at once. Only later did I learn that at that time,he was really not taking on any Western or Tibetanstudents. Despite this, he said yes to me for whatever reason, and I was very happy about it. I studied withhim, traveled with him, attended his lectures andreceived a significant amount of direct private instructionin North America and in India. From 1986 through 1993,Ialso sat through hundreds of clinical sessions where hewould see patients and also give instruction to me and tohis translator who was also his student.When you study directly with a master, they take onthe responsibility of teaching you what they think youneed to know. There is a certain amount of straightteaching where you are taught directly by your master.There is a significant degree of self-study that one has todo as well; for example, as a Westerner I needed todevelop ability in the Tibetan language. There is alsoclinical work, where you are taught specific skills (likepulse analysis) and where you are asked to demonstratewhat you know in the clinic. The master will take thepulse, for instance, and then ask you to take it, andbefore stating his diagnosis he will ask you what youthink is the nature of the illness. If you’re right, they’ll sayyour right and if you’re wrong, they’ll correct you. That isthe basic approach.In 1993, with the help of his supporters, includingmyself, Dr. Trogawa established the Chagpori TibetanMedical Institute in Darjeeling, India. As a result of thisachievement Rinpoche’s activities changed and he nolonger had time to make regular trips to N. America. Atthat point, he instructed me to begin my own clinicalwork in the New York in order to help perpetuate thework that he had begun here in the U.S.
What was Dr. Trogawa like?
Dr. Trogawa was a very profound individual.The breadth of his work and his teaching on medicine inthe West was very important, and needs to be fullyappreciated in order for Tibetan medicine to properlydevelop here. While there is a lot of romanticizing andstereotyping of Tibetans and of lamas, different lamashave different kinds of qualities. From a Tibetan point of view, Trogawa Rinpoche was typically seen as the epit-ome of what a lama should be like. Trogawa Rinpochewas a very outstanding person, a consummate lamaand Tibetan doctor. He was not only a good clinician, hewas also a good scholar, a very highly regarded personwithin Tibetan culture. He was not narrow-minded or ideological about Tibetan medicine. Because he had agreat understanding of Tibetan medicine and such agreat ability to see its capacity and limitations, healways looked for what was the simplest solution and
2006 • V