Sowa Rigpa, or the science of healing, has a long history in Tibet.
Yuthok Yonten Gonpo the Elder (708-833) and Yuthok Yonten Gonpo
the Younger (1126-1202) were both important figures. Yuthok Yonten
Gonpo the Younger wrote many books about the Gyu Zhi (Tibetan: rGyud
bZhi), or the Four Medical Tantras and he considered spiritual practices,
yoga and meditation to be an integral part of medical training.
His collected teachings, known as the Yuthok Nyingthig, are studied
and practiced today. Later the Janglug and Zurlug (the Northern
and the Southern) schools of medicine became influential, but by
the seventeenth century the Fifth Dalai Lama became concerned that
traditions were declining and he therefore asked his physician and
Regent, (Desi) Sangye Gyatso (1653-1705), to establish a Medicine
Buddha monastery on the hill called Chagpori, or Iron Mountain,
close to the Potala. It was said to be the soul-mountain (bla-ri)
of Vajrapani, one of the 'Buddhas of the three families'.
The Fifth Dalai Lama did not live to see the completion of Chagpori
and its opening on 6 May 1696. Desi Sangye Gyatso, who was the most
powerful person in Tibet at the time, personally supervised Chagpori,
he taught the monks and wrote important commentaries on the Gyu
Zhi, which are still standard works of the Tibetan medical curriculum
today, and he commissioned a series of 77 medical thangkas to illustrate
them, which were painted and kept at the monastery, the first of
their kind. He knew and practised both the Zurlug and Janglug medical
systems and transmitted them. As a result, he is regarded as one
of the great forefathers of Tibetan medicine.