This past Monday evening 'The Nature of Things with David Suzuki' presented Blue Buddha: Lost Secrets of Tibetan Medicine. It traces the odyssey of traditional Tibetan medicine from it's roots in ancient Tibet, to a worldwide interest in it's traditional medical wisdom.
Twelve hundred years ago the people of Tibet developed a comprehensive medical system. They understood how the mind affects the body. They knew subtle ways of changing the body's chemistry with medicines made from plants and minerals. They blessed their medicines in lengthy rituals. And they encoded this knowledge in a series of 79 elaborate paintings called thangkas (scrolls).
I found the program fascinating and inspiring from many perspectives - the history, the training and practice of the traditional medicine, the spiritualism, and the art. If this interests you, do read the informative website and the interview with "Blue Buddha" director Aerlyn Weissman where she gives her perspective on Tibetan medicine and how it has influenced her personally.
I tried to find online images of the 79 thangkas but only found a few poor images shown, such as at this detailed ongoing study. The author of the study mentions that the scrolls she saw are not very old. If I recall the film correctly, most of the original ancient medical thangkas, used in their teaching, were lost when the Chinese forced the Tibetans to flee their country. The monk doctors who had memorized all the information, slowly taught these to younger acolytes who painted new ones. In the program these looked truly amazing artistically and scientifically.
If you are able to view CBC where you live, the program is repeated tonight at 10 pm ET/PT on CBC Newsworld. I highly recommend it and I'm going to tape it this time.
As an aside for those who don't know our great David Suzuki - he is a Canadian author, broadcaster, environmental activist, geneticist, and professor, and is well known for motivating people's interest in science. He has written eighteen books, his latest being "David Suzuki: The Autobiography" (Greystone Books). Check out also the David Suzuki Foundation.
And finally, I must put in a plug for the CBC - this kind of quality programming is what CBC does well and should continue to do more of instead of the highly commercial non-Canadian offerings best left to the private stations.