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Introduction

The establishment of Buddhist University is a follow up of the announcement made by the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Sikkim on the auspicious occasion of the 80th birthday celebration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on July 6, 2015 to establish a Buddhist University. After a series of meetings and consultation with the concerned departments of the State Government and related bodies, it was decided to establish the Buddhist University and the Institute of Sowa Rigpa at the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology (NIT).

The Sowa Rigpa (Science of Healing) which is popularly known as Amji medicine is an integral part of Buddhist culture. This ancient practice of alternative medicine has been prevalent in the State for centuries.



What is Sowa-Rigpa

The term ‘Sowa Rigpa’ is derived from Tibetan/Bhoti language which means ‘Science of Healing’. Yuthog Yonten Gonpo (1126-1202) from Tibet is widely regarded as the main founder of Sowa-Rigpa, mostly based on his composition of the Four Medical Tantras (rGyudbZhi), a four-book treatise on Traditional Tibetan Medicine (Sowa-Rigpa) which forms the main course of study in the Tibetan medical tradition.


Status of Sowa-Rigpa in India

Sowa-Rigpa is formally recognized and promoted as traditional medical system by the Government of India. With the amendment of the Indian Medical Council Act 1970 by the Parliament in 2010, the Sowa Rigpa system of medicine is recognized by the Government of India along with the other Indian System of medicine (Ayurveda,Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy). There are over 1,000 practitioners of Sowa-Rigpa in India, who mostly reside in the Himalayan regions, with Dharamshala and Ladakh being the main centers.. At present a five and half year course called ‘Menpa Kachupa’, which is equivalent to a Bachelor degree of Sowa-Rigpa is offered in five institutions across India — Central Institute of Buddhist Studies (Leh), Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Dharamshala), Central University for Tibetan Studies (Uttar Pradesh), Chagpori Medical Institute (Darjeeling), and newest being the Faculty of Sowa Rigpa of the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology under the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology (NIT).


Historical Background

With a history going back over 2,500 years, traditional Sowa-Rigpa commonly known as Tibetan Medicine, is one of the oldest continuously practiced healing systems on Earth. Regarded as science, art and philosophy, Sowa-Rigpa is an ancient form of holistic health care indigenous to the Tibetan/Himalayan people, and as such it integrates the core Buddhist principles of altruism, karma and ethics. Over thousands of years this native Tibetan science synthesized with accumulated knowledge from India, China, Persia and Greece. Since this time, it has been practiced continuously throughout Tibet, the Himalayan regions, India, Mongolia and Siberia, as well as, now, in the western world. It is practiced widely in the Himalayan belt of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Darjeeling (West Bengal), Dharamshala, Lahaul and Spiti (both in Himachal Pradesh) and in the Union Territory of Ladakh. It is also practiced in countries such as Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia, and Russia.


The Faculty of Sowa Rigpa (NIT)

The Faculty of Sowa Rigpa was established by the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology (NIT) as mandated by the State Government of Sikkim.  Under the visionary leadership of Mr. Tashi Densapa, Director, NIT, the Faculty of Sowa-Rigpa was successfully instituted and came into existence on 24 August 2017.  The Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies (CIHTS), Varanasi and Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (MEN-TSE-KHANG), Dharamshala, HP land their full assistance and support in its establishment.  


The seed capital of Rs. 10.50 crores to build the infrastructure of the Faculty of Sowa-Rigpa at the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology was sanctioned by the Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India and Health & Family Welfare Department, Government of Sikkim at the ratio of 90:10 (Central and State shares).  The Faculty has received Conditional Permission from the AYUSH Ministry to conduct the UG (BSRMS) Course, and it is affiliated to Sikkim University (SU), a central university established under an Act of Parliament of India.  Apart from the course, the Faculty of Sowa Rigpa has four main units viz: Herbal Garden, Clinic, Pharmacy, and a Library.

The course is registered under the Ministry of Ayush, Government of India and affiliated to the Sikkim University.


Courses/Classes

As it is the case with many disciplines, learning of Sowa-Rigpa (Tibetan Medicine) courses in depth cannot be done through books only, but with the help of qualified teachers. The Faculty of Sowa-Rigpa, although established recently, has employed highly trained, experienced teachers cum practitioners of Sowa-Rigpa.

The Faculty of Sowa-Rigpa conducts two semesters every year, the 1st semester is from July to December and the 2nd Semester is from February to the end of June.Each semester of the four and half year curriculum combines a tripartite approach to the study of the Sowa-Rigpa, which includes core foundation studies based on the topics of the rGyud bZhi’i (Four Tantras), complementary studies in Tibetan language, and clinical practicums. The medium of instruction and the courses are in Tibetan/Bhoti language. Regular class lectures cover the texts’ major topics, including general healthcare, pediatrics, gynecology, provocations, wounds, toxicology, geriatrics and fertility.Traditional diagnostic methods of consultation, pulse reading, and urinalysis, as well as treatment methods including diet, lifestyle, herbal preparations, and external therapies are taught in theoretical lectures. Supplementary topics include Tibetan Language, Astrology, Ku Nye External Therapies, Ethics and History of Sowa-Rigpa (Tibetan Medicine).

The first batch of BSRMS course commenced from 17 July 2018 with 09 (nine) students for the academic session 2018-2019. For the academic session 2019-2020, 06 (six) students were selected. In 2020-2021, 09 (nine) students were selected for admission to BSRMS 1st year. Prior to commencement of BRSMS course, the students were given one year preparatory course in Tibetan language and literature in 2017.


Pharmacy

The Pharmacy Unit of the Faculty of Sowa-Rigpa is serving a dual purpose: First in imparting practical lessons to the students on making medicines; second production of medicines to be used in the clinics.  Medicines are produced through the seven sub-processes: collection of raw materials, cleaning, formulation, pulverizing, pill coating, and medicine counting.  Currently, the medicine is produced manually in small quantities by the students. The students are taught about various herbs and medicinal plants and the way the ingredients should be processed and combined to make medicinal compounds. When the faculty shifts to the new infrastructure, the medicines will be compounded on a larger scale to meet the demand of the increasing number of patients coming to the clinic for consultation at the Faculty. 


Clinic

While giving consultation and dispensing medicines to the patients visiting the Faculty of Sowa-Rigpa, the purpose of the clinic is also to induct the students into the practice of diagnosis and therapeutics.  The doctors of the Faculty usually employ three methods to assess individual’s constitutional energy pattern and degree of imbalance at the clinic. First the doctors question his lifestyle, thinking, environment, food, and behavior. Secondly, Amchis looks at patients’ skin, tongue, and urine sample and thirdly, the doctors feel (by touch) the radial artery pulse on both of the patient’s wrist, inspecting any abnormal growths or painful areas/points of tenderness on their body, and checking your skin temperature. Then the doctors of Sowa-Rigpa (Tibetan Medicine) may prescribe medicines, in addition to dietary and lifestyle recommendations. The clinic is increasingly gaining momentum and the number of patients is growing.


Herbal Garden

Herbal Garden is one of the most important components of Sowa-Rigpa.  It is also imperative for the teaching and learning of Sowa-Rigpa at the Faculty of Sowa-Rigpa (NIT).  The Herbal Garden was established to popularise the knowledge of Sowa-Rigpa to the public and to conserve the rare high-altitude medicinal plants grown in Sikkim. The Namgyal Sorig Herbal Garden has collected more than 200 medicinal herbs, shrubs and medicinal plants. The purpose of Herbal Garden is also to sensitize the people of Sikkim regarding the usefulness of various herbs and plants grown in Sikkim and thereby to encourage them to grow/cultivate the plants in their own places and farms not only for their own well being, but also for the well being of the people of Sikkim.

Sikkim is ideally located, in terms of high-fertile soil, sufficient rainfall, temperature, topography, and altitude for the growth and cultivation of high-altitude rare herbs and medicinal plants. Sikkim presents a unique opportunity for the cultivation of rare herbs and medicinal plants. 


Field Trip

Apart from the regular classroom teachings, the field trip makes up one of the major component of the students’ Sowa-Rigpa curriculum. The students are taught identification of medical plants based on the shape of the leaf, color, size, taste, potency and other parameters, and they are also imparted on the habitat and species of the plants.The herbal specimens collected during the trips are displayed on exhibition. The students present detailed report of the trip and present power point presentation of herbs — with their botanical name, characteristic features, taste, potency, and so on.


Infrastructure:

The infrastructure for which the Ministry of Ayush has funded is nearing completion. As of now the 80% of the construction work has been completed. The staff quarters completed in early 2020 were allotted to the faculties. The regular classes are being conducted in the newly built classroom building. The Hostel and pharmacology units are in progress and expected to complete by June, 2021.


Faculty Members:

Prof. Dr. N. Jinpa SunangInterim Head of the Faculty
Dr. Passang DolmaAsst. Professor (Pharmacy In-charge)
Dr. Tenzin ThutopAsst. Professor (Clinic In-charge)
Dr Sangay KharAsst. Professor, Sorig Faculty
Dr Passang DolmaAsst. Professor, Sorig Faculty
Acharya Sonam WangyalLecturer, Tibetan Language & Literature
Khenpo Karma BhutiaPhilosophy Lecturer, NIT – part time


Administrative & Accounts

Ms. Kelsang ChodenJoint Director
Mrs. Tashi ChukiDeputy Director (Accounts), NIT
Mr. Ugyen TsewangTranslator cum Administrative Assistant
Mr. Sherab LodenOffice Assistant