Hundreds of Tibetans and supporters assembled early morning, at the main Temple in McLeod Ganj to mark the anniversary. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was the guest of honour. Other guests included the Forest Minister Sri Thakur Singh Bharmouri, Ayurvedia Minister Sri Karan Singh, Member of Legislative Assembly Sri Ravi Thakur, Mr Irinchey Matkhanov with wife Ms Darima Matkhanova, Chairman of Friends of Men-Tsee-Khang Dr P K Sandell and Ms Julia Zhironkina, Executive Director of Save Tibet Foundation in Russia.
This day also marks the 55th year since His Holiness the Dalai Lama re-established the Men-Tsee-Khang in exile. In addition, it is 320 years since the 5th Dalai Lama established a medical college on Chagpori in Tibetan capital Lhasa.
In accordance with the 100th anniversary of the Tibetan Medical and Astrological institute celebrated Wenesday, Director of the institute, Mr Tashi Tsering told the gathering that the MTK's goal is to preserve the Tibetan art of healing, Sowa Rigpa, to contribute to the benefit of humanity.
"The medical college on Chagpori in Tibet was destroyed and although the Lhasa Men-Tsee-Khang was spared many of its chief doctors were imprisoned," he said.
He mentioned the conference convened at Samye in the 8th century by Emperor Trisong Detsen attended by physicians from Tibetan, Indian, Chinese and Yunani traditions. What was learned on that occasion was later set down in the Four Medical Tantras by Yuthok Yönten Gonpo the Younger (1126-1202). Mr Tsering concluded with a quotation from His Holiness:
"Humankind needs a healthy mind and a healthy body and we Tibetans can contribute to that need even though we are living as refugees."
Mr Thakur Singh Bharmori, Minister for Forests of the Himachal Government praised His Holiness's vision in re-establishing the MTK so soon after coming into exile, noting how important that had been for the status of the Tibetan medical tradition today.
He recommended that traditional medical systems should consult and support each other. Noting that the Transhimalayan region is rich in medicinal herbs, he cautioned that we need to be judicious in using the bounty Mother Nature provides us.
Lahaul-Spiti MLA Ravi Thakur, a long term supporter of Tibetans expressed his gratitude to His Holiness for the teachings in Lahaul & Spit during past visits. He also wished His Holiness a long and healthy life.
Addressing the gathering, His Holiness underlined the importance of preserving the unique Tibetan language and culture. His Holiness also feels that the unique Tibetan culture should be a matter of pride for all Tibetans.
"This has been one of the most difficult periods of Tibetan history, but we've worked hard and the re-establishment of the Men-Tsee-Khang was part of our efforts. We arrived as strangers, but many different organizations that care for refugees were kind to us," he said.
"After more than 50 years in exile, Tibet is known to have its own language which is the medium for the preservation of our rich culture. This is sometimes described in terms of the five major and five minor sciences, which include Sanskrit grammar, medicine, Buddhist philosophy, logic and epistemology and arts and crafts," His Holiness said.
He stressed how important logic and epistemology were to Indian masters of the Sanskrit tradition. They employed them, as the Buddha advised, to test and evaluate his teachings. This enabled them to distinguish those teachings that could be accepted literally, because they accorded with reason and logic, and those that were subject to interpretation.
Regarding arts and crafts, His Holiness said they were not extensive but included the fashioning of statues of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Lamas, skills preserved locally at the Norbulingka Institute. He mentioned Khunnu Lama Rinpoche's telling him that arts and crafts could be regarded in either external or internal terms. The Buddhist practice of inner transformation would be part of the latter category. His Holiness extolled the Tibetan tradition of rigorous study, practice and engendering of experience as something quite amazing.
"From my own experience I've come to appreciate the value of the traditions we've kept alive. A comprehensive system of Buddhism spread throughout Tibet and yet the majority of Tibetans remained illiterate and uninformed about it. If we wish these traditions to survive now we have to engage them with our intellect. If we only have blind faith without understanding or employing logic and reason, Buddhism won't last.
"Regarding Sowa Rigpa, if a great conference could have been convened in the 8th century when facilities were so poor, today when we have facilities and opportunities we should be able to repeat it. Our tradition derives from Tibetan, Ayurveda, Chinese and Yunani systems. We should meet with practitioners of these traditions, discuss and exchange what we know.
"We shouldn't rely only on the Four Tantras, but should also take other findings into account. It's not a time to be complacent. We should extend our interest; find out what we can contribute and what we can learn. For urgent ailments allopathic treatment is often more suitable, but in the long term Tibetan medicine has great healing qualities."
His Holiness acknowledged that the Tibetan Medical and Astrological institute has done a great deal to preserve Tibetan medical, astronomical and astrological traditions, but when he comes across chronically sick people in the settlements he wonders if something hasn't been neglected.
"You may think things will be all right if you just carry on as you are, but there is also a need to listen to criticism and examine our shortcomings and find ways to resolve them. For example, there is an important role for taking preventive measures. Let's see how we can improve. That's all."
Other dignitaries who attended the event include guest Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, Speaker Penpa Tsering, health Kalon Tsering Wangchuk along with other Kalons and senior members of the Tibetan administration. The celebrations concluded with traditional songs and dances and the serving of lunch at the main Tibetan temple.
The Tibetan Medical and Astrological institute was founded by the 13th Dalai Lama, in Lhasa in 1916. In the aftermath of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama came to India where he re-established the institution on 23 March, 1961. The Institute initially started with a doctor and an astrologer with ten students in two separate campuses in Dharamshala.
In 1967, the two schools were merged together as Men-Tsee-Khang, Tibetan Medical & Astrological Institute in Mecleod Ganj and shifted to the present location in 1982 where the Headquarter of the institutes operates. At present institute is a full-fledged institute with a work force of 140 doctors, 17 astrologers, 274 staff members.