(This article by Olivia de Haulleville was found in a book titled An Introduction to Tibetan medicine, as an appendix. Editor Dawa Norbu, a Tibetan Review Publication, 1976. The original appearance of the article was unknown.)
At 100, he is looking more spritely than most middleaged men - evidently a result of his single-minded in meditation. For his age, he is healthy. Having no one to look after him, he does all by himself: collecting fire wood from the nearby woods, cooking, digging his small vegetable garden and occasionally treating patients who might have the fame of this obscure "Sokpo Emche". The phrase in Tibetan means "Mongolian Doctor of Tibetan Medicine".
What is the secret of of this 100 year-old doctor who at least managed to keep himself healthy and happy even at his ripe age? I wondered looking at him rhather than daring to ask him so.
Tsultim was born in Kuan Tung Hwooray, Inner Mongolia; one of seven children of an aristocratic family. At the age of thirteen, Tsultim attended Mongolian school studying three kinds of Mongolian writing, Tibetan and Chinese writing as well as medicine. Later, being strongly attracted to religious study, he renounced his important government job, and escaped to the next village, a solid eight-day journey. Soon he was discovered by his father, Uen Ten Sampo. The worldly father earnestly tried to persuade his son to return home. Tsultim steadfastly insisted that he wished to become a monk in order to follow a religious life. His father finally agreed saying that the boy must seriously follow the religious tradition of his choice and gave him whatever wealth he had brought along with him. After having spent six months in the local monasteries, Tsultim, like any serious Mongolian seeking Tharma made his way into Tibe through Koko Nor. In the monastery of Labrang Tashi Khyil, in the Amdo Province, he spent five years learning basic religious studies. He then travelled to Lhasa, remaining there over 25 years, studying the Paramitas and commentaries by Asanga, Chandrakirti, Tharmakirti - these synthesizing the entire body of Buddha's Teachings, including Tantra, in the famous of Drepung. During this time, "Amchi-la" (honorable doctor) Tsultim constantly expanded his medical knowledge and practice, eventually earning degree of Geshe (corresponding to PhD). He then entered one of the two most famous Tantric colleges in Tibet: Gyudme Dratsang, where for nine years he studied the secret arts and science of Buddhism.
Thereafter, "Amchi-la" went on seeking various gurus, receiving various Teachings from them and leaving in seclusion practing solitary meditation in caves for a great lenghth of time. He was initiated into Cho' by the famous Lama Chen Zeu Ling Rinpoche of Mongolia. According to this Tantric ritual, the disciple must visit the 108 water springs as well as the 108 cemetary as priscribed, performing various rites in the dead of night outside in temporature well below zero.
In Tibet, certain serious meditators desiring to spend the greater part of their energy in religious contemplation and not wishing to bother about the time-consuming preparation of food, etc. often followed the practice of retiring from the world into the small cave with the supply of spcially prepared "pills" serving as food. For this, however, one first need the special permission from the Guru.
The effects of this "food" pill is entirely satisfactory, assures Amchi-la who mostly lives on it.
The "food" pill called Chu-len is product of Tantric science which few doctors know today.
Chu-len means "to effect the essence". Every food is composed of essence and gross parts.
The essence itself is drawn from the earth, water, air and heat (heat of the sun). If one knows how to take in the essence of these four elements mentally the result is the best food possible for the longivity and transformation of one's material body into non-material body. The best food is the extration of essence from matter-consisting stones or flowers, making them into powder or pills. The formulae of different types of Chu-len are given in every basic Tantric text. Other benifits known are freedom from common elements, the regaining of lost youth: disappearing of wrinkles, grey hair reverting to original color and the extention of life.
Amchi-la has received the initiations of these practice and is throughly acquainted with the preparation of Chu-len. He can still make these pills today, the ingredients not exclusively existing only in his homeland but easily obtainable from the local non-poisonous flowers found in the Himalayas. The chances seem few, however that he might impart this precious knowledge to modern aspirants who hanker only after material benifits.
The doctors of Tibet were under oath never to charge for the services. However satisfied patients generally rewarded the doctors in cash, clothes or food. Other vows taken by a doctor:
Not to incorrectly state the contents of a medicine
Not give medicine for the purpose of killing a creature
To make the quality uniform (i.e. not giving 'good' medicine to some and 'bad' to other) and to refrain from intoxicating drink.
To maintain equal compassion towards all
Does Amchi-la treat any patient now?
Amchi-la Tsultim's memory is a little dim now so he cannot relate accurately many case histories. But "just recently" he explained "a military officer from Madras came to see me. He had tried many different treatments - European as well as Indian but all to no avail. After two weeks' treatment with medicine I have made, he was completely cured. Then he was stationed near the Assam border. There he met another soldier also suffering from a complicated desease and he directed him here. Now this fellow is also using my medicine."
Amchi-la often came to India on medicine collecting expeditions and to make pilgirimages. In 1949, he was in India and upon trying to return to Tibet he found the Chinese invading. Since then he was remained in Kalimpong near the Sikkim-Tibet borders for over 30 years. Many medicinal plants are locally obtainable and his supply of special medicine which he originally brought along him is not yet exhausted. Thus, he manages to continue his practice. This is in keeping with the spirit of medicine Buddha who stipulated that the medical science should be offered to all and not just kept for the Tibetan people alone. Since having left Mongolia, Amchi-la has never returned. Now there is no easy passage to Mongolia and Amchi-la hears no news whatsoever of his family or relatives.
His personal complaints are few; his roof leaks during the rainy season but never mind. Stil he can meditate upon the fallen drops. His health is good. Whenever necessary, he takes a bit of his own medicine. Apart from weakness, decreasing appetite, he is quite well for a 100-year old hard working lama. His spare time is spent in carrying wood, digging in the garden and other such manual tasks.
Ever since the time that he decided to escape in order to study religion, Amchi-la concludes, his mind has not wavered for one moment. For him medicine is not his profession, it is one of the good way to help suffering sentient beings. Now more than ever, he is firmly determined to follow in the Buddha's footsteps, to aspire towards the Buddhahood and "perfect enlightenment" possible for all those who sincerely work for it.