SORIG AID - Free Medical Camp: Maratika

by Erik Jam­pa Ander­s­son


From March 6-9th, Sorig First Aid host­ed a free med­ical camp at the sacred place of Marati­ka in East­ern Nepal. Led by Dr. Nida Chenagt­sang, Dr. Machik, and allo­path­ic physi­cian Dr. Jens Tön­ne­mann, our team of Sowa Rig­pa prac­ti­tion­ers and stu­dents treat­ed over 200 patients over the course of the camp, and laid the ground­work for future ser­vice and col­lab­o­ra­tion in this remark­able sacred place.

Marati­ka cave is one of the most wide­ly revered and cap­ti­vat­ing pil­grim­age des­ti­na­tions in Nepal’s sacred land­scape. Locat­ed just 100 miles south of Mt. Ever­est, Marati­ka was once a part of the ancient king­dom of Zahor, where Pad­masamb­ha­va (Guru Rin­poche) spent a good deal of time in the 8th cen­tu­ry before being invit­ed to Tibet. It was in Marati­ka cave that Guru Rin­poche and the Daki­ni Man­dar­a­va attained the state of immor­tal­i­ty through the union of Long-Life Prac­tice with Kar­ma­mu­dra. After spend­ing approx­i­mate­ly 100 days in retreat (a cal­cu­la­tion relat­ing to extrac­tion of wis­dom wind from the 10 rLung ener­gies), Ami­tayus man­i­fest­ed and bestowed immor­tal­i­ty upon them through his Long-Life Vase, which remains the most sacred self-arisen object in the cave for Bud­dhist pil­grims.

In the Tibetan Med­ical tra­di­tion, Marati­ka holds par­tic­u­lar sig­nif­i­cance as the abode of the Daki­ni Pelden Treng­wa, from whom Yuthok the Younger (the father of Tibetan Med­i­cine) received the Yuthok Nyingthik ter­ma cycle through vision­ary expe­ri­ence. Her asso­ci­a­tion with the site is fur­ther recalled in the chulen visu­al­iza­tion pre­scribed by Yuthok. In one part of the prac­tice, emanat­ed offer­ing rays are sent to four par­tic­u­lar wis­dom beings in their respec­tive pure lands: Amitab­ha in Dewachen (Sukhavati/the West­ern Pure Land of “Great Bliss”), Med­i­cine Bud­dha in Tanaduk (the “Love­ly to See” pure land of med­i­c­i­nal plants and sub­stances), Pad­masamb­ha­va in Zang­dok Pel­ri (the “Glo­ri­ous Cop­per-col­ored Moun­tain”), and Pelden Treng­wa in Marati­ka. As Marati­ka is the only one of these four pure lands to have a known phys­i­cal loca­tion on this plan­et, its pre­cious­ness is tru­ly excep­tion­al.

In the Shiv­aist tra­di­tion, it’s believed that Marati­ka served as a refuge for Lord Shi­va while he hid from the demon Bhas­ma­sur. For devo­tees, a unique­ly real­is­tic self-arisen lingam is high­ly regard­ed as a supreme­ly sacred man­i­fes­ta­tion of Mahadev. His­tor­i­cal­ly speak­ing Marati­ka is like­ly to have been occu­pied by humans in some capac­i­ty for over 6,000 years, and its preva­lence as a place of wor­ship goes back many mil­len­nia.

After a bumpy 10-hour jeep ride on pre­car­i­ous roads through the remote reach­es of south­east­ern Nepal, our cohort arrived at the con­ver­gence of three sacred moun­tains, each attrib­uted to one of the “three lord pro­tec­tor” Bod­hisattvas: Aval­okitesh­vara (man­i­fes­ta­tion of the Buddha’s com­pas­sion), Man­jushri (man­i­fes­ta­tion of the Buddha’s wis­dom), and Vajra­pani (man­i­fes­ta­tion of the Buddha’s pow­er). While most of us had expect­ed to come upon a hid­den cave nes­tled in the deep­est recess­es of the val­ley below, the cave sys­tems of Marati­ka sit at the top of a small moun­tain range, open­ing to a vast expanse of sky above. The vil­lage sur­round­ing the site, while remote, was bustling with an array of vil­lagers, sad­hus, monks, live­stock, and pil­grims.

While rich in his­to­ry, the remote vil­lages sur­round­ing Marati­ka do not have an abun­dance of resources. Med­ical care is sparse­ly avail­able, with just one vil­lage Amchi serv­ing the entire local region. This local Doc­tor, our dear SKI col­league Dr. Son­am Sher­pa, works tire­less­ly along with his assis­tants (includ­ing Ani Regi­na, an allo­path­ic Nurse from Bel­gium) to treat patients and increase aware­ness sur­round­ing hygiene and san­i­ta­tion in the local com­mu­ni­ty. He reports that a large por­tion of the med­i­cine and treat­ments offered in their clin­ic have to be giv­en at no charge, since many patients live with vir­tu­al­ly noth­ing in the region.

 



Through the orga­niz­ing efforts of Sorig First Aid, which seeks to bring Sowa Rig­pa and basic med­ical care to com­mu­ni­ties in need, our team of Tibetan Med­i­cine prac­ti­tion­ers offered free treat­ment to more than 200 patients in our time at Marati­ka. Many trav­eled from dis­tant vil­lages to attend the camp, includ­ing a num­ber of patients who walked for a day and a half to receive med­ical care. Most were giv­en one month of Tibetan herbal med­i­cine as well as any indi­cat­ed exter­nal ther­a­pies, par­tic­u­lar­ly acupunc­ture, mox­i­bus­tion, hor­mé, kun­yé mas­sage, cup­ping, blood­let­ting, and yukchö stick ther­a­py.

SORIG FIRST AID AND FREE MEDICAL CAMP MARATIKA 2017 - Sta­tis­tics:
TOTAL DAYS: 2        FIRST DAY 07/03/018 SECOND DAY 08/03/018 MEDICINE AND THERAPY
TOTAL NUMBER OF PATIENTS 73 154
MEN 23 55
WOMEN 36 73
CHILDREN  14 26
13 TO 18 YEARS 5 13
2 TO 12 YEARS 7 8
LESS THAN 1 YEAR 2 5
PATHOLOGIES :
HEART/VASCULAR (INCLUDING BP) 9 16 SORIG MEDICINEBLOOD LETING AND SANGBUM (cup­ping)
SKIN  INCLUDING ULCERS MOUTHS) 4 7 SORIG MEDICINE AND OINTMENT
ENDOCRINOLOGY 1 6 SORIG MEDICINE
DENTAL 2 SORIG MEDICINE
DIGESTIVE 3 5 SORIG MEDICINE
GYNECOLOGICAL 13 21 SORIG MEDICINE AND ACUPUNCTURE
NEUROLOGICAL (INCLUDING CONVULSION) 9 11 SORIG MEDICINE,ACUPUNCTURE,AND OINTMENT
E.N.T 1 6 SORIG MEDICINE
SUPERFICIAL WOUNDS/ DEEP WOUNDS 2 4 DRESSING AND OINTMENT
LUNGS(INCLUDING ASTHMA) 2 5 SORIG MEDICINE
RHEUMATOLOGY 11 18 SORIG MEDICINE,MOXIBUSTION,AND ACUPUNCTURE,
HEADACHE 3 SORIG MEDICINE
FEVER 11 SORIG MEDICINE
TIREDNESS/LOW ENERGY 5 8 SORIG MEDICINE
URINES/KINNEY BACK PAIN 7 13 SORIG MEDICINE, ZANGBUM,AND ACUPUNCTURE
GASTRIC PAIN  6 18 SORIG MEDICINE

In breaks from the clin­ic, Dr. Nida led our cohort on pil­grim­age through the sacred caves at Marati­ka. As our trip hap­pened to over­lap with the first Guru Rin­poche Day of the new Tibetan year, we were for­tu­nate to be able to offer a gana­pu­ja in the main cave (one of many groups of prac­ti­tion­ers doing the same). We sat and prac­ticed among the many self-arisen man­i­fes­ta­tions of deities and aus­pi­cious objects, includ­ing Vajravarahi & Haya­gri­va in union, the Four Kings, and the Long-Life Vase of Ami­tayus. With fly­ing bats over­head, resound­ing drums, and sang piles smol­der­ing through­out the cave, the ambiance was whol­ly unique and spec­tac­u­lar.



Below the main cave lies the Eight Heru­ka cave, asso­ci­at­ed with Padmasambhava’s accom­plish­ment of Vajrak­i­laya and the high­est teach­ings of Atiyo­ga. Like it’s more famous neigh­bor, this cav­ern is rich with pro­found sym­bol­ism, includ­ing a trick­ling foun­tain of Mandarava’s “nec­tar” among tow­er­ing rock walls adorned with self-arisen Twi­light Lan­guage (the secret script of the Daki­nis).  The heart of the cave is illu­mi­nat­ed by a large hole in the rock-ceil­ing over­head, believed to have been cre­at­ed when Pad­masamb­ha­va flew through it after accom­plish­ing the prac­tice of Vajrak­i­laya (giant foot­prints on the wall lead­ing to the open­ing fur­ther sup­port this leg­end). This sky­light is referred to as zangth­el, mean­ing “unim­ped­ed­ness” or “pen­e­trat­ing open­ness,” both in ref­er­ence to this famous anec­dote and serv­ing as a secret instruc­tion on Atiyo­ga.

The third cave that we vis­it­ed with Dr. Nida was a small cave used by Pad­masamb­ha­va for sleep­ing and per­son­al prac­tice. Locat­ed on Man­jushri Peak, it is accessed by a long stair­case and fea­tures an open face with expan­sive views of the sky and val­ley below. To hon­or it’s rela­tion­ship with the Bod­hisatt­va of Wis­dom, Dr. Nida led us in recita­tion of Manjushri’s mantra before bestow­ing a num­ber of read­ing trans­mis­sions from the Yuthok Nyingthik at Dr. Sonam’s request.

By the time we left for our return to Kath­man­du, a sol­id foun­da­tion was set for the estab­lish­ment of Sorig Khang Marati­ka at Dr. Sonam’s clin­ic. Many of us have made com­mit­ments to return for future Sorig First Aid camps in Marati­ka in an ongo­ing effort to nur­ture this rela­tion­ship and fur­ther expand the reach of Sowa Rig­pa in Nepal. Dr. Nida’s vision for the future includes one Amchi for each vil­lage, and we will con­tin­ue work­ing with the won­der­ful peo­ple of Nepal to bring that vision to actu­al­i­ty.