Dr Tsering Tashi Tsedra - A Life for Sowa Rigpa

Dr Tser­ing Tashi Tse­dra is the for­mer direc­tor of the People’s Hos­pi­tal in Mal­ho (Sog­zong) in the east tibetan region of Amdo (chin.: Quing­hai Province). He is also known as founder of many Sorig hos­pi­tals and med­ical schools as well as author of many books about Tra­di­tion­al Tibetan Med­i­cine. He is one of Dr. Nida Chenagtsang’s most influ­en­tial teach­ers.

The inter­view with Dr Tser­ing Tashi Tse­dra took place in Mahlo, Tibet August 2017 dur­ing this year’s Sorig-Tour.

Text in between braces [ ] con­tain com­ments by Dr. Nida

I was born in Labrang and lived there until I was 14 years old. When I was 6 I spent a week on the land of the yogis at the yogi tem­ples. When you buy the land that belongs to that yogi tem­ple, the fam­i­ly has to offer one per­son of the fam­i­ly to become the yogi, a so called Ngak­pa. I was cho­sen and thus offi­cial­ly became a Ngak­pa at the age of 6.

At the age of 8 years the Chi­nese came and they lib­er­at­ed the place. “Lib­er­a­tion”.
That meant that every­thing was closed includ­ing the yogi tem­ple and every­thing.
So, at the age of 9 I went to a school called Tan­grak School and I stud­ied there Tibetan lan­guage and how to write and read as well as logani for one year.
When I was 9 years old my father was impris­oned. The rea­son why my father was impris­oned is because my fam­i­ly was a Mon­go­lian fam­i­ly like many oth­er fam­i­lies around. They said that Mon­go­lians are protest­ing, but in fact they were not protest­ing, but they ran away from the region and escaped. And due to that they think that is relat­ed to my father too but it wasn’t. So my school life was stopped.
So, then at the age of 11 I went to a dif­fer­ent school in the same region called Dujas School and stud­ied Chi­nese and Tibetan for one year. Yes, both lan­guages.
At the age of 13 I fin­ished the first grade lev­el of study and then I came back here.
So, in 1964, the Chi­nese con­trol was much more loose so peo­ple were allowed to go back where they came from and to move around. So that’s why at the age of 13 my fam­i­ly came back to Labrang to live there. At the age of 15 I final­ly became a stu­dent of med­i­cine. A child of med­i­cine.

So that was the begin­ning of my med­ical career.


Dr. Tser­ing Tashi Tse­dra in front of his Sorig phar­ma­cy.


And that was my parent’s wish and that was also a ben­e­fit for soci­ety.
So, that’s the begin­ning of a jour­ney last­ing until now.
So, from the age of 15 until now I have only been ded­i­cat­ing my life to med­i­cine. I have not done any­thing that is not relat­ed to med­i­cine. And now I am 67 years old. So, that was around 52 years ago. So only a sin­gle road. Sin­gle jour­ney.
Dur­ing this long jour­ney of 52 years I have been offered dif­fer­ent enti­tle­ments, like sec­re­tary, direc­tor of dif­fer­ent offi­cial enti­tle­ments, even like a social work­er and dif­fer­ent oth­er jobs, but I have always been push­ing them away.
I am not say­ing that because I’m an expert like omni­scient and that I know every­thing but because I thought this is the only path that I know of and of which I am sure of. If I can reduce the suf­fer­ing of a patient then that’s my only wish. That’s why I was only with this path.
So, at the age of 15 when I became a lit­tle doc­tor, I was study­ing west­ern med­i­cine, west­ern med­ica­tion for 5 years [At that time study­ing and prac­tic­ing came along togeth­er. So that’s why he was called like the lit­tle doc­tor]. When I was 20 years old it came to my mind to study Tibetan med­i­cine.


One of the hos­pi­tals found­ed by Dr. Tser­ing Tashi Tse­dra in Amdo.


The oppor­tu­ni­ties to study Tibetan med­i­cine were very rare how­ev­er. It was not very easy for me to find a path of study­ing Tibetan med­i­cine and prac­tic­ing it. So it was very dif­fi­cult to find prop­er and qual­i­fied teacher. A lot of the times I had to do self-study.
When I was about 20 years old there was a very famous Tibetan doc­tor called Jan­sok [name not very clear­ly tran­scribed] and I went to study with him. He was 40 years old. He also liked to lead a few Tibetan stu­dents to pick herbs in the moun­tains.
So, until I was 25 years old I have been self-study­ing and some­times I had to rely on some stu­dents or some teach­ers.
When I turned 25 there was some Tibetan med­i­cine train­ing. It was the sec­ond rec­og­nized Tibetan med­i­cine train­ing at the place where we have been.
So that was the begin­ning of the open oppor­tu­ni­ties to get a prop­er edu­ca­tion and where I could learn to col­lect herbs and pro­duce com­pound herbal for­mu­las and so on.

At the age of 27 [in 1979 when Dr. Nida was 8 years old] I went to study with Dr. Behmas­gur­da, who was also a great yogi. That was the teacher of me and Dr. Jig­meh [now both of them are most famous doc­tors], the direc­tor of the Tibetan Mon­go­lian hos­pi­tal. I had to go to the oth­er town Yoon tae, the teacher was far away.
It was not legal because the con­trol was tight, but I went there ille­gal­ly to study in secret. When I was 28 years old I met my teacher Shimza, the founder of Tibetan Mon­go­lian hos­pi­tal and of the monastery you vis­it­ed 2 days ago too [he was a great Bud­dhist mas­ter as well as a great doc­tor].

From that time on I have nev­er left my path of Tibetan med­i­cine.
Then when I was 29 years old the first provin­cial exam for Tibetan med­i­cine - for Tibetan prac­ti­tion­ers - came across, so many of them went to do the exam but then in the whole pre­fec­ture there were only 9 stu­dents who passed. From these 9 can­di­dates 5 were from this coun­ty Malo and 4 of them were from Sorig khang coun­ty, my friends. And there was one from anoth­er coun­ty and that’s Dr. Noug­meh, anoth­er great doc­tor.
So after com­plet­ing the exam both Dr. Jig­meh and I were invit­ed to estab­lish the Tibetan hos­pi­tal. Dr. Jjig­meh fol­lowed the invi­ta­tion, but I didn’t come. I didn’t come because I want­ed to stay just in my lit­tle coun­ty in in the coun­try­side. I want­ed to be in the low­est place pos­si­ble. So I don’t know if my thoughts at that time were cor­rect, but I’m very tra­di­tion­al. Old fash­ioned I would say.


The Lung of the First Tantra was trans­mit­ted by Dr. Tser­ing Tashi Tse­dra for his stu­dents and the par­tic­i­pants of Sorig Tours 2017.


There­fore I estab­lished the Tibetan hos­pi­tal in that lit­tle coun­ty Ser­long sha.
In 1982 I had to move to anoth­er coun­ty and I estab­lished a Tibetan hos­pi­tal there as well. So at the age of 42 - it was in 1992 - I was again invit­ed to become the pres­i­dent of the Tibetan Mon­go­lian hos­pi­tal. Thus I had to come back home and that was the begin­ning of me return­ing to the town.

[In 1990, like 27 years ago, I have start­ed to go to med­i­cine with him. He was liv­ing in a small place, a small house. He said that’s his sister’s house. He was giv­ing a teach­ing. And my friend said oh do you want to study Tibetan med­i­cine. And I said I am already a teacher you know. I was a teacher in mid­dle school. And he said oh it’s very inter­est­ing. So I went to the first of his class­es. He was teach­ing about pulse read­ing and urine analy­sis. And I said wow it’s cool and that I want to study more.]

In the year 2000 I was invit­ed to be the pres­i­dent of the People’s Hos­pi­tal and that’s when I start­ed con­nect­ing with it.
In 2006 I retired from my titles.
From 2006 until 2011 I was still help­ing a lot to devel­op the People’s Hos­pi­tal and dur­ing this time in 2007 I estab­lished the Tibetan med­i­cine depart­ment in the hos­pi­tal [Where we - the Sorig Tour group -  are prac­tic­ing today].



So because I have been a very influ­en­tial doc­tor in the region a lot of stu­dents from far away and near­by came to study with me. They come to my home but it was not a prop­er school. So in 2003, since there were too many stu­dents I decid­ed to estab­lish a school. So now there is a med­ical school where I can receive my stu­dents [Some­times we have like over a 100 stu­dents in this place and they come to study with him]. Because before 2003 many stu­dents came to study with me for many years- 2, 3 or 4 years - but after com­plet­ing the study with me they don’t have any cer­tifi­cates and they don’t get admit­ted by the gov­ern­ment or the soci­ety. How can they prove it even though they were study­ing? I thought that this is not good for the stu­dents. So that’s why I decid­ed to estab­lish this school and that way I can give cer­tifi­cates to the stu­dents who accom­plish their stud­ies.
That was the main rea­son why I start­ed to apply at the gov­ern­ment for the per­mis­sion to have a school and to receive these stu­dents, and of course also that there is no dif­fer­ence for the stu­dents. They were not able to open their own clin­ics because they didn’t have any cer­tifi­cates to link to and to prove or to attend any kind of offi­cial exam­i­na­tions. And that’s why I thought this had to be done. Even if I didn’t have the school, stu­dents would come to study with me. And they will study as much as they can. But, once they com­plet­ed the study and they would go out into soci­ety and start prac­tic­ing. And final­ly in 2003, the per­mis­sion was giv­en and the school was estab­lished. Kasome [the name of his teacher] is good time.



From 2003 until now 500 stu­dents have grad­u­at­ed from this school.
So maybe the soci­ety has dif­fer­ent ideas about the school. They may think this is a school for earn­ing mon­ey but I say that from the stu­dents who come I haven’t received a sin­gle yuan [Because the whole edu­ca­tion is free].
I have a clin­ic and every­thing has been paid by the clin­ic and every­thing from the clin­ic is paid by the teacher’s salary, the house, the water, the elec­tric­i­ty, so that stu­dents can get free edu­ca­tion.

Until now I have told you so many sto­ries, but I don’t think I am some­body great.
My Num­ber 1 is that I think of how I can serve the Tibetan cul­ture and the Tibetan peo­ple.
Num­ber 2 is that I think of how much ben­e­fit I can bring to the patients.
And num­ber 3 is that I think am I com­plet­ing the wish­es of my dear teacher.
So I nev­er think about fame or mon­ey.
So that’s the end of my sto­ry.

I am very thank­ful to every sin­gle one of you to real­ly high­ly respect Tibetan med­i­cine and tak­ing it as some­thing very spe­cial and com­ing all the way here to study with Dr. Nida.

Many thanks to Karen Stone for pro­vid­ing the tran­script of the inter­view!

The orig­i­nal tran­script has been mod­i­fied and pre­sent­ed in an auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal style to increase leg­i­bil­i­ty.

Pic­tures by Sorig News.

See the full Interview on Vimeo.