Four-Year Tibetan Medicine Program
Shang Shung Institute, 18 Schoolhouse Rd, Conway, MA 01341 tel: 413-369-4928

Order From ShangShung.org

Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo in Residence

In June of 2001, Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo arrived from Lhasa, Tibet to join the Shang Shung Institute as resident faculty and director of the department of Tibetan Medicine. Throughout her year in residence she has taught the Foundation Course in Tibetan Medicine as well as a number of specialized seminars on liver disorders, neurological disorders, and the five elements and their relationship to astrological predictions in the Tibetan medical system.  She also conducts a weekly Tibetan language class and has lectured to local colleges and other venues on Tibetan Medicine on behalf of Shang Shung's programs. She is assisted by Dr. Yangdron Kalzang  of Santa Cruz, CA who often translates for her teaching programs and has co-taught at times in the Foundation course.

Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo received her advanced degree from the Lhasa University School of Traditional Medicine in 1988 where she also served a two-year residency after completing her five year training program (1983-1990). During that time she studied with the Khenpos Troru Tsenam and Gyaltsen, two of Tibet's foremost doctors who are credited with the revival of Tibetan Medicine within Tibet under the Chinese. Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo had the exceptional opportunity of extensive clinical training under Khenpo Troru Tsenam for four years. She represents among the first generation of university trained Tibetan physicians due to the current revival of Tibetan medicine inside Tibet.  Thereafter, she dedicated many years of work as a doctor in Eastern Tibet where she collaborated and directed the implementation of A.S.I.A projects in the region,  the non-profit organization founded by Choegyal Namkhai Norbu.  Since that time, she has worked on behalf of A.S.I.A. setting up hospitals and training centers in the remote regions of Sichuan Province and Chamdo Prefecture. From 1996-present, she has been the A.S.I.A. project coordinator in Tibet for the development of Gamthog Hospital in collaboration with expatriate personnel as well as the overall health coordinator and practitioner of traditional Tibetan medicine supervising health activities through out the surrounding region of Chamdo Prefecture. Prior to 1996, she was on the faculty of Shang Shung Institute in Italy where she gave numerous seminars and conference presentations on Tibetan medicine.

For Dr.Wangmo's teaching schedule, please view the program's web pages at www.shangshung.org.  She may also be contacted directly at phuntsog@hotmail.com or 413-369-4912

A Brief Overview of Tibetan Medicine

Tibetan medicine known as Sowa Rigpa, is an ancient form of natural medicine indigenous to the Tibetan people and still practiced today throughout Tibet, the Himalayan regions, India, Mongolia, Siberia and in the Western world where ever Tibetans live in exile.  Considered among the most essential of the ten Tibetan subjects of study, Sowa Rigpa  has benefited the people of Tibet and its surrounding regions for centuries. This unique knowledge is contained within thousands of texts written in the Tibetan language but principally in the four medical tantras, or rGyud-bzhi. These four medical tantras (see note) constitute the primary teaching texts for training Tibetan physicians from ancient times to the present.

The Tibetan medical system is a complex synthesis developed over millennia drawing on both indigenous Tibetan culture and elements from other traditions such as the Greek (via Persia), Ayurvedic from India and Chinese systems. Integrating these with the already robust pre-buddhist culture of ancient Tibetan civilization known as Zhang Zhung, Sowa Rigpa flourished amid intercultural dialogues with the leading physicians of India, China, Nepal, Byzantium and Persia who traveled to Tibet as early as the 7th century.  These exchanges resulted in a magnificent body of accumulated knowledge unrivaled for its depth of understanding still intact within a vast literary tradition unknown outside of Tibet until recent times.

Over the centuries, practitioners of Tibetan medicine learned how to diagnose, differentiate, and categorize diseases and the influences of external factors such as timing, provacation, and imbalances in diet and behavior. They conducted research and developed treatment principles for physical and mental imbalances and diseases. This evolution also resulted in a vast pharmacopoeia of medicinal plants native to the Himalayas which were identified, gathered and processed according to ancient prescriptions as well as other external therapies such as Kunye (Tibetan massage), moxabustion, and dietary treatments.

Unique to Tibetan medicine is its philosophical view based on Buddhism in which the body/mind relationship is interconnected to all phenomena. This holistic view informs the Tibetan medical tradition which uses sophisticated diagnostic techniques of pulse diagnosis and urine analysis in order to determine systemic imbalances—both mental and physical. As early as the 6th century BC, the Buddha taught using illness as a central metaphor for suffering, and healing as the primary intention of the Buddhist path to liberate beings from ignorance, the source of all suffering. This philosophical view of Buddhism permeates all aspects of Tibetan culture including Tibetan medicine  which continued to evolve according to the teachings of the Buddha in a richly informed philosophical base not shared with other indigenous healing traditions. Thus, the Tibetan medical system developed into a sophisticated body of knowledge, which encompasses mental and spiritual factors, not just physical, in the diagnosis and treatment of disease and the promotion of well-being and a healthy balanced life.


Shang Shung Institute and Tibetan Medicine

Founded by Choegyal Namkhai Norbu, a Tibetan scholar and Dzogchen master, The Shang Shung Institutes located in Italy, Austria and the United State are dedicated to his mission to preserve Tibetan cultural traditions. Among the highest priorities for the US based Shang Shung Institute is to preserve existing Tibetan Medical knowledge as well as recover aspects of the tradition which have been lost.  In order to accomplish this goal, The Shang Shung Institute since its inauguration in 1994, has developed training programs in Tibetan medicine, archived all classes, and worked on translations.  Students from around the world have participated in the three-year Foundation Course taught by Dr. Tubten Phuntsok, trainings in Kunye Tibetan massage and related courses on specific topics taught by Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo, full-time faculty in residence at the Institute since 2001. On occasion, the Institute offers courses in other complimentary disciplines. An equally rigorous program schedule exists at the other Shang Shung centers worldwide.

Beginning in the fall of 2005, Shang Shung Institute in the US will begin a newly designed four-year program under the direction of Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo which will closely parallel the training of a traditional Tibetan physician culminating in a supervised internship and final exams. Currently, there are now comprehensive training programs in Tibetan medicine and astrology offered in Tibet, India, Laddak and Sikkim. Over the past few decades, Westerners have become increasingly interested in incorporating the holistic medical practices of the East into their own practice and research. Due to political and cultural reasons, Tibetan medicine, one of the oldest and richest of Asian medical traditions, has largely existed outside the focus of the West. In order to address this need, the Shang Shung Institute has dedicated its resources to develop the first comprehensive training program in English.

Shang Shung Institute Tibetan Medicine Curriculum
The Program Overview
To accommodate the different needs of individuals participating in the course several options are available. These include an accelerated apprenticeship program for people with some background in Tibetan medicine, a residential program taught in classes at the Shang Shung Institute in Conway, Massachusetts and an eventual on-line program utilizing live web casts in an on-line learning environment and balanced with brief residencies at SSI every semester. A fourth option exists which allows individuals to
take smaller modules on specific topics on Tibetan Medicine which can later be applied toward the four-year curriculum.

Option 1 : Residential Program - Scheduled for September 2005
The program is four years long with each year divided into two semesters of 16 weeks each. At 20 hours a week, the number of hours per semester is 320, for a total of 2560 hours for the entire program. This time frame will provide students with a thorough study of Tibetan medicine. Please refer to individual course outline.
• a minimum enrollment of six students required to begin the course

Option 2: Apprenticeship with Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo- scheduled September 2005
Students will work one-on-one in the Shang Shung Institute clinic with Dr. Wangmo with an equal amount of time devoted to classes. In order to qualify for admission to the apprenticeship program, students must have a background in Tibetan medicine or have completed the Kunye training programs or three year foundation courses offered at the Shang Shung Institutes or other similar courses. Instruction will be individualized according to the student’s level of previous training.

Option 3: Low Residency/On-line Program – Depending on enrollment scheduled Fall 2005 or Winter 2006

The on-line option will be identical to the residential program including live video web casts of all face to face classes held in the residential program, interactive discussion forums and other online components such as live scheduled chats among participants The only exception will be in the clinical observation segments of the course which will not take place simultaneous with other classes as in the residential program but will need to take place in shorter residency concentrations amounting to about 2 weeks each semester in which students travel to Conway, Massachusetts for their residency. This residency is included in their semester tuition. However, food and lodging at the Shang Shung Institute in an onsite dormitory will have an additional charge of approximately $50 per day.

Option 4: Mini Certificates—on going (check for dates & individual prices)

The program includes 4 modules, each one of which will lead to a mini certificate. The modules are independent and the student may choose to register for only one module. However, they will be able to apply credits accrued for the classes in each module toward the completion of the 4 year program. The titles and hourly requirements of the four mini certificates are as follows:

Title Hours
KuNye   72 or 108
Diet & Nutrition   108
Rejuvenation   76
External Therapies (including blood-letting, moxa, hot and cold therapies, and natural and medicinal baths)   108
Astrology   72

The Kunye Level 1 module has been approved by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine – (NCCAOM) for Continuing Education Credits. Other levels and modules will be submitted for review as well.
Shang Shung Institute’s Kunye Massage Level One Course has been approved for Professional Development Activity (PDA) Continuing Education Credits by the NCCAOM.  [A Diplomate seeking recertification by completing this program will be granted thirty six (36) PDA points. Diplomates will receive one (1) Professional Development Activity point for each clock hour completed, if applicable.  If diplomats do not complete the entire program, they will only receive points for the hours that are completed.  The Institute is not required to send certificates for completion or attendance rosters to NCCCAOM. It is the Diplomate’s responsibility to present documentation of continuing education to NCCAOM at the time of their recertification. NCCAOM Course Reference # is   ACHB 156-003].

Please see the full course description for the Kunye program.

Four-year  Curriculum Overview

The core of the Tibetan medical program is based on the book rYud bzhi (gyud-zhi), the major teaching and clinical reference in all Tibetan medical schools. [See note for more detail]. Other course content in this program includes, ethics for Tibetan doctors, Tibetan astrology, Tibetan medical history, Tibetan language, elements of Tibetan Buddhism that relate to Tibetan Medicine, Tza- rLung practice (Tibetan Yoga), and Tibetan Element Therapy. Over the four-year duration of the program, students should expect to engage in class formats:

• Combination of fundamental theory classes and other related courses outlined by semester.
• Herbs & Medicine Preparation:  students will spend time outdoors observing herbs in their natural settings, as taught in traditional Tibetan medical schools.
• Clinical training: over the first three semesters all students will spend time in clinical observation with one instructor.  From the fourth to sixth semester, three to five students will share a teacher as clinical supervisor.  Over the last semester, students will intern with their supervisor, demonstrating a proficiency in the knowledge they gained over the previous three and a half years.
• Affiliation with some Tibetan medical colleges and Menzikhang (a regional/local traditional hospital). This affiliation will enhance the quality of the program by providing opportunities to visit schools and hospitals in their local settings.  This experience will also form the basis for a rich cultural exchange. Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo is currently negotiating a location in Tibet.

Objectives of the Four-Year Tibetan Medicine Program:

In this program students will develop an understanding of the basic knowledge of all the different aspects of Tibetan cultural studies. In particular, students will specialize in Tibetan medicine by correctly understanding the origin, conception, principles, physiology, characteristics, purposes, contents, classifications, birth, living, death, prevention, and diagnoses, and treatment of Tibetan medicine to alleviate human physical and mental suffering.  One objective of the program is to conduct scientific research on the efficacy of Tibetan medicine.

Diagnostic Tools:
• Observation: Urine observation, and observation of body shape, complexion, eyelids, eyes, tongue, and nails.
• Palpation: Pulse readings, and palpating to sense temperature, growths, and changes.
• Interviewing: Asking questions about a patient’s age gender, general health more subjectively, environment, condition and its cause.
• Students will understand the basic concepts of tastes, properties, and post-digestion to modify and apply appropriate treatment.
• The principle of treatment follows the guideline which states that  " The body, the disease, and treatment share a principle which is the element theory.” By following this guideline, students will be able to correctly diagnose, and treat diseases.

Admission Requirements

• Working knowledge of English (instruction given in English)
• Strong motivation to study Tibetan medicine
• Compassion for people suffering from physical or mental disease.
• Willingness to commit to the four-year program or one of the mini-certificate programs. This is a key criterion for admission to the program.

• Knowledge of health, anatomy, physiology and related subjects
• Knowledge of Tibetan culture, philosophy and religion
• Background in Tibetan medicine, massage or other therapies

Semester Dates:
Fall Semester, 2005, begins Monday, September 12, 2006
Spring Semester 2006, begins December 1, 2005

Application Deadlines, Tuition & Fees
• August 15, 2005 for Fall 2005 semester
• November 1, 2005 for Spring 2006 semester
• Application fee of $25.00 (non-refundable)
• Materials Fee each semester: $50.00 due with final payment
• Tuition $2,500 per semester ($100 deposit due within two weeks of acceptance into the program)
50% of tuition due one month before courses begin, final payment first day of    classes
 Payment plans may be negotiated—please contact Will Shea at       will@shangshung.org

There may be a limited amount of spaces in the dorm at Tsegyaglar where SSI is located:  Room and Board $50 per day payable monthly in advance. Please indicate your interest for onsite lodging on your application.

Financial Aid

The Institute is in the process of facilitating non-government unsubsidized student loans for its students with a reasonable interest rate.  Another option to pursue would be to find an independent accredited degree- granting program which would allow  you to use your training at Shang Shung as part of your independent studies allotting some of your tuition to pay for this training. There are a number of these institutions that provide programs leading to a BA, Masters, and Ph.d.

A very limited amount of work-study is available for individuals who have skills to offer to the Institute. Individuals who are serious about completing a four-year program need to plan accordingly and exercise resourcefulness. By completing the module on Kunye, students in the program will be able to practice Tibetan massage at the Shang Shung clinic or privately which should assist them financially.


At present, the Shang Shung Institute is not an accredited post-secondary institution offering accredited degrees. Application for candidacy in the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools will be possible in the near future upon completion of studies by a set number of students. Once candidacy status is accepted, Shang Shung Institute will eligible to provide its students with federal financial aid options.  By participating in the SSI Tibetan medicine program with a commitment to completing the course of study students will participate in an important step toward establishing Tibetan Medicine in the West and fostering its preservation for future generations.

While the Institute cannot in these formative years provide students with an accredited degree, the curriculum presented will parallel traditional training programs already offered in Tibetan. Our goal is to provide the best possible education opportunity with master teachers in the field at an affordable rate. For every student who completes our course of study, the institute comes closer to realizing its aim of becoming the first accredited school of Tibetan medicine in the west.


The United States does not currently offer a national licensing board to practice Tibetan Medicine legally.  Until such a time that national organizations evolve to set standards
for certification in the field, all practitioners of Tibetan medicine must practice under the licensure of other related health fields integrating their knowledge into their current practices.
In recent years, a national grass roots effort to recognize consumer's access to the alternative therapies of their choice has been embraced by a number of US States. Please visit the link http://www.nationalhealthfreedom.org/reports/groups.htm for a list of these States that have passed legislation for unlicensed practitioners of alternative therapies to work ---within specific guidelines outlined.

Notes: rYud bzhi (gyud-zhi) is composed of four major sections:

• The first section is entitled root of rYud bzhi (Za Gyud). It is said that "It is like the soil base of Tibetan medicine, all healing art or aspects are included in this section." Its highly condensed theory describes every aspect of Tibetan medicine: the origin and purpose of Tibetan medicine; the content and outline of Tibetan medicine; an introduction to the fundamentals of human physiology, diagnosis, treatment, and a variety of healing modalities.
• The second one is entitled bshad rgyud (Shad Gyud). It is said that "It is like the Sun and Moon in the sky of the universe.” This section covers all concepts and meanings of Tibetan medicine, such as the conception of the human being, detailed human physiology, resample  (resemblances/similarities) and shapes of each part of the body, how the internal organs relate to and support each other to maintain harmony. It also goes through preventative medicine: how to regulate diets seasonally and constitutionally, and how to maintain a proper lifestyle to prevent disease. The foundation of herbology introduces the unique concepts of the 6 tastes, 8 properties, and post-digestion.
• Shad Gyud covers how to diagnose and treat the difficulties of major life events in a person’s birth, life and death.
The third section is entitled Man ngag rgyud (Man Nag Gyud) This clinical application is essential to Tibetan medicine because it includes all aspects of Tibetan medicine-discussions of the cause, conditional cause, symptoms, and differentiation; treatment principles and the actual treatment of all diseases.
• The fourth section is entitled phima rgyud (Pyi ma gyud). "It is similar to a diamond. It focuses on diagnostic methods, in particular pulse reading and urine analysis, and it introduces herbal preparations and the different ways in which herbs are administered: decoction, powder, pill, medicinal paste, medicinal butter, medicinal tincture or wine. Moreover, it introduces external therapies, which include smooth and rough techniques. The smooth therapies consists of external hot or cold therapies, Lum(medicinal or natural baths, steam or vapour, etc.), and KuNye (Tibetan Massage); the rough therapy consists of Tibetan bloodletting and Mye Tza (Tibetan moxabustion techniques).

For further information about the annual residential courses offered and FAQ about the curriculum and the audio course, please view the program pages at www.shangshung.org

Scholarship Programs

US  Tibetans who wish to attend the residential Foundation Course in Tibetan Medicine or receive the audio materials are invited to contact us regarding our tuition/fee waivers.

Order the following Educational Resources Listed Below From
Shang Shung Institute

_____Foundation Course in Tibetan Medicine--all three levels taught by Dr. Thubten Phuntsog from 1998-2001. On MP3 format. $500
         includes all shipping and Elements for the Study of Tibetan Medicine. In English (most Tibetan edited out) with translation by Elio
         Guarisco. Approximately 80 hours with each topic listed separately.

_____Foundation Course in Tibetan Medicine ---all three levels taught by Dr.Phuntsog Wangmo from 2001-2002. On MP3 format.
         $700 includes all shipping and Elements for the Study of Tibetan Medicine. In Tibetan and English with translation by Dr.
         Yangdron Kalzang. Approximately 120 hours with each topic listed separately.

_____Audio cassette versions of the above courses are available for $1800

_____New ! The Five Elements and their relationship to Astrological Predictions in the Tibetan Medical  System taught by Dr.
         Phuntsog Wangmo on MP3. $50 plus shipping ($4.00 domestic and $6.00 international)

Lectures by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu

______NEW ! The Theory and Practice of Moxibustion (an ancient healing technique that utilizes heat and herbs), a ten part series
           taught by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu in November, 1983 in Conway, Massachusetts. $50 plus shipping.
           ($4.00 domestic, $6.00 international)

______Lecture on Tibetan Medicine presented by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu in Bangkok, Thailand in 2000. A fascinating overview.
           2 CD's, $30 plus shipping. ($5.00domestic and $7.00 international)

Webcasts by Choegyal Namkhai Norbu

_____Merigar Webcast, August, 2001. Restricted to members of the Dzogchen Community, 2 CD's, $30 plus shipping.
         ($4.00 domestic, $7.00 international)

_____Tashigar Webcast, December, 2001. Poor sound quality in some parts but an excellent teaching on the meaning of compassion.
         2 CD's $30 plus shipping. ($4.00 domestic, $7.00 international)

_____Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, Webcast from Tsegyalgar on May 11, 2002. A talk on the ancient culture of Shang Shung in Tibet,
          90 minutes $25 plus shipping ($4.00 domestic, $7.00 international)

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