Bodies in Balance at the Rubin

Over the weekend of March 21-23, two of our Himalaya Project NFP board members, Dr. Lori Howell and Mark Sobralske, attended the Rubin Museum of Art: Bodies in Balance, An Exploration of Tibetan Medicine conference in NYC. Our board made arrangements so that Amchi Namgyal Rinpoche, the main doctor of Tibetan medicine from Dolpo, Nepal, whom we are working with to start a school for Tibetan medicine, could attend the event along with us. Amchi Namgyal Rinpoche is the current president of the Himalayan Amchi Association (HAA) and a very prominent figure in regarding Tibetan medicine in Nepal.

Amchi Namgyal Rinpoche

Amchi Namgyal Rinpoche

This was a very special occasion, as it was Rinpoche’s first visit to the United States and auspicious in that his arrival and our meeting in NYC, coincided with the start of a symposium on Tibetan medicine/exhibition on Tibetan medical art, at the Rubin Museum, 5-years in the making.

The conference itself, was a weekend of talks and presentations, both academic and practical, on the subject of Tibetan medicine. Practitioners of Tibetan medicine and scholars alike, shared their knowledge and experience with those in attendance, with eleven presentations in total. The speakers in attendance, were top-notch, including:

  • Dr.Theresia Hofer, guest curator
  • Yangbum Gyal, The Integration of Tibetan Medicine in Western Practice
  • Janet Gyatso, Reading Pictures: Medicine and Buddhism at the Peak of the Tibetan State
  • Sienna Craig, Patterns of Resort, Prospects for Healing: Himalayan Healers at Work in Tibetan Communities
  • Katharina Sabernig, Medical Murals at Labrang Monastery
  • Donald Lopez, Expressions of the Inexpressible: The Dictionary of Buddhism
  • Anna Sehnalova, Medicinal Mandala: Tibetan Medicine in Ritual
  • Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim, Medical Astrology
  • Barbara Gerke, Taste and the Art of Tibetan
  • Ian Baker, Embodying Enlightenment – Yoga and Physical Culture in Tibetan Buddhism
  • Fabio Andrico, Yantra Yoga: A Practicum – A practical guide to Tibetan yoga and a vehicle to better health
Dr. Sienna Craig, Amchi Namgyal Rinpoche, Mark Sobralske and Dr. Lori Howell

Dr. Sienna Craig, Amchi Namgyal Rinpoche, Mark Sobralske and Dr. Lori Howell

Many of the speakers already knew Amchi Namgyal Rinpoche and came up to him to greet him throughout the course of the weekend. In a few presentations, there were even slides of him in Nepal, checking the quality of medicinals at a market in Kathmandu, and so forth. I think that a few were very surprised to see him in New York and were pleased that he could be there for the weekend.

Before the event, we made arrangements to meet with a few of the speakers for brief meetings to discuss our project and how they might be of assistance to us.

We first made arrangements sit down with Sienna Craig, Ph.D, professor of anthropology from Dartmouth, whose main area of research has been on the changing nature of Tibetan medicine and how social ecologies play a role in different geographic regions of the Himalayas in the practice of Tibetan medicine amongst the populations therein.

Dr. Sienna Craig has been kind enough to provide information to us all along as we prepare to meet some of the challenges the practice of Tibetan medicine faces in remote regions of the high Himalaya such as Dolpo and Mustang.  Sienna’s latest book, Efficacy and the Social Ecologies of Tibetan Medicine, has served as a roadmap for our board to navigate the intricate challenges that the communities in Dolpo, Nepal face as their culture transitions towards modernity.

We also met with Dr. Yangbum Gyal a doctor of Tibetan medicine who spoke of the integration of Tibetan medicine into modern settings and the ways in which it currently interfaces with standard medicine, here in the west.  Our board, Amchi Namgyal Rinpoche, Dr. Gyal and another doctor of Tibetan medicine, Dr. Dawa, were able to sit down for a roundtable discussion to talk about the changing face of Tibetan medicine as well as curriculum and how it relates to Dolpo and the changing nature of culture and ways of living there. Dr. Gyal has agreed to help us get the word out in the midwest about our project and we look forward to working together with him more in the coming months.

There were many other speakers whom which we enjoyed, but what we all enjoyed the most was the new friendships formed with those in attendance, the speakers themselves, and the chance to sit and pleasantly enjoy our time in casual discussion with Amchi Namgyal Rinpoche and our friends in the cafe, talking about our project, and how it will all come to fruition in time.

Chrysler Building

The Chrysler Building as seen from the top of the Empire State Building.

After the conference, there was time for sight-seeing after the conference, as we took the Dolpopas to the Empire State Building, Times Square, Chinatown, and the One World Trade Center.

Looking over Manhattan from atop the Empire State Building we took in the fantastic skyscrapers and city streets below. It pleased me that I could show a bit of America to Amchi Namgyal Rinpoche and Lama Karma Lobsang, as they have shown us much about about the Himalaya and their culture of medicine and religion.

It is our wish that the energy put into this trip to NYC and the connections and relationships formed with those met at the conference on Tibetan medicine, propel our project forward, allowing us to directly help those in need in Dolpo, Nepal, through the instrument of our school for Tibetan medicine.

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