Dr Trogawa Rinpoche
By and others
Feb 15, 2008, 17:09

Ven Dr Trogawa Rinpoche
Venerable Dr Trogawa Rinpoche
(1931-2005) was one of the most highly respected practitioners of Tibetan medicine (Sowa Rigpa) following the Chagpori Lineage. He completed a rigorous training in Lhasa before leaving Tibet in 1954. He is remembered for his kindness and compassion, his wisdom, his deep understanding of healing and his tireless commitment to the preservation and promulgation of traditional Tibetan Medicine. He was truly inspiring and the most credible exponent of Tibetan Medicine to Westerners of his time. In great measure alone, and at least for the time being, he saved Tibetan Medicine, as traditionally practised, from permanent consignment to the dharmadatu.


He was born in 1931 to a noble family in Thro Thralung, near Gyangtse, province of Tsang, in west-central Tibet. His father was an important Tibetan government official. At an early age he was recognised as a tulku. At the age of sixteen, he was sent to Lhasa to study medicine under the Nyerongsha Rigzin Lhundrub Paljor for nine years at Chagpori. The latter was a lineage holder at the Chagpori school of medicine and practicing doctor with his own clinic, medicine manufacturing facility and apprenticeship program. 


Chagpori had been established on a hill overlooking the Potala Palace by direction of the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617 to 1682). He wanted to preserve and progress the practice of Tibetan Medicine, including its most esoteric and advanced aspects. In particular he wished to maintain the traditional integrity of medicine with the spiritual values, views and practices of Tibetan Buddhism. The task was entrusted to his Prime Minister, Desi Sangye Gyatso (1653-1705).  He was, himself, an accomplished practitioner and is credited with having written a commentary which still provides the theoretical basis of all Tibetan medicine. Chagpori immediately became the hub of all medical training and practice in Tibet and Mongolia. Chagpori was destroyed during the communist invasion in 1959. 

Dr Trogawa moved to Sikkim In 1957 with the great Nyingma Master, Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro
Rinpoche.  When Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche died in 1959 he moved to Darjeeling, where he lived and practised. 


Following the Chinese occupation of Tibet, Dr Trogawa found he was one of the very few qualified practitioners (Emchi) of traditional Tibetan medicine still free to teach and practise. In 1963, he became chief medical teacher at the Tibetan School of Medicine and Astrology, in Dharamsala, India, directed by HH the Dalai Lama. After a spate of ill health he left and spent some years in retreat in the forests of Bhutan, coming out from time to time to treat patients.


He returned to Darjeeling in the 1970's, where he lived and practised until his passing away. He taught at various conferences and dharma centers around the world.


In 1994 he founded the Chagpori Institute of Tibetan Medicine to re-establish this lineage of medicine as previously taught in Tibet and still continued to practice as a physician.  Under his leadership it was extended to include a pharmacy for herbal medicines and several clinics.


His last few months were spent in retreat, first at a temple in Siliguri, Bengal, and then at the monastery of Choten Gonpa in Gangtok, Sikkim. We are told that as his passing away drew near he was surrounded by close desciples and by other lamas until his death on 11th May 2005 . As is often reported with Buddhist masters, his remains did not decay after his passing. He went quietly into a deep meditation in which he remained until the 15th May. The cremation and the 49th day ceremony took place in Gangtok.


Rinpoche's most obvious legacy is the continued work of the Chagpori Institute. Situated in the village of Takdah, in the countryside of Darjeeling District, in West Bengal state, it is a small school providing integrated training in all aspects of medicine and Dharma. The students follow a course of five years of study, followed by two years internship.  They learn all aspects of the theory of physiology, health and illness and the practice of treatment, as taught in the classics and as they were practiced at Chagpori in Tibet. Equally they learn the 'Yuthog Nyinghtig' Buddhist practices as taught at Chagpori in Tibet.  More than thirty physicians have now graduated from Chagpori. Unlike Chagpori in Tibet, since 2003 the school has been co-educational when a new class of twenty female students was admitted.


It produces all the compounds dispensed by its physicians and has clinics in Darjeeling town and in Kurseong, in addition to Takdah. It has a satelite clinic at the Sechen monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal run by Chagpori graduates.   Chagpori Institute is currently managed by a committee appointed by Dr Trogawa Rinpoche during his lifetime, and is led by his son Emchi Trinley Trogawa.


Although the Chinese authorities have not discarded Tibetan Medicine, but have embraced it rather enthusiastically, there has been an inevitable secularisation and "modernisation" as if it could somehow be separated from Buddhism.  Dr Trogawa's legacy is that Tibetan Medicine continues to be practised as the founders of Chapori envisaged.  


Dr Trogawa Rinpoche was perhaps the best-known master of Tibetan Medicine since the occupation of Tibet.



Contact details:  Chagpori Tibetan Medical Institute, Emchi Trinley Trogawa, Trogawa House, North Point, Darjeeling 734104, West Bengal, India Tel: 0091 3542 270266 EMail See also

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