Likewise, these three biodynamics (which become three pathogens
when things go wrong) are not separate things from all the individual
bodily systems one can observe and of which they are composed.
Each of the three dynamics is a group of real physiological systems
which are similar in nature and which share the same main elemental
nature. For their relation with the psychological capital of the
individual, see section on pathogenesis.
like the traffic engineer who re-phases the lights, the Tibetan
doctor is aware of the overall workings of the body. His or her
task is to know how to modify specific physical processes and
parameters to bring it back to health and ensure its smoother
running. Ideally, this gives a preventative medicine which detects
and remedies fundamental deficiencies, excesses or conflicts before
they lead to clinical ailments. In practice - since most people
consult a doctor only when clinical conditions are presenting
- it gives a holistic medicine which treats the specific ailment
while at the same time setting in motion a treatment which will
bring the individual as much as is possible back to balanced health.
Quite a few translators have used the
term humour for these biodynamics. This is unfortunate
as it immediately equates the Tibetan notions with medieval medicine
in Europe. This is not at all the case. As years go by, biodynamic
may not prove to be the best term, but let it suffice for the
moment. Furthermore, there is a problem finding any real equivalent
in English for the individual names of each of the three biodynamics.
As these came to Tibet from Indian medicine, we shall use here
the Sanskrit terms, as they are easier for the Westerner than
the Tibetan ones. The three are:
VATA - (Tib: rlung) - the kinetic dynamic related
to the wind element
- (Tib: mkhris.pa) - thermo-dynamics related
to the fire element
- (Tib: bad.kan) - the solid-fluid dynamic related
to the water and earth
For those interested,
the Tibetan words are pronounced loong, tree-pa
and payken respectively.
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THREE BIODYNAMICS AS POTENTIAL PATHOGENS
When these three are each working correctly,
not adversely affecting each other and not in excess or depletion,
the body functions normally and one is in good health. In this
sense, we have three main vectors of health and as such they are
called dhatu in Sanskrit, meaning "vector" (of
health). We could call them "healthogens". When one
or more of the dynamics malfunctions, is depleted, is in excess
or starts to interfere with other systems, it becomes a pathogen.
Then it is called dosha, meaning "trouble". The
latter term was transposed directly into Tibetan, as nyes.pa,
pronounced nyay.pa. to denote the biodynamics.
Below, we will examine the specific function
of each biodynamic in times of health.
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This primarily kinetic dynamic is the generic
term for the movements and flows in the body. The principal ones
are respiration, motricity, mobility, excretion and the circulation
of the blood and other bodily fluids, as well as the oxygen and
other vital components of health they transport. It also include
the flow of messages through the nerves. These various flows,
through their specific channels,
are considered in five main areas:
"pertains to flows seated around the sinciput, with a field
of action in the pharynx and the thorax". It mainly concerns
the brain's control over motor functions such as breathing, swallowing,
crying, sneezing, eructation etc. as well as its maintenance of
clear senses and a sharp intellect.
to what is seated in the thorax, with its field of action in the
nose, tongue and throat". It mainly concerns the production
of breath and oxygen, which permit speech, physical strength,
good complexion, industry and awareness.
to what is seated in the heart, with a field of activity throughout
the body". It mainly concerns mobility of all the muscles
and limbs of the body, from the flexing of limbs to the opening
and closing of the eyelids, the prime function being the heartbeat.
Fire Companion "pertains
to what is seated in the gastro-intestinal tract, with a field
of activity throughout the internal organs of the abdomen".
It mainly concerns the movements which enable digestion and the
thermodynamic processes of metabolism,
in which nutrients are separated from wastes and the seven
sorts of tissues generated.
Downward expeller "pertains
to what is seated in the rectal area, with a field of activity
in the colon, bladder, genitals and thighs". It mainly concerns
excretion of faeces, urine, menstrual blood, semen as well as
the process of childbirth. These involve retention as well as
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This primarily concerns the thermodynamic processes
through which the body is nourished and sustained by food, drink
and sense stimulation. This sustenance covers mental processes
as well as physical ones. There are five main areas:
"pertains to what is seated between the undigested and the
digested". This mainly concerns the physical and chemical
processes which separate foodstuffs into nutrient and waste, take
energy from food to provide bodily heat and generally support
the following four Pitta.
"pertains to what is seated in the liver". It concerns
processes which give tissues their proper colour, making blood
and flesh red, fat white, the marrow pinkish white and other body
fluids yellow or white.
"pertains to what is seated in the mind". It is the
generation of the energy and strength that enable self-esteem,
determination, intelligence and the resources to achieve one's
Giver of sight This
"pertains to what is seated in the eyes". It covers
the proper functioning of the visual organ as well as the optic
nerve and related parts of the brain: everything in fact which
enables colour and form to be properly distinguished.
"pertains to what is seated throughout the skin". It
covers all the processes which make for a good, clear complexion.
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This primarily concerns the proper constitution
of the various bodily fluids, as well as the maintenance of the
physical frame which houses them and forms the arena within which
life is preserved. It is also related to the senses and mental
satisfaction. There are five main areas:
"pertains to what is primarily seated in the chest".
It concerns the skeleton, in particular the bones, cartilage and
so forth of the sternum. This, and by extension the rest of the
physical frame, is the actual housing upon which the following
"pertains to what is seated in the place of the non-digested".
It concerns the fluids which break up foodstuffs by various chemical
"pertains to what is seated in the tongue" and which
enables the six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, hot and astringent).
"pertains to what is seated in the head" and which enables
"pertains to what is seated in/around all the joints",
enabling flexion and extension.
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The three biodynamics each have
specific times of the year in which they accumulate strength then
come to their full and finally subside, like incoming and outgoing
tides. These are related to the elemental changes accompanying
seasonal changes. This needs to be well borne in mind by the TTM
physician, who will adjust his diagnosis according to the seasonally-predominant
biodynamic which is manifest and who will take care not to damage
the accumulation process which is not manifest but under way.
These general categories are but
the basis for a vast topic of study, extending throughout the
various fields of TTM. The science of how and why these three
vectors of good health can turn into pathogens and then how to
treat the clinical problems which emerge fills hundreds of pages
of the Fourfold Tantra and thousands of pages of commentary. TTM
enumerates 404 diseases, with some 1200 subcategories, each with
their etiology, pathology and treatment.
The TTM physician is not unlike the conductor of an orchestra
who, having spent a long apprenticeship of musical theory and
developing knowledge of each instrument, possesses an overview
which enables him to lead the whole orchestra into beautiful expression.