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Yeshi Dhonden: personal physician to the 14th Dalai Lama

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 23 January 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m201
  1. Rebecca Wallersteiner
  1. London, UK
  1. wallersteiner{at}
Credit: The Tibetan Herbal Clinic, India

Yeshi Dhonden, the foremost Tibetan doctor in the world, has died from respiratory failure at his residence in Dharamsala, northern India, surrounded by his family.

He was born in Namrao village, in Tibet, into a farming family. He entered monastic life when he was 6 years old and took novice vows as a Buddhist monk two years later. When he was 11, he joined the Chakpori Institute of Tibetan Medicine, where he studied for nine years and displayed impressive skills during the study of the four tantra. One of his teachers was his uncle, the famous Tibetan doctor and teacher Khenrab Norbu. At 20, Dhonden was recognised as the best in his class. He passed his exams with distinction and was made an honorary doctor of the 14th Dalai Lama. From 1951 onwards, he practised medicine in Tibet in his native region, where he became renowned for his skill as a physician after he managed an influenza epidemic. He became the foremost expert in Sowa-Rigpa, the Tibetan herbal medicinal system that combines the ancient healing systems of India and China, practised for thousands of years in Tibet. In 1959 he chose to accompany the Dalai Lama into exile in India, when he fled the Chinese invasion of Tibet.

Dalai Lama

In 1961, when the Dalai Lama re-established the Men-Tsee-Khang, the Tibetan Medical and Astro-Science Institute, …

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