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date: 24 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter centers on Tibetan Buddhist patterns and themes of healing and addresses the inter-relationship of medicine and religion in the practice of Tibetan medicine, also called Sowa Rigpa (gso ba rig pa), the “science of healing,” and how Buddhist rituals are employed to enhance the potency of medicines and to protect the pharmacy and the people working in it from accidents and obstacles during difficult manufacturing processes. Examples focus on the refinement of mercury in mercury sulphide ash for use in “precious pills” (rin chen ril bu). The chapter establishes an argument for a parallel between Buddhist ideas of “taming” demons into becoming protectors of the religious teachings and the pharmacological transformation of poisonous substances, especially the pharmacological practices of “taming” mercury into a potent elixir, and what this tells us about Tibetan medical approaches to what is considered “beneficial” and “harmful.”

Keywords: Buddhist taming, mercury, precious pills, Sowa Rigpa, Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetan medicine, pharmacology

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