The Sacred in the Scientific: Ambiguous Practices of Science in Tibetan Medicine

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Essay Exceprt

In this article, I explore the particular meanings that have come to be associated with the idea of and the term science in relation to traditional Tibetan medicine in the contemporary Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. The logics underpinning my Tibetan colleague's swift shift from recognition that this text was "religious" to recognition that it constituted "science," by way of its status as a medical treatise, are pursued herein. How have the terms science and its Tibetan glosses come to stand in new ways for a set of practices that, in earlier and even in contemporary translations of these medical practices into Western languages, were and are recognized as "religious"? Questions locally asked in the debates about these terms are, for example: Is it scientific to bless medicines with Buddhist tantric empowerments, or is it religious? Is taking on the role of a "compassionate Buddha" in order to heal patients an important scientific undertaking, or is this also religious? Do the channels that course the central axis of the body and ensure health have anything at all to do with the potential for Buddhist enlightenment, and are claims that it does scientific or religious? (542)

Adams, Vincanne. "The Sacred in the Scientific: Ambiguous Practices of Science in Tibetan Medicine." Cultural Anthropology 16, no. 4 (2001): 542-575


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