The Legacy of Menla: Tibetan Medicine and Cancer


Medicine BuddhaAs the outside world eagerly looks for a cancer cure, Tibetan medical doctors in the Indian sub-continent diagnose and treat cancer patients every day. The Legacy of Menla is a fresh portrayal of cancer, from the perspective of Tibetan Medicine.

The Legacy of Menla is named for Sangye Menla, the Buddha of Medicine in the Tibetan Cosmology. Legend says that the foundations of the Tibetan Medical system – its theories and curing methods – were expounded by Sangye Menla.

This body of precious medical knowledge, assert Tibetan doctors, is still relevant in curing and managing modern diseases, such as cancer, and bringing health and happiness to all. Up to now, Sangye Menla is still revered as the source of inspiration for doctors and for the health workers.

About the film

doctor dorjee
Dr Dorjee

The film follows Dr. Dorjee Rapten Neshar, in his practice, as he treats patients, and includes interviews with people who have been cured of cancer through his treatment.

Dr. Dorjee is the Chief Medical Officer of the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute, Bangalore, India, and is well known in the world for his experience in treating and managing cancer through Tibetan Medicine.

The film aims to bring a responsible view to its audience. It does not dismiss modern medicine, and does not position Tibetan Medicine as the “next miracle cure” for cancer. Yet, it aims to provides enough insight into the mind-body connection and the effectiveness of Tibetan Medicine to evoke the viewers’ curiosity.

Excerpts from an interview with the filmmakers

Alex Co, in a private interview with Cancer Awakens, shared an interesting personal experience during filming this documentary.

Pulse Diagnosis
Pulse Diagnosis

He said, “Adrian, my co-producer tried the Tibetan way of pulse diagnosis. Just by checking the Adrian’s pulse, the doctor confirmed that his breathing was constricted (tight chest).

Moreover, the doctor could “feel” that Adrian is “thinking too much” and advised him to mentally relax. I laughed at the peculiar remark, and asked if it is possible to tell what kind of thoughts bother Adrian.

The doctor was accurate enough to say that the nature of the thoughts are “about the future” and “competition”. Adrian was indeed worried about those especially during those days of our filming. That convinced us that the mind is intricately connected with the body (it is even “visible” from a person’s pulse), which is a very central tenet of Tibetan Medicine from the beginning.

Cancer Awakens also asked Alex if the documentary changed his views on cancer treatment in any way. His answer was interesting.

“Before (the documentary), I thought that Tibetan Medicine rarely treats cancer and other “big” diseases. After this experience, I discovered there have been numerous people who have gone to Tibetan doctors to be treated. It was much more common than I first thought.”

Lessons from the movie

  1. I learned that cancer as a disease is not “separate” from the body. It is essentially an imbalance of the body’s energies, albeit a protracted, severe and multi-layered one. Therefore, treatments in general remain focused in balancing the body’s energies naturally, not artificially concocted to remove an “alien” substance.
  2. Second, because cancer is very connected to the patient’s emotions (particularly the negative), the moment the patient meets a Tibetan doctor, the encounter will leave him/her with a lot of self-understanding and self-confidence. This may be one of the most important assets Tibetan doctors have. Due to these two reasons, Tibetan doctors in general approach cancer with much calm and acceptance.
  3. I learnt that there’s a lot of responsibility on the patient too! I saw a few patients reprimanded by a doctor because they continue taking prohibited food items. This will slow the medicine’s overall efficacy in bringing back the balance. The doctor and patient must work together.
  4. ¬†Also, many times, for the first part of the treatment, many cured cancer patients revealed how they felt “worse” or felt no improvement, and considered stopping the treatment. Only when the doctors re-assured them of continuing with the full treatment scheme did they continue and so reaped the benefit.
  5. Last but not the least, the experience reminded me to remain light and positive, for my health and the health of all those around me!”

More information

Legacy of Menla Facebook Page

About the filmmakers

Filmmakers Alex Co and his co-producer, Adrian Szaki, are from St. Andrew’s University, Scotland. They are curious about people like Dr Dorjee who take a unique path in life, and make films that open their viewers to diverse world views.

They have also made the full-length film, Daughters of Dolma, about modern-day Tibetan Buddhist Nuns.



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