Compiled by: 
 Ven. Pende Hawter
 The Karuna Hospice Service
 P.O. Box 2020
 Windsor 4030
 Queensland, Australia
 Tel. (07) 857 8555
 What is healing?
 What do we mean by healing? Do we mean healing of the physical body,
 healing of the psyche/soul/mind, or both of these. What is the
 connection between body and mind? Many modern healing techniques regard
 successful healing as the cure of the presenting physical problem,
 whether this be symptoms of cancer, AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome, or
 some other illness. If the person does not recover from the presenting
 physical problem, or if that problem recurs or another develops at a
 later time, this may be regarded as failure. It is not uncommon in
 these situations for the therapist or organisation that has been
 helping the "sick" person to infer or state that the person must have
 done something wrong, that they haven't stuck strictly enough to the
 diet or meditated enough or done whatever else it was that they were
 supposed to do. In these situations the person can become very guilty,
 depressed or angry. In many cases, they just give up hope. To avoid
 these problems, it is necessary to consider a more comprehensive view
 of healing that incorporates not only physical healing but mental
 Mind is the creator
 To understand healing from the Buddhist perspective, a useful starting
 point is to consider the Buddhist concept of mind. The mind is
 non-physical. It is formless, shapeless, colourless, genderless and has
 the ability to cognize or know. The basic nature of mind is pure,
 limitless and pervasive, like the sun shining unobstructedly in a clear
 sky. The problems or sickness we experience are like clouds in the sky
 obscuring the sun. Just as the clouds temporarily block the sun but are
 not of the same nature as the sun, our problems or sickness are
 temporary and the causes of them can be removed from the mind. From the
 Buddhist perspective, the mind is the creator of sickness and health.
 In fact, the mind is believed to be the creator of all of our problems.
 That is, the cause of disease is internal, not external. 
 Unlimited potential
 You are probably familiar with the concept of karma, which literally
 means action. All of our actions lay down imprints on our mindstream
 which have the potential to ripen at some time in the future. These
 actions can be positive, negative or neutral. These karmic seeds are
 never lost. The negative ones can ripen at any time in the form of
 problems or sickness; the positive ones in the form of happiness,
 health or success. To heal present sickness, we have to engage in
 positive actions now. To prevent sickness occurring again in the
 future, we have to purify, or clear, the negative karmic imprints that
 remain on our mindstream. Karma is the creator of all happiness and
 suffering. If we don't have negative karma we will not get sick or
 receive harm from others. Buddhism asserts that everything that happens
 to us now is the result of our previous actions, not only in this
 lifetime but in other lifetimes. What we do now determines what will
 happen to us in the future.
 In terms of present and future healing, the main objective is to guard
 our own actions, or karma. This requires constant mindfulness and
 awareness of all the actions of our body, speech and mind. We should
 avoid carrying out any actions that are harmful to ourselves and to
 others. Buddhism is therefore a philosophy of total personal
 responsibility. We have the ability to control our destiny, including
 the state of our body and mind. Each one of us has unlimited potential
 - what we have to do is develop that potential. 
 Healthy mind, healthy body
 Why do some people get ill while others remain in the best of health?
 Consider skin cancer. Of all the people who spend many hours out in the
 sun, some will develop skin cancer and others will not. The external
 situation is the same for all of them, but only some will be affected.
 The secondary cause of the skin cancer - the sun - is external, but the
 primary cause - the imprints laid down on the mindstream by previous
 actions - is internal.
 Also, people with similar types of cancer will often respond quite
 differently to the same treatment, whether this be orthodox or
 alternative. Some will make a complete recovery. Some will recover
 temporarily and then develop a recurrence. Others will rapidly become
 worse and die. Logically one has to look to the mind for the cause of
 these differences.
 Buddhism asserts that for lasting healing to occur, it is necessary to
 heal not only the current disease with medicines and other forms of
 treatment, but also the cause of the disease, which originates from the
 mind. If we do not heal or purify the mind, the sickness and problems
 will recur again and again.
 This introduces the notion of "ultimate healing". By ridding the mind
 of all its accumulated "garbage", all of the previously committed
 negative actions and thoughts, and their imprints, we can be free of
 problems and sickness permanently. We can achieve ultimate healing - a
 state of permanent health and happiness. In order to heal the mind and
 hence the body, we have to eliminate negative thoughts and their
 imprints, and replace them with positive thoughts and imprints.
 The inner enemy
 The basic root of our problems and sickness is selfishness, what we can
 call the inner enemy. Selfishness causes us to engage in negative
 actions, which place negative imprints on the mindstream. These
 negative actions can be of body, speech or mind, such as thoughts of
 jealousy, anger and greed. Selfish thoughts also increase pride, which
 results in feelings of jealousy towards those higher than us,
 superiority towards those lower than us and competitiveness towards
 equals. These feelings in turn result in an unhappy mind, a mind that
 is without peace. On the other hand, thoughts and actions directed to
 the well-being of others bring happiness and peace to the mind.
 Conscious living, conscious dying
 It is important to consider what happens to us when we die. The
 Buddhist view is that at the time of death the subtle consciousness,
 which carries with it all the karmic imprints from previous lives,
 separates from the body. After spending up to forty-nine days in an
 intermediate state between lives, the consciousness enters the
 fertilised egg of its future mother at or near the moment of
 conception. New life then begins. We bring into our new life a long
 history of previous actions with the potential to ripen at any time or
 in any of a myriad ways. The state of mind at the time of death is
 vitally important and can have a considerable effect on the situation
 into which we are reborn. Hence the need to prepare well for death and
 to be able to approach our death with a peaceful, calm and controlled
 mind. Death itself can be natural, due to exhaustion of the lifespan,
 or untimely, due to certain obstacles. These obstacles arise from the
 mind and can be counteracted in different ways. One method commonly
 employed in Tibetan Buddhism to remove life obstacles is to save the
 lives of animals that would otherwise have been killed. For example,
 animals can be rescued from being slaughtered or live bait can be
 purchased and released. For those with a life threatening illness, it
 is important to understand that being free of that illness doesn't mean
 that you will have a long life. There are many causes of death and
 death can happen to anybody at any time.
 Not just pills and potions
 Tibetan medicine is popular and effective. It is mostly herbal
 medicine, but its uniqueness lies in the fact that in the course of its
 preparation it is blessed extensively with prayers and mantras, giving
 it more power. It is said that taking such medicine will either result
 in recovery, or, if the person is close to death, they will die quickly
 and painlessly. (Another theory, based on personal experience, is that
 it tastes so bad you want to recover quickly so that you can stop
 taking the medicine!)
 Blessed pills and blessed water are also used extensively. The more
 spiritually developed the person carrying out the blessings or the
 healing practices, the more powerful is the healing result or
 potential. These pills often contain the relics of previous great
 meditators and saints, bestowing much power on the pills. 
 Many Tibetan lamas actually blow on the affected part of the body to
 effect healing or pain relief. I have seen a person with AIDS with
 intense leg pain have his pain disappear after a lama meditated
 intensely and blew on his leg for twenty minutes. Compassion is the
 power that heals. 
 Visualisation can also be very powerful healing. One method is to
 visualise a ball of white light above your head, with the light
 spreading in all directions. Imagine the light spreading through your
 body, completely dissolving away all sickness and problems. Concentrate
 on the image of your body as completely healed and in the nature of
 This type of meditation is even more powerful when combined with
 visualising holy images and reciting mantras. I often tell my Christian
 patients to visualise the light as Jesus, with the light emanating from
 In the Tibetan tradition, there are many Buddha figures (deities) which
 can be visualised while reciting their mantra. The Medicine Buddha;
 Chenrezig, or Avalokiteshvara (the Buddha of Compassion); or one of the
 long-life deities such as Amitabha are commonly used. Deities can be in
 peaceful or wrathful aspects. The wrathful ones are often used to cure
 heavy disease such as AIDS.
 If you are not comfortable with these images, you can use other objects
 such as crystals, or simply visualise all the universal healing energy
 absorbing into you, transforming your body into light, and imagine
 yourself as totally healed.
 Over the centuries many people have used these methods and have
 recovered from their illnesses, even from conditions such as leprosy,
 paralysis and cancer. The aim of these practises is to heal the mind as
 well as the body, so that the diseases or problems will not recur in
 the future.
 Also, many diseases are associated with spirit harm. Lamas and other
 practitioners will often recite certain prayers and mantras or engage
 in ceremonies to stop the spirit harm and allow the person to recover. 
 A seven year old girl I knew had petit-mal epilepsy as the result of
 spirit harm; the epilepsy disappeared after various rituals and prayers
 had been performed. Whenever she had an epileptic attack, the girl
 would see a frightening apparition coming towards her. After the
 initial prayers had been performed, however, her attacks lessened and
 she would see a brick wall between her and the frightening figure. This
 wall was the colour of a monk's robes. Eventually the attacks and
 visions disappeared altogether.
 In summary, we can say that the essential ingredients in the healing
 process, for both the person doing the healing and the person being
 healed, are compassion, faith, and pure morality. 
 Changing our minds
 Another powerful method of healing in Tibetan Buddhism is to meditate
 on the teachings known as thought transformation. These methods allow a
 person to see the problem or sickness as something positive rather than
 negative. A problem is only a problem if we label it a problem. If we
 look at a problem differently, we can see it as an opportunity to grow
 or to practice, and regard it as something positive. We can think that
 having this problem now ripens our previous karma, which does not then
 have to be experienced in the future. 
 If someone gets angry at us, we can choose to be angry in return or to
 be thankful to them for giving us the chance to practice patience and
 purify this particular karma. It takes a lot of practice to master
 these methods, but it can be done.
 It is our concepts which often bring the greatest suffering and fear.
 For example, due to a set of signs and symptoms, the doctor gives the
 label 'AIDS' or 'cancer'. This can cause great distress in a person's
 mind, because they forget that it is only a label, that there is no
 truly existent, permanent AIDS or cancer. 'Death' is another label that
 can generate a lot of fear. But in reality 'death' is only a label for
 what happens when the consciousness separates from the body, and there
 is no real death from its own side. This also relates to our concept of
 'I' and of all other phenomena. They are all just labels and have no
 true, independent existence. 
 Lama Zopa Rinpoche, a highly realised Tibetan Lama, says that the most
 powerful healing methods of all are those based on compassion, the wish
 to free other beings from their suffering. The compassionate mind -
 calm, peaceful, joyful and stress-free - is the ideal mental
 environment for healing. A mind of compassion stops our being totally
 wrapped up in our own suffering situations. By reaching out to others
 we become aware of not just my pain but the pain (that is, the pain of
 all beings). 
 Many people find the following technique powerful and effective: think
 "By me experiencing this disease or pain or problem, may all the other
 beings in the world be free of this disease, pain or problem" or "I am
 experiencing this pain/sickness/problem on behalf of all living
 One voluntarily takes on suffering in order for others to be free of
 it. This is similar to the Christian concept of regarding one's
 suffering as sharing the suffering of Jesus on the cross. Even death
 can be used in this way: "By me experiencing death, may all other
 beings be freed from the fears and difficulties of the death process."
 We have to ask ourselves "What is the purpose of my life? Why do I want
 to have good health and a long life?". The ultimate purpose of our life
 is to be of benefit to others. If we live longer and just create more
 negative karma, it is a waste of time.
 Giving and taking is another powerful meditation. As you breathe in,
 visualise taking the suffering and the causes of suffering from all
 living beings, in the form of black smoke. When breathing in the black
 smoke, visualise smashing the black rock of selfishness at your heart,
 allowing compassion to manifest freely. As you breathe out, visualise
 breathing out white light that brings them happiness, enjoyment and
 Developing compassion is more important than having friends, wealth,
 education. Why? Because it is only compassion that guarantees a happy
 and peaceful mind, and it is the best thing to help us at the time of
 We can use our sickness and problems in a very powerful way for
 spiritual growth, resulting in the development of compassion and
 wisdom. The highest development of these qualities is the full
 realisation of our potential, the state of full enlightenment.
 Enlightenment brings great benefit to ourselves and allows us to work
 extensively for others. This is the state of ultimate healing.
 I have outlined some of the concepts that are the basis of the Buddhist
 philosophy on healing. Many of these methods were taught by Lama Zopa
 Rinpoche at Tara Institute in Melbourne in August 1991 during the first
 course given by Lama Zopa specifically for people with life-threatening
 Some of these ideas may appear unusual at first, but please keep an
 open mind about them. If some of the ideas appear useful to you, please
 use them; if not, leave them aside.
 May you achieve health and happiness.
 (revised January 1995)
 Levine, Steven Healing Into Life and Death, Anchor Press/Doubleday, New
 York, 1987
 Geshe Rabten and Geshe Dhargyey Advice From a Spiritual Friend, Wisdom
 Publications, Boston, 1986
 Sogyal Rinpoche The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Rider, London,
 Lama Zopa Rinpoche Transforming Problems Into Happiness, Wisdom
 Publications, Boston 1993 
 Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche The Door to Satisfaction, Wisdom
 Publications, Boston, 1994