Lecture

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Tawni Tidwell

The role of Buddhist epistemology and logic (tshad ma) in diagnostic training for Tibetan medical education
First explorations

Time: 24 January 2019, 17:00–18:30
Venue: Room 1.50, 1st floor, Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia
Hollandstr. 11–13, 1020 Vienna
Organisation: Birgit Kellner

Topic

Tibetan medical diagnostics provide a powerful lens for understanding embodied expertise among Tibetan physicians. This presentation draws from the speaker’s doctoral dissertation entitled Imbibing the text, transforming the body, perceiving the patient: Cultivating embodied knowledge for Tibetan medical diagnosis, where she investigates the transmission and practice of Tibetan medical diagnosis as a gateway to understanding the epistemic grounds for Tibetan conceptions of illness and healing. More specifically, she will discuss the integration of Buddhist epistemology and logic (Sanskrit: pramāṇa; Tibetan: tshad ma) in contemporary Tibetan medical education, knowledge of which she gained through her participatory research as a student at two major sites for Tibetan medical training, Men-Tsee-Khang in north India and Sorig Loling in Amdo.

Her focus on the role of embodied knowledge in diagnosis has two analytic dimensions, that of: a) the physician as embodied diagnostic instrument, and b) the patient as embodying disease processes. In consideration of these, she references curricular materials of Buddhist epistemology and logic (tshad ma) in Tibetan medical education based on Tibetan translations of Dharmakīrti’s work, as well as commentaries by Sakya Paṇḍita and Ju Mipham. The presentation will describe how such works are situated within the larger pedagogy of memorization, recitation, metaphor, and learning through praxis that generates a conceptual-perceptual dialectic, driving processes for cultivating embodied knowledge transmission for diagnostic application.

For the Tibetan physician, “methods of becoming” are “methods of diagnosis.” Developing the senses and training the mind sculpt the physician’s skilled body and forge the diagnostic instrument. Rigorous practice and associated self-cultivation form the grounds for acquisition of expertise. This presentation explores the role of Buddhist epistemology and logic (tshad ma) in conceptualizing the cultivation of diagnostic skill and embodied expertise in contemporary Tibetan medical training.


Speaker

Tawni Tidwell is a Tibetan Medical Physician (Menpa Kachupa) and a Postdoctoral Fellow currently working in the ERC Project RATIMED (Reassembling Tibetan Medicine) at the Institute for Social Anthropology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

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