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Being Human in a Buddhist WorldAn Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet$
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Janet Gyatso

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231164962

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231164962.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Being Human in a Buddhist World

Janet Gyatso

Columbia University Press

This book deploys the categories of science and religion as heuristics to investigate the processes by which Tibetan medicine forged a certain distance between itself and the ways of knowing associated with ideals of human perfection and supernatural realms. Focusing on academic medicine in Tibet, it explores how medical learning fostered a probative attitude to religious authority and takes into account the important role played by Buddhism in the development of Asian and global civilization. By discussing how medical learning grew to maturity within the great institutions of Tibetan Buddhism, the book highlights the disjunctions—and conjunctions—between scientific and religious approaches to knowledge. It also considers moments when learned physicians set aside revealed scripture in favor of what they observed in the natural world. More importantly, it reveals the methodological self-consciousness that allowed certain leading medical theorists to intentionally mix disparate streams of thought and practice. In the process, they confronted, in unprecedented ways, the possibility that the Buddha's dispensation did not encompass everything that needed to be known for human well-being.

Keywords:   science, religion, medicine, supernatural, Tibet, medical learning, religious authority, Buddhism, physicians, natural world

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