By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 26 November 2019
Dr Yeshi Dhonden, renowned Tibetan doctor and former physician of the Dalai Lama, passed away in the wee hours of the morning of 26 November 2019 at his home in McLeod Ganj. He was 92.
A family member, speaking to Tibet Sun, said that Dhonden complained of respiratory difficulties yesterday, after which they called Dr Tsetan Dorji of Delek Hospital for consultation.
“Aside from the respiratory problem, Emchi la had no other health issues. He died at home today at 2:53 am, with family members at his bedside.”
Staff and students of Men-Tsee-Khang, the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute (TMAI), gathered to offer prayers for the late Emchi.
Cremation will take place on Friday morning in McLeod Ganj.
Born on 15 May 1927 into a peasant family of a popular medical lineage, in Lhokha, south of Mt Kailash, Yeshi Dhonden was sent to a monastery at the age of six. At age 11, he joined the Chakpori Institute of Tibetan Medicine, in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, where he studied for nine years.
After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959 he followed the Dalai Lama to India.
Dr Yeshi Dhonden was appointed Director and Chief Medical Officer when the Dalai Lama started Men-Tsee-Khang in exile in Dharamshala in March 1961. Dr Dhonden served in that capacity till 1966.
He served as personal physician to the Dalai Lama for almost twenty years, from 1963 to 1980.
He started his own private clinic in McLeod Ganj in 1969. He is best known for curing cancer patients, who have shared their testimonies of the success of his treatment.
He closed his practice on 1 April 2019 due to advancing age and declining health.
Dr Dhonden was awarded the Padma Shri award by President of India Ram Nath Kovind in March 2018, for his contributions in the field of medicine through Sowa Rigpa — the traditional Tibetan medicine. Padma Shri is the fourth-highest civilian award in India.
Dr Yeshi Dhonden has authored three books: Health Through Balance: An Introduction to Tibetan Medicine (1986), Healing from the Source: The Science and Lore of Tibetan Medicine (2000), and The Ambrosia of Heart Tantra (2006).
Emchi, a fully-qualified physician of Tibetan medicine, takes an examination of the patient that includes pulse reading, visual diagnosis, and checks the history of the patient. Then the emchi prescribes Tibetan medicines composed of various herbs and occasionally minerals, and provides dietary and lifestyle recommendations for curing the patient.