Yuthok the Younger, traditional thangka painting

Yuthok the Elder

729 - 854

The greatest Tibetan physician was born on the fifteenth day of the Monkey month. According to legends, colorful rainbows appeared in the sky, and lights and music appeared spontaneously. His parents called him Yönten Gönpo, meaning ‘Lord of Knowledge’.

At a young age, showing signs of extraordinary capacity and great compassion, he received visions of the Medicine Buddha and other enlightened beings. So, at the age of ten the King invited him to the Samye Palace where his medical expertise was tested against many other older Tibetan doctors. Yuthok unfalteringly showed an exceptional understanding of Traditional Tibetan Medicine, so much so that the King offered him the position of head doctor.

His journeys included several visits to India, Nepal, China and Odiyana, as well as some mysterious journeys to pure lands. Yuthok also studied at the Nalanda Monastery and received teachings in Astrology and Astronomy.

During his life he met accomplished spiritual masters and physicians, receiving teachings and transmissions of various traditions, such as the Dakini’s practice from the ngakmo Tokpai Randrol, and various teachings, protection mantra and medicine from Guru Rinpoche. Through his dedicated spiritual practice he received further instructions, prophecies and teachings in many different visions.

At the age of forty-eight, Yuthok completed the ‘Four Medical Tantras’ and wrote many other texts using them as educational or teaching texts for his disciples, thereby establishing the first standard medical educational system which still exists in Tibet to this day. Yuthok founded the first Tibetan medicine Centre for education called Menlung Gonpa Tanadug in Kongpo, where he taught every day. Amongst his thousand disciples, was the ngakmo Damey Mentsun, his most important female disciple.

He remained in meditation for three years and three months in a cave in the snow covered Lachi Mountain. When he returned to his hometown of Todlungkyina, the townsfolk joyfully offered him food, upon which he said ‘I don’t eat meat and I don’t drink alcohol’. This was the first time he gave teachings on Ganapuja saying that without the base of a really stable meditation practice, nobody should eat meat or drink alcohol.

At the ripe old age of eighty-five, Yuthok married Dorje Tsomo with whom he had three sons to whom he later gave all his teachings.

After having written about thirty books on medicine, astrology and spiritual practices, he wrote his final medical book called Nyamtig Thongba Dontan and at the age of one hundred twenty gave his final teaching to his disciples. He told them that he would be soon going to the Medicine Buddha’s pure land where he would continue his activities.

On the fifteenth day of the Monkey month of the year of the Rat, the great Yuthok achieved the complete rainbow body with his wife Dorje Tsomo as well as their dog. Their bodies dissolved into light and rainbows. Natural sounds were heard, the earth moved, five colored lights were seen, a clear sky was experienced and it rained flowers for three whole months; all these are the signs of the highest realization.

Their three sons and their disciples built a liberation stupa and statues of Buddhas in memory of Yuthok.

Yuthok the Elder, traditional thangka painting

Yuthok the Younger

1126 - 1202

Born in the village of Goshi Rethang in Western Tibet, his father was Yuthok Khyungpo Dorje and his mother Pema Odenma. Yuthok came from a family lineage of royal court doctors whose origin can be traced to the time of King Lha Thothori (441 - 561).

At the age of eight he began to study a wide range of topics from medicine, Buddhism, and the arts and languages with his father and other teachers including Manjushri. When he was fourteen he began traveling through Central Tibet where he met a Geshe called Roton Konchok Kyap who transmitted the Four Tantras: the Essence of Ambrosia Secret Instruction to Yuthok. Four years later he traveled to India for the first time where he studied the Eight Branches of Healing, Somaradza and other treaties on medicine with Paldan Trenwa. Upon his return to Tibet he set up a clinic and began teaching medicine. He then visited India a second time, where he received a teaching from the Dakini Mandarava which later became to be known as the Yuthok Nyingthig, The Innermost Essence of Yuthok.

It is said that he travelled to India six times. Not only did he become an unparalleled physician and was acclaimed as Yuthok Yönten Gönpo, meaning Yuthok ‘Lord of All Qualities’, but he also was an accomplished spiritual master, having had visions of Buddhas and shown exceptional signs.

One day, during his teachings at the Western Tibet governor’s residence, fresh, golden Arura fruits fell within the walls of the residence for the duration of one hour. The people rushed to gather the fruits, fighting amongst themselves for it. Yuthok announced that if they had not angered the Goddess of Medicine with their greed, it would have rained other special medicines also. When his main disciple Sumtön Yeshe Zung asked Yuthok about the meaning of such special signs, Yuthok explained that the signs had three levels of meanings; an outer, an inner and a secret meaning. In an external or outer level, it indicated that there was no one in Tibet or India who could match Yuthok’s knowledge. In an inner sense, it showed that Yuthok had attained the eight great powers (e.g. fast walking) and in a secret sense, it indicated that Yuthok was one and the same with the infinite mandalas of all Buddhas. In particular, these were signs that he was an emanation of the Buddha’s doctor, of Padmasambhava, Ashvagosha, Padampa Sangye, Virupa, the famous doctor Kyebu Mela and in Tibet, of Srongtsen Gampo, Yuthok the elder and also of Gampopa.

Throughout all his life, Yuthok selflessly dedicated himself to others not only through teaching but also by donating the medicines he prepared to the sick and giving clothes to the needy.

Once, when Yuthok went to pay homage to a self-arisen statue of Buddha, a light emanated from the heart of the statue, resounding with the medicine Buddha mantra which spread everywhere. When the light dissolved, it entered Yuthok’s head. He remained absorbed with his gaze lost in contemplation for a while and then called upon his student Sumtön Yeshe Zung Yuthok told him, ‘You’ve been with me for twelve years. Now, if you have any doubts that have not been resolved please tell me now, I may soon depart for another land.’ Sumtön was shocked and cried at the thought of his master passing away. ‘You don’t need to cry, I will live for sometime more. I told you this just to make you aware of the transitory nature of life’. Sumtön paid homage to the master and made a symbolic offering of the universe, then asked him for the ultimate teaching that would enable him to become a Buddha. In response,, Yuthok taught the Guru Yoga which is contained in the Yuthok Nyingthig.

It is said that at the age of seventy-six, Yuthok gathered his students for a final teaching before attaining the rainbow body and departing to Tanadug, the Medicine Buddha’s pure land.