Minjur Lama: Healing Chronic Gastritis

Approach: Mantra Meditation, Traditional Tibetan Herbs

 

Background: Childhood Gastritis

It was an exceptional gift to interview Minjur Lama. For fifty seven years he has been a practicing Tibetan Monk in the Tsum Valley. Four thousand metres up an isolated valley pass, a week’s walk away from the nearest road, the Tsum Valley is an isolated, awe inspiring and desolate landscape. Translation was undertaken by Thakur, our guide.

Minjur describes suffering from an early age up until he was twenty with prolonged bouts of gastritis which would force him to leave the mountains and go to Kathmandu for hospital treatment; a journey of at least eight days. Throughout his childhood, episodes of fevers, body aches and gastritis would be treated with allopathic medicine. His symptoms would eventually subside, only to return again the next year or a few months later.

Minjur reports feeling that an early life spent working and earning money to support his family was the reason for his continued regular illnesses. His understanding is mirrored by the ACE’s study (Felitti, 1998) which agrees that childhood poverty is a high risk factor for going on to develop numerous types of ill health both physical, psychological and poor integration into society. A more recent study has found a causative effect of acute and chronic stress on gastrointestinal physiology and function (Leigh et al, 2023). This stress effect in both short and long term leaves people susceptible to gastrointestinal disorders and infection.

 

Becoming a Tibetan Monk

At the age of fifteen Minjur felt a desire from his heart to enter Monkhood. This is not an uncommon practice among the Buddhist people. We became aware during our travel in Nepal, of the cultural practice of the second son of a family taking robes. However, Minjur’s explained his undertaking was entirely of his own volition. In consideration of our other case studies, I believe it is relevant to note his agency in this process, and how that seemed to have affected others we interviewed such as Manju whose case study will be posted shortly. Agency is also one of the ‘Four A’s that Gabor Mate feels is most important in recovery from mind-body disorders. (Mate, 2022)

Minjur tells us that for at least five years, when he first ordained, he was supported by senior monks which helped to aid his recovery. He felt the most important of elements of his success were in his chanting of mantras for the blessing of others, traditional herbal medicine from the local area and his spiritual belief.

At the age of twenty his condition resolved and he has not required any further treatment for any stomach complaint in the last fifty two years.

 

Meditation for Stomach Pain?

There is a wealth of data on the use of Psychotherapeutic techniques (including meditation) for the significant improvement of chronic stomach conditions. Issues like IBS (which sufferers often have chronic gastritis as one of their symptoms), has been found to improve with Psychotherapeutic techniques. (Laird et al, 2016). Another study focussed on the improvement of the immune system and the brain after meditation techniques were implemented, which showed an increase in antibody responses to the inactivated flu virus. This may also account for a reduction in succumbing to gastrointestinal illness. (Davidson et al, 2003)

It is important to note that an important question was not asked during the interview, but was clarified afterwards. We understand that diet, environment and cleanliness practices can affect various stomach diseases, so we wanted to clarify if there had been any changes in this regard. Minjur Lama grew up in the same village as his Monastery was located. His food and hygiene practices remained the same. The only change in diet was that of the local herbs administered during mantra meditation.

I asked Minjur what he would do if his symptoms returned and he was confident that due to his blessings from the elder monk, mantras, and Tibetan medicine that they would not return. His strong belief echoed that of Samichhya who also had a religious element to her healing. I question whether this strong self belief is an important element in mind-body healing?

Minjur’s life, since becoming a monk has been entirely focusing on ‘the good of others’, from meditating for the peace and liberation of others, teaching and supporting younger monks, renunciation of all personal items, and always being open to discussion on faith with local people and tourists. This ‘altruism first’ mentality interestingly compares to a study completed on the health benefits of altruism. This showed acting altruistically relieved not only acutely induced physical pain among healthy adults but also chronic pain among cancer patients. (Wang et al, 2019)

If you are interested in a Tibetan Buddhist Monk Perspective on the Nature and function of the mind and on the alleviation of suffering please refer to this article from Progress in Brain Research (Lobsang Rapgay et al, 2000)

 

 

Personality ‘Key elements’

Selflessness/Altruism Minjur’s new life as a monk turns his attention away from his personal troubles and early life stress and instead focuses on service to others and studying Buddhist literature.

Peaceful – Minjur’s life, to the outside eye, looks to be low stress.

Focussed – As a monk, there is daily study which speaks of the four noble truths: There is suffering; there is a cause of suffering; there is resolution to suffering; and there is a path out of suffering. He is always working and learning about the path out of suffering.

Self-belief – complete confidence that his symptoms will not return.

 

 

Barriers & Learning

  • The main issue we had during this interview was the sound quality. We only had a remote expectation that we would find a Monk to speak to on the cessation of suffering that day. Nonetheless, we were very happy to have recorded the interview but could have been better prepared. A lesson well learnt.

  • As a barrier, I must be open to the possibility that Minjur’s symptoms resolved with age, rather than with any specific method. It is not something anyone would be able to know for certain. Secondly, we were not able to ascertain the herbal medicine used by Minjur Lama. We cannot say how much, or little, the effect of ingestion of these played a part in his recovery.

 

Minjur’s few key features relating to his healing approach, which may be relevant in the wider perspective of successful approaches to pain resolution:

Agency – Minjur entered monkhood at a relatively late stage compared to his counterparts who usually start as young children. As a fifteen years old, he decided, by feeling from his own heart, to enter the monk’s way of life. His story for me is reminiscent of Manju’s story (Posting next week), where taking personal control over one’s life appears to correlate with a significant change to symptoms.

High focus on meditation – As can be read from the studies above, meditation can play an instrumental part in improving brain, gut and immune function.

 

‘Case Studies shared on Liberation Found reflect the individual experiences of people who have undergone different methods of treatment and have found a way that has worked for them. However, individual results may vary. We do not claim, and nor should you assume, that any experience recounted is typical or representative of what another person might experience. We cannot guarantee that anyone will achieve the same results. Before you undertake any methodologies that are new to you, please work with a medical professional to ensure this is a suitable technique in your circumstance. We encourage you to discriminate carefully and make your own decisions before signing up for any retreats, sessions, or healings.’

‘The opinions and beliefs shared in individual case studies do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of “Liberation Found”. The video content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. We do not make any representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness or completeness of the video content. We do not warrant the performance, effectiveness or applicability of any sites listed or linked in relation to the video content’

Fact Files

  • Conditions: Chronic Repetitive Gastritis
  • Approach: Mantra Meditation, Traditional Tibetan Herbs
  • Speaking Technique: Chanting Mantras
  • Non-Speaking Technique: Meditation, Traditional Herbs
  • Guided Method: With a Senior Lama
  • Non Touch Method
  • Time Taken for Result: 5 Years
  • Combined Techniques: No
  • Previous Trials at Solution: Allopathic Assessment and Medicine
  • Language: Tibetan
  • Location: Tsum Valley, Nepal
  • Culture of Method: Tibetan Buddhist, under the teaching of Guru Rinpoche
  • Cost: Free
  • Profession: Tibetan Buddhist Monk

Links

ACE Study - Felitti, 1998

http://tinyurl.com/ssceudcu

Leigh et al, 2023

https://tinyurl.com/v9ccemwk

Gabor Mate - The Myth of Normal

https://tinyurl.com/3uf8n7jb

Laird et al, 2016

https://tinyurl.com/2v4vpp9z

Davidson et al, 2003

https://tinyurl.com/y923wkey

Wang et al, 2019

https://tinyurl.com/32ucu8cy

Lobsang Rapgay et al, 2000

https://tinyurl.com/57np6hm5
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