The Kagyu Monlam Well-Being Free Medical Camp is running from February 28 to March 4, in the Bihar Tourism's Sujata Vihar Tourist Complex, in a quiet lane behind the Siddhartha Restaurant in the centre of Bodhgaya. The Medical Camp is reaching out especially to the poorest people of Bihar, by organising a shuttle service with two buses running continuously every day to bring them from outlying villages to Bodhgaya. This gives an opportunity to those who would otherwise not be able to afford the transportation costs to benefit from basic medical care. The Medical Camp is opposite Rokpa’s Akong Tulku Rinpoche Memorial Soup Kitchen, so the villagers can also take advantage of the free, nutritious meal on offer there.
Both these facilities were visited by Gyaltsap Rinpoche and Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche on February 28.
An offshoot of the Medical Camp behind the Kagyu Monlam Pavilion is, at the same time, offering free Tibetan Medicine consultations and prescriptions to Monlam participants. Sangha, yogis and lay practitioners have all been using the service.
The main Medical Camp in Bodhgaya had until this year been run as a collaboration with other organisations, but in 2018, for the first time, it is entirely a Kagyu Monlam initiative. The patients are overwhelmingly women with children. Lhakpa Tsering, who is in charge of the Medical Camp, estimates that they are seeing around 300-400 patients a day. That is half the number of previous years, but he guesses that the warm weather may be having an impact. The procedure is simple enough: people line up for registration, after which they are sent to the assessment desk, where nurses measure their vitals such as weight, height, and blood pressure - even carrying out simple blood tests to check blood sugar levels - and determine what kind of doctor or treatment they need. They may be given a prescription, which is filled out in the Medical Camp itself.
Tenzin Donga, one of the volunteers in the dispensary, enumerates the typical handouts: multivitamins, calcium supplements, protein powder, antibiotics, analgesics, aspirin for cardiac issues, antifungals, antihistamines, cough syrup, blood sugar medicine, folic acid for pregnancy, iron capsules for low haemoglobin.
But more important than the medicines, Lhakpa Tsering stresses, is the counselling that patients receive from nurses and consultants at every stage of the process. And it is brilliantly efficient too: even a long line of colourful saris can be processed in little less than one hour. Dr Shalu Gupta, a trainee doctor from Magadh Medical College in Gaya, and Akila, a young research scholar from Gangtok currently studying in Delhi, point out that they rarely see serious problems. The typical ailments include dermatitis, anaemia, fevers, coughs, colds, asthma, and menstrual problems.
Meanwhile, in the Tibetan Medicine Camp behind the Monlam Pavilion, the most common complaints range from arthritis and gastric problems in the elderly, to allergies, colds, and diarrhoea in the young, and in Westerners, in particular, problems with depression. This camp has also been running for a number of years. Dr Mrs Kalchoe Qusar, who together with her husband, also a Tibetan doctor, run the Qusar Tibetan Healing Centre in Norbulingka in Dharamshala, was asked by the Karmapa to join, and has been coming for over four years.
Medical emergencies are treated with acupuncture, but after a normal consultation, which involves for instance checking the patient's pulse, urine, tongue, and eye colour, the normal prescription is for herbal medicines, all natural, all made in Dharamshala, and containing tantric blessings which are healing for the mind too. The most spectacular thing about the Tibetan Medical Camp, Dr Mrs Qusar says, is how quickly and completely the patients are healed, and she attributes this to the blessings from the Karmapa.