Medical graduate, Lhasa Zhi Gong Wei Xiao, Tibet
Bachelor of Health Sciences (Acupuncture), Endeavour College of Natural Health, Adelaide Australia
The Tibetan Plateau
Karma Chungdag began life a world away from his adopted home of Australia, in the mountainous land of Tibet. He was the eighth youngest of ten children from a farming family in a rural village about an hour away from the capital, Lhasa. His fascination with medicine began early in life when he would accompany his mother – the local midwife, folk healer and spiritual ‘Ama’ – while she delivered babies. Young Karma Chungdag was recognised early on as having inherited his mother’s healing gifts.
While still a teenager, an opportunity arose to attend a specialist medical school, from where Karma graduated as a local doctor trained in the fundamentals of Western, Chinese and Tibetan medicine. He was also selected among his classmates for special training in acupuncture, with which he discovered a special affinity.
As a local doctor, Karma provided a range of services to his community which ranged from immunisation and basic hygiene education, to delivering babies and performing minor surgery. Karma spent part of his time out in the villages and mountains taking care of his regional community, often riding on horseback to visit remote nomad families. The rest of his time he spent based at a hospital in Lhasa. Karma developed a deep love for caring for the people around him and became a well respected member of his community.
During these years Karma was also taken under the tutelage of a highly regarded lama (senior Buddhist monk) from whom he learned Tibetan astrology and other philosophical elements of Tibetan Buddhism.
As time passed, Karma wished to learn more about medicine. However, opportunities for advancement for Tibetans were scarce. He also held a deep longing, as do most if not all Tibetans, to see his spiritual father, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who resides in exile in India. So, like many Tibetans before him, he set off on the arduous 21-day journey across the Himalayas to India in search of opportunity.
The Indian Himalayas
The reality of Indian life was as a far cry from the way it is perceived in Tibet as a ‘land of milk and honey’. Karma found himself far from home in a community of exile Tibetans who often had to struggle to get by. He was a curiosity, since few Tibetans in professions such as his who had worked for the Chinese government had come into exile. He agreed to a request from a radio station to be interviewed about his experience working as a doctor in Tibet. This interview was broadcast into Tibet, including Karma’s name. Shortly thereafter his family in Tibet came under surveillance and it became very difficult for Karma to return home.
He remained in exile in India for more than a decade, living in Dharamsala in the Himalayan foothills, the unofficial capital of exile Tibet. During this time he continued to practice acupuncture, and furthered his studies in alternative medicine, becoming a Reiki master and gaining a deeper understanding of Buddhist philosophy, this time under the guidance of the highly regarded master, Khamtrul Rinpoche. He also studied English, and went on to work professionally as a translator.
The Adelaide Hills
Karma eventually met his Australian wife and in 2009 the couple relocated to Adelaide, Australia.
In Adelaide Karma was able to fulfill his long-held dream of undertaking further tertiary studies in Oriental and Chinese Medicine, completing a Bachelor of Health Sciences (Acupuncture). Today he practices his unique blend of acupuncture and therapeutic bodywork incorporating elements of Tibetan philosophy from his clinic in the beautiful Adelaide Hills town of Aldgate.
Post script: Return to Tibet
In 2013 Karma was finally able to visit Tibet again after 17 years in exile. He was welcomed back into his community with great warmth and before long villagers were queuing up for treatment for various ailments.
One day Karma and his family set off for a day trip to a temple on a mountaintop at the end of an isolated valley. The drive was cut short by a flooded road, so the day-trippers decided to picnic on the spot then walk over to visit a nomad camp that was visible across the valley. When the party reached the black yak-wool tent of one nomad family, Karma received a surprisingly hearty welcome. The father of the family recognised him as the doctor that had come to take care of his mother some twenty years earlier. It was a remarkable reunion, and wonderful moment of life coming full circle.