Lo Kunphen School

Brothers Gyatso and Tenzing Bista are highly respected experienced practitioners of amchi medicine in Mustang, having inherited positions as the royal physicians and astrologers of Lo from their father and grandfather. The brothers are active members of the Kathmandu based  Himalayan Amchi Association (HAA) and both have lectured and studied abroad, and have a mission to spread the recognition and use of amchi medicine, in Nepal and beyond. In 1993, they established the Lo Kunphen medical clinic, as a centre to which people could come for consultations – a break from the tradition of practising from their home or visiting the homes of clients, although they still do carry out many home visits. In 1998, they decided to expand the clinic into a small medical school, with the vision of:

    * Ensuring the continuation of the ancient tradition of Tibetan Medicine in Mustang
    * Providing medical services for the people of Mustang
    * Providing training and professional opportunities for young people from poor families in Mustang

Construction of the school began in 1999, and it opened in April 2000, with 15 students. To maintain the quality of teaching and study the numbers are intentionally kept small, with a maximum of thirty set. Because of the harsh winter climate, the school runs for only seven months, from April to November, in Lo Monthang, with an additional three-month winter school in the lowland town of Pokhara, to give the students a full 10 months of schooling each year.

The students range in age from around 11 to 20 years, and the school is divided into two sections. The younger students, in grades 1 to 8, study the standard Nepali curriculum, including Nepali, English, maths, science and social studies, with classical Tibetan and an introduction to amchi medicine for the older ones. If they pass the externally marked grade 8 examination and are interested in becoming amchis, they can apply to join the upper section of the school, grades 9 and 10, to study the Kangjinpa or Community Medical Assistant course. This forms the first stage of becoming a qualified amchi and was only recently developed by Lo Kunphen and the HAA, and approved by the Nepal Government Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT) in 2006. Lo Kunphen is the first and only institution in Nepal to offer a formal qualification in amchi medicine; previously amchis have simply learned the trade by studying with an experienced amchi as an apprentice. As well as subjects from the standard Nepali curriculum, the students study classical Tibetan and medicine, which includes anatomy and physiology, technical vocabulary, medical painting, diseases, pulse reading and urine analysis, the use of herbs, acupuncture and moxibustion and moral and ethical education. Two years of formal study are followed by nine months of practical experience under the supervision of a qualified amchi.

Lo Kunphen and the HAA now plan to develop the next stage, the Durapa course, equivalent to a Health Assistant, which is the nearest to a doctor found in many Nepali rural areas.

Some students, those living nearby, attend the school daily, while those from the outlying villages or from other districts board. No fees are charged, but to keep school costs to a minimum, students bring their own bedding, basic foods (barley flour, butter, etc.) and firewood. Even this represents a challenge to the resources of poor families, and some are not able to make contributions. The senior students are highly motivated, knowing that those who do well will have the opportunity to become respected amchis. They work as a community, with older students caring for younger ones and helping them in their studies.

We believe amchi medicine emphasises disorders as they
manifest in the relationship between body, mind and soul, especially on the mind aspect of disorders. For Sowa Rigpa practitioners and followers of Buddhism, ignorance is the root cause of all diseases.
Lo Kunphen aims to provide a culturally appropriate free education and professional opportunities to children from poor families in mountain communities, and in particular to maintain and develop the tradition of amchi (Tibetan) medicine. Donations are welcome.