Dr Yeshi Dhonden, a 92 year-old Buddhist monk, has been successfully treating patients with different ailments, mainly cancer, over the past 40 years at his clinic in McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala.

The government of India, in recognition of his notable past and continuing service, has honoured him with the Padma Shri this year, for his untiring contribution to curing patients through the traditional Tibetan medicine system.

He has immensely popularised Sowa Rigpa, Tibet’s rich cultural heritage of traditional herbal medicine that combines ancient healing systems of India and other countries.

“This system of medicine is the oldest one. Sixty per cent of it came from India while some of its script came from China, Mongolia, Bhutan, etc. Many years ago, Nagarjuna, not only a Buddhist monk but also a great physician of Ayurveda who lived in the second century AD in India, also contributed globally for the development of Ayurveda. We have preserved it and are still preserving it by practicing this system of healing,” said Yeshi Dhonden.

This nonagenarian was also a personal healer to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, from 1961 to 1980. Born in 1927 in Tibet, he started practicing medicine at the age of 20. In 1959, he began practicing this time-honoured method in India. Urged by the Dalai Lama to preserve this historic medicine system more profoundly, they established Men-Tsee-Khang, formally known as the Tibetan Medical and Astro Institute at Dharamshala. Yeshi Dhonden was made the head of the institute and retired in 1976. After his retirement, he started practicing this method in his private clinic at McLeod Ganj.

”We have many branches of this institute in Himachal Pradesh as well as in the whole of India. We are also setting up new branches in other countries,’, said  Kelsang Dhonden, a junior doctor at the clinic.

Yeshi Dhonden has helped patients from around the globe. A huge number of people with deep faith and hope come to him every day.

“My mother is in her last stage of breast cancer. One of my friends from Rajasthan had told me about Dr Dhonden. We have come to him with very high hopes,” said 35-year-old Shabir Khan from Maharashtra.

Dr Dhonden is well known for healing chronic ailments as well as cancer. “Except polio, he can treat every illness like brain damage, mental problems, cancer, etc.,” claimed Jimmy, one of the staff members at his clinic. “The total number of patients he has cured until now runs into lakhs,” he added.

Shauqat Ali, 46, from Kashmir, said: “This is our second visit, as my wife is suffering from cancer and her body has stopped responding to chemotherapy. Hence, we came here to see the doctor. After taking the prescribed medicines from him, my wife’s condition has improved.

“I am very happy and thankful to the Indian government for such an honour (the Padma Shri). All of Tibet is celebrating this great honour,” said Yeshi Dhonden.

The Indian government has always been very helpful and supportive and has also supported the Tibet medical college through funds many a times, he added.

Yeshi Clinic at McLeod Ganj opens from 9 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. regularly. Owing to the huge rush of visitors, one has to get prior appointment in the form of coupons being distributed daily.

“People from far-flung areas visit him daily. He never asks for any X-ray or other blood tests. He just feels the pulse and quality of urine on an empty stomach of a patient. His treatment through balanced diet and herbs has a very high success rate,” said Prem Jaswal, a 56-year old local resident.

Even while Dr Dhonden has entered his dotage, his spirit for serving humankind is still young and he attends to patients with his heart and soul. “We are Buddhists and helping others by relieving them from their pain and sufferings makes us happy. As His Holiness Dalai Lama guided us, we will continue to serve humanity,” said Dr Dhonden.

“He used to see patients for the whole day. With patients as far away as in countries like Europe, he used to make visits to these countries for six months to take care of their medication. However, with age catching up,  he now sees 60 patients a day and more in case of any emergency,” said Dr Kelsang Dhonden, junior doctor at Yeshi Clinic.