Yeshi Dhonden
Born(1927-05-15)15 May 1927
Namro, Tibet
Died26 November 2019(2019-11-26) (aged 92)
Years active1951–2019

Yeshi Dhonden (Tibetan: ཡེ་ཤེས་དོན་ལྡན, Wylie: ye shes don ldan; 15 May 1927 – 26 November 2019)[1] was a Tibetan doctor of traditional Tibetan medicine, and served the 14th Dalai Lama from 1961 to 1980.[2] In 2018, the Indian government honoured him with the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.[3]

Early life and education

Yeshi Dhonden was born into a family of peasants on 15 May 1927 in Namro, a village located in Lhoka, Tibet, south of the Yarlung Tsangpo River.[2] He was sent to Sungrab Ling Monastery at the age of six and took novice vows as a Buddhist monk two years later.[4][5] At eleven, he joined the Chakpori Institute of Tibetan Medicine, Lhasa, and studied medicine for nine years. He was taught by Khyenrab Norbu. Dhonden displayed strong memorization skills during the study of the four tantra.[6]

At twenty he was recognized as the best in class at the Chakpori Institute of Tibetan Medicine, and was made an honorary doctor of the Dalai Lama. From 1951 onward, he practiced medicine in Tibet in his native region, where he became known for his great efficiency after he had treated an influenza epidemic on the Tibetan-Bhutanese border that year.[7] When the 14th Dalai Lama went into exile in 1959, Dhonden chose to accompany him and help the Tibetan refugees in India.[8]


The President, Shri Ram Nath Kovind presenting the Padma Shri Award to Dr. Yeshi Dhonden, at the Civil Investiture Ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on 20 March 2018.

In 1959, Yeshi Dhonden was one of the three Tibetan physicians, along with Lobsang Dolma Khangkar and Trogawa Rinpoche, to escape Tibet and was requested by the Dalai Lama to reinstall the Tibetan Institute of Medicine and Astrology in exile.[9]

In Dharamshala, India, he refounded the Tibetan Institute of Medicine and Astrology in 1961 and served as its Director till 1966. He resigned from the Institute and established a private clinic in 1969. He traveled to the West to present lectures on Tibetan medicine. He was considered an icon on traditional Tibetan medicine and practices, and renowned for his contribution to cancer treatment.[10][11][12] He was a foremost expert and proponent of Sowa Rigpa, which is a traditional Tibetan medicine system created as a combination of the ancient healing systems of India and China.[13][14][15]

From 1960 to 1980, he was the personal physician of the Dalai Lama.[16]

On 1 April 2019, he retired from medical practice due to declining health.[17]


Dhonden authored the following books:



Dhonden died on 26 November 2019 from respiratory failure in McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, India.[21][22]

See also


  1. ^ "Renowned Tibetan doctor Yeshi Dhonden passes away .:. Tibet Sun".
  2. ^ a b Avedon, John (1997). In Exile from the Land of the Snows: The Definitive Account of the Dalai Lama and Tibet Since the Chinese Conquest. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 9780060977412.
  3. ^ "A monk and a healer – The Statesman". The Statesman. 11 February 2018. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  4. ^ Yeshi Dhonden, Healing from the Source: The Science and Lore of Tibetan Medicine, p. 121
  5. ^ Sleep and the Inner Landscape, An interview with Dr. Yeshi Dhonden by William and Marielle Segal, Parabola 7, 1 (January 1982)
  6. ^ Snelling, John (1999). The Buddhist Handbook: A Complete Guide to Buddhist Schools, Teaching, Practice, and History. Inner Traditions. ISBN 9780892817610.
  7. ^ Avedon, John F. (11 January 1981). "Exploring the Mysteries of Tibetan Medicine". The New York Times.
  8. ^ "La nouvelle jeunesse de la vénérable médecine tibétaine". France Soir (in French). 14 May 2017. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  9. ^ Dr. Pema Dorjee, Heal Your Spirit, Heal Yourself: The Spiritual Medicine of Tibet, p. 78
  10. ^ "A 90-Year-Old Monk Who Cures Cancer? My Mcleodganj Isn't Typical". The Quint. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  11. ^ "Tibetan Medicine Sowa-Rigpa Lures Patients Seeking Drug-Free Cures". News18. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  12. ^ "Behaviour and eating habits can prevent cancer, says Dalai Lama's former physician". Deccan Chronicle. 5 February 2018. Archived from the original on 16 November 2018. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  13. ^ "McLeodganj's Tibetan monk gets Padma Shri for work as doctor". The Times of India. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  14. ^ International, Molly Lortie, Tibet Post (29 January 2018). "Tibetan traditional Dr Yeshi Dhonden awarded Padma Shri award – Tibet post International". Tibet post International. Retrieved 16 November 2018.((cite news)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ "शुरुआत में ही कैंसर का पता चलना जरूरी: पद्मश्री डॉ. येशी ढोंडेन-news Video | Navbharat Times". Navbharat Times (in Hindi). Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  16. ^ "Nonagenarian Tibetan doctor of last resort ends practice". Tibetan Review. 14 April 2019.
  17. ^ "Dr Yeshi Dhonden, famous for curing cancer, closes his practice". Tibet Sun News. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  18. ^ Jeffrey Hopkins, Health Through Balance: An Introduction to Tibetan Medicine, p. 9
  19. ^ a b "BRIEF BIO-DATA OF DR. YESHI DHONDHEN" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 October 2018. Retrieved 1 September 2023.
  20. ^ "Yeshi Dhonden: Dalai Lama's ex-physician second Tibetan to get India's prestigious Padma Shri | Health Tips and News". Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  21. ^ "Renowned Tibetan doctor Yeshi Dhonden passes away .:. Tibet Sun". Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  22. ^ "Dalai Lama's ex-physician Yeshi Dhonden passes away". Retrieved 26 November 2019.