The Old Medicine Hospital and its Spiritual Heritage

Published | Updated July 29, 2020

The Old Medicine Hospital and its Spiritual Heritage

After the Wat Pho Thai Medical Massage School, the most illustrious name in the Thai Massage community in Thailand is the Shivagakomarpaj Traditional Medicine Hospital in Chiang Mai city (Northern Thailand), which also has a Thai Massage School connected to it.

The hospital’s name already is clear evidence of the Buddhist spiritual influence on the institute. It’s a token of respect to Jivaka Komarabhacca (Jivaka Kumar Baccha or Shivago Komarpaj), the patron Buddhist saint of Thai Traditional Medicine.

The hospital is officially called the Thai Massage School Shivagakomarpaj & Old Medicine Hospital, or in short, lovingly called — the Old Medicine Hospital. Note that this nick name is somewhat ambiguous, because it doesn’t refer to an old hospital (it was established in 1973), but to Old Medicine, that is, in the sense of Traditional Medicine or Ancient Medicine.

The Thai Massage School and Hospital has been the leading Thai Medicine and Thai Massage institute in the North of Thailand from the 1960s up to the beginning of the 21st century. Perhaps, in the past decade, it has lost some of its luster, but it’s still, after the Wat Po Medical Massage School in Bangkok, one of the most renowned Thai Massage institutes in Thailand and around the world.

Many contemporary Thai Massage training schools in Chiang Mai have been founded by former teachers and practitioners from the Old Medicine Hospital, and also quite a number of Western Thai Massage practitioners and teachers have been heavily influenced by the school and spread its teachings and lineage around the world.

The institute is part of a non-profit charitable organization known as the Shivagakomarpaj Foundation and it provides free traditional healthcare to neighboring villages around Chiang Mai on Buddhist holidays, which is about six times per year. This fits perfectly well in the Buddhist thought and practice of Metta and Karuna and subsequently taking care of the sick.

The main focus of the Old Medicine Hospital remains serving as a Thai Traditional Medicine institute. The patients are treated with massage, herbal saunas, and other traditional herbal remedies by traditional medicine doctors, and can receive all traditional Thai therapies in one place.

In the line of Buddhist teachings where paying respect and thankfulness to our teachers is seen of supreme importance, the school and hospital also performs a daily Wai Khru ceremony to start and end the day with (at 9am and 6pm) and an extended, elaborate annual Wai Khru celebration.

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