Beijing: A specialist on Tibetan culture and literature has revealed that brain surgery was practiced by Tibetan doctors at least 2,900 years ago but it was perfected with the sterilisation techniques introduced by an Indian doctor.
"The 2,900-year-old Tibetan Tripitaka states clearly why and how brain surgery was carried out," Karma Trinley, an associate professor from Tibetan language and literature department of Tibet University in Lhasa, capital of China's Tibet Autonomous Region, who carried out research on the Tibetan Tripitaka, an ancient encyclopedia, said.

"It describes in detail how a young Indian doctor watched brain surgery being performed by a veteran surgeon," he told state-run 'Xinhua' news agency.

The young Indian doctor, whose name was similar to the Tibetan name Tsogyel was not allowed to join the surgery, but merely stood by with the permission of the patient suffering from severe headache.

According to the Tripitaka, the pain was so severe that the patient repeatedly knocked his head on hard objects to ease the pain.

When Tsogyel saw the surgeon trying to operate on the patient's brain with a pair of tweezers, he shouted that the tweezers had to be heated first.

"Tsogyel was a well-reputed doctor and was good at all medical practice except brain surgery," said Karma Trinley.

"The surgeon followed his advice and the surgery later proved successful."

He said Tsogyel's advice on sterilisation helped raise the success rate of surgery at the time.

Tsogyel later became a skilled surgeon himself.

The Tripitaka is the earliest collection of Buddhist writings.

The information contained in the writings was originally passed down orally, and was finally written down in the third century B.C. The Tibetan Tripitaka was translated from Sanskrit language of ancient India.

It contains two parts, the Gangyur and the Dangyur.

The Gangyur is a collection of teachings of Sakyamuni, (Lord Buddha) adopted by his disciples after his death.

The Dangyur is a collection of notes and interpretations on the Gangyur, provided by Indian and Tibetan Buddhist masters, scholars and translators.

It covers philosophy, logics, literature, linguistics, art, astronomy, medicine, architecture and calendar calculation.

"The Tibetan Tripitaka contains Sakyamuni's classifications of 440 ailments that were believed to be associated with wind, bile and phlegm, and were categorized accordingly," Karma Trinley said.

He added that many of the medical theories in the book are still used by Tibetan doctors today.

Evidence of ancient brain surgery was first found in 1998, when archaeologists unearthed human skulls with mended cracks on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

These cracks indicated that craniotomies were probably performed by the Chinese over 5,000 years ago.

Before the Tibetan Tripitaka's description of brain surgery was discovered, researchers used to disagree on the purpose of ancient craniotomies, said Karma Trinley.

"Some believed it was a religious ritual to dispel evils or bring happiness, while others held that it was a therapy used by witches and wizards," he said.