Massage & Bodywork

JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2017

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C h e c k o u t A B M P 's l a t e s t n e w s a n d b l o g p o s t s . Av a i l a b l e a t w w w. a b m p . c o m . 85 ETHICAL STANDARDS IN TRADITIONAL THAI MASSAGE Ancient Buddhist medical practices were passed down through the ages from their homeland in Northern India before migrating to other lands. One such place was Thailand. The influence of Buddhism, and thus Buddhist medical practices, on Thailand has impacted the people and the land since before its recorded formation. The Thai term given to massage therapists in Thailand is Maw Nuad, literally translated as "doctor (of ) massage," owing to the fact that Thais revere qualified massage therapists as doctors and expect them to act as such. Traditionally, as well as in current accordance with the Thai Ministry of Public Health, Thai massage is seen as an integral subsect of traditional Thai medicine. In the old Buddhist medical tradition, aspiring doctors would spend seven years or longer in training to become a qualified doctor of medicine. As a standard, the first few years were spent cultivating ethical behavior, until it became second nature in their everyday life. They would not only study spiritual texts on moral conduct, such as Shantideva's Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra, but would also become proficient at putting them into practice. Doctors- to-be would read through Sanskrit scriptures or the Pali Canon every day. This proceeded in conjunction with putting medical manuscripts to memory; for example, the rGyud-bZhi ("Four Tantras") if in the Tibetan tradition, or the khampi-wetchasueksa 1 and phaet-saat-songkroh if in the Thai tradition. To help inspire, as well as remind practitioners of their accountability to the tradition, many would receive some type of initiation upon which they would take up vows and moral practices. An example of practices would be to regularly hold and practice the following five disciplines, or training exercises, known as the pañca-sīlāni in Pali: 1. Refrain from killing any sentient being. 2. Refrain from stealing. 3. Refrain from sexual misconduct (e.g., adultery, those in chastity, or underage). 4. Refrain from lying (false, divisive, harsh, and gossip/idle chatter). 5. Refrain from becoming intoxicated (i.e., alcohol, drugs). BRAHMAVIHARAS As the Thai medical profession evolved, surrounded by its social and political environment, what remained constant was the perfecting of the brahmavihāras, also known as the "Four Immeasureables." Masters considered the brahmavihāras to be the pillars of one's practice, because if a practitioner genuinely followed them, they would automatically follow the rest of the established ethical code expected of traditional Thai doctors. A common thread in the modern Thai massage world is the practice of mettā-bhāvanā, the spreading (or distribution) of loving kindness. This is but one quarter of the brahmavihāras, a fact that aspiring Thai-massage therapists ought to remember. The four brahmavihāras are comprised of: 1. Mettā: loving kindness—the wish that a person, or all sentient beings without exception, be happy and have the cause of happiness. 2. Karu ā: compassion—the wish that a person's suffering, or that of all sentient beings without exception, will diminish and they will be free from suffering and the cause of suffering. 3. Muditā: empathetic joy—rejoicing in and encouraging the happiness, success, and accomplishments of a person, or all sentient beings without exception; the genuine wish that a person or all sentient beings never be separated from happiness. 4. Upekkhā: equanimity, impartiality, nonprejudice—removing any partiality toward those with whom one practices the three previous brahmavihāras; remaining in equanimity (unaffectedness) to the Attha Loka Dhamma (eight worldly concerns). Without upekkhā, the practice of mettā-bhāvanā is limited, incomplete, and biased. Through the brahmavihāras, we arrive at the next moral bastion of a Maw Nuad. Doctors of Thai medicine give sincere effort to rid themselves of attachment or aversion to the Attha Loka Dhamma. Through this practice, they see and clarify their motivations behind pursuing a profession in Thai medicine, and thus massage, including how they continue to treat patients. The four pairs of the Attha Loka Dhamma are: 1. Loss and Gain. 2. Fame and Censure. 3. Praise and Slander. 4. Sorrow and Happiness. THAI ETHICS Should a Thai-massage therapist or Thai doctor treat patients solely with a heartfelt grasping, attachment, or aversion to any of these eight factors, they would be practicing impurely, in a traditional sense. Attachment to happiness can turn into a form of suffering. To us in the social structure of this modern commercial world, these may present a glaring conundrum. "How can I make a living and support myself or my family if I don't focus on the bottom line?" "How can my business and brand grow without promoting myself?" What these eight factors do is remind us of the true intention and purpose of the medical profession: to remove the sufferings of sentient beings. If we are good therapists or doctors, practice well, and train ourselves well, then people will want to come to us because we are good at what we do and we have genuine hearts with our offerings. Word of mouth is activated and spread, electronically and physically. These eight factors are not telling us that we have to be poor or meek. In fact, traditionally, it is important for the client-patient to not just offer something of value in exchange for a doctor's aid, but to give them their full

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