The Vows of Hua Tuo and Sun Si Miao..Actually Carried Out

Ok folks, bear with me-I’m gunna get a little idealistic and woo-y- BUT it’s grounded in reality-I promise.

Vow of Hua Tuo:

Treat people equally irrespective of their high or low status, of their poverty or wealth, of their distinction or obscurity.
Do not run after riches, fear no hardships and toils, and take it as your first duty to take pity on the old and help the young. *

Sun Si Miao’s Vow:

1) In all cases, when you treat disease as an eminent physician, you must quiet your shén and fix your intention, you must be free of wants and desires, and you must first develop a heart full of great compassion and empathy. You must pledge your desire to rescue all sentient beings indiscriminately from their suffering.
2) If someone facing disease or disaster comes to you seeking relief, you may not inquire whether the person is nobility or low class or poor or wealthy, [or consider their] old age or youth, beauty or ugliness, or whether you detest or like them or whether they are your friend, whether they are Chinese or barbarian, a fool or a sage. You must treat all of them exactly the same as if they were your closest relatives.
3) Neither must you look to the front while turning around to cover your back, worry about your personal fortune or misfortune, and guard and cherish your own life.
4) When seeing the suffering and grief of others, you must act as if it were your own and open your heart deeply to their misery. You must not avoid dangerous mountains with rugged cliffs, any time of day or night, the cold of winter or heat of summer, hunger or thirst, fatigue and exhaustion. You must focus your heart on attending to their rescue and must not have a heart of hard labor or outward appearances.[2]
5) Acting like this, you can serve as eminent physician for the masses; acting against this, you are a horrid thief to all sentient beings.**

When I saw the Vows of  of Sun Si Miao and Hua Tuo hanging on a wall, I was weeks away from starting classes at a “classical Chinese medicine school”. I saw a version of this vow and thought, “Wow, yes, this is what I want to do with my life and my heart and  this is how I want to practice.” I went into school knowing I wanted to practice sliding scale and knowing I wanted it to be affordable and accessible…but I left that school not knowing how to actually carry that out in this very “real word”

So, it was POCA not my CCM school that showed me how to put these principles into practice. It’s from scouring the forums, working in Circles, attending POCAFest and going to POCA Tech where I learned how one can have ideals while living in the realities of the modern US. How one can treat those regardless of ability to pay (or at least we can treat a lot more people of wider backgrounds than we would be able to if we were boutiquing or only working in a public health setting). Talking with other POCA members we’ve learned how to have boundaries and still show care, how to navigate the diet culture that can creep in without shaming our patients, how to treat people through language and cultural barriers, how to work with outside organizations so we can expand our access to care….we teach each other and  we learn how to organize so more people can get more acupuncture. 

In POCA I’ve met this vast swath of people who absolutely insist on separating the quality of care from the amount someone pays. We love our patients for who they are and care about what they’ve gone through-not their status or their pocketbooks.

I’ve learned in talking with other POCA folks, how someone’s mere presence adds an indelible magic to the room-that to turn them away because they weren’t a well-paying or exciting or “compliant” or grovelling patient would to be turn away a vital member of our community -or to get extra woo- it would be to reject a piece of ourselves. In practicing community acupuncture-in holding space,  in using a sliding scale, in accepting just about everybody that walk through the doors-we get to be part of our community in a particularly special way. Sure we might be driving a fancy new car but we get to practice solidarity and understanding, we get to be a part of instead of lofty and detached.

In using what we know to help as many as we can-it’s making a huge difference. Which is why I support POCA and the POCA membership drive. I love letting people know what we do and letting them into the action. I love making it possible to bring acupuncture to the masses which with projects like the microloans and the Auricular Acu-Technician trainings, POCA is totally doing.

..and as Sun Si Miao would harshly say:

5) Acting like this, you can serve as eminent physician for the masses; acting against this, you are a horrid thief to all sentient beings.

So in order to pe a punk for the masses, I support the Membership Drive so POCA can keep making more puking opportunities!

Author: teatree

lover of bikes, gardens, loaf shaped animals, kids, contra dancing, books, and weird smells. poking people and helping them feel better is amazing.

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  1. I would’ve been a LOT more into Sun Si Miao and Hua Tuo if this is what we talked about in class more often!


  2. Thank you for writing this. I remember taking a class on Neijing, but I honestly don’t remember this. It seems like the most important part of any classic on Chinese Medicine.

  3. Miriam Lee says something similar in Insights from a Senior Acupuncturist which was the first book in acupuncture school where I encountered this message.
    Guess I didn’t get that far in either Sun Si Miao or Hua Tun’s books!