Everyone knows how strongly tobacco use is condemned in Tibetan Buddhism generally. (strangely, though, I once met a man who completed the 1000 day kaihogyo, and he was the happiest chainsmoking bodhisattva I've ever encountered.) Smoking is held to pollute and soil the channels & the winds. Bad idea.
There's some evidence to suggest, though, that tobacco use may help with some very specific medical conditions. Schizophrenics often smoke or chew. Parkinson's patients do the same. It's thought that this is a form of self-medication: nicotine affects dopamine, and both PD and schizophrenia are in some ways dopamine disorders.
Where's the question already?
My grandfather died at the age of 92, a frail and shaky old man, but still coherent. For the second half of his life, he had tremors in his hands and feet. For the last twenty years, he couldn't hold a coffee mug, struggled to feed himself, and was increasingly stooped forward, although he could use a tablesaw skillfully into his 70s. He presented as an archetypal PD patient, but he didn't have the kind of difficulty someone like Michael J Fox has had, and he wasn't medicated for PD. He did use tobacco (smoking a pipe and later using snuss, snuff, or just nicorette gum). His speech and cognition improved dramatically when we insisted he drink exactly one bottle of beer per day, beginning around 10am, and nursed through the day.
I'm in my mid-30s and I'm getting the same symptoms. My MD wanted to prescribe some meds for me (Propranolol) but I declined them. I'd like to hope I can get along on the one-beer-a-day Barney Fife method, if I'm facing the kind of situation my grandfather was in. It's premature to speculate on this, but what I'd like to know is this:
*I'm not a tobacco user and I don't intend to become one. But if it helps with certain conditions, can there be a justification for its use in the practice of TM?
*In dealing with these tremors, is this something known in the TB literature or is this one of those "urban problems" like autoimmune diseases or chronic allergies? I'm not sure what to do but I'd like to address it before I'm eating through a straw.
Great River Tendai Sangha: a Tendai Buddhist community in Alexandria, Virginia, USA (near Washington, DC):