Sowa Rigpa Humanitarianism: Local Logics of Care within a Global Politics of Compassion


This article examines the circulation of humanitarian ideas, materials, and actions in a non‐biomedical and non‐Judeo–Christian context: Sowa Rigpa or Tibetan medical camps in India and Nepal. Through these camps, practitioners and patients alike often overtly articulate Sowa Rigpa medicine as part of a broader humanitarian “good” motivated by a Buddhist‐inflected ethics of compassion and a moral economy of care, diverging from mainstream public health and conventional humanitarian projects. Three ethnographic case studies demonstrate how micro‐political interactions at camps engage with ethical and religious imaginaries. We show how the ordinary ethics of Sowa Rigpa humanitarianism gain distinct political meaning in contrast to non‐Tibetan forms of aid, reconfiguring the relationship between Buddhism, essential medicines, moral economies, and politics. While Sowa Rigpa as a medical system operates transnationally, these camps are organized around local logics of emergent care, employing narratives of “charity” and Buddhist compassion when addressing health needs.