Bhishaj, Bhishak, Bhiṣak, Bhiṣaj: 14 definitions

Introduction

Bhishaj means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, the history of ancient India. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

The Sanskrit terms Bhiṣak and Bhiṣaj can be transliterated into English as Bhisak or Bhishak or Bhisaj or Bhishaj, using the IAST transliteration scheme (?).

In Hinduism

Purana and Itihasa (epic history)

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index

Bhiṣak (भिषक्).—A son of Hṛdika.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 71. 141.
Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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Ayurveda (science of life)

Source: Wisdom Library: Raj Nighantu

Bhiṣaj (भिषज्) refers to a “physican” or “doctor”, as defined in the 13th-century Raj Nighantu or Rājanighaṇṭu (an Ayurvedic encyclopedia). Accordingly, “A physician (bhiṣaj) capable of diagnosing a disease, after consulting this treatise (Rājanighaṇṭu), analysijng the various signs, symptoms, examinations etc., can select an appropraite drug (auṣadha) of choice for his patient. As, now, he is in a position to know all about the drugs and their characteristics. ‘Hence this Nighaṇṭu-Rāj is superior to all’. [...] A physician (bhiṣaj) coming across with the names of the drugs , having multiple meanings such as Śiva, Śyāmā, Samaṅgā etc. should decide about an appropriate drug on the basis of reference, action, rasa, vīrya, its use in a particular recipe et.c Above all,m a physician is also advised to use his common sense for accepting a particular drug by its particular synonym”.

Source: Shodhganga: The Caraka Saṃhitā and the Suśruta Saṃhitā

Bhiṣak (भिषक्) or Bhiṣaj.—In the Caraka and the Suśruta Saṃhitās, the physician is addressed as bhiṣak, vaidya or cikitsak and these terms are used interchangeably. However, the term bhiṣak is of relatively more frequent occurrence. The term vaidya, which is derived from “vidya” or knowledge, is generally used for the learned. It also implies one who is a follower of the Vedas or well-versed in them. The physician increasingly came to be known as vaidya from the time of the Epics. A.L. Basham points out that since the word is related to Veda, the term vaidya has religious overtones which the term bhiṣaj lacks.

In a medical system no other element is of greater importance than the physician (bhiṣak) and this has been stated in no uncertain terms by our classical authorities. Caraka (Su.9.3) and Suśruta (Su.34.15/2-16/1) define therapeutics as the combined effort of the quartet of the physician, the medicament, the attendant and the patient provided all possess the requisite qualities.

The essential attributes of medical professional (bhiṣak) are excellence in medical knowledge, extensive practical experience, dexterity and purity. These are the four basic qualifications of a physician of which knowledge is foremost: it is the light that illuminates. “Paryavadāta” is literally perfectly pure, clean, very accomplished, well acquainted, conversant with, well-known or very familiar.

Ayurveda book cover
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Āyurveda (आयुर्वेद, ayurveda) is a branch of Indian science dealing with medicine, herbalism, taxology, anatomy, surgery, alchemy and related topics. Traditional practice of Āyurveda in ancient India dates back to at least the first millenium BC. Literature is commonly written in Sanskrit using various poetic metres.

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Pancaratra (worship of Nārāyaṇa)

Source: eScholarship: Chapters 1-14 of the Hayasirsa Pancaratra

Bhiṣaj (भिषज्) refers to “one who is a physician”, representing an undesirable characteristic of an Ācārya, according to the 9th-century Hayaśīrṣa-pañcarātra Ādikāṇḍa chapter 3.—The Lord said:—“I will tell you about the Sthāpakas endowed with perverse qualities. He should not construct a temple with those who are avoided in this Tantra. [...] He should not be very sickly, a physician (bhiṣaj), violent, neglecting the right time, nor abusing the twice-born, respectable elder or the god. A sthāpaka who has these qualities should be avoided. [...] A god enshrined by any of these named above (viz., bhiṣaj), is in no manner a giver of fruit. If a building for Viṣṇu is made anywhere by these excluded types (viz., bhiṣaj) then that temple will not give rise to enjoyment and liberation and will yield no reward, of this there is no doubt”.

Note: Presumably physicians (Bhiṣaj) were excluded because they dealt with impure objects.

Pancaratra book cover
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Pancaratra (पाञ्चरात्र, pāñcarātra) represents a tradition of Hinduism where Narayana is revered and worshipped. Closeley related to Vaishnavism, the Pancaratra literature includes various Agamas and tantras incorporating many Vaishnava philosophies.

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General definition (in Hinduism)

Source: archive.org: Vedic index of Names and Subjects

Bhiṣaj (भिषज्, “physician”) is a word of common occurrence in the Ṛgveda and later. There is no trace whatever in the former text of the profession being held in disrepute: the Aśvins, Varuṇa, and Rudra are all called physicians. On the other hand, in the Dharma literature this profession is utterly despised. This dislike is found as early as the Yajurveda Saṃhitās, where the Aśvins are condemned because of their having to do with the practice of medicine (bheṣaja), on the ground that it brings them too much among men, an allusion to the caste dislike of promiscuous contact.

Source: Shodhganga: The Caraka Saṃhitā and the Suśruta Saṃhitā (h)

Bhiṣak (भिषक्).—The physician (bhiṣak) in the Ṛgveda is a wise Brāhmaṇa (Vipra), possessor of herbs and a fiend-slayer who keeps diseases at bay.—“he who hath store of herbs (auṣadha) at hand like Kings amid a crowd of men,—Physician (bhiṣak) is that sage’s name, fiend-slayer, chaser of disease” (Ṛgveda X.97.6).—Zysk also points out that the word “bhiṣak” is replaced with “kavī” in the Maitrāyaṇī-saṃhitā which suggests that the healer is a chanter, i.e., one who is skilled in the use of words. On the basis of the evidence from the Vedic corpora, we may conclude that the Vedic bhiṣak was considered to be one who possessed skill in the preparation and application of medicinal herbs as well as knowledge and mastery of the recitation of charms and incantations.

In Buddhism

Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

Source: Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

Bhiṣaj (भिषज्) refers to a physician, according to the 2nd century Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra chapter XXXI.—Accordingly, there are four divisions mentioned related to the physician’s understanding of sickness:

  1. the sickness (ābādha),
  2. the cause of the sickness (samutthāna),
  3. the cure for the sickness (prahāna),
  4. the remedy that cures the sickness (bheṣaja).

Then the text compares a Śrāvaka and a Bodhisattva to a physician (bhiṣaj): “the Śrāvaka is like the lesser physician and does not know everything; the Bodhisattva-mahāsattva, however, is like the greater physician; there is no illness that he does not know; there is no remedy that he does not find. This is why the Śrāvaka qualities should be ‘completely fulfilled’, whereas those of the Bodhisattva should be ‘practiced’”

Mahayana book cover
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Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

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General definition (in Buddhism)

Source: Sreenivasarao's blog: Jivaka, the physician

Bhishak (physician).—The Pali texts describe the Buddha as the physician (bhishak) and as the surgeon (salla–katta). Ashvagosha the poet (80-150 BCE) called Buddha Maha-Bhishak (the great physician). At a later stage in Buddhism, the Buddha worship in the Bhaishajya Guru (The Guru of all physicians) form came into practice. Interestingly, the life of one of the celebrated physicians and surgeons of the ancient India was closely associated with that of the Buddha. Jivaka came to the Buddha as a young man in the prime of his youth and stayed faithful to the Buddha until the later years of the Master, as his disciple, friend and as his physician.

India history and geogprahy

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Indian Epigraphical Glossary

Bhiṣak.—(HD), the king's medical advisor. See Ep. Ind., Vol. IX, p. 305. (EI 24), a physician. Note: bhiṣak is defined in the “Indian epigraphical glossary” as it can be found on ancient inscriptions commonly written in Sanskrit, Prakrit or Dravidian languages.

India history book cover
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The history of India traces the identification of countries, villages, towns and other regions of India, as well as royal dynasties, rulers, tribes, local festivities and traditions and regional languages. Ancient India enjoyed religious freedom and encourages the path of Dharma, a concept common to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.

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Languages of India and abroad

Sanskrit-English dictionary

Source: DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary

Bhiṣaj (भिषज्).—m. [bibhetyasmāt rogaḥ, bhī-ṣuk hrasvaśca Uṇ.1.134]

1) A physician, doctor; भिषजामसाध्यम् (bhiṣajāmasādhyam) R.8.93; गतस्पृहो धैर्यधरः कृपालुः शुद्धोऽधिकारी भिषगीदृशः स्यात् (gataspṛho dhairyadharaḥ kṛpāluḥ śuddho'dhikārī bhiṣagīdṛśaḥ syāt) |

2) Name of Viṣṇu.

3) Medicine, a remedy. -m. dual. The two Aśvins (physicians of gods).

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Shabda-Sagara Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Bhiṣaj (भिषज्).—m. (-ṣak) A Vaidya or physician. E. bhī to fear, aji Unadi aff., and ṣuk augment; or bhiṣaj a Kand'wadi root, to overcome, (disease,) aff. kvip .

context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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