History of Indian Medicine (and Ayurveda)

by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society | 1949 | 162,724 words | ISBN-13: 9788176370813

The History of Indian medicine and Ayurveda (i.e., the science of life) represents the introductory pages of the Charaka Samhita composed of six large sections dealing with every facet of Medicine in ancient India in a Socio-Historical context. Caraka is regarded as one of the pioneers in the field of scientific healthcare. As an important final a...

Life and Environment

The understanding of the nature and function of life involves the study and the appreciation of the factor of environment. Indeed the two are one, like the two sides of a coin. To think of life apart from an environment is as impossible as to think of light without its surrounding sphere of illumination.

For the medical science particularly, life goes always with its environment. Every organism and specially man must be understood always in relation to his environment, for all his life-functions are engrossed in a continual flux to meet the challenge or reap the benefit of the factors of environment in the various forms of weather, geographical conditions, nature of soil, social tendencies, bacterial saturation and similar other conditions. In fact the play of life of any organism consists in its reactions to a given or changing environment.

Environment is its prime cause of being, as also of its disorders and perfection Caraka expresses this truth as a philosophical axiom, that the existence of all beings is derived from the nature of their reaction to environment.

[Carakasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 11.44]

“The continued existence or otherwise of all creatures is dependent on the proper, inadequate, excessive or wrong interaction between them and their environmental factors. For well-being and ill-being or existence and non-existence are dependent on the right degree and nature of contact with environment.”

Thus in the medical science “Man-cum-Environment” is the unit of study.

As we have noted, life is not a static condition but a dynamic process of continual adjustment with environment Time and space which constitute the environment, are perpetually varying factors of the universe which necessitate the constant vigilance, activity and modification in the reactions of the organism. Caraka therefore uses the various synonyms of life such as and denoting the constant changing, dynamic and progressive nature of life.

Disease factors of Environment

When the organism has failed to adjust or adapt owing either to some innate deficiency or to the overwhelming force of the environment, the resultant is disease-condition which is the subject matter of medicine. Such environmental factors are known as exogenous disease factors. They are of the nature of space and time which include varying places and positions of things and seasonal variations as well as physical chemical and biological invasions.

In a great measure the organism can be taught to adjust to and prepare against such hostile forces. All those wholesome practices of diet and behaviour and seasonal regimen that are entitled “whole-some” life (svasthavṛtta) in the texts of Ayurveda are calculated to help the organism to adjust to and overcome these impediments to health from changing environment. This is a lesson in acquiring immunity against probable antagonistic features of time and space

Guiding factor in Adaptation

The above is true only in a general sense, for we find that reaction to environment is so different from one individual to another. No two people are the same in looks, tastes and degree of tolerance to heat and cold. Consequently the degrees of their individual adjustment and adaptive reaction must be different and in helping to bring about similar results, varying methods and degrees of effort have to be pursued. On what does this difference depend? What is the guide in determining the different degree and quality? What causes have brought about these differences in reaction to a common environment? In answer to these questions we stumble upon the central truth of the medical science i.e., individual constitution (prakṛti). Complete adjustment of the individual with his environment is possible only on the basis and appreciation of the facts of his individual constitution. It is only by viewing environment and constitution together that we can accomplish the complete and successful harmonization of man with his environment, which is the sole aim and justification of medicine.

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