Sushruta Samhita, volume 1: Sutrasthana
Chapter XXIX - Auspicious and inauspicious dreams
Now we shall discourse on the Chapter, which treats of favourable or unfavourable prognosis in diseases, as known from messengers, omens and dreams etc. (Viparitaviparita-Duta-Shakuna-Svapna-Nidarshaniya-adhyaya).
The favourable or unfavourable termination of a disease may be predicted from the appearance, speech, dress and demeanour of the messenger sent to call in a physician, or from the nature of the asterism and the lunar phase marking the time of his arrival, or from the direction of the wind (Anila) blowing at the time, or from the nature of omens (Shakuna) seen by him on the road, or from the posture, temperament or speech of the physician himself.
A messenger belonging to the same caste as the patient should be regarded as an auspicious omen, whereas one from a different caste would indicate a fatal or an unfavourable termination of the disease.
A eunuch, a husband of many wives, a messenger sent on a different errand and incidentally calling at a physician’s house, or one who has quarrelled on the road, or messengers who come riding on camels, donkeys or in carts, or on foot in one unbroken line, should be looked upon as inauspicious messengers.
Similarly, messengers, who call at the house of a physician, holding in their hands a rope, club, or any other weapon, or who come dressed in black, red, yellow, wet, dirty or torn garments, or with the upper sheets placed or arranged on their right shoulders (Apasavya), or clad in single cloths without such upper sheets on, as well as those, who are possessed of additional or smaller number of limbs, or look disturbed and agitated, or whose bodies are in any way mutilated or such, as look fierce and haughty, or speak in a rough and harsh tone, or utter any term implying death, should be regarded as augurs of evil.
Likewise, a messenger, tearing off a blade of grass or a chip of wood with his fingers, or handling the tip of his nose or the nipples of his breast, or pulling the ends of his cloth or hair, or the ring-finger of his hand, or brushing his nails and hair, or standing with his fingers in his ears or nostrils, or waiting with his hands placed on his cheeks, chest or head, or about the regions of the arm-pits, as well as one, who has arrived at the house of the physician with bits of human skull or stone, or with ashes, bones, paddy husks or charcoal in the palms of his hands, or one, who digs into the earth with his toe-nails, or wantonly breaks stones or brickbats, while waiting at the physician’s house, should be regarded as a messenger of evil augury.
A messenger, who at the time of visiting a physician for his professional help comes smeared with oil, or with red sandal paste or mud, and carries a red garland or a ripe but sapless fruit, or any other thing of like nature in his hand, or brushes together the nails of his fingers or touches his legs with the hand, or carries a shoe in his hand, or who appears to have been suffering from a foul or loathsome disease, further one, who breathes heavily, or weeps or behaves contrarily, or stands with the palms of his hands united and his face turned towards the south, or waits on one leg on an uneven ground with the other raised and placed on a higher support, should be looked upon as the precursor of evil.
A messenger, reporting his errand to the physician while he is facing the south, or who is in an unclean state of the body, or engaged in kindling a fire or in killing an animal, or is remaining in a nude state, or is found to be lying on the bare floor of his chamber, or performing an affection after attending to a call of nature, or anointing himself with oil, or perspiring, or sitting with his hair dishevelled, or in a state of mental perturbation, is to be looked upon as a messenger foreboding evil.
A messenger, seeking the interview of a physician while he is engaged in offering oblations to his departed manes, or to the gods, or one who calls on him at noon or at midnight, at morning or at evening, or during the happening of any abnormal physical phenomenon, or at an hour under the influence of any of the following asterisms (lunar mansions), viz. the ardra, the Ashlesa, the Magha, the Mula, the two Purvas, and the Bharani, or on the day of the fourth, ninth, or the sixth phase of the moon (whether on the wane or on the increase), as well as on the last days of months and fortnights, should be considered as a messenger of evil augury.
A messenger, hot and perspiring from being seated near a blazing fire, and calling upon a physician in the midday, should be deemed as an inauspicious one in the case of a Pittaja distemper; whereas a messenger of similar description should be looked upon as foreboding the favourable termination of a disease, if due to the action of the deranged Kapha. The favourable character of a messenger should be likewise determined in diseases originated through the action of the deranged Vayu, etc.; and an intelligent physician is at liberty to exercise his own discretion in determining the omen. Similarly in a case of hemoptysis, dysentery or any morbid discharge from the urethra (Prameha), the first interview between a messenger and a physician near a reservoir of water is an omen of happy augury. A learned physician shall thus determine the ominous character of a messenger in connection with other diseases as well.
Messengers of happy augury:—
A fair and handsome messenger, who is clad in clean and white garments, and belongs to the same caste or spiritual clan (Svagotra) as the patient himself, forebodes the successful termination of the disease (for which the medical aid is needed). A messenger, calling on a physician either on foot or in a bullock cart, and who is contented, intelligent, capable of acting according to the rules of decorum, time and circumstances, and is independent and original in his thoughts and ideas, and carries ornaments, and other auspicious articles about his person, is alone capable of rendering the best services in connection with the calling in of a physician. A messenger, for the first time, interviewing a physician, when the latter is complacently seated with his face towards the east, and on a clean and even ground, should be regarded as a messenger of happy augury.
Raw meat, a pitcher full of water, an umbrella, a Bramhana, an elephant, a cow, an ox and an article of a white colour, should be deemed auspicious sights by a physician on his way to the house of a patient. A mother, a cow with her calf, a small pitcher of water, a decorated virgin, fish, unripe fruits, a Svastika (a cross shaped religious insignia), sweetmeat, curd, gold, a vessel full of sun-dried rice, gems, flowers (according to certain commentators a well disposed king), a blazing fire, a horse, a swan, a peacock, a bird of the Chasha species, chantings of Vedic verses, claps of thunder, blowings of conch-shells, notes of lutes, sounds of chariot wheels, roar of lions, lowings of cows and bullocks, neighings of horses, trumpeting of elephants, cacklings of geese, hootings of owls, and the pleasant conversation of persons going to the palace of a king, should be regarded as lucky sights and sounds by a physician on his way (to the house of a patient).
Similarly, harmonious melodies of birds chirping on the boughs of healthy Kshira trees, bent under the weight of fruit, and looking gladsome with their dowry of beautiful blossoms and foliage, or notes of birds perched on the terraces of palace towers or on the tops of banner poles singing melodiously, or birds following the messenger with their songs or singing seated from the auspicious quarters of the heavens, or following him on his left, should be equally regarded as sights and notes of happy foreboding.
A bird, seated on the withered trunk of a blighted or thunder-blasted tree, or on a thorny knoll covered over with creepers, or on ashes or stones, or amidst ordure or husks of grain, or on dried skeletons, and singing in a harsh voice with its head turned towards the blazing or inauspicious quarter of the sky, should be deemed as portending evil.
Similarly, birds, which are possessed of names of masculine terminations are happy omens if seen on the left by a physician on his way to the house of a patient, while birds, on a similar occasion, whose names have feminine endings, are auspicious if seen by him on the right. A dog or a jackal, seen running from the right to the left, is a happy omen, and so is a mongoose or a Chasha bird if seen on the left. A hare, a serpent, or an owl, seen on either side of the road, is an inauspicious sight. The sight and the sound of a Godha or a Krikalasha an animal of of the lizard species ) are both inauspicious.
If a man, other than a messenger of inauspicious character but possessed of features alike unfavourable, should happen to cross the way of a physician, just starting on a professional call, he should be regarded as equally indicative of evil. The sight of a vessel full of Kulutha pulse, or of husks of grain, or of stone, ashes, clay or charcoal, or of oil, is inauspicious. Similarly, the sight of a vessel filled with red mustard or with wine other than which is clear and mild (Prasanna) should be deemed an omen of evil augury.
Similarly, the sight of a parched corpse, or of a withered tree or Palasha branch, is equally inauspicious. A physician, meeting a member of any of the vile or degraded castes or a blind or indigent person, or a man inimically disposed towards him, should consider the character of the disease to be unfavourable.
A gentle, cool and fragrant breeze, blowing from the direction of his destination, should be regarded as an auspicious omen by a physician. A wind, which is hot, dry, and is charged with the fetid exalations of putrid matter, and which blows from the direction of his starting point, should be regarded as an evil omen.
The word “cut,” used by another and accidentally heard by a physician (on his way) to the bed-side of a patient laid up with Granthi (aneurism) or Arvuda (tumour), should be regarded as a good omen; while the term “open”, heard under similar circumstances and in connection with a case of Vidradhi (abscess), or Gulma (abdominal gland), or Udara (ascites), should be regarded as an equally auspicious portent. Similarly, the term “stopped” is commended in a case of dysentery or hemoptysis. Thus the physician should interpret the auguries according to the nature of each individual case.
A curse, imprecation, or wailing like “woe to me”, as well as sobs, groans, reports of defecation or vomiting, the brayings of an ass, the frightened sound of a camel, an obstacle or impediment in the path of a physician, or a sudden breakage, collapse, or the falling of any article from a cupboard, and a sad or dejected spirit of the physician without any assignable cause, should be regarded as evil omens at the time of his starting.
These omens should be observed or attended to at the time of first entering the house of a patient, or at the threshold or within its walls, but not after the physician has once commenced the medical treatment. The sight of a knot of torn hairs, ashes, bones, wood, stone, husks of grain, cotton, thorns, a bedstead with its legs upturned, wine, water, fat, oil, sesamum, dried grass, straw, a eunuch, a deformed person or one with a broken limb, a nude man, or one with a clean shaved head, or clad in a black garment, should be regarded as evil omens by a physician, whether noticed by him at the time of starting or after getting into a sick room. Pots or utensils placed in pendent brackets, and found to be spontaneously moving about without any definite cause, as well as any other fallen articles digged in, smashed in or thrown out of the sick-room; a physician sitting dejected and gathered up in his seat, and the patient sitting with a downcast face, or pricking his body or at the bed clothes while talking with the physician, or shaking his hands, back or head, or taking hold of or placing the hands of the physician in his own, or on his breast, or interrogating the physician with an up-turned face, or pressing his own limbs, when he is interrogated by the physician in return, should be considered as unfavourable signs.
The patient, in whose house a physician is not duly honoured, can never rally. The due honouring of a physician leads to a speedy recovery. A messenger of good omen forebodes the favourable termination of a disease, while the contrary is indicated by a messenger of the opposite type. Hence a physician shall carefully observe the ominous character of a messenger (despatched to seek his aid).
Now I shall describe the dreams, which either being dreamt by the patient, or by his relations, portend fatal or a successful close of the malady. The patient, who dreams of going towards the south on the back of an elephant, or on that of any carnivorous animal, or of riding on a boar or on a buffalo, or sees himself carried towards the quarter by a dark woman with dishevelled hair and clad in a blood-red garment—laughing and dancing, soon meets his doom. A dream by a patient that members of vile castes have been drawing him southward, or that ghosts or anchorites have been embracing him, or that savage beasts with diabolical faces have been smelling his head, predicts that his earthly days are numbered, while such dreams occurring in a healthy subject indicate an impending disease.
Similarly, the patient, who dreams of drinking oil or honey, or of diving into a bed of dank or oozy slime, or of laughing and dancing mud-besplattered, is at the threshold of death. A dream of having entwined a wreath of red flowers round one’s head, though otherwise nude or stripped of clothes, or of seeing reeds, bamboos, or palm trees growing on his chest, portends the impending death of a patient. On the other hand, such dreams, occurring in a healthy subject, forebode the advent of disease. Likewise; the patient, who dreams of being eaten up by fish, or who fancies himself again entering into the womb of his mother, or thinks he is falling from the summit of a mountain or into a dark and dismal cave, or as being carried away by the current of a river, or assailed and overwhelmed by a pack of crows, is already a doomed being. The dream of a clean shaved head, or of falling stars, or of dying lamp light, or of the extraction of one’s own eyes, or of shaking divine images, or of earthquakes, purgings, vomitings or falling out of one’s own teeth, is always fatal. The patient, who dreams of climbing a Shalmali, Kinsuka, or Pari-bhadra tree, or of ascending an ant-hill or a funeral pyre, or of witnessing himself bound to a sacrificical stake, or of receiving or eating, cotton, levigated sesamum paste, iron, salt, sesamum, boiled rice, or drinking oil or wine (Sura), as the case may be, should consider himself as a doomed being, while such dreams in a healthy subject indicate the impending attack of a disease.
A dream should be regarded as ineffectual which is quite in conformity with the physical temperament of the dreamer (such as, one of scaling the heavens by a person of Vataja temperament; one of seeing a blazing fire, a flash of lightning, or a meteor-fall by a man of Pittaja temperament; and one of witnessing reservoirs of water, etc. by a man of Kaphaja temperament] as well as one which has been forgotten or followed by another of an auspicious type or is the outcome of premeditated thought like one dreamt in the day time.
A fever patient dreaming of friendship with a dog, a consumptive one dreaming of making friends with a monkey or a monster; a hysteric patient who dreams of making friendship with a ghost; a Prameha or dysentery patient dreaming of drinking water; a leper dreaming of drinking oil, or a Gulma patient dreaming of a tree grow-on his belly, should count his days as numbered. A person afflicted with any disease of the head, and dreaming of a tree growing on his head, or one suffering from vomiting and dreaming of eating sesamum cakes; or an asthma patient, or a person, afflicted with thirst, dreaming of making a journey on foot; or a jaundice patient dreaming of eating a food prepared with turmeric; or a person suffering from hemoptysis and dreaming of drinking blood, should be considered as about to depart this life. A patient having had any of the aforesaid dreams, under the circumstances, should get up in the morning and make a gift of Masha-pulse, sesamum, iron and gold to the Brahmanas, and repeat the blessed Tripada Gayatri (Mantras.)
Having dreamt a bad dream in the first watch of the night, a person should meditate upon a holy or auspicious subject, and then lie down again with all his senses fully controlled, and repeat the Mantras sacred to any of the gods. An evil dream should not be related to another. The dreamer of the dream should reside in a holy temple for three consecutive nights, and worship the deity with the most fervent devotion, whereby its evil effects would become nullified.
Now we shall describe the dreams, which are of auspicious nature. Members of the twice born castes, gods, cows, bullocks, kings, one’s own living friends and relations, a blazing fire, a Brahmana, or a sheet of clear water seen in a dream by a healthy person predict or predicts to him a pecuniary gain in the near future, while such dreams occurring in a diseased person indicate a speedy recovery of the disease he has been suffering from. Similarly, dreams of meat, fish, garlands of white flowers, cloths and fruit predict a gain or a speedy cure, as the case may be.
Dreams of ascending the terrace of a royal palace, of climbing a tree or a hill, or of riding an elephant predict similar results as above. A dream of one’s sailing over a river, pool or sea of turbid water predicts a money gain or cure, according as one is healthy or diseased. A dream of having been bit or stung by a serpent, by leeches, or by a bee, indicates bliss or cure, according to one’s good or bad health at the time. The man, who usually gets such auspicious dreams, should be looked upon as a long-lived man, and may be unhesitatingly taken under medical treatment by a physician.
Thus ends the twenty-ninth Chapter of the Sutrasthana in the Sushruta Samhita, which deals with favourable or unfavourable prognosis from messengers, birds, omens etc.
Footnotes / commentary:
A Pashanda messenger should be despatched to call in a physician where a member of the same community would fall ill; a householder, in the case of a patient of the same social order; a Brahmana, in the case of a Brahmana patient, and so on; while an infringement of the rule would be looked upon as an evil omen.
A messenger, visiting a physician in the afternoon or during a heavy rain or storm, or at a time when the vital wind is naturally disturbed and agitated, indicates an unfavourable prognosis.
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