Sushruta Samhita, volume 2: Nidanasthana

by Kaviraj Kunja Lal Bhishagratna | 1911 | 37,609 words

This current book, the Nidana-sthana (english translation), is the second part of this voluminous medical work. It deals with diseases: their prognosis, their cause, their symptoms and their pathogenesis (development of the disease). The Sushruta Samhita is the most representative work of the Hindu system of medicine. It embraces all that can poss...


In the introduction of the first volume of our translation of the Susruta-Samhita we have attempted to place before the public a correct interpretation of Vayu, Pitta and Kapha, the falsely so-called humours of the body[1] and it is a great pleasure to us, that our pronouncement has been very kindly accepted. In the introduction of the present volume we would draw the attention of the readers to the fact that Ayurveda is not at all an encyclopedic work,—an Encyclopedia of the Indian system of Medicine in all its departments, but it is the Science of Life entire.

Though it is customary and convenient to group apart such phenomena as are termed mental and such of them as are exhibited by men in society, under the heads of Psychology and Sociology, yet it must be allowed that there are no absolute demarcations in Nature, corresponding to them, and so in the entire Science of Life, psychology and sociology are inseparably linked with Anatomy and Physiology, nay, more, with Pathology and Hygiene and above all with Treatment. In short the Biological Sciences must deal with whatever phenomena are manifested by living matter in whatever condition it is placed. Life in health (sukhayuḥ) as well as Life in disease (duḥkhayuḥ), therefore, fall within the scope of Biology—even life exhibited by man in Society (hitahitaṃ) is not exempted from it.

hitāhitaṃ mukhaṃ duḥkhamāyustasya hitāhitam |
mānañca tacca yatroktamāyurvedaḥ sa ucyate ||
      caraka, shlokasthan, १ ma adhyaya |

In calling Ayurveda, therefore, the entire Science of Life, we are not guided by any prejudice of our own, but we rely solely on facts and figures, and these, when closely studied, will lead any one to arrive at the same conclusion, not unlike our own and to interpret Ayurveda as a collection of Biological Sciences in all departments. In the first place, for the guidance of our readers, we will mention that the name Ayurveda itself is a strong evidence in favour of its being called the Science of Life. Secondly, we will refer to the arrangement of the subject-matter in the Sharira-sthana which is popularly believed to be the anatomical portion of the book, as tending to the same conclusion. In this section, chapters on Midwifery and Management of Infants follow close to the heels of those on Anatomy and Physiology, and these latter again are immediately preceded by chapters on Psychology. This intermixture is certainly an anomaly and can in no wise be satisfactorily explained unless we have to look upon these as general truths of Biology, elucidated by the Introduction of special truths exclusively collected from the science of medicine—bhiṣagādiṣu saṃsārya sandarśitāni |. To. call it Descriptive Anatomy or Physiology, in the modern sense of the term is simply ridiculous. The absence of any reference to brain and spinal cord, to pancreas and heart, in a book of Anatomy and Physiology is unpardonable and in the Sharira-sthana we feel this absence almost to despondency. Moreover, in western medical science, Grey’s Ana- tony and Kirke’s Physiology, for instance, in their bulk, exceeds, each, more than a thousand of pages and to present to the public, under the same name less than half a dozen of pages, as the result of Indian wisdom, is certainly a very miserable contrast—a contrast that is calculated to inspire no admiration, but, on the contrary, to generate in scientific minds an universal apathy, at least an apathy towards all that is connected with the system of Indian Medicine. In order to save our venerable Rishis from this disastrous plight, we announce here foremost of all, that our beloved Science of Ayurveda is by no means an Encyclopedic work, but distinctly possesses every characteristic that marks the Science of Biology. The very name Ayurvada indicates that it is actually a science of Ayus and the word Ayus is used here in the same sense as Mr. Herbert Spencer understands by his remarkable definition of Life.

In his masterly classification Mr. Herbert Spencer has, in his Biology, given, indeed, the first place to Anatomy and Physiology, but still it is divested of any elaborate chapters dealing with the subjects.

In the science of Life a short reference to the structures of the body or its functions is quite sufficient to illustrate its principles, and if we fail to find therein any discourse on the descriptive Anatomy and Physiology, we still consider that there is nothing amiss.

But unfortunately the fate of Ayurveda is otherwise. Though the very name indicates that it is Biology pure and simple, still it is denounced for its dificiencies (deficiencies?) in Anatomy and Physiology, and doomed for ever.

Sanskrit words are notorious for their confusion of meanings, but, as regards Ayurveda there exists no difference of opinion, at least, so far as the first word is concerned. Ayus is Ayus everywhere in Ayurveda and it is the only fault our venerable Rishis may be reasonably charged with, that they did not put themselves into any great trouble to explain Ayus, but, on the contrary, unlike scientific men, misspent their energy to ascertain the significance of the insignificant portion of Ayurveda, that is the meanings of the root “Vida,” in the light of Grammar.

The scientific ear, ever unsatisfied with these grammatical eruditions, has ultimately thrust an Encyclopedic value upon what is properly speaking, a book of Biology. Of course, there is a marked difference between the two. An ordinary treatise on Biology deals with the general truths of life, and does not represent, by way of illustrations, all its special truths, nor their practical sides, but so far as Ayurveda is concerned, the general truths of Biology are thrown into the background and the special truths, gleaned exclusively from the science of medicine, are given great prominence (bhiṣagadiṣu), so much so, that it is now regarded as a system of Medicine and Surgery which has neither Biology, nor Anatomy, nor Physiology, nor Pathology—but is a systematised Empiricism or Quackery. This is certainly a great misfortune. Apart from the name, the arrangement of the subject, to which we have just referred, at least, in the section of Sharira-sthana (the falsely so-called Anatomy of the Hindus),—is a direct contradiction to its bieng considered as an Encyclopedic work. The existence of the chapters on midwifery and management of infants in the same, following immediately the chapters on Anatomy, serves as a strong additional evidence thereof. It is an anomaly no doubt, that Midwifery has been offered a place in the section of Anatomy, but the confusion does not get at all confounded, if we are led to believe that the science of generation of a superior race (if we are at all permitted to use the term) forms, indeed, an important department of Practical Biology.

From whatever standpoint we look to the question, we find there are grounds to lead any one to pronounce in our favour and to come to the conclusion at which we now venture to arrive. Besides these two important facts, we now cite the following passage as a strong internal evidence in favour of our view. Maharshi Punarvasu, after giving us a short table of the principal structures of the human body, remarks that even this reference is considered by many as superfluous, on the ground, that an acquaintance with the molecular construction of an organism is quite sufficient to help us as a reliable guide to treatment.

The passage referred to is quoted below:—

eke tadubhayamapi na vikalpayante prakṛtibhāvāccharirasya |”

Now we ask the reader if this is not a sufficient evidence, proving to the hilt, that Ayurveda is nothing but Biology and that we run no risk of committing a grave omission if the chapter on Anatomy is wholesale dispensed with from Ayurveda. For the improvement of this awkward position—that in the section of Anatomy there should be no Anatomy—the entire credit is due to Susruta, as he has very wisely made the suggestion, that a knowledge of the anatomical structures of the body is of great value, at least so far as it

helps the Surgeons and the Surgeons only in their operations.[2] But so far as Biology is concerned with medicine, Susruta does not forget to lay particular stress on the knowledge of the molecular construction of the body. The following memorable passages actually preached by this renowned Surgeon, some three hundred centuries ago, still stands as a model from which modern Science, even in its present advancement, can draw inspirations.

He says:—

1. na śakyaścakṣuṣā draṣṭuṃ dehe sūkṣmatamo vibhuḥ |
dṛśyate jñānacakṣurbhistapaścakṣurbhireva ca ||
śarire caiva śāstre ca dṛṣṭārthaḥ syādviśāradaḥ |
dṛṣṭaśrutābhayāṃ sandehamavāpohyācaret kriyāḥ ||

2. tasmānniḥsaṃśayaṃ jñānaṃ hartrā śalyasya vāñcatā |
śodhayitvā mṛtaṃ samyag draṣṭavyayo'ṅgaviniścayaḥ ||
pratyakṣato hi yad dṛṣṭaṃ śāstradṛṣṭañca yadbhavet |
samāsatastadubhayaṃ bhūyo jñānavivardhanam ||

That is, the protean work of the protoplasm in which the great Self resides cannot be detected by the body’s eye; to know its work, mind’s eye is necessary, along with the body’s eye. For acquiring efficiency in Surgery alone, the dissection of dead body (not of living body as proclaimed by Herophilus), nay, the Avagharshana which brings into view the layers of the epidermis and the dermis, the number and branches of blood-vessels and nerves that lie embedded in muscles, etc, is only necessary. Professor Michael Foster’s remarks in his article on Physiology in the Encyclopedia Britannica, to all appearnces, are just in the same line, if not identical with our extract, when he says “that the problem of Physiology, in the future, is largely concerned in arriving by experiment and inference, by the mind’s eye, and not by the body’s eye alone, assisted, as that may be, by lenses yet to be introduced at a knowledge of the molecular construction of the protean protoplasm; of the laws according to which it is built up and the laws according to which it breaks down; for these laws when ascertained will clear up the mysteries of the protean work which the protoplasm does.”

In short the knowledge of the molecular construction of the body is just the thing with which Biology is concerned, and such is the unanimous verdict both in the East as well as in the West, in the most ancient and in the most modern Sciences of the world. Now, if the ‘knowledge of the molecular construction of the protoplasm, of the laws according to which it is built up, and the laws according to which it breaks down,’ is all that is necessary for an accurate knowledge of Anatomy and Physiology, our Ayurveda is pre-eminently the Science we want.

The following extracts, from Charaka Samhita, are cited here to prove that we are quite justified in our contention,

1. śarirāvayavāstu paramāṇubhedenāparisaṃkhyayā bhavanti—teṣāṃ saṃyogavibhāge vāyuḥ kāraṇam | karma svabhāvaśceti |

2. śarirasaṃkhyāṃ yo veda sarvāvayavaśo bhiṣak |
tadajñānanimittena sa mohena na yujyate ||

That is, the body is composed of molecules and these are said to be numberless, because no body can count them up. By their union, they build up the body, and this union is governed by three Laws, viz., the Laws of Vayu, Karma and Svabhava (which are almost equivalent to the three Biological Laws, i. e., the law of heredity, the law of external relations and the law of molecular motion caused by Ethereal vibrations compared with which nerve-impulses—akin to electric force,—are grosser and coarser shocks). So far we think we have proved that Ayurveda, as a Biology is not defective, if it contains no descriptive Anatomy and Physiology—descriptive in the same sense as Grey’s Anatomy or Kirke’s Physiology is. Its Histiology is molecular; its Pathology is molecular; its Physiology is molecular. Molecular in every sense is the Biology of the Hindus. Virtually speaking, Ayurveda is our Science of Life, and we will presently shew that Life and Ayus are identical.

The continuous adjustment of molecules, their successive breaking down and building up within an organised living body, without destroying its identity, is the definition of Ayus as suggested by Maharshi Punarvasu.

He says

śarirendriyasatvātmasaṃyogo dhāri jivitam |
nityagaścānubaddhaśca paryāyairāyurucyate ||

In another place the same definition is repeated with a slight modification and in this he enumerates cetananuvṛttiḥ, (consciousness) as the most distinctive characteristic of Ayus. According to this definition, sharirendriyasatvatmasaṃyogaḥ and cetananuvṛttiḥ refer to an organised living body; nityagaḥ and anuvandhaḥ are identical with processes of breaking down and building up of the organism without destroying its identity. The idea of continuous adjustment is included also in these two words.

So we find, the definition of Ayus, as sugessted by Punarvasu, includes more than what is proposed in Mr. Herbert Spencer’s definition of Life. The words and jivita,as explained by the great annotator Chakrapani, represent two more distinct phases of Life, the first bearing upon the cistence(existence?) in the system of a preventive factor of putrefaction, the second poiting(pointing?) to the agent or agents hat adjit(?) the internal relations by deli(?)catetouches, which professor Mic(????) Foster speaks of as “continuously passing from protoplas(???) protoplasm and compared with which the nervous imp(???) (which are perhaps electrical in nature(???) are rosser and coarser shocks.” N(???) this last epithet, viz., “civitaṃ,” as explained by Chakrapani—“(?) jivayati praṇan”—furnishes us with a clue to(?) determine what Ayus (ayuḥ) actually means.

Our Sacred Upanishads now come forwards to our relief and tell us, in the first place “ayuḥ praṇaḥ,” i.e., Ayu and Prana are one and the same principle. In the second place, “yaḥ praṇaḥ sa vayuḥ”, i.e., Prana and Vayu are identical. In the third place, “sa eṣa evayaṃ vayurakashenananyaḥ”, i.e., Vayu is not unlike Ether. In the fourth place, “kha(khaṃ?) puraṇavayuraṃ(?)”, i.e., primitive fluid according to Lord Kelvin )s(?) divided into two parts, viz., one without motion, another edued(endued?) with motion. In the fifth place, “sarvamityakashe”, i.e., everything in this world are waves of this Ether enduced with motion. In the sixth place, “vayurvava saṃvargaḥ” “vayureva deveṣu, pra(ṇaḥ?) praṇeṣu”, i e., Vayu is the universal store of energy; in the Physical world it is known by the name of Vayu; in the Living world it is called under a different name and that name is Prana (praṇaḥ)

From the above short tab we come to know that the agent that adjusts the intern, relations to external relations, is Ayus and that Ayus is Lift and that Life is a motion of the great etherial fluid which is known in Sanskrit as “kha(kha?)” and that “vayuraṃ (?) kh(??)” is the sum of all the various energies—biological and abiological—which under the name of heat, light, electricity or consciousness, etc., manifest themselves both in the Physical as well as in the Metaphysical

world, and that Prana (praṇaḥ) is another name of the same force that, in acting on an aggregated living body, divides itself into five distinct forces, viz., Prana, Apana, Samana, Udana, and Vyana, and subserves the functions of correlation (vayuḥ) and sustentation (pittaṃ) and controls oxidation (shleṣma). So Prana continuously helps to adjust, like the main-spring of a watch, the internal relations to the external relations. We are indebted to the master mind of Sankara for his able exposition of the functions of this main-spring, that is, of the etherial vibrations (vayupraṇaḥ) as transformed into the vital force in an organised body. We quote below what he says about it in his celeberated commentary on the Vedanta Darsana.

vāyurevā'yamadhyātmamāpannaḥ pañcavyūho viśeṣātmanā'vatiṣṭhamānaḥ prāṇo nāma bhaṇyate na tattvāntaraṃ nā'pi vāyumātram | ataścobhe api bhedābhedaśruti na virudhyete |२|४|?|

That is, the primitive fluid that is endued with motion in its evolution of Life gets knotted into five divisions, viz, Prana, Apana, Samana, Udana and Vyana, and this acting on any aggregated living matter is called Prana. So what we call Prana is not the Vayu itself, but a particular mode of its motion. Hence the question of identity and non-identity is a matter of choice. Shortly speaking, this is the Biology of the Hindus. This too is the sum and substance into which (as a department of Biology), Physiology unfolds itself.

This too evidently serves as the line of demarcation between sukhayuḥ and duḥkhayuḥ, hitayuḥ and ahitayuḥ. From this too Health and Disease, Hygiene and Treatment, Psychology and Sociology have all their origin and start. In fact, Biology forms the basis upon which the great edifice of the Indian Medical Science, as a collateral branch, has been developed. The general truths of Biology a e all there in the Ayurveda; but the special truths from medicine have been given so great a prominence that the real character of the book has been over shadowed and it has been transformed into a Science of Medicine.

*               *               *               *               *               *               *

With a view to convey to the minds of our readers an idea of the different branches of the Medical Science which developed as a collateral branch of this great Science of Life, we would here touch upon a few of them in passing.

Magnetism had formed its way into the therapeutics of the ancient Hindus and animal magnetism was very extensively practised in India long before they were recognised by Mesmer in Germany and subsequently by John Elliotson in England.

The Indian writers on Medical Science of the good old days have described in length the medicinal properties of the waters of the principal rivers, lakes, water-falls and mineral springs of the country that were known at the time and their respective curative powers as applied to various ailments that human flesh is heir to. This goes a long way to establish the fact that Hydropathy was known in India long before it was even dreamt of in the Western world.

The ancient Hindu sages from time immemorial had been cognizant of the benefits of massage and shampooing and taken to practising them. Whereas, it is but of late that the advantages of these methods have begun to be appreciated by the Western Medical School and it no longer hesitates to acknowledge them as efficacious therapeutic agents.

The Science of begetting healthy and beautiful children, which is just beginning to receive attention in other countries was not unknown to the ancient Hindus, and Manu in his Manava-dharma-Shastra has laid down special injunctions which still form an integral part of the domestic life of the orthodox section of the community. As a matter of fact, they knew that mental impressions of the parents at the time of conception exercise a great influence over the future destiny of the child in embryo.

Thus we read in the Shastras:—

“A woman, though at a distance, conceives a child of the shape of the person she loves ardently and thinks of at the time. Just as a tree that grows is not different from the parent tree whether we plant a branch or sow a seed, so the main features of the child partake of the features of its father, though there might be slight changes due to the soil.”

The subtle soul co-operates with the Manas (the mind); the mind co-operates with the senses; the senses perceive objects all this takes place in little or no time. The above is the connection between the soul and objects around us. What is there which the mind cannot comprehend? Therefore, wherever the mind enters, the soul follows it.

“The soul being subtle, whenever it enters another soul, requires some time and an effort of the mind to know the latter. The soul, which intensely meditates on an object, assumes the shape of that object.” etc, etc.

In a book entitled Bhoja-Prabandha being a collection of the anecdotes realating to the reign of Bhoja Raja, by Pandita Ballala there is narrated the detail of an interesting surgical operation which had been performed on the Raja, who was suffering from an excruciating pain in the head. All the medical aid obtaining at the same time was availed of, but in vain and his condition became quite critical when two brother physicians accidentally arrived in Dhar, who were duly called in. These physicians, after carefully examining the patient, held that unless surgically treated no relief could possibly be afforded to the Royal patient. Accordingly they administered an anesthetic called Sammohini with a view to render him insensible and, when completely under the influence of the drug, they trephined his skull, removed the malignant portion of the brain, the actual seat of the complaint, closed and stitched up the opening and applied a healing balm to the wound.


Then they administered a restoration known as Sanjivani to the patient, who, thereupon, regained consciousness and felt quite at ease. This incident (as narrated by Thakur Saheb of Gondal in his Short History of Aryan Medical Science) goes to prove that the attendant physician of Buddha, is likewise recorded to have practised cranial surgery writh the greatest success. Instances of successful cases of abdominal section are also not rare. Thus it will appear that the ancient Indians knew and successfully practised surgical operations which are regarded now-a-days as the greatest triumphs of modern surgery. The purpose of chloroform in the palmy days of yore was used to be served by Sammohini, but there is hardly a drug known to modern Pharmacopeias, corresponding whith Sanjivani which certainly lessens the chances of deaths that at present sometimes occur under anaesthetics.

Let them, who allege that the Hiudu system of the healing Art is unscientific, now pause and reflect ere they make such an unwarranted and irresponsible assertion. How can a system which contains so accurate an account of the unions of bones and ligaments, anastomoses of nerves, veins and arteries, etc, and which assures the world of the existence of three crores and a half of veins and arteries in the human body giving facts and figures thereof with such mathematical precision, be regarded as being unscientific?

It is certainly an undeniable fact that one of the colossal achievements of modern Western Medical Science is its Anatomy; but the point at issue is whether the process of laying open the structures of the body with the lancets, is at all a satisfactory method. For, is it not a fact that the finest and the minutest arteries of the skin are never disclosed, if the scalpel is used so recklessly to remove the skin all at once and not allowed to go deeper into the muscles to expose the minute branches of blood vessels and nerves that may happen to lie embedded therein? But, on the contrary, look at the process promulgated by Susruta for demonstrating practical Anatomy! Its originality and perfection beats hollow all the known methods, although it was discovered in almost the pre-historic age. The process prescribed by the Hindu system is as follows:—Cover a dead body with Kusa grass and place it at the edge of the water of a rivulet. After three days take it out carefully, and gradually take off the succesive layers of the epidermis and dermis and of the muscles beneath by gently and lightly rubbing it over with a soft brush. Thus the smallest and the thinnest arteries, which have by this time swelled and obtained a distinct existence are made palpable everywhere even to the minutest.

The process is termed, as we have pointed before, Avagharshana by Susruta. The Western method might be an easier and a more off-hand one, but by no means precise.

Though the merit of discovering this mode of direction is due to Susruta, we are all blind to it and call Hippocrates the father of Medicine! It is generally believed that with a view to further his researches and perfect his knowledge, it is Hippocrates who inaugurated the system of dissection of dead human bodies and he did the work secretly. Credulous people may lend a willing ear to such assertions but the fact is, that it was not till a century later that Hirophilus openly resorted to dissection of human bodies and thereby earned an undying fame in Europe, obliterating Susruta’s name for ever, though, virtually speaking, he (Susruta) was the pioneer of dissection and figured in the world more than a millenium before the advent of Hippocrates and over eleven centuries prior to the age of Herophilus.

It would not, perhaps, be out of place here to mention that Dr. A. F. R. Hoernle, M. A, F. R. S, C. I. E., Ph. D., in his recent publication on Hindu Osteology, has proved it to the hilt, how systematic, scientific, unerring and exact were the researches of the ancient Hindus and what a mine of resplendent truths lay imbedded in them! We, in our Introduction of the first volume of this work, have tried to prove how very superb, salutary and supremely happy was the theory of Vayu, Pitta, and Kapha promulgated by Susruta. There we have incidentally mentioned that the Science of Embryology was not unknown to the Hindu sages. In the present volume we mean to prove to a point that the main principles promulgated in the Anatomy, the Physiology and the Pathology of Susruta yield in no way to the principles on those subjects included by the modern Western Scientists and investigators. On the other hand, we boldly affirm that in the theories propounded by Susruta some two thousand years back there lies a fund of truths which might well throw a flood of light on the field of labour of the modern scientific men of the West. For is it not a fact that the theories of Vamana (causing to eject the contents of the stomach by mouth), Virecana (causing the evacuation of the intestines), Nasya (causing to inhale through the nose), Anuvasana and Asthapana which, in ancient India, had earned the appellation of Panca-Karma, and had gained universal prevalence, and were extensively practised by oriental physicians from time immemorial, have, of late, been hailed by the medical authorities of the day as the most approved and commended mode of treatment.

Sceptics who care nor to examine and weigh solid facts, bluntly allege that the Ayurvedic system is not based upon experiment and observation—the key stone of all true Science, and such being the case its Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology and Therapeutics are all erroneous. The suggestion, cruel and baseless as it is, originally emanated from an eminent Indian physician who has earned an unenviable reputation by writing a Treatise on Hindu Materia Medica. He says:—“It (the Ayurvedic system) is built not so much upon experiment and observation as upon an erroneous system of Pathology and Therapeutics.” But such an expression would not stand the light of day. Indeed none but the ancient Hindu sages did set a high value on experiment and observation, and where they did not claim some occult knowledge or intuition, it is upon these two that they mainly based all their knowledge.

The Materia Medica of the Hindus is really a marvel. Its description of the properties of drugs belonging to the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms, and of the articles of food essential to the maintenance of health and strength, its selection of the specific dietaries and elimination of what are prohibited in particular ailments are every day being found correct. The European preparations of Indian drugs and diets are corroborative evidence thereof.

The theory adopted by the ancient Hindus as the basis of their investigation is that every substance, whether vegitable or animal, possesses five properties namely,—Rasa, Guna, Virya, Vipaka and Prabhava which lenses alone cannot reveal, nor the body’s eye after observation and experiment made upon rats and rabbits. And those who have opportunities of studying and practising both the Eastern and Western Medical Science assert that the ancient Medical Science of the Hindus once reached the highest standard of excellence and perfection in Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Hygiene and was simply unrivalled and unapproachable, as it blended Philosophy with Science—the mind’s eye with the body’s eye.

A dispassionate examination of these facts (and such as can be multiplied to any extent), will convince an impartial reader that Ayurveda, as we find it described in Charaka Samhita and Susruta Samhita, if approached in a spirit of fairness and enquiry, might reveal the germs of not a few of the marvellous achievement of the present age in the domain of Medical Science and afford to the assiduous student a vast scope and varied materials for comparison between the Eastern and the Western systems, and render material help in improving upon the one with the aid of the other, and this to the benefit of the suffering humanity at large.

Lastly it is our prayer, that if Western Medical Science was ever anywise, directly or indirectly, benefited by the ancient Medical Science of the Hindus, it is but meet and fair that the former should come forward to render all possible aid to her parent Science, and that as it is almost dying now for want of aid and succour we look hopefully to our present benign Government in whose power lies the means of its complete regeneration.

Footnotes and references:


Berdoe says:—

“What is known as the Humoral Pathology formed the most essential part of the system of the Dogmatics. Humoral Pathology explains all diseases as caused by the mixture of the four cardinal humours, viz., the blood, bile, mucus or phlegm and water. Hippocrates first leaned towards it, but it was Plato who devoloped it. The stomach is the common source of all these humours. When diseases develop, they attract humours. The source of the bile is the liver, of the mucus the head, of the water the spleen. Bile causes catarrhs and rheumatism, dropsy depends on the spleen.”

Be it observed that among the humours of Hippocrates there is no place for Vata although in point of fact both his Physiology and Pathology are to be traced to the “Tri-dhatu” of Ayurveda. The secret of this anomaly is that the theory of Vata was found to be a complicated one and Hipprocates, not being able to comprehend its original import, left it out and cautiously introduced, in its stead, his own theory of “water”. Sowe find “Humoral Pathology is not of Indian origin; neither it is the same which the Indian Rishis of Rigveda developed under the name of Tri-dhatu.” It is simply an imitation of Susruta who introduced blood (shoṇitacaturthaiḥ) as the fourth factor in the genesis of diseases. But the borrower, in his interpretation of Susruta, had made a mess of it. He retained blood, but substituted “water” in place of Vata, the most important of the three, for reasons best known to him.


Susruta recommends dissection on dead human bodies and suggests that it is only required of those who will practise surgery and that students of medicine can do without it. Herophilus practised dissection on living bodies and with the object of practising medicine successfully, but it soon fell into disrepute and did not at all influence the art of Medicine. He was condemned even by his own pupil Philinus of cos who declared that all the Anatomy his vivisecting master had taught him had not helped him in the least in the cure of his patients. Such indeed was the fate of vivisection for which Europe now takes pride.

But Susruta’s, Avagharshana is now considered by many as the only perfect mode of dissection ever known. It is with the help of this method of dissection that the layers of epidermis and dermis could be discovered and blood-vessels with their minute branches could be counted to be as many as thirty millions. Not only this, but also in the opinion of several European savants, Susruta still stands as a model of surgery and European surgery has borrowed many things from Susruta and has yet many things to learn.


Vide—Baraha Mihir’s Brihat Samhita Book, II. Chapter lxxv Verses 1-3.

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