Bhesajjakkhandhaka (Chapter on Medicine)

by Hin-tak Sik | 2016 | 121,742 words

This study deals with the ancient Indian Medicine (Ayurveda) in Early Buddhist Literature and studies the Bhesajjakkhandhaka and the Parallels in other Vinaya Canons. The word Bhesajja means “medicine” and is the sixth chapter of the Khandhaka, which represents the second book of the Pali Vinaya Pitaka. Other works consulted include the Bhaisajya-s...

All extant Chapters on Medicine comprise data on fruit-medicines. The items of fruitmedicine recorded in various Chapters on Medicine (except the Mahīśāsaka Bhaiṣajyadharmaka which does not list any items) are almost identical. These fruit-medicines therefore probably would have been popularly used and would have played a significant role as medicine in the Buddhist communities in ancient India.

Theravāda:—“… the fruit medicines [are]: the false black pepper,[1] long pepper, black pepper, yellow myrobalan, beleric myrobalan, emblic myrobalan, goṭhaphala (fruit of dhaman, bristly luff, or emetic nut?),[2] or whatever other fruit medicines there are; neither they serve as hard food among the hard food, nor as soft food among the soft food. Having accepted them, [one has] to take care of [them] for the duration of one's life, [and] to use[them] when there is a reason.”[3]

Dharmaguptaka:—“Then there was a sick monk. The physician instructed [him] to consume yellow myrobalan. The Buddha said: ‘[I] allow a sick monk, with a reason, to consume yellow myrobalan for the duration of one’s life.’”[4] “At that time there was a sick monk. The physician instructed [him] to consume beleric myrobalan. The Buddha said: ‘[I] allow consuming [it].’ The physician instructed [him] to use emblic myrobalan. The Buddha said: ‘[I] allow using [it]. If a monk has a reason of sickness, [he can] use [them] for the duration of his life.’ At that time there was a sick monk. The physician instructed [him] to take false black pepper.[5] The Buddha said: ‘[I] allow a monk with a reason of illness to take [it] for the duration of his life.’ At that time [there was] a sick monk. The physician instructed [him] to consume fruit-medicine. The Buddha said: ‘[I] allow consuming [it]. If it is not [used as] ordinary food, a monk with a reason of illness should use [it] for the duration of one’s life.’”[6] “At that time [there was] a sick monk. The physician instructed [him] to use long pepper. The Buddha said: ‘A monk with a reason of illness is allowed to use [it] for the duration of one’s life.’”[7]

Mahīśāsaka:—“The Buddha said: ‘All root-medicines are allowed for consumption, so are the fruit-medicines.’”[8]

Sarvāstivāda:—“Five kinds of fruit-medicine: yellow myrobalan, beleric myrobalan, emblic myrobalan, black pepper, long pepper. [They are] for one’s whole life, [and one can] stay with them in the same room overnight.”[9]

Mūlasarvāstivāda (Sanskrit):—“Fruit-medicine is: yellow myrobalan, emblic myrobalan, beleric myrobalan, black pepper, [and] long pepper; or, furthermore, another [fruit which] serves for the need of fruit-medicine [but] not for the need of food.”[10]

Mūlasarvāstivāda (Chinese):—“Fruit-medicines are yellow myrobalan, emblic myrobalan, beleric myrobalan, black pepper, [and] long pepper. If there are others belonging to this category, [they] should be used in accordance with the preceding[teaching].”[11]

Mahāsāṃghika[12] :—“The Buddha said: ‘From today onward, [I] allow a sick monk to use yellow myrobalan.’”[13] “Medicines for the duration of one’s life are: yellow myrobalan, beleric myrobalan, emblic myrobalan, long pepper, black pepper, … changshou guo 長壽果 (jīvantī?), xianren guo 仙人果 (?), ru guo 乳果 (kṣīrī?), douse guo 豆色果 (?), boluoxiduo guo 波羅悉多果 (parūṣaka?), panna guo 槃那果 (panasa, i.e. jackfruit?)...”[14]

There are many fruits named in the Vinayas which are for use as edible foods or for making drinks. For use as medicines throughout one’s whole life, five are most common: yellow myrobalan, beleric myrobalan, emblic myrobalan, long pepper, and black pepper. False black pepper is also mentioned in the Theravāda Bhesajjakkhandhaka and the Dharmaguptaka Bhaiṣajyaskandhaka. The exact species of several fruits in the above translated passages, however, are not certain.

There are explanations on certain fruits in the Shanjian lüpiposha:

“Yellow myrobalan is as large as a date fruit [and] it tastes sour and bitter. Consumption [of it] helps evacuation. Beleric myrobalan is like a peach in shape [and] its taste is sweet. Consumption [of it] can cure coughing. Emblic myrobalan–this is yuganzi 餘甘子 [in Chinese]. The land of Guangzhou has it. Its shape is as large as ruizi 蕤子 (hedge prinsepia nut).”[15]

Large sections of information on fruits are found in the classical Āyurvedic treatises. Numerous fruits are used as remedial objects, as reported in Caraka Saṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 1. 80-86, Suśruta Saṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 38, and Aṣṭāṅga Hṛdaya Saṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 6. 153-159, 161-162. They also form a major group of food materials, as described in Caraka Saṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 27. 125-165; Suśruta Saṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 46. 139-210, 223-225; and Aṣṭāṅga Hṛdaya Saṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 6. 115-140. Certain fruits are commonly used therapeutically in Āyurveda, namely, yellow myrobalan, emblic myrobalan, and beleric myrobalan, and they are known as “triphalā” (the group of three fruits).

In medicinal botany, small dry fruits (often mistaken as seeds) are most commonly used among various fruits. Dried whole fruits or specified parts (e.g. peel) can be used (van Wyk and Wink 2004, 16).

The following table summarises the fruits which were used as medicines throughout one’s whole life as mentioned in the Chapters on Medicine:

  Original name English name Botanical name
Theravāda vilaṅga false black pepper Embelia ribes
pippala long pepper Piper longum
marica black pepper Piper nigrum
harītaka yellow myrobalan Terminalia chebula
  vibhītaka beleric myrobalan Terminalia bellirica
āmalaka emblic myrobalan Emblica officinalis
goṭhaphala fruit of dhaman, bristly luff, or emetic nut (?) Grewia tiliaefolia, Luffa echinata, or Randia spinosa (?)
Dharmaguptaka 呵梨勒 yellow myrobalan Terminalia chebula
鞞醯勒 beleric myrobalan Terminalia bellirica
阿摩勒 emblic myrobalan Emblica officinalis
蕤羅 false black pepper Embelia ribes
菓藥 fruit-medicines —-
蓽茇椒 long pepper Piper longum
Mahīśāsaka 果藥 fruit-medicines —-
Sarvāstivāda 呵梨勒 yellow myrobalan Terminalia chebula
鞞醯勒 beleric myrobalan Terminalia bellirica
阿摩勒 emblic myrobalan Emblica officinalis
胡椒 black pepper Piper nigrum
蓽芺羅 long pepper Piper longum
Mūlasarvāstivāda
(Sanskrit and Chinese)
harītaka 訶黎勒果 yellow myrobalan Terminalia chebula
āmalaka 菴摩勒果 emblic myrobalan Emblica officinalis
vibhītaka 鞞醯得枳果 beleric myrobalan Terminalia bellirica
marica 胡椒 black pepper Piper nigrum
pippalī 蓽茇 long pepper Piper longum
Mahāsāṃghika 呵梨勒 yellow myrobalan Terminalia chebula
毘醯勒 beleric myrobalan Terminalia bellirica
阿摩勒 emblic myrobalan Emblica officinalis
蓽茇 long pepper Piper longum
胡椒 black pepper Piper nigrum
  長壽果 (jīvantī?) (not available) Leptadenia reticulata (?)
仙人果 ? ?
乳果 (kṣīrī?) (not available) Mimusops hexandra (?)
豆色果 ? ?
波羅悉多果 (parūṣaka?) Asiatic grewia (?) Grewis asiatica (?)
槃那果 (panasa?) jackfruit (?) Artocarpus integrifolia (?)

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

The English name is adopted from Porcher 2004.

[2]:

The term goṭhaphala is explained as a medicinal seed in the Pali-English Dictionary;otherwise it is not identified in any dictionaries or Āyurvedic texts. Horner (in The Book of Discipline IV, 273n2) said that it is dhavana based on Monier-Williams’ claim. Dhavana is dhaman (Grewia tiliaefolia), synonymous with gotraviṭapī and gotrapuṣpaka according to Dash (2008, 250). Mitra (1985, 203) adopted this claim. Zysk (1991, 157n41), on the other hand, suggests that goṭhaphala could be koṭhaphala as found in Caraka Saṃhitā Siddhisthāna 11. 12. It would then be bristly luff (Luffa echinata) (Khare 2007, 385). In the Bhesajjakkhandhaka in the Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana Tipitaka (Version 4. 0), the term is edited as goṭṭhaphala, and in a subcommentary in this canon, the Khuddasikkhā-purāṇaṭīkā of the Khuddasikkhā-Mūlasikkhā (paragraphs 93-95), this term is explained as madanaphala (goṭṭhaphalanti madanaphalanti vadanti). Madana is emetic nut (Randia spinosa) and hence this item may be the fruit of this plant.

[3]:

Theravāda Vinaya Piṭaka I. 201: “... phalāni bhesajjāni vilaṅgaṃ pippalaṃ maricaṃ harītakaṃ vibhītakaṃ āmalakaṃ goṭhaphalaṃ yāni vā pan’ aññāni pi atthi phalāni bhesajjāni, n’ eva khādaniye khādaniyattaṃ pharanti, na bhojaniye bhojaniyattaṃ pharanti, tāni paṭiggahetvā yāvajīvaṃ pariharituṃ, sati paccaye paribhuñjituṃ.”

[4]:

Taishō Tripiṭaka 1428. 866c26-28: “時有病比丘,醫教服呵梨勒,佛言:「聽病比丘有因緣盡形壽服呵梨勒。」”

[5]:

蕤羅 should be vella, which is a synonym of viḍaṅga (Pāli: vilaṅga). The Chinese term, pronounced as ruiluo in Putonghua, would be unidentifiable. If we consider its pronunciation by means of early Middle Chinese which would be close to the Hakkan or Cantonese dialects, it would then be vuilo or wilo in Hakka and would highly suggest the term to be vella.

[6]:

Taishō Tripiṭaka 1428. 867a15-20: “爾時有病比丘,醫教服鞞醯勒,佛言:「聽服。」醫教服阿摩勒,佛言:

「聽服。若比丘有病因緣盡形壽服。」爾時有病比丘,醫教服蕤羅,佛言:「聽比丘有病因緣盡形壽服。」爾時病比丘,醫教服菓藥,佛言:「聽服。若非是常食者,比丘有病因緣盡形壽應服。」”

[7]:

Taishō Tripiṭaka 1428. 867b1-2: “爾時病比丘,醫教服蓽茇椒,佛言:「比丘有病因緣聽盡形壽服。」”

[8]:

Taishō Tripiṭaka 1421. 147b29-c1: “佛言:「一切根藥聽服,果藥亦如是。」”

[9]:

Taishō Tripiṭaka 1435. 194a9-11: “五種果藥:呵梨勒、鞞醯勒、阿摩勒、胡椒、蓽芺羅,盡形壽共房宿。”

[10]:

Gilgit Manuscripts.III. 1.iii: “phalabhaiṣajyam| harītakīmāmalakaṃ vibhītakaṃ maricaṃ pippalī iti| yadvā punaranyadapi phalabhaiṣajyārthāya spharati nāmiṣārthāya|”

[11]:

Taishō Tripiṭaka1448. 1b19-20: “果藥者,謂訶黎勒果、菴摩勒果、鞞醯得枳果、胡椒、蓽茇,若有餘類,准前應用。” The Sanskrit list of fruit-medicines is identical to the Chinese list.

[12]:

There is only a brief mention of one fruit-medicine within the Chapter on Medicine parallel in the Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya. A more detailed list of fruit-medicines is found elsewhere in this Vinaya. These fruits are enumerated here for a better coverage of fruit-medicines recorded in it.

[13]:

Taishō Tripiṭaka 1425. 457b6-7: “佛言:「從今日聽病比丘服呵梨勒。」”

[14]:

Taishō Tripiṭaka 1425. 244c27-29: “盡壽藥者,呵梨勒、毘醯勒、阿摩勒、蓽茇、胡椒、...長壽果、仙人果、乳果、豆色果、波羅悉多果、槃那果...” The latter fruits are difficult to be identified. 長

壽果, literally meaning “long-living fruit,” may be jīvantī, which is Leptadenia reticulata and has no English name. It is a member of the five life-promoting roots (jīvana-pañcamūla). Its fruits were used in the past (Khare 2004, 286-287). 乳果, literally meaning “milk fruit”, may be kṣīrī, which is Mimusops hexandra and also has no English name (Dash 2008,278). 波羅悉多果 may be parūṣaka, which is Asiatic grewia. 槃那果 may be panasa, which is jackfruit. 仙人果 literally means “sage fruit” and 豆色果 means fruit of “bean-colour.” These two are not identifiable.

[15]:

Taishō Tripiṭaka 1462. 795a20-23: “呵羅勒者,如大棗大,其味酢苦,服便利。鞞醯勒者,其形如桃子,其味甜,服能治瘶。阿摩勒者,此是餘甘子也,廣州土地有,其形如蕤子大。”

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