Philosophy of Charaka-samhita

by Asokan. G | 2008 | 88,742 words

Ayurveda, represented by Charaka and Sushruta, stands first among the sciences of Indian intellectual tradition. The Charaka-samhita, ascribed to the great celebrity Charaka, has got three strata. (1) The first stratum is the original work composed by Agnivesha, the foremost of the six disciples of Punarvasu Atreya. He accomplished the work by coll...

Ill-fate of Āyurveda and other sciences

Āyurveda, being a scientific discipline distinct from the higher knowledge, was overlooked even in the past. So the neglect that Āyurveda had undergone must not be looked upon in isolation. It is a part of the disregard that the Indian sciences confronted in general.

One of the main reasons was that parā vidyā was considered as the most celebrated knowledge in early days. “From the view of the enlightened person, knowledge of the phenomenal world is not merely lower (aparā), but also linked with avidyā or root of ignorance”.[1] Muṇdaka Upaniṣad states that aparā vidyā is knowledge concerned with perishable things; while parā vidyā is concerned with the imperishable (akṣara).[2] Jayantabhaṭṭa also refers to the very same notion. He says that, there is no need of the employment of śāstras in empirical matters (dṛṣṭaviṣaya). On the contrary, they are intended for the transcendental knowledge.[3] The undue importance attached to spirituality has to a certain extend, undermined the Indian sciences in the past. The condition of Āyurveda was also not different.

In the later period, during the colonial rule, the direct presence of the Europeans by and large influenced the science and technology in India as in other Asian counties. The homogenizing impact of science and technology of Western origin continued in our country even when other countries like Japan and China have escaped the negative effects of colonial subjugation, retaining their self identity. Another important reason is that English education not only strengthened the hegemonic impact of the language on all branches of learning but also pushed Sanskrit and Sanskrit education to the background. The scientific knowledge in its cultural context could not be acquired unless the classical language like Sanskrit could be studied in depth.[4] More over, “the writings of the English educated historians of science and of the scientists themselves show little or no notable sign of their familiarity with the rich tradition or the development of science in India”.[5]

Even though projects are being carried out to free ourselves from this intellectual bondage, at least some people believe that the theme of Āyurveda is not completely tenable and is not in any way considered as an authentic system of knowledge. This is because the knowledge imparted by the Western sciences is considered the most prestigious, for it is honoured for its practical utility and its usefulness in our day-to-day life. This has led to the belief that the theoretical explanations of Western sciences are factual, logical, and reliable while those of Indian sciences are illogical and dogmatic. But such notions are false and have no relevance.

Footnotes and references:


Ibid., 79.


Mu. U., I, 5. See Supra, p. 2.


See “adṛṣṭasya svargādeḥ śāstraikakāraṇatvaṃ”, Nyāyamañjarī of Jayantabhaṭṭa., Part--I, p. 2.


D.P. Chattopadhyaya, “Science as a Form of Culture”, HSPCIC, Vol. XI, Part -- 2, p. 322.



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