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...

General attributes (sāmānya-guṇas)

With the exception of yukti and abhyāsa all other attributes are found defined in both Vaiśeṣika and Caraka with subtle differences.

  1. superiority (paratva),
  2. inferiority (aparatve),
  3. propriety (yukti),
  4. number (saṃkhyā),
  5. conjunction (saṃyoga),
  6. disjunction (vibhāga),
  7. separateness (pṛthakatva),
  8. measure (parimāṇa),
  9. tendency (saṃskāra),
  10. exercise (abhyāsa).[1]

Caraka construes them taking into consideration their applicability in curative purpose.

Superiority (paratva) and Inferiority(aparatva)

The two attributes, paratva and aparatva, are dealt with together because they are mutually dependent, and serve the purpose of brevity. In Caraka, paratva and aparatva denote superiority or importance and inferiority or unimportance respectively with regard to place, time, age, measure, pāka, potency (vīrya), and taste (rasa).[2] For instance, a dry place is called para and a marshy place is called apara with regard to place. The rainy season (visarga) of early autumn (śarat and hemanta) is para and draught season (ādāna) is called apara with regard to time. In the case of age, taruṇa is para whereas others are called apara. In the case of pāka, vīrya, and rasa, para and apara mean suitability and unsuitability, that is, the thing suitable for a person is called para and the unsuitable is called apara.[3] Actually paratva and aparatva regarding age come under time. It is separately mentioned because it has specific importance in Āyurveda.

In Vaiśeṣika system, paratva and aparatva are conceived as priority and posteriority. Praśastapāda defines them as the basis of the notions of prior and posterior.[4] The later thinkers also do not materially differ from this view.[5] Both the attributes reside in earth, water, fire, air, and mind.[6] They are present only in finite objects.[7] They have a two fold division, caused by space (dikkṛta) and caused by time (kālakṛta). Of them, posteriority and priority, which are due to space, afford notions of a particular direction, and those which are due to time afford notions of age. For instance, when two things exist in the same direction, due to the varied conjunctions, there arises the cognition in the seer regarding one in the form of “it is distant”, when compared to the nearer. Thus, there arises the idea of posteriority. Similarly, there arises the cognition in the form of “it is near” when a thing is compared to a distant object. Thus, there occurs the notion of priority. Similarly, in the elder there arises the apprehension of priority and in the younger there occurs the apprehension of posteriority due to comparison in time.[8] If paratva and aparatva connote priority and posteriority due to time and space in Vaiśeṣika, they refer to superiority and inferiority in Caraka.

Reason (yukti)

Yukti means reasonable selection of medicines with reference to certain diseases.[9]

Number (saṃkhyā)

Saṃkhyā means number (gaṇitaṃ).[10] In Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika, it is conceived as the basis of expressions such as of one, two.[11] Number is cognized by the sense of vision or sense of touch, and it resides in all substances.[12] The number one inhering in one eternal substance is eternal and is ephemeral in ephemeral substances.[13] The plural numbers which begin with two and end with parārtha (100,000,000,000,000,000) are products of our enumerative cognition (apekṣābuddhi) which operates in the form of this is one, this is one.[14]

Conjunction (saṃyoga)

In Caraka, saṃyoga means conjunction. It is an ephemeral relation arising from the action of one, two or more substances to be united.[15]

The Vaiśeṣikas also express more or less the same view.[16] For them, it is conjunction which is instrumental for the notion of two or more things being united.[17] A more simple definition given is that it is a contact of two things which remained separate.[18]

It is regarded as a cause in relation to substance, attribute, and actions,[19] and is divided into three kinds:

  1. conjunction caused by the action of one of the two objects to be united (anyatarakarmaja),
  2. conjunction due to the action of both the things to be united (ubhayakarmaja),
  3. conjunction arising from another conjunction. (saṃyogajasaṃyoga).[20]

Mutual conjunction of all-pervading substances (vibhudravyās) is not accepted, because they have no separate existence.[21] It is also told that conjunction is destroyed by disjunction and also by the destruction of the substance.[22]

Disjunction (vibhāga)

Caraka describes vibhāga as division, separation or disjunction.[23] In Vaiśeṣika it is defined as that which is instrumental for the notion of two things being disunited.[24] It is also divided into three as in the case of conjunction.[25]

Severalty (pṛthakatva)

Pṛthakatva is described by the synonyms non-conjunction (asaṃyoga), distinction (vailakṣaṇyaṃ), and severalty (anekatā).[26] Cakrapāṇi says that this explanation connotes three types of separateness; They are (1) special difference (2) difference of character, and (3) difference of identity due to numerical distinction.[27] In Vaiśeṣika, pṛthaktva is described as the basis of dealing with the separateness of objects.[28] It resides in all substances.[29]

Quantity (parimāṇa)

Parimāṇa means measure.[30] In Carakasaṃhitā it includes not only magnitude but also weight. Vaiśeṣikasalso define it as the basis of all measurements.[31] It resides in all substances. It is divided into four: minute (aṇu), large (mahat), long (dīrgha) and short (hrasva).[32] However, this kind of division given by the Vaiśeṣikas shows that parimāṇa is limited to magnitude and hence it makes a difference to Caraka because there it includes weight also.


Saṃskāra, according to Caraka, refers to the processing for the transformation of attributes by applying water or heat, by cleaning, beating, nurturing and the like.[33] In Vaiśeṣika philosophy saṃskāra means faculty or impulse and it is of three kinds: velocity (vega), mental impression (bhāvanā), and elasticity (sthitisthāpaka).[34]

Velocity resides in all the five finite substances. It causes a series of motions in a particular direction.[35] Mental impression is a specific attribute of the self that causes memory and recognition. It is generated in the self by a forcible knowledge (paṭupratyaya), repeated knowledge (abhyāsapratya), and impressive knowledge (ādarapratyaya). It is counteracted by contrary cognitions, intoxication, and the like.[36] Sthitisthāpaka is the characteristic of a substance to regain the natural shape when the force applied to them ceases.[37] The Mīmāṃsakas divide saṃskāra into two: worldly (laukika) and scriptural (vaidika). The worldly consist of the above-mentioned. Scriptural are those produced by shaping (takṣṇa), purifying (utpavana), sprinkling (prokṣaṇa), beating (avahanana), and the like.[38] Probably it might be the notion of saṃskāra in the Mīmāṃsā that had influenced Caraka in framing his concept of saṃskāra.


Abhyāsa means habit due to constant practice.[39] Saṃskāra and abhyāsa are mutually related and they have high pharmacological value.

Footnotes and references:


CS, Su, XXVI. 29 - 30.


Ibid, 31.


See Cakrapāṇi on ibid.


paratvamaparatvaṃ ca parāparābhidhānapratyayanimittaṃ. Praśastapādabhāṣya., p. 393.


TSA, p. 19; Tarkabhāṣa of Keśavamiśra., p. 203.


TSA, p. 19.


NSMK, p. 367.


ekadikkābhyāṃ ekakālābhyāṃ sannikṛṣṭaviprakṛṣṭābhyāṃ paramaparañca. Vaiśeṣikadarśana., VII. Ii. 21; “kāraṇaparatvāt kāraṇāparatvācca”. Ibid., 22; see also Praśastapādabhāṣya., pp. 393 - 398.


“......yuktiśca yojana yā tu yujyate”, CS, Su, XXVI. 31. “yuktiścetyādau yojana doṣādyapekṣayā bheṣajasya samīcīnakalpanā”, Cakrapāṇi on ibid. Yukti referred to here is quite different from the source of knowledge yukti.




Praśastapādabhāṣya., p. 267; TSA. p. 18.


TSA, p. 18.




dvitvādayaḥ parārthaparyantā apekṣābuddhijā matā. NSMK, p. 400; Saptapadārthi of Śivāditya., p. 27.


“.......yogaḥ saha saṃyoga ucyate dravyāṇāṃ dvantvasarvaikakarmajo-nitya eva ca. CS, Su, XXVI. 32.


M.S. Valiatān says that there is a difference between Vaiśeṣika and CS for the former meant joining things which had remained apart and which could come apart again, while the latter takes it as compounding of substances. LC, p. 6.


saṃyogaḥ saṃyuktapratyayanimittaṃ”, Praśastapādabhāṣya., p. 335; Tarkabhāṣa of Keśavamiśra., p. 201.


aprāptayoḥ prāptiḥ saṃyogaḥ”. Ibid., p. 347; NSMK, p. 413.


Vaiśeṣikadarśana., I. i. 27-30; V. i. 1, 5, 6, 8, 11, 15; X. ii. 2, 5, 6.


Vaiśeṣikadarśana., VII. ii. 9; Praśastapādabhāṣya., p. 347; Tarkabhāṣa of Keśavamiśra., p. 201.


vibhūnāṃ tu parasparataḥ saṃyogo nāsti”, Praśastapādabhāṣya., p. 360.


CSP, p. 122.


vibhāgastu vibhaktiḥ syādviyogo bhāgaśo grahaḥ”, CS, S u, XXVI. 33.


vibhāgastu vibhaktapratyayanimittaṃ”. Praśastapādabhāṣya., p. 363. Bhāsarvajña says that disjunction is the absence of conjunction. See Nyāyabhūṣaṇa of Bhasarvajña.., p. 161.


etena vibhāgo vyākhyātaḥ”, Vaiśeṣikadarśana., VII. ii. 10; Praśastapādabhāṣya., p. 364.


CS, Su, XXVI. 33.


See Cakrapāṇi on ibid.


pṛthaktvamapoddhāravyavahārakāraṇaṃ. Praśastapādabhāṣya., p. 332; TSA, p. 18.


TSA, p. 18; Bhāsarvajña does not accept severality as a separate attribute. “Pṛthaktvasya gunatvamayuktaṃ”, Nyāyabhūṣaṇa of Bhasarvajña.., p. 161.


parimāṇaṃ punarmānaṃ, CS, Su, XXVI. 34.


Vaiśeṣikadarśana., IV. i. 11, 12; “parimāṇaṃ mānavyavahārakāraṇaṃ”. Praśastapādabhāṣya., p. 394.


Ibid;TSA, p. 19; Saptapadārthi of Śivāditya., p. 27.


CS, Vimāna - sthāna, I. 21 (2)


Praśastapādabhāṣya., p. 646; TSA, p. 59. Saptapadārthi of Śivāditya., p. 37.


Praśastapādabhāṣya., p. 647.


Ibid., p. 647.


Ibid., p. 658; anyathā kṛtasya punastadavathāpādakaḥ sthitisthāpakaḥ kaṭādipṛthivīdravyavṛtti, TSA, p. 51.


Mānameyodaya of Nārāyaṇa., p. 258 - 59.


bhāvābhyasanamabhyāsaḥ śīlanaṃ satatakriyā, CS, Su, XXVI. 34.

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