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...

The locations, qualities, and the functions of the doṣas

1. Vāyu:—

Caraka differentiates the all pervasive (viśvaṃ) vāyu into two: external and internal. The external air that moves about in the world sustains the earth, kindles fire and brings about compactness and movements in the sun, moon, stars, and planets, creates clouds; causes showering of rain, flowing of rivers, maturity of flowers and fruits, and sprouting of plants ans it differentiates seasons (ṛtus) and mahābhūtas; causes the manifestation of the shape and size of objects, brings about the potency for germination in seeds and growth in plants; causes dryness and hardness in grains. In brief vāyu functions as the cause of change.[1] Taking into consideration its prominent role in the body the normal and natural functions of vayu are described. Vayu is matephorically described as life (ayu), the strength (balaṃ), the sustainer (dhāta), all pervasive (viśvaṃ) and controller (dhātā).[2]

The three doṣas function throughout the body.[3] At the same time they have got certain main sites. The locations of vāta are urinary bladder, rectum, waist, thighs, bones, and colon (pakvāśaya). Of them the most important center is colon.[4] Though these parts of the body are cited as locations of vayu the specific locations of each one of its ramification is given further.[5] It is rough (rūkṣa), cool, (śīta), light (laghu), subtle (sūkṣma), mobile (cala) non-slimy (viśada), and coarse.[6]

Vāyu is identified with life since its main function is to sustain the harmony of the body, sense, and mind and self that constitutes life. The whole body is animated by the conscious self in accordance with the function of vāyu. Hence it is conceived as the basis of bala. It co-ordinates and regulates all the functions of body, mind and sense organs. It holds together the various elements of the body and maintains its cohesion. It forms the basis of speech, hearing and touch and forms the root cause of the organs of hearing and touch. It determines joy and enthusiasm and it is the indicator of the continuity of the span of life. The corporeal vāyu, when gets vitiated, afflicts the body affecting the strength, complexion, happiness and the span of life. It perturbs the mind and sense organs and deforms or detains the embryo also. More over the vitiated vāyu cause fear, anxiety, bewilderment, and even causes death.[7]

Here the description of vāyu as the root cause of śabda and sparśa pinpoints to the fact that the basic elements of vāyu are mainly akāśa and vāyu. In Vaiśeṣika philosophy, the specific quality of vāyu is conceived as anuṣṇāśīta.[8] Śīta is conceived as the specific quality of water.[9] But Caraka attributes sīta to vāta instead of anuṣṇāśīta. This is because vāta is seen to be augmented by sīta and diminished by its loss. More over when disease is caused by the mere vitiation of vāta then sīta is manifested.[10]

The corporial vāyu is divided into five namely, prāṇa, udāna, samāna, vyāna, and apāna. Their sites and functions are as follows. Prāna is located in the chest, throat, tongue and nose.It is the principle that functions as the means to animate the living-being. Udāna is located in the umbilicus, chest, and throat. Its function determines the manifestation of speech, effort, enthusiasm, strength, and complexion. Samāna pervading the channels, carries sweat, and aqueous materials and it has its location beside the seat of digestive fire (jeṭharagni). Vyāna, which pervades the whole body moves very swiftly. It is responsible for motion, extention, vikṣepa, winking of the eye, and such similar functions. Apāna is located in the testicles, urinary bladder, phallus, umbilicus, thighs, groins, anus, and colon. Its functions are the ejaculation of semen, voiding of urine and stool, elimination of menstrual blood, and parturition of foetus. In normal state, all of them reside in their respective locations performing their proper functions which help the sustenance and maintenance of health.[11] Elsewhere Suśruta designates agni, soma, vayu, sattva, rajas, tamas,five sense organs, and inner self (bhūtātma) as prāṇa for theynourish and sustain the body.[12]

2. Pitta:—

The main sites of pitta are sweat, rasa, lymph (lasikā), blood (rakta), and small intestine (lower part of āmāśaya). Among them the lower part of āmāśaya is the most important.[13] Its qualities are unctuous (sneha), hot (uṣṇa), sharp (tikṣṇa), liquid (drava), sour (amla), fluid (sara), and pungent (kaṭu).[14]

The corporeal fire distinct from the external fire is called pitta.[15] All are unanimous in their opinion that the fundamental substance of pitta is fire. As far as the function of pitta is concerned, it is balancing and transformative in nature. Digestion or indigestion, vision or loss of vision, normalcy or otherwise of the body heat, normalcy or otherwise of luster, valour, fear, anger and joy, confusion, and lucidity are produced in accordance with the abnormal (kupita) or normal (akupita) state of its function.[16]

3. Kapha:—

The structure of kaph is water and earth.[17] Itis located in chest, head, neck, joint, stomach (or upper part of amāśaya) and fat.The most important location is chest.[18] It is heavy (guru) cool (sīta), soft (mṛdu), unctuous (snigdha), sweet (madhura), immobile (sthira), and slimy (picchala).[19] Kapha is the determining cause of such aspects like robustness and looseness, tubbiness and leanness, enthusiasm and laziness, potency and impotency, and wisdom and ignorance.[20]

One of the significant things to be noted in connection with the qualities of the doṣas is that the imbalance of a doṣa does not necessarily imply that all its qualities will get vitiated. There is the possibility for one or more qualities of a doṣa to be vitiated when others are in tact. For instance, in certain case, when sīta of vāta gets vitiated, its other qualities may remain undisturbed. So the physician must be particular in diagnosing not only the doṣa that has been disturbed, but also must identify the particular quality or qualities which have been increased or decreased. It is possible that a doṣa in its disturbed condition will remain a doṣa. Yet some of its qualities will be increased and others will be decreased. So, the nature of the disturbance of the doṣa is to be assessed by the nature of the qualities involved.[21]

The doṣas are aggravated by substances having three tastes (rasas) which are homologous and are alleviated by substances having the other three tastes (rasas) which are contradistinctive in the following manner.

Aggravating tastes — Alleviating tastes

  1. Vāta pungent, bitter, and astringent. — sweet, sour, and saline.
  2. Pittha pungent, sour, and saline. — sweet, bitter, and astringent.
  3. Kapha sweet, sour, and saline. — pungent, bitter, and astringent.[22]

S.K. Ramachandra suggests that vāta, pitta, and kapha are charectarised by the three modes: rajas, sattva, and tamas.[23] Similarly Dwarakanath says that, at the functional level, vāta is primarily rajastic, pitta is predominently sāttvic and kapha is mainly tāmasic.[24] All these reflect the attempts to associate the tridoṣasiddhānta with the triguṇa theory. But such a correspondence of the thridoṣa to the triguṇa, cannot be explained on the basis of the Carakasaṃhitā because Caraka does not postulate such a triguṇa theory as we see in Suśrutasaṃhitā or in classical Sāṃkhya. Probably such an attempt to co-ordinate tridoṣa with triguṇa might have been due to the influence of the idea in Suśrutasaṃhitā. There it is stated that ākaśa is predominantly sāttvik, vayu is primarily rajastic, fire is sāttvic as well as rajastic, water is primarly both tāmasic and sāttvic and earth is tāmasic.[25] “Somehow, the reference of such a correspondence is seen to occur first in the Dalhaṇa's commentary on the Suśrutasaṃhitā”.[26] However, it is misleading, since, on Samkhya terms kapha, vata and pitta are primarily related to the functioning of the gross, material body. Hence they are the products of gross physical elements. This would make all the three predominantly tamasic in nature'.[27] The state of affairs becomes more intricate, since, according to classical Sāṃkhya the divine realm is mainly sattvic, the human realm is predominantly rajastic and plant realm or the immobile beings is primarily tamasic.[28] So the subject matter of Āyurveda, that is health and harmony, is always working within a system that is predominantly rajastic in nature. “Nevertheless, as an internal system of differentiation working with the broader cosmological scheme of Sāmkhya school, pitta does not correspond to sattva as vāta to rajas and kapha to tamas”.[29]

All these have been stated only to inform that the theory of the three doṣas has been formulated on the concrete basis of the concept of pañcabhūtas. In fact, it is a biological interpretation of the pañcabhūtasiddhānta. However, the description of the physiological and pathological aspects of tridoṣa in detail is beyond the scope of this work.

Footnotes and references:


prakṛtibhutasya khalvasya loke carataḥ karmaṇīmāni bhavanti; tadyadhā - dharṇī dhāraṇaṃ.... avaikārikavikāracśeti, CS, Su, XII. 8.


vāyurāyurbalaṃ vāyurvayurdhātā sarīriṇāṃ vayuḥ viśvamidaṃ sarvaṃ prabhurvāyuśca kīrtitaḥ, CS, Cikitsa - sthāna, XXVIII. 3.


sarvaśarīracarāstu vātapittaśleṣmaṇaḥ......; CS, Su, XX, 9. See also Aruṇadatta on Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya of Vāgbhaṭa.. Su, I. 7.


bastiḥ puriṣadhāṇaṃ kaṭiḥ sakthīni pādāvasthīni pakvāśayaśca vātasthānāni, tatrāpi pakvāśayo viśeṣeṇa vātasthānaṃ, CS, Su, XX. 8.


See infra, pp. 144 - 145.


rūkṣaḥ śīto laghuḥ sūkṣmaścalo'tha visadaḥ kharaḥ viparītagunaiḥ dravyairmārutaḥ saṃpraśāmyati, CS, Su, I. 59; Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya of Vāgbhaṭa., Su, I. 11.


vāyustantrayantradharaḥ...... ayuṣo anuvṛttipratyayabhūto bhavatyakupitaḥ. kupitastu khlu sarīre..... prāṇāṃścoparuṇaddhi, CS, Su, XII. 8.


Praśastapādabhāṣya., pp. 111-12; TSA, p. 16,


Praśastapādabhāṣya., p. 92; TSA, p. 7. Tarkabhāṣa of Keśavamiśra., p.192


yadyapi vaiśeṣike anuṣṇāśīto vāyḥ tathāpīha śītena vṛddhidarśanāduṣṇena ca praśamanadarśanāttathā kevalavātārabdhe roge śītadarśanāca śīta eva vayuḥ”, Cakrapāṇi on CS, Su, I. 61. nanu anuṣnāśīto vāyuḥ kāṇādaiḥ paṭḥitaḥ..... “pavane yogavāhitvācchītaṃ śleṣmayute bhavet”, Aruṇadatta on Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya of Vāgbhaṭa., Su, I. 11, Cf. p. 97.


prāṇodāna samānākhya vyanāpanaiḥ sā pañcadhā
svakarma kurvate deho dhāryate tairanāmayaḥ, CS, Cikitsa - sthāna, XXVIII. 5-11.


Suśrutasaṃhitā of Suśruta., Śārīra - sthāna, IV. 3.


svedo raso lasikā rudhiramāmāśayaśca pittasthanāni, tatrāpyāmāśayo viśeṣeṇa pittasthānaṃ. CS, Su, XX. 8.


sasnehamuṣṇaṃ tīkṣṇaṃ ca dravamamlaṃ saraṃ kaṭu viparītaguṇaiḥ pittaṃ dravyairāśu praśāmyati, Ibid., I. 60.


agnireva sarīre pittāntargataḥ”, Ibid., XII. 11.


paktimapaktiṃ darśanamadarśanaṃ mātrāmātratvamūkṣmaṇaḥ prakṛtivikṛtivarnau śauryaṃ bhayaṃ krodhaṃ harṣaṃ mohaṃ prasādamityevamādīni caparāṇi dvantvānīti, Ibid.


IK, p. 25.


uraḥ śiro grīvā, parvāṇyāmāśayo medaśca śleṣmasthānāni; tatrapyuro viśeṣeṇa pittasthānaṃ;CS,Su, XX. 8.


guru sīta mṛdu snigdha madhura sthirapicchalāḥ śleṣmaguṇāḥ praśamaṃ yanti viparītaguṇairguṇāḥ. Ibid., I. 61.


dārḍḥyaṃ śaidhilyamupacayaṃ kārśyamutsāhamalāsyaṃ vṛṣatāṃ klībatāṃ jñānamajñānaṃ buddhiṃ mohamevamādīni cāparāṇi dvatvāntānīti, Ibid., XII. 12.


samavetānāṃ punardoṣāṇāṃ amśāṃśavikalpo vikalpo'sminnarthe. CS. Nidāna - sthāna, I, 11 (5); tatra doṣāṇāṃ aṃśāṃśavikalpo yathā- vāte prakupite'pi kadācidvātasya sītāṃṣo balavān bhavati, kadācillaghvaṃśaḥ, kadācit rūkṣāṃśaḥ kaācid lakhu-rūkṣāṃśaḥ. Cakrapāṇi on ibid.


svādvamlalavaṇā vayuṃ, kaṣāyasvādutiktakāḥ jayanti pittaṃ, śleṣmāṇaṃ kaṣāyakaṭutiktakāḥ (kaḍvamlalavaṇāḥ pittaṃ, svādvamlalavaṇāḥ kaphaṃ kaṭutiktakaṣāyāśca kopayanti samīraṇaṃ) CS, Su, I. 66; Vimāna - sthāna, I. 6; Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya of Vāgbhaṭa., Su, I. 14-15.


DO, p.178.


IK, pp. 24-25.


tatra sattvabahulamākāśaṃ, rajobahulaṃ vāyuḥ, sattvarajobahulamagniḥ sattvatamobahulā āpaḥ tamobahulā pṛthivī. Suśrutasaṃhitā of Suśruta., Śārīra - sthāna, I. 20.


IHBT, p.196.


Ibid. p.169.


ūrdhvaṃ sattvavīśālaśca mulataḥ sargaḥ madhye rajoviśālo brahmādistambaparyantaḥ, Sāṃkhyakārikā, 54.


IHBT, p.170.

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