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...

Analytical devices (tantrayukis)

Analytical devices, as a matter of fact, do not come under the perview of logic and dialectical speculations. Even then it is appended to this chapter because it deals with the kind of methodology for composition and interpretation of scientific treatise.

We know that people, grounded in different disciplinary matrices and affiliated to different cultures, do communicate and interact with one another. “Our language, with out which we cannot live, makes it impossible for us not to communicate and interact with one another”.[1] So it is essential to ensure that language doesn't mislead.

Language maps the intention of the speaker, the reality one grasped. But the haunting question is whether we are successful in communicating our ideas perfectly. Naturally the answer is not a positive one. Expressions are context-bound and so there often happens communication breakdown. Ordinary language, written or uttered is flexible, some what indefinite, and rich in their connotations. So it creates problems in the way of right communication in philosophical, scientific discourse, and scriptural understanding.

Words may undergo the process of deformation and decay in the course of history due to many reasons. So it is essential to regain the unimpaired strength of language and words in order to discern the real sense of the treatises which document the earliest thoughts, for words and language are not wrappings in which thing are packed for the commerce of those who write and speak. It is in words and language that things first come into being and are. For this reason the misuse of words in idle talks, in slogans and phrases, destroy our authentic relation to things.[2] Hence thought and expression need a well ordered scientific language to communicate.

The great thinkers of Indian intellectual tradition were fully aware of the difficulty in maintaining the transparency of the language and the barriers that stand against proper communication. So they have tried to solve the crucial problem by formulating rules regarding verbalization and its decoding. Thus, there evolved different theories on verbal testimony. The Grammarians, the Mīmāṃsakas and the Naiyāikas were the pioneers in this field. Similarly, other system makers also have developed and employed a well-nit scientific methodology consisting of analytical devices in their compositions. Such analytical devices are called tantrayuktis.

Tantraykti” may be defined as the methodology and technique which enable one to compose and interpret scientific treaties correctly and intelligently”.[3] The knowledge and application of the tantrayuktis will enable one to know the relevant and intended idea of articulations coherently and precisely free of inconsistency and contradiction. Caraka, who was circumspect of this fact says that when conflicting views appear in the text it should be interpreted on the basis of the contextual, special, and temporal propriety as well as according to the intention of the speaker and the rules of interpretation.[4] Further in Siddhistāna it has been well expressed by Dṛḍhabala through a beautiful simile about how it can be achieved by the employment of tantrayuktis. The tantrayuktis uncover the science completely just like the sun unfolds the lotus or the lamp that illuminates the house.[5]

Suśrutasaṃhitā states that the purpose of tantrayukti is the proper unification of sentences and meanings.[6] It is also distinctly stated that a debater can establish his own points and set aside those of his opponents who indulge in unfairness by means of tantrayuktis.[7] Referring to this, Dasgupta points out that these are maxims for the interpretation of textual topics, and are not point of dispute or logical categories.[8] However, it should be noted that Suśruta is of opinion that the main purpose of tantrayuki is to help one to ununveil the true meaning of words which are hidden and partly explained.[9]

Arthaśāstra, Carakasaṃhitā, Suśrutasaṃhitā, Aṣṭāngahṛdaya, Aṣṭāngasaṃgraha Visṇudharmottarapurāṇa, Tantrayuktivicāra of Nīlameghabhicak, and Tantrayukti of an anonymous author are the main books which provide us with such analytical devices analyzing and grasping the real sense of the articulations. Probably, the tantrayuktis might have emerged and virtually settled before Paṇini. Dr. W.K. Lele, pointing out the various devices referred to in Pāṇini's Aṣṭādhyāyī, has rightly remarked that Pāṇini possessed a fair knowledge of about twenty-eight devices and that he had employed them while writing his aphoristic work.[10] However Pāṇini neither codifies nor defines tantrayuktis beyond their utilization.

Kautilya's Arthaśastra, the greatest work on polity and statecraft, enumerates, explains and employs tantrayuktis.Kautilya enumerates thirtytwo analytical devices called tantrayuktis.[11]

Carakasaṃhita, as we have seen, deals with the concepts and theories on both science and philosophy. Hence, it was essential to speak at different levels keeping the logical sequence. So he sought to use certain conventional method and scientific language for the expression of the well ordered thought. He was not only concerned with adequacy, accuracy and economy of the formation of treatise, but also wanted to convey the real sense of what has been told. In order to enable this purpose of right communication of the treatise Dṛḍhabala has incorporated a list of thirty six analytical devices in Siddhisthāna. Even though Carakasaṃhitā can be treated as the first Āyurvedic treatise that deals with tantrayuktis they appear only in the twelfth chapter of the final book called Siddhisthāna which is considered as an addition made by Dṛḍhabala, who made its final recasting. Another significant thing to be noted in this connection is that these tantrayuktis are neither defined nor illustrated by him. So, probably, Dṛḍhabala, the final redactor of the treatise must have formed the table of thirty six tantrayuktis by adding four more to the thirty-two enumerated by Kautilya.[12] However he does not define or illustrate them.

The following are the thirty-six tantrayuktis:

  1. topic of discussion (adhikaraṇa),
  2. proper arrangement of words (yoga),
  3. extension of argument (hetvartha),
  4. meaning of a word (padārtha),
  5. partial description of a topic (pradeśa),
  6. concise statement (uddeśa),
  7. amplification of a statement (nirdeśa),
  8. supply of ellipsis (vākyśeṣa),
  9. purpose (prayojana),
  10. authoritative instruction (upadeśa),
  11. adducing a reason for establishing a proposition (apadeśa),
  12. extension of analogous topics (atideśa),
  13. presumption or implication (arthāpatti),
  14. conclusion (nirṇaya),
  15. reiteration of a statement according to the contextual propriety (prasaṅga),
  16. a universal statement (ekānta),
  17. acceptance of any one of two assertions (anaikānta),
  18. a statement regarding exception to a general rule (apavarga),
  19. contrariety (viparyaya),
  20. an objection raised against a proposition in debate (pūrvapakṣa),
  21. accurate interpretation (vidhāna),
  22. approval of other's view (anumata),
  23. explanatory exposition (vyakhyāna),
  24. doubt (saṃśaya),
  25. reference to a previous statement (atitāvekṣā),
  26. reference to an ensuing statement (anāgatāvekṣā),
  27. technical terms coined by the author of treatise (svasaṃjñā),
  28. deduction or an inference by reason (ūhya),
  29. combination of entities independent of one another (samuccaya),
  30. an example or illustration (nidarśana),
  31. definition or etymological interpretation (nirvacana),
  32. injunction (saṃniyoga),
  33. option (vikalpana),
  34. rebuttal or refutation (pratyutsāra),
  35. extrication of ones tenet by refuting the opponent (uddhara), and
  36. probability (saṃbhava).[13]

Cakrapāṇi has stated that Bhatārahariścandra, the author of Carkanāysa, has enumerated four more yuktis:

  1. paripraśna,
  2. vyākaraṇa,
  3. vyutkrāntābhidhāna,
  4. hetu.[14]

Suśruta enumerates only thirty-two tantrayuktis.[15]

Footnotes and references:


KFL, p. 28


IM, pp. 13- 14


“Introduction”, TV, p. i.


ataśca prakṛtaṃ buddhvā deśakālāntarāṇi ca tantrakaṛtrabhiprāyā-nupāyāṃścārthamādiśet, CS, Su, XXVI. 37.


yathāmbujavanasyārkaḥ pradīpo veśmano yathā prabodhanaprakāśārthastathā, tantrasya yuktayaḥ, CS, Siddhi - sthāna, XII, 46.


ucyate vākyayojanaṃ arthayojanañca”, Suśrutasaṃhitā of Suśruta., Uttara - tantra, Ixv. 4.


asadvādiprayuktānāṃ vākyānāṃ pratiṣedhanaṃ, svavākyasiddhirapi ca kriyate tantrayuktitaḥ, Ibid., 5.


HIPS, Vol. II, p. 389.


vyaktā noktāstu ye hyarthā līnā ye cāpyanirmalāḥ leśoktā ye ca kecitsyuḥ teṣāñcāpi prasādhanaṃ, Suśrutasaṃhitā of Suśruta., Uttara - tantra, Ixv. 6.


DT, p.4


The Kautilīya Arthaśāstra., XV. 3.


Āyurvedīya Vaijñānika Itihās (Scientific History of Ayurveda), Priyavrata Sharma, Jayakrshnayurvedagranthamala No.1, Chawkhamba Orientalia, Delhi, 1981, p. 124.


CS, Siddhi - sthāna, XII. 41-44.


bhattārahariśchandreṇa tvānyaścatasrastantrayuktayḥ paripraśnavyākaraṇa-vyutkrāntābhidhāna-hetvākhyā vyahṛtāḥ, Cakrapāṇi on Ibid., 41-44.


Suśrutasaṃhitā of Suśruta., Uttara - tantra, IXV. 3.

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