By Pankaj Goyal
Lok Vigyan Kendra
Almora 263601 India
believed that Lord Buddha showed the path of liberation from disease
and death and due to this reason he is also known as the great physician
(Mahabhisak). He propounded the four noble truths that are nothing but
medical logic. These four noble truths include disease, its cause,
treatment and its ways and are collectively known as Aryasatyacatustaya.
Diagnosis of disease and charitable distribution of medicines among the
sick people were the regular programmes of the Buddhist sanghas.
Buddhist monks and nuns also implemented the same in Buddha-viharas.
Emperor Asoka who adopted the Buddha religion after the Kalinga war not
only established many hospitals and dispensaries for the treatment of
the sick but also ordered planting of medicinal plants at different
P.V.Sharma, the well known historian of Indian medicinal
sciences, summarises the medical practices prevalent among the
Buddhists and the Jainas. We give a summary of his essay here.
Medicine in Buddhist Tradition
oldest source of literature that gives a glimpse of Indian medicine in
the Buddhist tradition is the Tripitaka. Tripitaka mentions tikiccha in
place of Ayurveda and disease is mentioned as gilana instead of atura as
in medical text. This book also gives some references that suggest that
tikiccha was one of the most important subjects of learning in
P.V.Sharma says that there are five well-known
bhutas, but the Buddhist texts mention only four of them, excepting
akasa. Cullavagga has got enough material that gives a good view of
daily life of monks and nuns, health and hygiene and the arrangements in
the viharas. In the viharas, there were systematic arrangements for
the maintenance of privies and bathrooms. Personal cleaning as well as
cleaning of the surroundings was strictly observed. A special care was
also taken for water. A number of diseases are mentioned in Tripitaka
texts while kustha, ganda, kilasa, sosa and apasmara are said to be the
five prevalent abadhas.
Mahavagga (MV) gives valuable
information regarding diseases and their treatment in the book (vi) on
medicaments. This book provides us very useful information particularly
on the treatment of diseases. Some of the treatments contained in this
book are described here in brief. To treat headache the drug was
administered through nose and oil was also applied on the head. In the
case of jaundice, Haritaki impregnated with cow’s urine was prescribed.
In the case of snakebite, four types of filth - dung, urine, ashes and
clay were prescribed. For eye-disease, eye ointments and collyriums were
also mentioned. Similarly a lot of other treatments are described in
Drugs have been classified in the beginning of MV
(VI). Here fat of animal is first described, and then the vegetable
drugs are mentioned in the given groups:
Leaves- patola, tulasi etc.
Fruits- vidanga, pippali etc.
Niryasa- hingu, sarjarasa etc.
the end an inorganic substance salt is also mentioned. A large number
of medicinal plants are also referred but in different contexts.
(viii.1.1-29) contains a detailed account of the renowned scholar
Jivaka and his amazing medical and surgical cures. He performed a large
number of miraculous cures. He was born of Salavati, a courtesan of
Vaisali. He learnt this medicinal science from Atreya at Taksasila.
Atreya was himself a renowned scholar of medicine during the Buddhist
period. Later, he became a physician in the court of Bimbisara.
– Dhammapada mentions freedom from disease as the highest gain. It
advises to avoid two extremes - ayoga and atiyoga and to adopt the
middle path. In Dhammapada, the word ‘atura’ has been used for diseased;
although in the Buddhist texts word ‘gilana’ is used.
Avadana is the other name of Apadana. There are many texts on this topic
of which avadanasataka and divyavadana are more popular.
is an interesting text dated about 100 CE. According to this text,
cloth, food, beddings, appliances for diagnosis and treatment of the
sick were offered to Lord Buddha. Several types of diseases, their
symptoms and methods of their treatment are also described in it. The
case of pregnancy in terms of drugs, diet and behaviour is described in a
systematic manner. A pregnant woman was advised to avoid all the six
tastes and any kind of unpleasant sound. Once, while operating a women’s
abdomen to deliver the foetus, Jivaka advised the lady to take five
parts of a plant as a drug.
Different types of houses for
different seasons (winter, summer and rainy season) are mentioned in
Divyavadana. Application of gosirsa candana is suggested in case of
fever with burning sensation. Sammohini and sanjivani osadhi are also
referred to in this text. The Jyotiskavadana text gives references about
In Sardulakarnavadana, plants are referred to in a
classified way and divided in to seven different groups such as
phalguvrksa, sthalaja vrksa, ksiravrksa, phalabhaisajya vrska, sthalaja
puspavrksa and jalaja puspa. Herbs growing in the villages as well as in
the hills are also mentioned. Some diseases like Apasmara, kilasa and
kustha are also described. At the end there is also a topic based on
dreams. According to this text, constellations (Naksatras) also play a
role and it is said that the collection as well as the administration of
drugs should be started in Satabhisa.
Kunalavadana contains an
interesting anecdote about a disease of King Asoka and its treatment
with onion by his wife. Initially, his wife experimentally observed the
effects of onion on intestinal worms.
Milindapanha is one of the
non-canonical Pali texts. It originated in northwest India by about
beginning of the Christian era. It holds some precious knowledge about
Buddhist traditions. This text is in the form of dialogues between
Nagasena and king Milinda. This text also holds some significant
information about the Buddhist tradition. According to this text,
medicine was one of the most important subjects of teaching during the
Buddhist times. There is also a reference that king Milinda himself
learned cikitsa along with other eighteen subjects. Treatment of wounds
with paste, application of oil and dressing is preferred for better and
early healing of the wounds. In the case of poisoning, a mixture of
ghee, butter, oil, honey and jaggery is suggested. A very interesting
connection of urine with reproduction is shown in a story where a fakir
or ascetic was born by intake of urine of an ascetic or fakir.
According to Nagasena the disease is caused by eight factors – vata,
pitta, slesma, sannipata, seasonal imbalance, irregular diet, improper
treatment and past deeds. Nagasena further narrates the aggravation of
vata, pitta and slesma in ten, three and three ways respectively.
According to him vata is aggravated by cold, heat, hunger, thirst,
overeating, sedentary habit, anxiety, exertion, treatment and past
deeds, while pitta and kapha are aggravated by cold, heat and irregular
Saddharmapundarika is a work that belongs to first century
CE. It is one of the most sacred Mahayana texts. This text mentions that
followers of the Buddhist tradition established many viharas that were
well equipped with food, drinks, appliances for diagnosis and treatment
of the sick and other comforts. One of the chief characteristics of
these viharas was that these were attached with a flower garden and
park. According to this text diseases were classified into four types-
vatika, paittika, slaismika and sannipatika. Along with the
classification of diseases a large number of diseases are also mentioned
such as kustha, kilasa etc. Deformity in the various body parts and
different types of continuous and intermittent fevers are mentioned too.
Plants are classified into four types – trna, gulma, osadhi and
vanaspati. The parts of the plant are mentioned as nala, sakha, patra,
puspa and phala. Drugs were taken in various forms such as juice, paste,
decoction, infusion, after combining with other drugs, by injecting
through needle or cauterization or mixing with food.
texts contain some valuable information about the Buddhist tradition.
Lalitavistara is one of the important texts that deal with the advent of
Lord Buddha and his teachings. Lord Buddha is mentioned in this text by
several names such as the king of physicians, best among physicians,
the great surgeon etc. Several types of diseases are also mentioned
According to Suvarnaprabhasasutra, two factors play a
vital role in the longevity of life – avoiding exertion and proper
nutrition. Here, four dhatus (bhutas) are mentioned out of which two are
said as moving upwards and the other two going downwards and thus they
neutralize each other. The most interesting and important medical
document in Suvarnaprabhsasutra is chapter 17. In this chapter, a great
and well-informed man in all the branches of Ayurveda taught Astanga
Ayurveda to his son and the discussion between them exposed some very
interesting and valuable information about medicine. Four different
seasons (rainy season, autumn, winter, and summer) and four different
types of disorders (vatika, paittka, sannipatika and kaphaja) are
mentioned that occur in these four seasons respectively. The
pacification of these disorders is also given in the text.
poetic works of Asvagohsa (2nd Cent.CE), Buddhacarita and Saundarananda,
also contain some valuable information related to Buddhist medicine
The following authors representing the Buddhist tradition are significant in the field of Ayurveda:
Vagabhata composed the Astangasangraha and the Astangahrdaya. These
books not only contain the Samhitas of Caraka and Susruta but also
include many Vidyas and mantras as well as a large number of medical
formulae prevalent in the Buddhist tradition.
Ravigupta, a Buddhist scholar, composed the Siddhasara that also
contained a nighantu at the end. The date of Ravigupta is fixed as 650
CE, viz. after Vagbhata and before Madhava. The Siddhasara contains 31
chapters and the Siddhasara-nighantu as appendix. First four chapters of
this book are based on Tantra, dravyagana, annapanavidhi and arista,
while chapters 5 to 25 deal with individual diseases. Further chapters
are based on Varna, Salakya, Visa, Rasayana- Vajikarana, Kumaratantra,
Pancakarma and Kalpa.
Nagarjuna- A large number of works was
produced by Nagarjuna in different periods. Yogasataka is such a work by
Nagarjuna that represents work of this tradition. Apart from Yogasataka
following works of Nagarjuna are incorporated into the Tibetan Tanjur:
(b) Arya raja name vatika
(c) Arya mulakosamahausadhavali
Candranandana- The following works of Candranandana are incorporated in the Tibetan Tanjur:
(b) Vaidya-Astangahrdayavrttau bhesajanama-paryayanama
(c) Padarthacandrika…… Astangahrdaya-vivrti
was a popular subject of teaching in the curricula of the Viharas and
mahaviharas as Buddhists treat it as an important tool for missionary
service to humanity and animals. Medicine was an important and
compulsory subject in all the universities. The University of Taksasila
was famous for this subject where Atreya was a renowned teacher. Jivaka
was a famous student of this university, who got proficiency in medicine
as well as surgery. The Nalanda University had also medicine as one of
the compulsory subjects of teaching. Medicine was also taught in
Vikramasila University. Tantras as well as Rasasastra also flourished
there in theory and practice.
periods of Kings Asoka, Kaniska and Sri Harsa, the Buddhist tradition
flourished side by side with the Vedic traditions. These kings
established many viharas in various parts of the country as well as far
off places. As a result of this Buddhism spread to other Asian countries
along with which Indian medicine also reached out there. Some valuable
accounts given by Chinese travellers like Fahian, Huan Chwang and Itsing
give a detailed view of Buddhist tradition in those periods.
Medicine in Jaina Tradition
Jainas had a well established tradition of medicine that was known as
pranavaya. It dealt with mental disciplines, dietetics and drugs and
covered all the eight angas of Ayurveda. It was the science of vitality
maintaining the health of body and mind. It mainly dealt with mental
disciplines, dietectics and drugs and covered all the 8 angas of
Ayurveda. The Jaina saints looked after their health and their sickness
themselves. In the field of medicine the Jainas were very strict and had
forbidden alcohol, honey and meat and as a result the Jaina physicians
had to adjust the formulations accordingly. The Jaina physicians used
plants and minerals mainly as a source of drugs. These physicians were
very practical and believed in curing the diseases with tried and tested
medicines rather than going into beliefs and fundamental doctrines.
Medicine in Jaina Tradition
to Acarangasutra, the nature of plants and animals is similar. Both
plants as well as animals are born, grow old, have animation, fall sick,
require food, decay and die. It mentions that the animate beings are
produced as follows:
From eggs (as birds etc.)
From a foetus (as elephant etc.)
From a foetus with an enveloping membrane (as cow etc.)
From fluids (as worms etc.)
From sweat (as bugs etc.)
By coagulation (as ants etc.)
From sprouts (as butterflies etc.)
By regeneration (as man etc.)
list including mango, grapes, ginger, mustard stalks, asvattha,
kadamba, coconut, kaseru, lotus, sugarcane, bilva and garlic etc. is
described. Cleanliness of body, speech and mind was greatly preferred
and special care was taken of it. This also gives an idea about the
behaviour of the Jainas towards cleanliness. At certain places some
methods of treatment are mentioned. Surgical operation with sharp
instrument, treatment by charms (pure and impure) and drugs were
prevalent. There are sixteen diseases enumerated at one place:
9. Abdominal enlargement
Sutra accepted sickness as one of the troubles. An account of eye
disease and fever is mentioned, but in the form of a story. Different
methods of treatment like spells, roots, emetics, purgatives,
fumigation, anointing of the eye are mentioned in detail. Plants are
classified as vrksa, gaccha, gulma, lata, valli and trna and various
plants related to this classification are described. Use of inorganic
substances such as metals, except mercury, stones, mica, and sulphur are
mentioned. Similarly, animals also held a position in this text along
with their classification.
Sustrakrtanga is another text in
which certain body parts, substances used in cosmetics and some domestic
devices are specified. Seeds are described as of four different types –
those generated at the top of a plant, at its root, at its knot, and at
its stem. Different parts of plant like bulb, stem, root, branches,
twigs, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds are mentioned.
is the only authoritative text available on the pranavaya tradition of
medicine. It was composed by Ugradityacarya who was contemporary of
Amoghavarsa I, the Rastrakuta king (815-877 CE) and disciple of
Srinandi. He has mentioned the authors in different branches of Ayurveda
Pujyapada – Salakya
Patraswami – Salya
Siddhasena – Visa and graham (bhuta)
Dasarathaguru – Kayacikitsa
Meghanada – Balaroga
Simhanada – Rasayana – Vajikarana
Samantabhadra – All the eight branches (Astanga)
text includes 20 chapters. The first three chapters are based on the
basic concepts, while the fourth and the fifth deal with food and drink
including anupana. The sixth chapter includes the topics related to
personal hygiene. The seventh chapter is based on groundwork related to
medicines, arrangements in the hospital and patient’s examination.
Kayacikitsa begins from the eighth chapter. The eighth, ninth and the
tenth chapters cover topics associated with vataroga, pittaroga and
kapharoga. The chapter based on pittaroga includes raktapitta, pradara,
visarpa, vatarakta, jvara and atisara. Chapters 11th, 12th and 13th deal
with great diseases (mahamayas) and the 14th chapter deals with
upadamsa, slipada and ksudraroga. Chapter 15th is based on salakya and
16th to 18th are again based on Kayacikitsa. Visaroga is described in
the 20th chapter and 21st chapter covers some general things about
medicine. Chapter 21st is based on the application of ksara, agni, and
jalauka, while chapters 22-23 deal with pancakarma. Mercury and its
processing are described in detail in the 24th chapter. The last chapter
is based on Kalpas. According to the author, there is no penance
greater than cikitsa. He says, “Cikitsa is for destroying sins and
Medicine proved as an
effectual tool in the expansion of Buddhism. There are certain examples
where people adopted Buddhism only for being treated by renowned
physicians like Jivaka. In Buddhist Viharas medicine was one of the most
important programmes in their daily activities. Indian medicine
travelled far and wide and spread to other countries along with
Buddhism. A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow as well as great service
towards the sick was a unique feature of Buddhism and because of this
reason the sick had a feeling of great respect for Lord Buddha. Like
Buddhism, the Jaina tradition contributed a lot in the field of health
and medicine. There is a huge amount of Jaina literature from which we
can get quite a vast material related to medicine. It was the common
belief of the Jainas that diseases resulted from sinful acts. They were
passive recipients of medical treatment rather than active promoters of
the same like Buddhists. However, the basic foundation of the Jaina
tradition is the same as of the Buddhist medicine.
1992. Medicine in Buddhist and Jaina traditions. In History of Medicine
in India. P.V.Sharma (Ed). New Delhi: INSA. Pp. 117-135.
Difference between Hindu-dharma and Sanatana-dharma
Today Hinduism is a political force, synonymous with national identity of India.
Sanatana-dharma is the oldest religion
in the world. It is based upon the collection of spiritual laws
discovered by Rishis thousands of years ago. It prescribes certain
duties that a human being must perform to achieve fulfilment of life.
Sanatana-dharma is pre-historic and absolute in nature. On the other
hand the term Hindu or Hindu dharma is a term given by Persians only a
few centuries ago, to mean the people living beside the river Sindhu.
With the beginning of the 19th century Hindu came to be understood as a
collective term to describe the religion practiced by Indians as well as
the people of India.
Sanatana Dharma and Buddhism
The original and pure teachings of the Buddha have been altered in
contemporary Buddhism. The only place to now find those pure teachings
of the Buddha is in the path of Sanatana Dharma - which is the path that
the Buddha himself followed for the entirety of his life.
This video is an interview with Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya on Hindu
Radio that took place in early 2012. It is the first authoritative and
philosophically accurate explanation of the true nature and meaning of
the Buddha and Buddhism from the Vedic perspective ever recorded.
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