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FREE online courses on Concepts of Ayurveda - INTRODUCTION


The Dosha, Dhatu and Mala Vignana - the subject matter of 11th and 12th chapters of Vagbhats's Ashtanga Hridaya viz., Doshadi-Vignana and Doshabhediya, constitute the basis of the Physiological and Pathological doctrines of Ayurveda.


The term Physiology is used here to signify the normal functions of the living body in all its different aspects, in the same manner as this term is understood to-day viz.,


  • Cells, tissues, organs and systems, their structural and functional integration and direction as a single composite unit or whole;
  • The study as to how the living organism works in its surroundings or environment.


This includes the reactions of the living organism and the main body of knowledge which deals with the simpler parts of animals including man, leading to the recognition of the fact that the health of the body as a whole depends on the harmonious working of its parts.


This conception includes even the narrow, albeit the latest description of the physiological man, as a field of physico-chemical reactions or a complicated machinery which takes in potential energy in the form of food, changes into work performed and waste products discharged. Irrespective of the philosophical point of view, it seeks to explain the physiological phenomena in terms of quanta or units of energy, so as to reach fundamental and ultimate concepts.


The view is held in some quarters that the physiological and pathological doctrines of Ayurveda viz., Dosha, Dhathu, and Mala Vignana, merely reflect the Indian version of the notions of Galen, Hippocrates and the rest of ancient Greece - the now exploded humeral doctrine of blood, bile, water and phlegm. But the ancient Indian doctrine under discussion presents a picture, in some respects very much modern in its conception. No less an authority than the well-known scientist of India, the late lamented Sri. P. C. Ray observed that "too much has been made of the resemblance between the Greek and the Hindu theory and practice of medicine. The analogy is more superficial than real and does not seem to bear a close examination. The Hindu system is based upon three humours - wind, bile and phlegm - whilst that of the Greek is founded upon four humours, viz., the blood, bile, the water and the phlegm, a cardinal point of difference." Quoting the high authority of Dr. Hoernle, who disposed off the view that the Hindus borrowed their notions of humeral doctrines from Greeks as "an elaborate joke," Sir. P. C. Ray observed that such views are advanced by critics who represent "a school which cannot and will not see anything in India which can claim originality or authority."


However, careful and critical study and research undertaken in the doctrine during the last 4 or 5 decades by workers of the eminence of Sir Brajendranath Seal. Maharajasaheb of Gondal, Captain G. Srinivasa Murti and his colleagues, to mention but a few of the outstanding workers, have shown how right was Sri Pardey Lukis, the then Director General of Indian Medical Service when he observed during the course of a debate in the Imperial Legislative Council in 1916 that, "he did not recognise any fixed line of demarcation between Eastern and Western Medicine…. Many of the so-called discoveries of recent years are merely re-discoveries of facts known centuries ago."


What has been stated above does not overlook the fact that the available literature on the subject contain not only valuable scientific doctrines but also interpolations and interpretations - often of faulty and erroneous ideas founded to a large extent on fanciful anatomy, physiology and pathology. This is apparently due to the fact that after the compilation by Charaka and Susrutha of all available knowledge discovered before their time, further developments virtually came to a stop; those who came after the authors of the two Samhitas, themselves not being discoveries, became the commentators of the one or the other school of medical thought. It may be stated that since then, the Science and Art of Medicine became archaic and they have continued to so during the millennia that followed. Historical vicissitudes contributed their own quota to the process of decline and deterioration. The literature became mutilated and gave room for interpolations and fanciful interpretations to fill up the gaps by scholars, who were, may we say, genuinely anxious to keep the ancient knowledge alive. A critical appraisal of the doctrines in the light of observed facts became taboo due to the feeling that the knowledge contained in the ancient books were of divine origin and as such perfect, and cannot, therefore, be questioned or improved upon. Later commentaries on the subject became a matter of interpretation based more or less on Vyakarana and Nayaya Sastras and less on observed facts and experimental findings. This was, of course, contrary to the sprit of scientific enquiry, which the Acharyas of old commended to their followers to adopt.


The conservative method of interpretation of the valuable doctrines of Ayurveda in modern times has, if any thing, made the position more obscure and confused. The innumerable Churcha Parishads which took place during the last 4 or 5 decades, have not helped to clear the position. Varying and often conflicting versions of these doctrines have been put forth. Much of text-torturing and forced interpretations have been resorted to, to prove that every modern discovery had either already existed in the old doctrines or were anticipated by them. It will, therefore, be our purpose to make a critical dispassionate and scientific study of the doctrines basic to Ayurveda, so that they may be understood in a proper perspective, with a vies to apply the same intelligently and with advantage in practice. We shall do this in the belief that, "Truth and Science are one. They can be no competition between truth and truth but only between truth and error. Truth runs in a single course and prejudice and ignorance should vanish to a minimum point."



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