INTRODUCTION TO AYURVEDASUTRAM
There is scarcely a word held to be more authoritative and sacred in Indian literature than the word “Veda.” There is a proverbial saying with the Hindus that the Vedas are authoritative and infallible. In conformity with the high place assigned to the Vedas in the Indian literature, it has been usual to appeal to the four Vedas as the ultimate authority for solution of all difficult questions bearing on social, religious, moral and philosophical problems. The same authoritative sanctity is also claimed for the Brahmanas and the Sutras attached to each of the Vedas on the ground that they expound either briefly or in detail the same ideas that have been taught either in detail or in brief in the Vedas. With a view to command similar authoritative sanctity for ancient works of unknown authors on even secular branches of learning, it has been usual to append the word ‘Veda’ to such treatises. Thus early works on warfare and medicine are called Dhanurveda and Ayurveda respectively. Except occasional references here and there to Dhanurveda and Ayurveda, no genuine ancient works as such are found extant. The Nitiprakasika on weapons and arms, though styled Dhanurveda, is evidently a modern metrical work. The Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta, is said to contain a prose manuscript called Dhanurveda, the author and date of which are unknown. As to the Ayurvedic work in a hundred thousand slokas referred to by Charaka, Susruta, Vagbhata and a host of other medical writers, not even a fragment of it is found anywhere. The discovery of an Ayurvedasutra among the palm-leaf manuscripts with a Jaina physician in Mysore and the acquisition of a copy of it at first and of the palm-leaf manuscript itself later for this Library may not in these circumstances be considered as a gain of no value. On examination the work is found to contain Ayurveda Sutras in five Prasnas and a commentary on the same by some scholar called Yoganandanatha, who, judged by the name, seems to have been a follower of Tantric cult and a logician as indicated by the style of his commentary. The Oriental manuscript Libraries in Tanjore and Madras have on inquiry been found to contain manuscripts of the Sutra text having sixteen Prasnas. Copies of these two manuscripts together with a copy of the Sutra text in the Library of the late native physician, D. V. Gopalachar in Madras were obtained for purpose of collation and edition. Clerical errors were however so numerous both in the text and the incomplete commentary that for sometime the edition of the work seemed to be an almost hopeless task. Constant perseverance in the restoration of the text and commentary resulted in bringing the work to the form in which it is now presented in print. There is however evidence in the text itself to prove that the present edition is far from satisfactory and that until the discovery of some more manuscripts there can be no complete and satisfactory restoration of the text.
At the close of both the first and the second Prasnas there is recited as an aid to memorising the sutras a sort of mnemonic called Chittha string of words consisting of the words of each of the decades of divisions into which the sutras of the Prasna are divided. The present order of the reading of the sutras however, is not in accordance with the Chittha. The first two words of the third decade of the sutras in the first Prasna appear in the twenty-ninth instead of the thirtieth Sutra, indicating thereby the omission of a sutra in the third decade. The sutras of the second Prasna appear to have been divided into divisions of fifteen sutras each. Here too, the present order of the reading of the sutras differs from the reading indicated by the string of words. Neither does the first Prasna consist of one hundred sutras corresponding to the ten decades, as indicated by the word ‘dasa,’ ten, in the Chittha. Nor does the second Prasna contain 135 sutras corresponding to nine divisions of fifteen sutras each. No such Chittha is found in the other Prasna. From this it follows that the text in its present form has undergone a vast change from its original and is full of omissions and commissions.
What however led this Library to undertake the edition of this work in spite of the manifest mutilation which it has undergone, is an attempted restoration of the text coupled with the prominence which it gives to fasting and deep-breathing as a sure means both curative and preventive of all those diseases, which are found to defy the power of drugs in the form of churna, taila, lehya, or rasayana.
In no other Indian medical work, ancient and modern, is so much efficacy attached to the theory of fasting and deep-breathing coupled with natural Rasa diet. Of late some celebrated physicians of America have been enthusiastically preaching and expounding, both from the platform and the press the theory of fasting and deep-breathing. “Of the two principal matters recommended as the practical outcome of the theory of health development in this book,” says E. H.Dewey in his Introduction, P. 5, to his Science of Living, “is that of fasting or the abstinance from food until natural hunger calls for it, is the best way to bring about recovery from disease…. The second is that digestion is best promoted and food so assimilated as to afford the largest amount of nourishment and the greatest quantity of rich blood, by giving the stomach a long rest from all work during each twenty-four hours.” Again in page 221, he says “you cannot possibly err as to eating too little, or in getting those meals too widely separated. You cannot fail to get immediate results for good, if the means are duly applied. You will find the self-denial less a tax than you imagine.”
As a means both curative and preventive of diseases, the efficacy of Pranayama or deep-breathing has of late been perceived by a number of celebrated physicians in America and elsewhere and a large number of books and pamphlets have been published and given wide circulation. Another important theory which is expounded in this remarkable treatise and which tends to establish the unity of the curative means of diseases is the unity of the cause of various forms of diseases, the names of which are a legion and the remedies of which are according to both ancient and modern medical works infinite. According to both the text of the Sutras and the Commentary (pp. 172, 176, etc.), all diseases are due to Ajirna, indigestion, which in its turn is brought about by the accumulation of mucus (Ama) in the alimentary canal. A large portion of the treatise is taken up with treating of hygienic dietary and the dietetics laid down in this work seem to be quite in harmony with modern views on the subject. No less emphasis is laid on Samadhi, Yogic concentration of mind with regulation of breathing in and out in view of getting rid of bodily ailments. In connection with this topic the first two Padas of Patanjali’s Yogasutra are intermingled with the Sutras and a few Sutras of the first Pada of the Yogasutra are scattered here and there in the first five Prasnas of the text. The Yoga-Tantric cult of Chakras with alphabetical letter-sounds severally distributed among them is described in detail. While diseases in general are all traced to indigestion caused by the accumulation of mucus (Ama) in the alimentary canal, location of particular diseases in particular limbs or parts of the body is decided by the indistinct utterance on the part of the diseased of such alphabetical letter-sounds as are assigned to those limbs. The letting of blood from such diseased parts is also taught as a means to get rid of those diseases. Massage (Tailodvartana) and application of Enema (Urdhvadhovastikarma) are other devices which are taught as in other works to be availed of as remedial or preventive means of diseases. In dietary, foodstuffs are divided into three classes; Tamasa, that which causes drowsiness, lethargy and indolence; Rajasa, that which causes hot temper, incessant activity and indiscreet proceedings, and Satvika, that which causes calm and Serene temper, tranquility of mind, balanced judgment and discretion. The combination of flavours are said to result in rasa, agreeable flavour, virasa disagreeable, or viruddha rasa, hostile flavour. Svabhavika Madhura, naturally sweet foodstuffs are contrasted with artificial sweet meats is commended as the only safe diet conducive to long life and emancipation. Pathology, therapeutics, and materia medica are also noticed as some length. What however forms the main theme of the treatise is, as noticed in detail in the table of contents, Patanjali’s theistic Yoga.
The commentator goes to the length of saying that “the only means to eradicate diseases defying drugs and to attain long life and final emancipation is Pranayama, deep breathing as taught in the Yoganusasana”.
It is the importance assigned to this naturopathic treatment of diseases that has led this Library to unundertake the restoration of the text of the Ayurveda Sutra for publication and to bring to light the long-forgotten art of healing taught in this brief, though excellent treatise, in spite of the mutilated and defective character of text and the hopelessly corrupt form of reading.
Little is known regarding the author and date of the work. As a number of works in Sutra style are found written even in the 20th century, the aphoristic style cannot be taken as a criterion of antiquity. Judging by the lucidity of the sutras and the lack of inseparable connection between the sutras in respect of words and technical terms as in the Sutras of Panini, one may be led to the conclusion that the Sutras are very old: Unlike the Vyakarana Sutras of Panini and Sariraka Sutras of Badarayana which cannot be explained without the aid of traditional commentaries, the Ayurveda Sutras are very lucid and susceptible of interpretation. Nor are the Sutras so inseparably linked together as to render the interpretation of a succeeding Sutra dependent upon the borrowing of some suitable words from the preceding sutras. Except a few technical terms such as ‘Vata, Pitta, Sleshma, and Dosha’ which are peculiar to Hindu Medical Science, there are no medical technical terms with which Charaka, Susruta, and other medical works are bristling. Nowhere are such technical terms as Triphala, Trikatuka, Panchalavana and the like are met in this work. If the author of this work had been acquainted with such technical terms, brevity would have compelled him to use those words in the list of drugs enumerated in the last three Prasnas. Another evidence likely to give the appearance of antiquity to this treatise is the absence of later astronomical facts, especially those of the times of Aryabhatta and Varahamihira. Unlike Aryabhatta and Varahamihira, the author speaks of a year of 360 days instead of 3653/4 days. In naming the months, he uses the words Madhu, Madhava, Sukra, Suchi, and other Vedic names, but not Chaitra, Vaisakha, and other later words which were current as early as the period of the Kautilya Arthasastra. In the list of Nakshatras enumerated in the 14th and 15th Prasnas in connection with their worship of getting rid of diseases caused by the displeasure of the deities presiding over the constellations, he borrows the Vedic list of 28 Nakshatras, the Vedic Vichriti (Jyeshta) among them. Not a word is said of the Planets. Had the planets been known to him and had he been acquainted with the Zodiac and the planetary influence on man’s weal and woe, he would have scarcely withstood the temptation of preferring planetary astrology to stellar astrology. It is very well known to historians of India that long before the Hindus borrowed through the Indo-Greek and Indo-Parthians on the North-Western frontier of India the Roman zodiacal terms together with astrological ideas, it was stellar astrology that prevailed in India. In the medico- astrological works that were written after the Indo-Greek contact with India no place is given to stellar astrology (lunar asterism) as described in this Sutra. Nor is this all. The author attempts to imitate the style of the Taittiriyopanishad and in the 5th Prasna (sutras 44-49 and 85-88)uses the very words of the Upanishad.
Apart from the internal evidences there is also some external evidence which gives some antiquity to this Sutra. It is the reference made by Vagbhata in the last chapter of his Ashtangahridaya to a medical work which he attributes to Brahma or Brahma’s son Sanatkumara. He says that Brahma prescribed oil, clarified butter, and honey to cure Vata, Pitta, and Sleshma respectively. Though the very words are not found in this text, words giving the same purport are found here and there. In I. 70 sweets and acids are said to be the cause of Kapha. In his commentary on IV. 57 the writer says that clarified butter, milk, and oil are the prescribed remedies against wind. In V. 9, 10 and 11 similar general remedies against Kapha, and wind are prescribed.
While these facts tend to give the work an antiquated appearance, there is some other internal evidence which, as pointed out by Dr. Brajendranath Scal, MA., PH.D., DSC., Vice-Chancellor of the University goes to show that the work is quite modern. They are the distribution of alphabetical letter-sounds among the various chakras of the body in the manner in which the sutras are distributed and located by recent writers on the medical science of the Hindus. Another evidence is the definition of Isvara in his three-fold aspects in a form which is evidently an improvement upon the Yoga definition.
While the Yogasutra defines Isvara to be one who is not affected or touched by ignorance, egotism, love, hatred, and good and bad, the Ayurveda Sutra (IV. 14) defines him to be one who is not merely devoid of the above qualities, but also different from both Tamasesvara and Aja. The commentator on this sutra says that Tamasesvara, i.e., lethargic Jiva is always drowsy and deluded under the influence of salty diet; that Aja, the Unborn, is Satvika, pure, discreet, and active under the influence of pure and naturally sweet diet; that these two reside in the body. While He who is devoid of all qualities is Paramatma and it is under his guidance that the world moves. Though the nervous system seems to be the immediate cause of all movement in the world, still in reality it is Paramatma that guides the Jiva to attempt at securing for himself what is good and to avoid what is hurtful. These developed philosophic ideas coupled with modern notions of pathology and therapeutics point to the conclusion that the treatise cannot but be modern.
Another conclusive proof of the modernness of the work is the therapeutical interpretation of the Yoga system and the compilation of new Sutras by making use of the very words found in Bhojaraja’s Rajamar tanda and Ramananda Sarasvati’s Maniprabha on Patanjali’s Yogasutras. In the third Prasna the author of the Ayurveda Sutra begins with the first sutra of Patanjali’s Yoga, “Then follows the instruction of Yoga.” Then instead of quoting Patanjali’s second sutra defining what is meant by Yoga, he goes on to explain the meaning of Yoga using the words of Maniprabha and Rajamartanda, and more of the latter. While Maniprabha says that Yoga secures the fruit named Emancipation, the author says in his second sutra that it is fruitful. In his third sutra he defines Yoga not as “restraint of the external activity of mind” in Patanjali’s words, but in the words of the Maniprabha and the Rajamartanda bringing in Prakriti and her three gunas, as shown in the footnote below. The author’s new definition is “the absorption of the mind into its source, the Prakriti, the spirit being perceived along with the Prakriti with no contamination with the objective world.” Then the author goes on to differentiate this internal absorption of mind into three forms, Rajasa, active, Tamasa, lethargic, and Satvika, serene, as done both by Rama nandasarasvati and Bhojaraja in their commentaries. While Patanjali confined his attention only to the analysis of mental states and did not concern himself with the therapeutic side of the problem, the author of the Ayurveda lays emphasis on dietetics without which the attainment of Yoga is in his view quite impossible. Accordingly he says in three sutras 7-10 that “naturally sweet diet promotes Serene temper of mind; acid food, active temper and salty and spicy diet, lethargic temper” and that one who is desirous of long life and emancipation should confine himself to sweet food.
Thus he combines Yoga with therapeutics and inserts a few sutras of his own between the sutras of Patanjali, construing dietary as the chief promotive cause of different mental conditions. In short his theory of knowledge is founded upon diet. He says (III. 18-20, etc.) that Satvika food promotes correct and valid perception and that Tamasa diet results in various forms of incorrect perceptions. This is a field quite new and not investigated. Modern medical world can have something to say on this neglected problem. In his introductory verses to his Rajamartanda Bhoja calls himself king Ranarangamalla and says that in addition to his Sabdanusasana on grammar and Rajamriganka on medicine, he has also written a commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga, thus purifying man in his three elements, speech, body, and mind. If he had seen the author’s therapeutic interpretation of the Yogasutras, he would not have omitted to notice its therapeutic application in his Rajamartanda. As he has not done so, it is certain that he was not aware of the Ayurveda Sutra. From this it follows that the author of the Ayurveda Sutra is indebted to Rajamhar tanda of Ranarangamalla, i.e., Bhoja. It is not possible to say whether the Ayurveda Sutra is the compilation of a single author from various sources or whether additions and alterations were now and then made by different persons. It is however probable that some portions of the Sutra, especially the stellar astrology treated of in the 13th and 14th Prasnas, are extracts from works older than 5 century A.D. when it was replaced by Planetary astrology.
The commentator, Yoganandanatha, is no less obscure than the author of the Ayurveda Sutra. It is probable that as he calls himself Ananda he belonged to the school of Ramanandasarasvati, the disciple of Govindananda, the author of the Maniprabha on the Yogasutras.
The great savant, Dr. Brajendranath Seal, has found additional data which help to determine the age of this work. They are in the portions of the materia medica treated of by the author in the tenth and other subsequent chapters of the Sutra. In enumerating the properties of drugs in this portion of the work the author clearly betrays his indebtedness not merely to the Nighantus of Dhanvantari and Narahari, but also to Bhavaprakasa, a work written by Bhavamisra in the fifteenth century. In enumerating, for example, the properties of Valaka (not Valuka) in Sutra 24, Chap.10, the author seems to have merely transposed the very terms used in the Dhanvantari Nighantu. In giving the properties of Guvaka in sutra 30 he has used the words of Dhanvantari under the word Puga. With regard to the properties of Paundarika, he seems to have taken the idea of Bhramanasana from Dhanvantari or Narahari’s Rajanighantu, Raktapitta from Charaka who has prescribed Padmakinjalka for Raktapitta. Tinduka in sutra 44 is given the same properties that are attributed to it by Dhanvantari and Narahari; but it is said here to be of Katurasa instead of Kashaya, as stated in the Nighantus. Likewise Tintrika, rather Danti, as suggested by the Vice-Chancellor, has the same properties that are given to Danti in the Nighantus. In the case of Sringi in sutra 14, the author’s indebtedness to Narahari is quite clear from the use of the word “atisara” which is found only in the Rajanighantu, but not in the Dhanvantari Nighantu. Again in the enumeration of the properties of Nili or Nilini in sutra 31, he says that it cures the poison due to worms and is also an antidote to mental disorder (Moha) which is only found in Bhavaprakasa, but not in Dhanvantari or Rajanighantu. Accordingly the ascription of the work to Brahma in the tenth sutra of the first Prasna may be due either to the author’s intention to give the work an authoritative origin or to its compilation from some older work ascribed to Brahma. From these considerations it follows that the Ayurvedasutra is a compilation from various medical and Yoga works, of which some are as early as the first century B.C. and a few as late as fifteenth century A.D.
There is however some doubt as to the extent of the work at the time of the compilation. At the end of his commentary on the fifty-first sutra of the fifth Prasna the commentator says that his commentary on each of the sutras of the fifth Prasna, famous, acceptable to the learned, and made in the interests of the world is brought to a close. Then there come two verses one in Sikharini metre and another in Sloka metre in praise of Siva and his spouse Parvati, followed by a phrase meaning that the work has been submitted at the feet of the Lord of all. No such verses appear at the close of other chapters. Nor are there any verses at the beginning of the third and fourth chapters. At the commencement of the first chapter there is a verse in Sloka metre in praise of Vinayaka. In the beginning of the commentary on the second chapter there appears a verse in Prithvi metre in praise of Tripurasundari and the same verse with slight variation is repeated at the commencement of the commentary on the fifth chapter. From this it may be presumed that the commentator regarded the text as having ended with the 51st sutra in the fifth Prasna. The Sutra texts, on the other hand, do not end the work with the 51st sutra of the fifth Prasna, and close the work at the sixteenth Prasna, thus adding sutras divided into eleven additional chapters. Of these additional sutras, some are repetitions, and some making the 11th and 12th Prasnas are the second and third padas of Patanjali’s Yoga sutra, while a good many are compiled from medical works treating of meteria medica and remedial rites to avert evil spirits causing diseases. Accordingly two alterations suggest themselves in explanation of this anomaly: Whether the original text ended with the 51st sutra and the remaining sutras are later additions or whether the commentator looked upon the annotated portion only as important and deserving of commentary, the rest being explained in the light of the other works. The first alternative seems to be more plausible in as much as the commentator would not have abruptly closed the work with benedictory verses and a clear statement submitting the work at the feet of the Lord of the world. In support of this view there is this reason that in a medical work emphasising the Yoga method to cure diseases defying drugs there is no necessity for a knowledge either of the properties of drugs or of spells and charms.
I am therefore inclined to think that both the compiler of the Ayurveda Sutra and the Commentator are not older than the 16th century A.D.
I cannot close this introduction without acknowledging my great indebtedness to Dr. B. N. Seal, the Vice-Chancellor to whom I have already made reference. But for the invaluable suggestions made by him, I should not have been able to edit this work.
The edition of this work is based upon the following manuscripts:-
A–Palm leaf manuscript containing the Sutra text and its commentary.
B–A copy of paper manuscript containing only the Sutra text, obtained from late D. Gopalachar, Madras.
C–A copy of the Sutra text obtained from the Tanjore Palace Library.