Traditions Of Ayurveda

  • Three traditions of Ayurveda exist today — two of them based on the compendiums of Charka and Sushruta Samhitas, and a third tradition known as Kashyapas. However, Ayurvedic remedies prior to these traditions also exist, as mentioned in the earlier Vedic literature (2nd millennium BC).
  • Both the Sushruta and Charaka Samhitas are the product of several editorial hands, having been revised and supplemented over a period of several hundred years. The scholar Vagbhata, who lived in Sindh at the beginning of the 7th century AD, wrote a synthesis of earlier Ayurvedic materials in a verse work called the Ashtanga Hridayam.
  • Another work associated with the same author, the Ashtanga Samgraha, contains much the same material in a more diffuse form, written in a mixture of prose and verse. The relationship between these two works, and a third intermediate compilation, is still a topic of active research.
  • The works of Charaka, Sushruta, and Vagbhata are considered canonical and reverentially called the Vriddha Trayi, “The Triad of Ancients”; or Brhat Trayi, “The Greater Triad.” In the early 8th century, Madhav wrote his Nidana, a work on etiology, which soon assumed a position of authority. In the 79 chapters of this book, he lists diseases along with their causes, symptoms, and complications.

   After the Brhat Trayi

  • At one time, it was believed that those who read and fully understood the contents of Vriddha Trayi and the Brhat Trayi, were good practitioners of Ayurveda. The story of the legendary Ayurvedic practitioner Vagbhata lived during the time of the epic Mahabharata and was the chief physician of king Yudhisthir. Most believe that the author of the Ashtanga Samgraha was born before 200 AD and is properly known as Vagbhata the 1st. Another man named Vagbhata (who was born about 100 BC) recomposed the, including the writings of Charaka, Sushruta under a new title Astang Hridaya.
  • Living some time after Vagbhata was another legendary Ayurvedic physician known as Vangsen. Myths place him in ancient Bengal where he wrote a classic Ayurvedic book, simply called Vangsen. The book is written in easy and understandable language and adds many new chapters to the previous texts.
  • After Vangsen, a scholar by the name of Madhavacharya composed the book, Madhav Nidan. He is thought to have been the prime minister for the king of Vijay Nagar (a state which existed in southern India before Independence). Madhav Nidan is widely considered the best Ayurvedic book for disease diagnosis. (Although it understandably does not contain the description of some modern diseases.)
  • After Madhav Nidan, the next in line of famous Ayurvedic books Bhav Prakash was written during the time that the Portuguese first came to India in 1498 by a man named Bhav Mishra of Madras (now known as Chennai). The period in which he wrote can be pinpointed so accurately because in the Bhav Prakash, he described the symptoms of a disease called “Phirang” [ Gonorrhoea and Syphilis], which was introduced to the subcontinent through contact with Europeans. (“Phirangi” was the word used to describe Europeans in India.) Bhav Mishra’s other contribution to Ayurvedic medicine was the introduction of pulse examination / pulse diagnosis.
  • Many writers after Bhav Mishra contributed to Ayurvedic literature. Among them Sharangdhar, Chakra Dutta, Vaidya Vinod, Vaidya Vamanotsava, Bhaisajya Ratnawali, and the great Lolimb Raj, who wrote the Vaidya Jeevan in verse form. The first lines of the verses of the Vaidya Jeevan are addressed to the author’s “beloved,” while the rest of the verse has contains information about curing a disease.
  • About 200 years ago, Pranacharya Shri Sadanand Sharma wrote the Ras Tarangini, which was the “base book” for modernizing Ayurveda practices. In this book, advances in chemistry are included. The book describes the use of many chemical substances as medicine and their successful uses. Upon considering the advice of this book, Ayurvedic practitioners began to process the traditional herbs in sulphate, nitrate, muriate, phosphate and nitromuriate forms. Sarpagandha [Latin: Rauwolfia Serpentina Muriate, Sarpagandha Sulphate, Sarpagandha Phosphate,Sarpagandha Nitrate, Sarpagandha nitromuriate and many others have been prepared and tested on patients. Ras Tarangini mentiones “Shankhadrav”, which is a medicine used internally and externally in many disease conditions. Shankhadrav-based herbal medicine, invented by an Indian physician is well appreciated by the National Innovation Foundation, Ahmedabad, India.
  • Deepak Chopra has been a significant influence on the modern practice of Ayurvedic medicine (especially in the West). His influence, along with doubts as to how much ‘ancient’ Ayurvedic knowledge has survived, have lead some to emphasise the relative novely of modern Ayurveda. For example, Robert Todd Carroll argues that “most of the ancient treatments are not recorded and what is called traditional Indian medicine is, for the most part, something developed in the 1980s by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who brought Transcendental Meditation to the western world. The St. Paul of this movement is Deepak Chopra, who has done more than anyone else to spread the good word about the wonders of Ayurveda.”