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How Muslims carried Hindu Wisdom of Ayurveda to the West
By FFI Contributing Editor Dr Radhasyam Brahmachari
It has been mentioned in the First Part of these articles that President Barack Obama, while addressing a gathering at the Cairo University, on June 5, 2009, said, “It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra, our magnetic compass and tools of navigation, our mastery of pens and printing, our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed.” In this article, we shall discuss the achievements of the Muslims in the field of medicine. In the Second Part of these articles, it has been shown that how Al- Khwarizmi took the Hindu numerals or the Hindu system of counting to the West through the translation Sindhind of the Sanskrit text Brahmasphuta Sinddhanta by Brahmagupta  In a similar manner, they took the Sanskrit texts Charaka Samhita by Acharya Charaka and Sushruta Samhita by Acharya Sushruta to Baghdad, during the reign of the Abbasid Caliph Al-Ma’mun, translated them into Arabic and these translations laid the foundation stone of Arab medicine. So, what is known as Arab medicine, is basically the Hindu system of medicine called ayurveda.
According to Hindu scriptures and the Charak Samhita, Prajapita Brahma taught the science of ayurveda to his disciple Daksha and two brothers Aswinikumars learned it from Daksha. Then Indra learned this science from Aswinikumars and told it to his beloved disciple Bharadwaja. Later on, Atreya learned from Bharadwaja and Atreya taught it to his six disciples, namely Agnivesh, Bhela, Jatukarna, Parashara, Harit and Ksharapani. Charaka was the disciple of Agnivesh. 
The philosophy of Buddha had little consequence during his own lifetime. But its influence began to spread from 270 BC, when Asoka, the grandson of Chandragupta, ascended the Mauryan throne. Initially a ruthless imperialist, Asoka spent his later life in soul-searching and pondering the afterlife. After the conquest of Kalinga, Asoka adopted Buddhism as a unifying and pacifying ideology for his vast empire and propagated it’s doctrines with all the usual zeal of a new convert. Judging by his still extant edicts, inscribed on rocks and stone pillars to be found everywhere from Afghanistan to south India, Asoka sought further ‘conquest’ beyond his frontiers by dispatching Buddhist missionaries in all directions. This he called “Conquest by Dhamma” (or victory by virtue).
There are records from Alexandria that indicate the arrival of a steady stream of Buddhist monks and philosophers to Egypt, Palestine and the neighboring area. In Palestine, these monks were known as nazarenes or essenes, while in Egypt and, particularly in Alexandria, they were called thereputs, a corrupt of Pali “Thera Putta” (literally “son of the elder”). Records also tell that a team of Buddhist monks met Pharaoh Ptolemy II in 250 BC. It is important to note that modern English words like therapy, therapeutic are corrupt of theraput. The question naturally arises – How the word theraput got linked to healing people from ailments? The most probable answer is, those Buddhist monks or theraputs carried ayurveda or Indian system of medicine with them and applied their wisdom to heal the patients of Egypt. 
Scholars believe that around 1500 BC, the fundamental principles of ayurveda got organized and written down, while its origin could be traced in the Vedas, particularly the Atharvaveda, and thus connected to Hindu religion. “Atharvaveda (one of the four most ancient books of Indian knowledge, wisdom and culture) contains 114 hymns or formulations for the treatment of diseases. Ayurveda originated in and developed from these hymns. In this sense, ayurveda is considered by some to have divine origin.” 
It is now well established that the Indian medicine, or ayurveda, has a long history, and is the oldest organised systems of medicine which may possibly date as far back as the 2nd millennium BC. According to a later writer, the system of medicine was received by Dhanvantari from Brahma, and Dhanvantari was deified as the god of medicine. The Sushruta Samhita , a treatise on ayurveda, by Acharya Sushruta appeared during the 1st millennium BC.
“The main vehicle of the transmission of knowledge during that period was by oral method. The language used was Sanskrit — the Vedic language of that period (2000–500 BC). The most authentic compilation of his teachings and work is presently available in a treatise called Sushruta Samhita. This contains 184 chapters and description of 1,120 illnesses, 700 medicinal plants, 64 preparations from mineral sources and 57 preparations based on animal sources.” 
Ayurveda: The Hindu system of medicine:
The system of medicine called ayurveda is the system of traditional medicine native to India and practiced in other parts of the world as well as a form of alternative medicine. In Sanskrit, the word ayurveda consists of the words āyus, meaning “longevity”, and Veda, meaning “knowledge” or “science”. It has been mentioned above that the earliest literature on Indian medical practice appeared during the Vedic period in India. The Suśruta Saṃhitā and the Charaka Saṃhitā were influential works on ayurveda during the later period. “Over the following centuries, ayurvedic practitioners developed a number of medicinal preparations and surgical procedures for the treatment of various ailments. In Western medicine, ayurveda is classified as a system of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) that is used to complement, rather than replace, the treatment regimen and relationship that exists between a patient and their existing physician.” 
The three doshas and the 5 great elements from which they are composed
The basis of ayurveda starts from the Hindu belief that everything in this Universe, including the human body is composed of the “five fundamental elements, “Prithvi-earth (or solid mather), Aap-water (or liquid matter), Tej-fire (or energy), Vaayu-air (or gaseous matter) and Akash-ether (or void). In addition to that, plasma(called rasadhatu), blood (rakta dhatu), flesh (mamsa dhatu), fat(medha a dhatu), bone (asthi dhatu), marrow (majja dhatu), and semen or female reproductive tissue (shukra dhatu) are held to be the seven primary constituent elements — saptadhatu of the human body.
Ayurveda stresses a balance of three elemental energies or humors: vayu (composed of air & space – “wind”), pitta (composed of fire & water – “bile”) and kapha (composed of water & earth – “phlegm”). According to ayurveda, these three regulatory principles or doshas (literally that which deteriorates) are important for health, because when they are in a balanced state, the body remains healthy and functions to its fullest, and when imbalanced, the body gets affected by a disease. It is believed that building a healthy metabolic system, attaining good digestion and proper excretion leads to vitality. Ayurveda also put stress on physical exercise, yoga, meditation, and massage, to keep body and mind in sound health.
Eight disciplines of ayurveda treatment, called ashtangas are given below:
Internal medicine (Kaaya-chikitsa)
Eye and ENT (Shalakya tantra)
Demonic possession (Bhuta vidya): Bhuta vidya has been called psychiatry.
Prevention diseases and improving immunity and rejuvenation (rasayana)
Aphrodisiacs and improving health of progeny (Vajikaranam)
It is to be noted that both Hinduism and Buddhism have been an influence on the development of many of ayurveda’s central ideas — particularly its fascination with balance, known in Buddhism as Mādhyamaka: Balance is emphasized; suppressing natural urges or passions is seen to be unhealthy, and doing so may almost certainly lead to illness. However, people are cautioned to stay within the limits of reasonable balance and measure. Emphasis is placed on moderation of food intake, sleep, sexual intercourse, and the intake of medicine.
The Charaka Samhita recommends a tenfold examination of the patient. The qualities to be judged are:
In addition, there are five influential criteria for diagnosis:
origin of the disease
primordial (precursory) symptoms
typical symptoms of the fully developed disease
observing the effect of therapeutic procedures
the pathological process’
Ayurvedic practitioners approach diagnosis by using all five senses. Hearing is used to observe the condition of breathing and speech. The study of the vital pressure points or marma is of special importance.
Hygiene is an Indian cultural value and a central practice of ayurvedic medicine. Hygienic living involves regular bathing, cleansing of teeth, skin care, and eye washing. Occasional anointing of the body with oil is also prescribed.
It is unique in ayurveda that it put importance in using plant-based or herbal medicines and treatments. Hundreds of plant-based medicines are employed. In some cases, animal products may also be used, for example milk, bones, and gallstones. In addition, fats are used both for consumption and for external use. Metals and their compounds are also used including sulfur, arsenic, lead, copper sulfate and gold. This practice of adding minerals to herbal medicine is known as rasa shastra.
Pure alcohol, in some cases, used as a narcotic for the patient undergoing an operation. Later on,
Muslims introduced opium as a narcotic. Both oil and tar are used to stop bleeding. Traumatic bleeding is said to be stopped by four different methods, ligation of the blood vessel; cauterization by heat; using different herbal or animal preparations locally which facilitate clotting; and different medical preparations which constrict the bleeding or oozing vessels. Different oils may be used in a number of ways including regular consumption as a part of food, anointing, smearing, head massage, and prescribed application to infected areas.
“The Treatment of complex ailments, including angina pectoris, diabetes, hypertension, and stones, also ensued during this period. Plastic surgery, cataract surgery, puncturing to release fluids in the abdomen, extraction of foreign elements, treatment of anal fistulas, treating fractures, amputations, cesarean sections, and stitching of wounds were known. The use of herbs and surgical instruments became widespread.” 
Other early works of ayurveda include the Charaka Samhita, attributed to Charaka. The Charaka Samhita text is arguably the principal classic reference. It gives emphasis to the triune nature of each person: body care, mental regulation, and spiritual/consciousness refinement. The earliest surviving excavated written material which contains the works of Sushruta is the Bower Manuscript, dated to the 4th century AD. Vagbhatta, the son of a senior doctor by the name of Simhagupta, also compiled his works on traditional medicine. Early ayurveda had a school of physicians and a school of surgeons. Tradition holds that the text Agnivesh tantra, written by the sage Agnivesh, a student of the sage Bharadwaja, influenced the writings of ayurveda.
As ayurveda uses herbal medicines, it produces no side effects. Due to this reason, it is now being admired throughout the world. Academic institutions related to traditional medicine in India have contributed to ayurveda’s international visibility Gujarat Ayurved University: Several international and national initiatives have been formed to legitimize the practice of ayurvedic medicine as CAM in countries outside India:
WHO policy of traditional medicine practice
The European Federation for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
The European Ayurveda Association
In the United States:
These American organizations are trying to popularize ayurveda:
The National Ayurvedic Medical Association NAMA
The US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine CAAM
The National Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine NIAM
The California College of Ayurveda CCA
In 2009, the United States of America’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) of the National Institutes of Health expended $1.2 million of its $123 million annual budget on ayurvedic medicine-related research .
Charak, sometimes spelled Caraka, born c. 300 BC was one of the principal contributors to the ancient art and science of Ayurveda, a system of medicine and lifestyle developed inAncient India. He is sometimes referred to as the Father of Indian Medicine.
The term Caraka is a label said to apply to ‘wandering scholars’ or ‘wandering physicians.’ According to Charaka, health and disease are not predetermined and life may be prolonged by human effort and attention to lifestyle. As per Indian heritage and science of Ayurvedic system, prevention of all types of diseases have a more prominent place than treatment, including restructuring of life style to align with the course of nature and four seasons, which will guarantee complete wellness.
The following statements are attributed to Acharya Charak:”A physician who fails to enter the body of a patient with the lamp of knowledge and understanding can never treat diseases. He should first study all the factors, including environment, which influence a patient’s disease, and then prescribe treatment. It is more important to prevent the occurrence of disease than to seek a cure.”
These remarks appear obvious today, though they were often not heeded, and were made by Charaka, in his famous Ayurvedic treatiseCharaka Samhita. The treatise contains many such remarks which are held in reverence even today. Some of them are in the fields ofphysiology, etiology and embryology.
Charaka Monument in the Pantanjali Yogpeeth
Campus, Haridwar, India
Charaka was the first physician to present the concept of digestion, metabolism and immunity. According to his translations of the Vedas, a body functions because it contains three dosha or principles, namely movement (vata), transformation (pitta) and lubrication and stability (kapha). The doshas are also sometimes called humours, namely, bile, phlegm and wind. These dosha are produced when dhatus (blood, flesh and marrow) act upon the food eaten. For the same quantity of food eaten, one body, however, produces dosha in an amount different from another body. That is why one body is different from another. For instance, it is more weighty, stronger, more energetic.
Charaka Monument in the Pantanjali Yogpeeth
Further, illness is caused when the balance among the three dosha in a human body is disturbed. To restore the balance he prescribed medicinal drugs. Although he was aware of germs in the body, he did not give them any importance.
Charaka knew the fundamentals of genetics. For instance, he knew the factors determining the sex of a child. A genetic defect in a child, like lameness or blindness, he said, was not due to any defect in the mother or the father, but in the ovum or sperm of the parents (an accepted fact today).
Charaka studied the anatomy of the human body and various organs. He gave 360 as the total number of bones, including teeth, present in the body. He wrongly believed that the heart had one cavity, but he was right when he considered it to be a controlling centre. He claimed that the heart was connected to the entire body through 13 main channels. Apart from these channels, there were countless other ones of varying sizes which supplied not only nutrients to various tissues but also provided passage to waste products. He also claimed that any obstruction in the main channels led to a disease or deformity in the body.
Under the guidance of the ancient physician Atreya, Agnivesa had written an encyclopedic treatise in the eighth century B.C. However, it was only when Charaka revised this treatise that it gained popularity and came to be known as Charakasamhita. For two millennia it remained a standard work on the subject and was translated into many foreign languages, including Arabic and Latin.
According to the Charaka tradition, there existed six schools of medicine, founded by the disciples of the sage Punarvasu Ātreya. Each of his disciples, Agnivesha, Bhela, Jatūkarna, Parāshara, Hārīta, and Kshārapāni, composed a Samhitā. Of these, the one composed by Agnivesha was considered the best. The Agnivesha Samhitā was later revised by Charaka and it came to be known as Charaka Samhitā. Later on, the Charaka Samhitā was revised by Dridhbala.
Sushruta (Around 800 BC) was an ancient Indian surgeon and is the author of the book Sushruta Samhita, in which he describes over 300 surgical procedures and 120 surgical instruments and classifies human surgery in 8 categories. He lived, taught and practiced his art on the banks of the Ganges in the area that corresponds to the present day city of Benares in North India.
Because of his seminal and numerous contributions to the science and art of surgery he is also known by the title “Father of Surgery.” Much of what is known about this inventive surgeon is contained in a series of volumes he authored, which are collectively known as theSushruta Samhita.
There are numerous contributions made by Sushruta to the field of surgery. Surgical demonstration of techniques of making incisions, probing, extraction of foreign bodies, alkali and thermal cauterization, tooth extraction, excisions, trocars for draining abscess draining hydrocele and ascitic fluid. Sushruta described removal of the prostate gland, urethral stricture dilatation, hernia surgery, caesarian section, management of hemorrhoids, fistulae, laparotomy and management of intestinal obstruction, perforated intestines, accidental perforation of the abdomen with protrusion of omentum.
Sushruta classified details of the six types of dislocations, twelve varieties of fractures and classification of the bones and their reaction to the injuries. He also discussed the principles of fracture management, viz., traction, manipulation, appositions and stabilization including some measures of rehabilitation and fitting of prosthetics. His classification of eye diseases,76 in total, with signs, symptoms, prognosis, medical/surgical interventions and cataract surgery. He also described various methods of stitching the intestines using ant-heads and threads sterilized with neem and turmeric as stitching material. His study also include embryology and sequential development of the structures of the fetus and dissection and study of anatomy of human body. He Introduced wine or pure alcohol as an anesthetic to dull the pain of surgical incisions. He prepared a list of 1120 illnesses and recommended diagnosis by inspection, palpation and auscultation.
Cataract surgery was known to the physician Sushruta in the first millennium BC, and was performed with a special tool called the jabamukhi salaka, a curved needle used to loosen the lens and push the cataract out of the field of vision. The eye would later be soaked with warm butter and then bandaged.
“The medical works of both Sushruta and Charaka were translated into the Arabic language during the Abbasid Caliphate (ca. 750). These Arabic works made their way into Europe via intermediaries. In Italy, the Branca family of Sicily and Gaspare Tagliacozzi (Bologna) became familiar with the techniques of Sushruta. British physicians traveled to India to see rhinoplasty being performed by native methods. Reports on Indian rhinoplasty were published in the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1794. Joseph Constantine Carpue spent 20 years in India studying local plastic surgery methods. Carpue was able to perform the first major surgery in the western world in 1815. Instruments described in the Sushruta Samhita were further modified in the Western World.” In this way, the Hindu ayurveda was carried to the West, via Spain, by the Muslims.
 Samarendranath Sen, History of Science (in Bengali)
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