Lecture Note: “Salient Features of Ayurveda Textbooks (Samhita)” (Part-2)


Salient Features of Ayurveda Textbooks (Samhita)

 Dr. Murlidhar Paliwal

Transcript done by
Dr. Kashish
Junor resident 1 Department of Samhita and Sanskrit,
Faculty of Ayurveda, BHU, Varanasi
Dr Varsha More

based on the lecture available at
“Salient Features of Ayurveda Textbooks (Samhita)”

Enlighten about art of living:

“Art of Living” means how to live, behave, or act. This term is very attractive and interesting to one and all. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has meticulously popularized this art of living, gathering thousands of followers. However, it is essential to emphasize that Ayurveda also describes a comprehensive art of living. Ayurveda, being concerned with life and beyond, doesn’t solely focus on treatment but equally emphasizes various aspects of life, presenting a detailed guide for an ideal way of living.

Daily routine, seasonal routine, and Sadvritta (noble acts) described in Samhitas are the ideal of living. The Samhitas delve into daily routines, seasonal practices, and novel acts, outlining the path to an exemplary life. Following these guidelines can bring name, fame, and success in society while contributing to maintaining peace. Ayurveda introduces the concept of Purushartha, encompassing the entirety of life. Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha form the four pursuits, with Dharma being prioritized as it encompasses all moral duties and ethics.

Dharma, in the Ayurvedic and Vedic context, goes beyond religious boundaries. It includes moral duties that sustain life, unite people, and establish peace and order in society. The broader sense of Dharma is discussed first, highlighting its importance in shaping a righteous life. Wealth (Artha) and desires (Kama) are recognized as subsequent pursuits, emphasizing that they should be attained through legal and ethical means.

By adhering to the principles of Dharma and fulfilling desires within its bounds, Ayurvedic teachings suggest the attainment of Swarga (heaven) or salvation. Ayurveda serves as a live symbol of the art of living or ideal living.

Learning and teaching methodology:

In addition to ethical guidelines, Ayurvedic Samhitas provide a structured methodology for learning and teaching. Charaka Samhita, for instance, outlines how subjects should be taught – starting with teaching sentence-wise, followed by explaining the meaning of each sentence and interpreting difficult words (Ch.Su 30/16). This methodical approach is evident in the explanation of terms like “Vyayam,” where clear definitions and interpretations are provided to ensure a thorough understanding. Such teachings fall under the category of ” Arthavayavshah  Vyakhyam” in Ayurveda.

Charaka Samhita enlightens about learning methods in the form of Arthagya, Vicharagya, and Chikitsa kushal in the Siddhisthan 12th chapter. Acharya emphasizes that if you want to understand Charaka Samhita, you should have knowledge of the entire subject matter. Then, you should be well-acquainted with the interpretation, and only then can you be considered an efficient physician.

View of Acharya Sushruta regarding teaching methods:

Acharya Sushruta also advocates teaching methods in the form of Padam, Paadam, Shlokam. It means Acharya Sushruta says that the teacher should instruct every word or part of the verse or the entire verse according to the ability of the disciples. Acharya Dalhan, the commentator of Sushruta Samhita, says that if your disciple or student does not have much power of calibre or grasping power, then each and every word of the verse should be taught.

 If he has a medium type of intelligence, then part of the verse should be taught, and if your disciple is more intelligent or brilliant, then the full verse should be taught altogether. This shows how meticulously they have thought about, teaching methodology beneficial for three types of disciples (trividha shishya hitarth)

Acharya says that whatever has been taught to the students, they should repeat every word, part of the verse, and the complete verse, and that chanting should not be very fast or not very slow. It shows how to learn that particular subject matter.

Guidelines for writing the text:

 Ayurveda Samhitas give guidelines for writing the text. If we see Ayurveda Samhitas, we can easily understand that they provide guidelines for writing the text also. In the beginning of the text, Acharya discusses Anubhandha Chatushtaya, meaning whoever writes any text or textbook should think about the Anubandha Chatushtya. What will be the Abhidheya (subject matter to be discussed), what is the aim and object behind it which comes under the Prayojan(heading), and what will be the Samandha (relationship) between the subject matter and the reader of that particular subject, and who will be considered suitable to read that particular text which comes under the title Adhikari. So, these four types of Anubandha Chatushtya, every author should think first and then start his writing.

 Then, while describing the different subject matter, Pancha-avyava-vakya mentioned in Samhita should be taken as the guideline for the text where Pratigya, Hetu, Drishtant, Upanaya, and Nigamana are discussed. Here, Pratigya means whatever you are going to discuss should be proposed first. Then, a Hetu or cause behind that should be given, followed by certain examples in the form of Drishtant and then Upanaya and Nigamana should also be followed by which you can come to the conclusion of that topic.

Similarly, the characteristic feature of an ideal text mentioned in Charak Samhita, Vimansthan, can be the guideline for writing a good text. Similarly, a writer should ensure that his text or her text should be free from all the Nigraha Sthanas. If Nigrah sthanas are there, which are discussed under the heading Vadamarga in Charak Samhita, that is also not the good pattern of writing the text.

If Nigraha sthan type of discussion is present in your text, it means it is having the Vakya dosha or the fault and is not considered an ideal text. The textbook should be free from all Vakya dosha or Tantra dosha, and there should be the application of different Kalpana or Arthashraya or Tantra Yukti to make your text well-arranged and maintain the gravity of the text.

Standardized adjudication and research protocol:

Another important characteristic feature of the Samhita is the standardized adjudication and research protocol. If you see the Samhita, you can find standard assessment criteria. For example, you can see the first chapter of Charak Samhita, where Agnivesh, Bhel Harit, etc., wrote their textbook. They presented the entire text in front of different seers and sages along with their teacher. When all other seers and sages, along with their teacher, accepted and appreciated their text, only then were those texts considered in use. That is the reason why these textbooks written by Agnivesha, popularly known nowadays as Charak Samhita, is popular after thousands of years. This popularity is due to the standardized adjudication or assessment criteria, which is not followed nowadays.

Whosoever writes the text or a thesis at the MD or PhD level is just judged at the level of his supervisor or co-supervisor. However, it should be judged or assessed by a number of experts from other subjects as well as from his own subject so that relevant suggestions can be obtained, and the thesis or the book can be of more importance or utility.

Literary search guidelines

Similarly, the research protocols are also well-versed in the Samhita. The research guidelines related to literary research are available in all the Samhitas and their commentaries. Commentaries show how to write or how to interpret anything, how commentators support their view from different texts. This is well-versed in the commentary, and these give sufficient guidelines for literary research.

Similarly, in the main text of the Samhita, sufficient guidelines for literary research have been given. Wherever you have given a statement, that should be followed with certain logic. If examples are needed, then definitely some examples should be there, and it should be free from all types of faults in the form of tantra dosha, etc.

Diet related research

These are the guidelines for literary research. Similarly, diet-related research and matter are available in Charaka Samhita Sutrasthan 25 to 28, where Annapana Chatushka is described. In Sushruta Samhita, the Sutrasthan 45th and 46th chapters deal with the subject matter related to diet, which can be the base of diet-related research.

Similarly, in Sushruta Samhita Uttaratantra 64th chapter, Dwadasha Ashan Vichar is given there, which can be considered under the heading of diet research for different types of diseases as well as healthy conditions. Similarly, in Ashtanga Sangraha Sutra sthana from 9 to 11 chapters, three chapters have been discussed for the diet-related subject matter, which can be the base of diet-related research. The remaining portion of Samhita also contains subject matter related to diet, but mainly the references given are highlighted because the subject matter clearly related to diet is mentioned there.

Drug research:

Similarly, for drug research, a good guideline or scientific guideline is given in the Charaka Samhita Vimana sthan 8th chapter. For clinical research, we can see the Ashtang Sangraha Sutrasthan 23rd chapter where clinical research is elaborated in detail. Acharya says that wherever you want to use the medicine, you should see that the patient is living in that particular country, whether he has changed his place, what thing is suitable to him, in which season he or she got the disease, what are the likings of that patient, and what are the diseases which are generally there in that particular region, what things or what type of medicine will be suitable for that particular climate, what type of diet will be suitable for that particular climate or region. All these things should be considered, and it is well-stated in Ashtanga Sangraha Sutrasthana 23rd.


After discussing all these salient features of the Samhita, a question arises, that if Samhitas are having all these salient features, then is there any need for a change in Samhitas? Then the answer is yes. In spite of having all these salient features, Samhita needs rational modifications. Some rational modifications can be there in Samhita wherever you find that this modification will be rational, that can be done. Again, sufficient possibility of addition is there because it is the basic nature of science that any therapy or any medicine or any topic or any fundamental develops day by day; chronologically, it develops. So definitely when these Samhitas were written, they were in the stage of excellence, but after that, so many advances in science and technology and in medicine also took place, so definitely that advance, that particular research or innovation should be added in Samhita in the vimarsha, wherever it is applicable. So, there are plenty of possibilities for additions. Again, I would say that Samhitas need more explanation. Yes, an explanation is given, but now the scenario is changed. The Samhitas are written in the Sanskrit medium, and the students are coming from science and English-based, so they need more explanation, sometimes in Hindi, sometimes in English, sometimes by pictorial presentation, by table, by flowchart, and by so many means we should try much more to explain the theme and make each and every topic of the Samhita palatable and interesting to the students. Again, there is a need for the attitude of Samhita-based researchers. Here I would like to put emphasis that research is going on in each and every part of the country, and very good researches are going on, but very few researches are going on the Samhita-based topics. It is my humble submission that Samhita-based researches mean the medicine mentioned in Samhita should undergo clinical trial or the certain valid fundamental doctrines mentioned in Samhita should be taken as the research, and that may be followed by the clinical trials also, but at least the Samhita-based researches should be there where medicine described in Samhita or any process described in Samhita be followed, and we should come with certain conclusions so that the Samhitas may be more fruitful to the present generation, and it may be a matter of interest for our students also or the physicians also, and finally, the teaching of Samhita should be there in OPD and IPD also, not only in the classroom the topic related to the clinical practice or diagnosis should be taught in the IPD of the hospital with certain patients of that particular disease that will be of more use and the student will like it, and they will grasp whatever you are teaching very quickly.

  Samhitas are endowed with an auto-update system inbuilt. Here I would like to mention that I willingly used an auto-update system inbuilt for the Samhitas resulting in the Samhitas being written thousands of years ago, and after three or four thousand years also, they are useful as it is. How it can be? Time is changing day by day, the scenario and environment, and everything, even the properties of diet and medicine, are changing or decreasing day by day. In spite of that, how all these Samhitas are as it is useful nowadays, reason being having an auto-update system inbuilt. It is my opinion, and my opinion hidden behind this word is that Samhita has advocated certain principles which are useful through the ages for example Vata, Pitta, Kapha were there thousands of years ago, Vata. Pitta, Kapha are present in the human body or the living organism today also and it will be for the future also. Similarly, the Panchamahabhuta Siddhanta which Samhita discussed was applied thousands of years ago, it is useful today and it will be useful in the future also. Similarly, certain things, for example, as I discussed in the presentation, that the Ahar Matra or the average quantity of the diet is not mentioned which is more scientific I would say and it makes Samhita auto-update if anybody is having the more digestive power he can consume food accordingly if another one is having the less power of digestion he would consume accordingly and such type of instructions are there in Samhita which makes Samhita auto-update, Vyayam Matra is also not fixed by the Acharyas, similarly if you see the Viman sthan of Charaka Samhita where Acharya says that there in Satyuga the Purushas or the humans were having the lifespan of 400 years while in Kalyuga we are having the lifespan of 100 years, so how it can be? If a segment of a specific Yuga’s duration becomes disrupted, then the lifespan will also be affected proportionately to the extent of that disruption, this an auto update example. Samhitas are good combination of fundamental principle and practical application. Samhita not only discusses regarding fundamental principles but each principle is followed by its practical application.


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