How did Ayurveda come to mankind?
Ayurvedic medicine is a thousand years old medicine, practiced and taught by the forefathers and wise seers (Rishis) for the benefit of mankind. It is a revelation out of deep contemplation and a heritage transmitted from teacher to student by word of mouth. Its roots are in ancient India. Many scientists assume that Ayurveda is the most ancient healing system.
The Vedic knowledge was written down about 5000 years ago by Vedavyasa, an incarnation of the Highest Lord. Before, this knowledge was passed down orally. Brahma, the creator of the universe was the first to receive this science directly from Vishnu. Brahma, who knew all the four Vedas, passed on the entire knowledge of Ayurveda to Dakṣa (Prajāpati). From Dakṣa it went to the Aśvins and from the Aśvins to Indra. Thus, the process of transmission from Brahma to Indra was so complete and thorough that the whole science was mastered in its entirety by all three disciples in succession, and not a single point was lost during transmission.
It was now Indra’s turn to share the knowledge. He was in search of a suitable and worthy disciple to whom he could transmit this imperishable treasure of knowledge. The ancient scriptures say, “One who does not pass on the knowledge he has received from his teachers remains in debt towards his teachers.“
Caraka reported that the time has come where people were increasingly afflicted by diseases. Diseases which shortened life and hindered people from following dharma (duties), practicing tapas (spiritual practice), studying the Vedas, and performing yajñas (rituals). Diseases destroy health, well-being and life. This has more and more manifested as a huge obstacle on the path of human life.
For this reason, the Rishis gathered in the Himalayan valley and discussed about this subject. These great wise men were among others Aṅgirā, Vasiṣṭa, Kaśyapa, Bhrigu, Ātreya, Gautama, Sāṅkhya, Pulastya, Nārada, Agastya, Vāmadeva, Mārkaṇḍaya, Bharadvādja, Viśvāmitra, Maitreya, and many other maharishis (great sages) who were concerned about the welfare of all living beings. They consulted on how to help mankind because they felt compassion for them. Good health is the true root of virtuous actions, wealth, satisfaction of desires, and ultimate liberation.
“Dharma, Artha, Kāma, Moksha (ethical duties/virtue, wealth/success, worldly enjoyment, salvation/liberation) – these four principles are difficult or impossible to follow for sick people. When Dharma is hindered by illness, Moksha recedes into the distance.” This is how the wise men thought and they looked for a solution to the problem.
They asked themselves, “What could be the healing remedy?“ – With this in mind, they went into meditation. In their vision, they recognized Indra, the Lord of Gods, as their savior. Indra is supposed to teach and show the right way to fight the diseases.
The wise men decided to send Bharadvāja, the son of Brihaspati, to Indra to request from him the remedy to eliminate diseases. Bharadvāja humbly delivered the holy message of the wise men to Indra: “The diseases, which are terrible for all living beings, have manifested. Please advise and teach me about the true remedies and their application, O Lord of Gods.“
Indra revealed the eternal and sacred science of life consisting of three principles, namely etiology, symptomatology, and the knowledge of therapies as remedies of well-being, both for the healthy and the sick, as Brahma had been instructing since the beginning of time.
In this way Bharadvāja received the knowledge of Ayurveda from Indra. Since the Rishis were self-controlled, had a sharp intellect and excellent memory, they were able to reproduce what once they had heard without writing it down. Bharadvāja returned to the place in the Himalayas with the teachings on Ayurveda he had received and introduced them to all the wise men gathered there. They immediately applied the knowledge and all of them led long and healthy lives. Thus, Ayurveda was established on this Earth.
In the ancient scriptures it is written that the gods in heaven were so pleased that a deep melodic sound was heard in the three worlds, and an auspicious wind began to blow and all directions were illuminated by lights. Divine flowers and light showers of rain fell from the sky.
Later, Ātreya Muni (6th century BC) taught Ayurveda to his six disciples Agniveśa, Bhelā, Jatūkarṇa, Parāśara, Hārīta and Kṣārapāṇi. Punarnava Ātreya instructed his six disciples to write down the knowledge. Agniveśa (5th century BC) was the first who drafted a compendium (the Agniveśa tantra), but it got lost. The Caraka Samhita was compiled around 400 AD and contains texts from several authors. It is the oldest existing Sanskrit text on Ayurveda.
The Caraka Samhita was soon translated into Arabic and into Persian around 800 AD. It then appeared in Latin under the title Sharaca indianus, which was also studied by Avicenna (980 – 1027).
Another work is Sushruta Samhita which contains the oldest texts on surgery. It is reported that Sushruta received the knowledge directly from Lord Dhanvantari. Lord Dhanvantari, a direct incarnation of Vishnu is the patron saint of medicine. The text of Sushruta Samhita was compiled by Nagarjuna (4th century BC).
In the 6th century AD, Ashtanga Hridayam and Ashtanga Sangraha were compiled by the famous Ayurvedic physician Vagbhata, followed by further collections like Madhava Nidana (800 AD), Sharangadhara Samhita (1226), Bhavaprakasha (1558), Cakradatta etc.
All these works are eternally valid and are still part of the studies in Ayurvedic medicine today.
Aim of Ayurveda
The aim of Ayurveda is to maintain health and cure disease. Therefore, the definition of the science of Ayurveda is:
hitāhitaṃ sukhaṃ duḥkham-āyustasya hitāhitam
mānaṃ ca tacca yatroktam ayurvedaṃ sa ucyate.
Ayurveda comprises good and bad, happy and unhappy life – what is beneficial or detrimental to life (or other living beings); the measure of life (lifespan) and its components, and life itself. All this is explained by Ayurveda. Caraka Saṃhitā, Sū 1.41.
Āyurveda comes from Āyus, which means life, and from Vedas, which means science. So Āyurveda is the science of life and of nature of man. Āyurveda is the knowledge of what nurtures a healthy and happy life and what causes disease. What is the purpose of all kinds of science (Vedas) when people are not happy and healthy? Therefore, the scholars of the Vedas, consider Āyurveda as the best and most virtuous of all sciences, both for this life and the next.
…..to be continued