DARSANAS and Ayurveda-Interdisciplinary Dialogue

  • By Muthulakshmi K
  • June 3, 2024
  • 573 views
  • Disciplinarity and inter disciplinarity went hand in hand in the intellectual discourses of traditional knowledge systems. Article tells you how.

 

1. Abstract

Close reading of the core texts of any traditional discipline reveals the intellectual network that functions as its theoretical grid. By understanding the text in the background of that intellectual network, the learner is led to wider possibilities of enquiry inherent in that text.

 

Disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity went hand in hand in the intellectual discourses of traditional knowledge systems.

 

Interdisciplinarity was never something that had to be brought in mechanically from outside. Many disciplines point out the importance of knowing one’s own saastra in connection with saastras different from one’s own. Even though there is divergence in orientation pertaining to darsanas and ayurvedic conceptions of life, it is important to identify the theoretical dialogues between these systems of knowledge. Such an approach paves the way for a broader understanding of the systems.

 

On the one, it facilitates a philosophically and logically indepth explication of ayurveda. On the other, it also enables the empirical exposition of darsanas to reveal its applied dimension.

 

Caturvyooha method or four fold method of enquiry forms a method shared by different streams of traditional disciplines including advaita and ayurveda. The theories regarding different kinds of kosas, sareeras and diseases corresponding to each of them are evidences to the fruitful dialogues between advaita and ayurveda. Such interdisciplinary dialogues form and function as the essential characteristics of traditional knowledge systems of India.

 

This article was first published in the Aryavaidyan Journal dated January 2, 2024.

 

2. Introduction

Close reading of the core texts of any traditional discipline reveals the intellectual network that functions as its theoretical grid. By understanding a text in the background of that intellectual network, the learner is led to wider possibilities of enquiry inherent in that text. Viewed from a broader perspective, new insights can be developed on the subject which makes the text contemporary and multi-oriented. It can be seen that the teaching and learning of traditional knowledge systems of India had always been a multidisciplinary dialogical process.

 

Understanding knowledge systems from that dialogic perspective which is also an integral part of their evolution, enables contemporary learners to connect with the systems more effectively. As such studies involve more than one discipline of study, this endeavour undoubtedly will be of interdisciplinary nature. The boundaries of disciplinarity and inter disciplinarity are found to be thin and irrelevant considering the extensive possibilities of approaching and understanding a saastra from multiple perspectives.

 

This paper, at the outset, tries to trace certain important instances and ways in which interdisciplinarity was highlighted and practised in traditional knowledge systems of India. After that, some specific points related to the theoretical background, commonly shared by different knowledge systems including advaita and ayurveda are presented. In the last part, certain noteworthy conceptual interfaces and dialogues between advaita and ayurveda are introduced and discussed.

 

3. Disciplinarity/Interdisciplinarity 

The authors of ancient Sanskrit texts often quoted verses from the works of their predecessors/contemporaries as authority. It was not a general practice to state the identity of these authoritative sources but referred to them as kecid, eke (some people) etc. It was the duty of the learner or commentator of the later period to identify the accurate source of reference. In that sense, the very reading of the text itself turned into a research activity. Theoretical discourses of each school of darsana could be understood contextually and historically, only with regard to their engagement with other schools.

 

In Nyaayasootras and Charakasamhitaa, theories are classified as sarva-tantrasiddhaanta, prati-tantrasiddhaanta, adhikaranasiddhaanta and abhyupagamasiddhaanta. [1] All these intellectual disciplines, in one way or other, accept, contrast, accommodate and adapt theories advocated by others. The presence of a theoretical order was evident there which had to be addressed in the process of theorising.

 

Thus disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity went hand in hand in the intellectual discourses of traditional knowledge systems.

Interdisciplinarity was never something that had to be brought in mechanically from outside. Many disciplines point out the importance of knowing one’s own saastra in connection with saastras different from one’s own. For example, Kumarila Bhatta, in his Meemaamsaaslokavaartika, proclaims that the discipline of Poorva- meemaamsaa is bahuvidyaantaraasrtā, that is, a discipline that is relied upon by many other disciplines [2]. Another connotation of the same is that meemaamsaa is a discipline that demands the knowledge of many other disciplines of study. Anyhow, interaction with other schools of discipline is undoubtedly highlighted here.

 

According to ayurvedic preceptors, there are two kinds of relationship between a specific saastra and other saastras. According to Susruta, a physician should have basic knowledge of different kinds of saastras because one who knows only one saastra will not be able to grasp the essence of even that saastra. [3] Thus, this kind of relationship enables the learner to have a comprehensive knowledge of one’s own saastra through the knowledge of other saastras. The other type of relationship, as posited by Charaka, equips the learner to understand other saastras easily, based on the strong understanding of the disciplinary logic of one’s own saastra. [4]

 

Thus one may benefit from the interactions and interfaces between one’s own and other saastras for an interdisciplinary and comprehensive understanding of them. During the course of saastra discourses, it had been a practice to authenticate or supplement oneself by quoting or referring to other saastras. Para-tantraavalokanam or learning other saastras which are different from one’s own has been a practice held high in ayurveda. [5] Understanding the ways in which a particular theory is employed in different disciplines in different ways also exemplify a multi perspectival potential inherent to it. 

 

4. Caturvyooha-siddhaanta 

Caturvyooha-siddhaanta is one of the narrative methods/logical tools commonly employed in texts of different saastras in ways specific to each system.

 

In Dhammachakkappavattanasutta, the first sermon by Buddha and Mahaahattipadopamasutta of Majjhimanikaayasutta, the basic texts of Buddhist philosophy, the four aarya-satyasare proposed [6]. They are dukkha (sorrow), dukkhasamudaya (origin of sorrow), dukkhanirodha (cessation of sorrow) and dukkhanirodhagaminipatipada (path leading to that cessation).

 

This classification can be represented in another way like; a problem/issue to be addressed, its origin/cause, its cessation and the way to achieve that cessation. This may be cited as the earliest instance of four-fold perspective of addressing a problem. This method of perceiving a problem from different angles for a comprehensive understanding and resultant solution can be found adapted in different darsanas and in ayurveda as well.

 

Caturvyooha-siddhaanta is employed in Vyaasabhaashya of Yogasootras [7]. This sootra sets foundation for the whole discourse of Yoga philosophy in the form of its rationale and objective. The discussion here focuses on the nature and kinds of dukkha.

 

The three kinds of dukkhas are born of parinaama (change), taapa (anxiety) and samskaara (habituation). Dukkha is born out of imbalanced functioning of gunastoo [7]. Persons who are oriented towards Samaadhi find the whole worldly life sorrowful. So, for them, it was inevitable to conduct an in-depth enquiry into the origin, cause, cessation and the means of cessation concerning dukkha.

 

Caturvyooha-siddhaanta has been employed as the most suitable format for that purpose through which the cause of dukkha was identified as avidyaa and the means of its cessation was samyag-darsana. Vyasa the commentator aptly employs the methodology adopted in medical science for framing its theoretical foundation as disease, cause of disease, health and the procedure of treatment.

 

Vyaasabhaashya elaborates on this sootra thus- As medical science employs a four-fold method of analysis such as, disease, cause of disease, health and treatment, this saastra also follows a four-fold method of samsaara, cause of samsaara, moksha and means to attain moksha.[8]

 

Thus a direct reference to Cikitsaa-saastra pointing out the similarity of approach is found here. The commentator Vyasa integrates this frame to the discipline of Yogasaastra and explains it further [9]: Samsaara, full of sorrow to be avoided, it originates from the union of prakrti and purusha, its ultimate cessation is to be attained and means for that goal is right vision.

 

Nyaayadarsana adopts this frame in a manner specific to that school of thought. The first sootra of Nyaayasootras of Gautama enlists 16 categories of padaarthas [10]. Vatsyayanain his bhaashya to this sootra elaborates the idea in a four-fold manner [11]. He observes that the attainment of supreme felicity is preceded by four core themes of Saastra or four human concerns. They are; identifying the problem to be avoided (suffering), its cause, the absolute cessation of the problem which is to be avoided and the means for that purpose. Here, the four fold foundation of the saastra discourse is mentioned. It is noteworthy that the categorization of 16 padaarthas is fitted into the four fold framing of the philosophical and logical narrative.

 

Saamkhyakaarikaa by Iswarakrishna begins the text with a comprehensive formula to deal with the three kinds of dukkhas that affect all living beings [12]. Here, the introduction to the saastra is presented effectively through a format similar to four fold narration.

 

Thus evolves the action plan to get rid of dukkhatraya. The yearning to identify the means to avoid the cause, to be aware of the different available means for its cessation and to identify the suitable one among them form part of the action plan.

 

BhadantaNagarjuna, author of the ayurvedic text Rasavaiseshikasootra which deals with the logic and ontology of ayurveda begins the work pointing to the four fold method followed in ayurvedasaastra. The first three sootras of Rasavaiseshikasootra indicate the four fold analytical method to explore the science of ayurveda [13].

 

The four fold method, in the case of health, involves the components of health, symptoms of health, cause and means to achieve health and benefits of being healthy. In the case of disease, it involves the components of disease, symptoms of disease, causes of disease and effect of disease. This classification specifically sets the ground for a logical and unique definition of aarogya and roga as well as for explaining the whole process of treatment.

 

Sankaracharya, in Upadesaasahasree, has integrated this fourfold method with advaitic methodology of analyzing a problem. In Kootastha-advayaatma-prakaranam of Upadesaasahasree, the disciple asks Guru whether the sorrow experienced by him was inherent to his own nature or incidental (caused by a specific reason) [14]. According to the disciple, if the sorrow was inherent to his own nature, it was impossible to put an end to it because one’s own nature was unavoidable. If it was born out of any specific cause, it could be removed by removing that cause. 

 

Guru gave him the answer that the sorrow was not inherent but causal. And the disciple inquisitively asked about the nature of the cause, method of removing it and about his own real nature. He was convinced that when the cause was removed, he will regain his own nature like a patient regaining his svabhaava when the cause of his disease was removed. [15]

 

Guru answered that avidyaa or ignorance was the reason of his dukkha, Vidyaa was the remedy to remove it and when avidyaa, the cause was removed, the effect will naturally be removed and he will experience his own nature or swabhaava which is of the form of liberation from thissamsaara. [16] In this dialogue also, direct reference to cikitsaasaastra, through the reference to fourfold method of addressing and analyzing a problem is found.

 

All the schools of thought mentioned above hold different theoretical positions but a specific pattern of enquiry shared by all is evident from the above references. Vagbhata, the author of Ashtaangasangraha has hailed the greatness of the method of aaryasatya saying that one who practises ayurveda on the lines of aaryasatyas accomplishes the utmost result from it, not only for oneself but for the sake of others also.[17] .

 

5. Question of Adhisthaana/Medium 

The nature of adhisthaana/substratum or medium is accorded much importance in saastras connecting it with various processes. Sareera is the basic adhishthaana conceptualised in unique ways both in advaita and ayurveda. There is no doubt that sareera is a term which carries a wide range of meaning in both the disciplines. But they differ in accordance with the nature of fundamental conceptualization in the respective system.

 

In advaita, sareera is not a mere physical entity that is visible externally. It has many layers; gross, subtle and causal and all of them together constitute the entity of jeeva. Atmabodha written by Sankaracharya, clearly delineates the three kinds of sareeras. According to him, the gross body which is made up of five elements, is the platform of experiences of jeeva (bhogaayatanam). At the same time, subtle body which is constituted of ten indriyas, five praanas, manas and buddhi acts as the instrument of experiences. (bhogasaadhanam). Causal body is avidyaa itself, the root cause of multiple experiences one undergoes. [18]

 

In Vivekachoodaamani also, Sankara gives the definitions of the three bodies. Gross body is the aasraya for the empirical activities of individuals. The definition he gives for subtle body here is interesting. Subtle body is union of eight structures (puryashtaka), viz, five karmendriyas, five jnaanendriyas, five praanas, five bhootas, four aspects of antahkarana (manas, buddhi, ahankaara, cittam), avidyaa, kaama and karma. It is karmaphala-anubhaavaka or instrumental for the experience of fruits of actions. Causal body is defined as one which is constituted by three subtle elements of satva, rajas and tamas which acts the root cause of all that is experienced. [19].

 

It is suggested that comprehensive and indepth knowledge about sareera is essential for the deeper understanding of ayurveda.[20] According Charaka, mind, soul and body exist as a tripod and the world has this tripod as its substratum.[21] .Different kinds of knowledge about body are relevant in ayurveda. One is structural which elaborates on different limbs of physical body. The second kind of structural knowledge, more fundamental in nature, is related to the theory of five bhootas, i.e., compositional aspects of body. Another kind of analysis of body is based on its internal functional aspects. Vagbhata, in Ashtangasangraha maintains that body is the foundation of dosha, dhaatu and mala. [22]. Three doshas, seven dhaatus and various malas taken together explains the whole bodily functions of life which in turn result in aarogya or anaarogya.

 

6. Pancakosa-siddhaanta 

The interface between advaitic and ayurvedic theories on body can be well explained when they are understood in connection with pancakosa-siddhaanta. This theory has its roots in Taittireeyopanishad, even though the word kosa is not found used there. The layers of annamaya, praanamaya, manomaya, vijnaanamaya and aanandamaya are explained there as the parts constituting a living being. Five sheaths form five layers of individual self and altogether these constitute the medium of all mechanisms of bodily functions. In the description starting from annamayakosa and proceeding to aanandamaya, the Upanishad 7 affirms that each layer becomes complete with the succeeding one- tenaishapoornah. [23] This expression indicates that kosas are envisaged as mutually complementary to each other.

 

The theory of three sareeras viz., sthoola (gross), sookshma (subtle) and kaarana (causal) can be understood in connection with the theory of pancakosas. Sthoolasareera corresponds to annamayakosawhich is defined as one which gets nourished by food (bhogaayatana). Sookshmasareera is constituted of three kosas of praanamaya, manomaya and vijnaanamaya.

 

Thus it is held that sookshmasareera is constituted of jnaanendriyas, karmendriyas, five kinds of vaayu-s, buddhi and manas. This is in tune with the definition of sookshma-sareera as bhogasaadhana. The basis of kaarana-sareera is avidyaa or ignorance. Avidyaa is considered as kaarana-sareera because, in advaita vedanta, avidyaa is regarded as the basic root of the whole creation which is transient. In a generalized sense, avidyaaand vidyaa can be interpreted in terms of the basic perspective/vision one upholds; wrong in the case of avidyaa and right in the case of vidyaa. Even that perspective/ vision is called as sareera in advaita because it is the basic source of experience which shapes the nature of further course of human life.

 

This classification generates several questions. Sareeras are constituted of kosas or layers. Layers in turn are called sareera-s. Why are they called sareeras? In the primary sense, only gross or sthoola sareera is to be called sareera. Other two have to be called merely layers or group of layers.

So the term sareera itself connotes a deeper meaning here. It means something that gets affected/deconstructed or decomposed. It also denotes the immediacy of experiences that emerge from that particular platform. Sookshma and kaarana sareeras are not mere abstract conceptions but principles inner and subtle, subject to/ source of numerous experiences.

 

7. Three sareeras/five kosas and respective rogas 

The advaitic text Panchadasi written by Madhava Vidyaranya of 14th century, gives insightful observations about the three sareeras and the respective rogas which affect them.

 

Madhava Vidyaranya observes that the diseases born out of vitiation of the vaata, pitta and kapha affect the gross body. They result in the malfunctioning of body. Mental afflictions like kaama, krodha etc. affect the sookshma-sareera by their presence in it. In the case of sama, dama etc. it is their absence that produces the negative effect in sookshma-sareera.

 

Kaaranasareera happens to be the platform where the self experiences the feeling of being lost in ignorance i.e. being mentally and intellectually confused. [24] Even that condition can be called a roga in a broad perspective. MadhavaVidyaranya points out that as the three sareeras are affected by diseases, Aatman or supreme self is not affected by any. According to him, the root of the diseases that affect both sthoola and sookshmasareeras lie in kaaranasareera. [25] Thus a unique kind of relation exists between the three kinds of sareeras and corresponding rogas. This forms one important logic behind the concept of three bodies.

 

Ayurvedic scholars have put forward some noteworthy observations regarding the logic behind the conception of five kosas from the perspective of bodily functions.

 

K.Raghavan Thirumulpad, referring to the theory of Pancakosas, points out that each layer of aananda, vijnaana, manas, praana and dhaatus of an individual regulates the succeeding layer in its functioning. (This observation can be compared with the phrase Tenaishapoornah (Each kosa becomes complete by the succeeding one) ofTaittireeyopanishad, which was quoted earlier).He is also of the view that that when different kinds of symptoms of various diseases are analysed carefully, physician is sure to get indications about the nature of afflictions the five kosas have been subjected to.

 

When conditions like Prajnaaparaadha are analysed thoroughly, one is led to the conviction that roga and aarogya are not mere physiological or mental conditions but are deeply and intricately connected with the life vision of a person. It has also been observed that positive, blissful and natural experience of wellbeing is the one which gets reflected positively in all of these five kinds of kosas [26].

 

It is in this context that the concept of three sareeras/ five kosas becomes relevant in ayurveda which views a person as a complete being with all kinds of external and internal complexities.

 

The very first verse of Ashtaangahrdaya deserves special mention here [27]. Roga is characterised as raga (attachment) etc. in that verse. That means the definition of roga encompasses all kinds of afflictions that affect body and mind. Rogas are again characterised as aseshakaaya-prasrta that means which are pervading all through the body. Here, the term aseshakaaya is usually interpreted as pervading the whole body. But, in the light of the observation in Panchadasi regarding three bodies and diseases corresponding to each of them, the term aseshakaaya may be interpreted as all the three kinds of bodies ie; sthoola, sookshma and kaarana.

 

Rogas that affect a person range from mental states like raagaordvesha to vitiation of vaata, pitta and kapha. The absence of a right and balanced vision about life can also be called roga. So different platforms are to be there as the adhishthaana of each kind of roga. As MadhavaVidyaranya theorises, sthooladeha is affected by the vitiation of vaata, pitta and kapha. Sookshmadeha is affected by raaga, dvesha etc. Kaarana-deha is affected by the absence of right vision of oneself and the other.

 

What can be the implications of this theorisation?

 

Advaita Vedanta as a philosophy enquiring about the innermost and subtle principle of life, theorises broadly about the afflictions of different kinds and their causes in tune with ayurveda, the applied science. This mode of enquiry paves the way to understand the logic and relevance behind the conceptualisation of three kinds of bodies as explained in advaita vedanta. This also enables one to understand the broad and unique conception of roga and aarogyaas upheld in ayurveda.

 

8. Conclusion

Understanding traditional knowledge systems on the basis of interdisciplinarity inherent in them enables the learners to explore the maximum potential it offers. It can be seen that inter disciplinarity and inter textuality were essential components in the process of evolution of each knowledge system. Even the classification of siddhaanta is indicative of the inter textual engagements that resulted in interdisciplinary enquiries. Concepts like caturvyooha siddhaanta acts as a methodological, and at times theoretical platform, that was shared by different systems of knowledge with unique ways specific to that particular system. The way advaita and ayurveda have adapted it into their discourses is noteworthy.

 

Through understanding the theory of three sareeras as conceptualised in advaita in tune with ayurvedic theories, the applied dimension of advaitic thought is revealed to the learner.

 

This understanding effectively offers the learners a broader perspective of ayurveda with which it has conceptualized roga, arogya and their adhishthaana. An indepth philosophical and logical explication of ayurveda results from that.

 

Such interdisciplinary dialogues form and function as the essential characteristics of traditional knowledge systems of India are affected by diseases, Aatman or supreme self is not affected by any. According to him, the root of the diseases that affect both sthoola and sookshmasareeras lie in kaaranasareera. [25] Thus a unique kind of relation exists between the three kinds of sareeras and corresponding rogas. This forms one important logic behind the concept of three bodies.

 

Ayurvedic scholars have put forward some noteworthy observations regarding the logic behind the conception of five kosas from the perspective of bodily functions. K.Raghavan Thirumulpad, referring to the theory of Pancakosas, points out that each layer of aananda, vijnaana, manas, praana and dhaatus of an individual regulates the succeeding layer in its functioning. (This observation can be compared with the phrase Tenaishapoornah (Each kosa becomes complete by the succeeding one) of Taittireeyopanishad, which was quoted earlier).He is also of the view that that when different kinds of symptoms of various diseases are analysed carefully, physician is sure to get indications about the nature of afflictions the five kosas have been subjected to.

 

When conditions like Prajnaaparaadha are analysed thoroughly, one is led to the conviction that roga and aarogya are not mere physiological or mental conditions but are deeply and intricately connected with the life vision of a person. It has also been observed that positive, blissful and natural experience of wellbeing is the one which gets reflected positively in all of these five kinds of kosas [26] .It is in this context that the concept of three sareeras/ five kosas becomes relevant in ayurveda which views a person as a complete being with all kinds of external and internal complexities.

 

The very first verse of Ashtaangahrdaya deserves special mention here [27]. Roga is characterised as raga (attachment) etc. in that verse. That means the definition of roga encompasses all kinds of afflictions that affect body and mind. Rogas are again characterised as aseshakaaya-prasrta that means which are pervading all through the body.

 

Here, the term aseshakaaya is usually interpreted as pervading the whole body. But, in the light of the observation in Panchadasi regarding three bodies and diseases corresponding to each of them, the term aseshakaaya may be interpreted as all the three kinds of bodies ie; sthoola, sookshma and kaarana. Rogas that affect a person range from mental states like raga or dvesha to vitiation of vaata, pitta and kapha. The absence of a right and balanced vision about life can also be called roga. So different platforms are to be there as the adhishthaana of each kind of roga. As Madhava Vidyaranya theorises, sthooladeha is affected by the vitiation of vaata, pitta and kapha. Sookshmadeha is affected by raaga, dvesha etc. Kaarana-deha is affected by the absence of right vision of oneself and the other.

 

What can be the implications of this theorisation?

 

Advaita Vedanta as a philosophy enquiring about the innermost and subtle principle of life, theorises broadly about the afflictions of different kinds and their causes in tune with ayurveda, the applied science. This mode of enquiry paves the way to understand the logic and relevance behind the conceptualisation of three kinds of bodies as explained in advaita vedanta. This also enables one to understand the broad and unique conception of roga and aarogyaas upheld in ayurveda.

 

To know 27 References and View on Kottakal Journal site click here

 

Article available online/offline on: Aryavaidyan Journal, January 2, 2024

 

Address for correspondence: Pro-Vice Chancellor, Sree Sankara University of Sanskrit, Kmlakshmy@ssus.ac.in

 
No part of this article may be reproduced in full or part without written permission of the Aryavaidyan Journal.

 

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