Talk:The Individual and Medicine

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

The Individual and Medicine

Main Purport of Medical Science

The objective of the science of medicine is two-fold.

  1. The preservation of good health and prolongation of life. A man would do all the diligent effort in his power to achieve this.
  2. Combating the disease.

Preservation of Good Health

The first of these two aims may be gained by proper living, by right regulation of diet, exercise and habits all of which are possible for each individual, if he or she possesses the necessary enlightenment and education.

Combating the Disease

The second aims is to confront and withstand the disease. It may not be possible for every individual if the complaints happen to require elaborate or deep knowledge of diagnosis and therapeusis. But where the complaints are minor and demand nothing more than a familiar and simple drug or an easy manipulation of diet or conduct, every individual or family ought to be able to manage for himself or itself without having to resort to outside help.

This self-sufficiency of the individual and the family in the preservation of health and the checking the disease, is an ideal fraught with individual as well as national good. The right way to achieve this is through education at the primary and the secondary stages, for then the largest part of the nation reaps the benefits. With the attainment of this hygienic and medical self-sufficiency and independence of the individual and the family, the state gets relieved of a large part of the burden that it has otherwise to bear, and is left free to pursue with greater intensity and concentration the problems of serious and difficult forms of disease and epidemics.

This was the actual state of affairs in ancient India. There obtained a broad and universal system of education and enlightenment and elementary knowledge of medicine or personal hygiene formed part of that education in the secondary stage of it.

Daily and Seasonal Regimen

Ayurveda is primarily the science of positive health and secondarily the science for the cure of disease. It prescribes precepts and rules that would ensure the smooth running of the intricate mechanism of the human body without any kind of hitch or hindrance.

Code of Conduct for Health

Thus, hygiene plays a most important role in Indian medicine. This code of health lays down the regimen of daily life in general. The modifications and variations in different seasons is the application of these rules made according to the individual constitution of men. It comprises of instructions about diet, activity, work, rest, sleep, sense-purity, sex-hygiene and behavior in general. Its domain covers not only strengthening the physical powers of the body, but also increasing the vitality of all the senses and the psyche. It contains specific injunctions and clear-cut dos and don'ts with regard to the natural urges of the body and mind. It is not the puritanic precept of abstention; it is the full-blooded life that is aimed at giving full scope, within healthy limits, to pleasures that the flesh can enjoy. It aims at helping the man overcome the handicaps of nature and age.


Ayurveda's field of observation and application extends to all the aspects of man including body, mind and intellect. Its hygiene and philosophy known as Swāstha-vrtta is supplemented by Sadvrtta or the right life which inculcates the discipline of the senses and the regulation of the moral life so as to accord with the happiness and benefit for not only the betterment of a single person but for the society as a whole. It is therefore social and universal in its conception and application and comprehends a physical, mental and ethical framework of life. It is an entire way of life that Ayurveda expounds embodying philosophy, eugenics, ethics and healing.

The human body is self-stoking, self-adjusting, self repairing, self-preserving, self-asserting and self-multiplying machine. It has intelligence and feeling. It has individuality and purpose. It is an organism much beyond the concept of mechanism.

Health and Season

The aim of Ayurveda is to study man as a whole and with all the social, seasonal, climatic and regional environs aspects. It would be an ordeal for a man to go through the same daily routine for all the three hundred and sixty-five days of the year. Not only this, it would indeed adversely affect him if he followed a rigid routine in all the varying seasons. Nature has been bountiful in bestowing a variety of seasons to the country. The shivering cold of the winter, the scorching heat of the summer, the downpour of the monsoon, are the three chief seasons. It also undergoes the intermediate seasons of Sarad or the season of transition from the monsoon to the winter characterized by harvest festivals, placid atmosphere and clear nights; the Vasanta or the spring, the season of flowers and color feasts, the season of joyous youth and temperate air and thirdly the pre-monsoon season of hard toll and high expectations Pravrt.


The Rtu-cārya prescribed in Ayurveda is a code of injunctions to change or to modify the daily routine of diet and behavior to suit the different seasons. It lays down rules of behavior and diet to get adapted to the requirements of the varying seasons. Special emphasis is laid on the time of conjunction of two seasons when the vagaries of both the seasons co-exists. A special procedure of habituation and withdrawal of personal regimen is prescribed; for what may he conducive to health in one season may act quite contrarily in another season. Cold which is agreeable and wholesome in hot days is disaggreeable and unwholesome in cold days.

The code of personal hygiene does not end here. Its most important part and purpose begins hereafter. Man is to be preserved in perfect health for the longest span of life possible for him. Man is not going to be a passive, static, obedient, vegetative organism. He will transgress the limitations of diet and behavior. As a consequence, his body-mechanism will be too much strained, disordered or worn out. He may have to encounter the unusual environmental changes of time and place. The instructions regarding the avoidance of such strain and disorder are the peculiar methods expounded by the Ayurvedic science.

  1. To give a thorough overhaul to the body-machinery as a whole by inunction, sudation and quinary purification procedures.
  2. To strengthen the vital force of life to counteract the effect of wear and tear by vitalization and virilification.
  3. To prepare it for any emergency of unexpected circumstances of season or place which may adversely affect the body, special prophylactic measures have been advised.

The above-mentioned seasonal regimen plays an eminent part in immunizing the body, virilification and vitalization having already increased the body-power to fight against diseases. The quinary purification procedures cleanse the body and reduce the chances of susceptibility of the body to the onslaughts of disease. Vitalization and virilification procedures replenish the worn out tissues, preventing the approach of old age and promoting longevity. They help in the re-creation of the body, a recreation in its literal sense.

Rules for Health

The desire to live long and that too with the perfect functioning of sense-organs is inborn in human beings and Ayurveda has amply catered to this need. It has enabled people to achieve the best possible results from life. The knowers of the principles of homologation consider it desirable to acquire homologation regarding food and behavior to things which are antagonistic to the characteristics of the country and the causative factors of the diseases prevalent there. These and other diseases occur in those who do not observe the rules of healthful living. Hence the healthy man should be diligent in the observance of the rules of healthful living. One should eliminate the accumulated morbid matter in the months of Caitra, Sravana and Margasirsa.

Significance of Seasonal Regimen

After the preliminary preparation of the body, the wise physician should go ahead with the oleation, sudation, purification procedures of vomition, purgation, enemata and errhines according to the season. Thereafter the physician skilled in the science of climatology should administer alternative and virilific remedies of tested efficacy systematically as indicated.

Thus the body-elements being restored to the normal state, susceptibility to disease disappears, the body elements gets the momentum and the pace of age is slackened. Such is the procedure laid down for the prevention of the endogenous diseases. He who rightly observes the rules of health laid down here will not be deprived of the full measure of the hundred years of healthy life.

Importance of Regimen Knowledge to Women

This knowledge of seasonal regimen was even more important for the women to learn for they thus knew how to protect the husband and the children from the evils of unwholesome diets. The woman should know what things are delectable to the man or is wholesome or unwholesome to him in diet. She must know and give to her husband food which is not only liked by him but also wholesome to him. Besides this general knowledge, every house-wife took care to keep a storage of the common but useful drugs. Thus rare drugs, salt, oil, fragrant and pungent drugs and pot-herbs should be preserved in the house.

Household Remedies

Drugs difficult to obtain, must be collected and stored. Radish, peach, spinach, Damanaka, Indian hog-plum, phut cucumber, common cucumber, brinjal, ash-gourd, bottle-gourd, telinga potato, lin, cowage, sambo, garlic and onion etc, the seeds of these and such other medicinal plants should be collected and sown in their proper season.

In the back yards of houses, the family grew a small garden of medicinal plants along with pot-herbs. The following herbs were to be grown in the backyards of houses:

  • Plots of greens and vegetables
  • Clusters of sugarcane
  • Cumin
  • Mustard
  • Bishops weed
  • Dill seed plants
  • Tamala shrubs

Each family was able to prepare its own exigencies, tinctures, medicated wines, decoctions and linctuses.

Purport of Planting Medicinal Herbs Around the State

On special occasions, people shall be allowed to manufacture white liquor or medicated wine for use in diseases and other kinds of liquor. Round about a village and along the road-sides were planted trees and plants and shrubs that were of real medicinal value. This is borne out by an inscription of Asoka, the great Buddhist emperor of India. The State allowed the peopled to pluck the leaves and fruits and bark of these trees for medicinal purposes only. It is a familiar thing even today in the villages for an old dame of a household to go out into the outskirts of the village in the morning, for culling some herbs, leaves and bark for the ailment of the children, men and women of the family. Ordinary cold, cough, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, jaundice and a host of such minor maladies are within the compass of a family possibilities of cure, without resorting to regular professional aid.

It was the aim to disseminate this elementary and general knowledge of personal and social hygiene as well as general principles of diet and medicine which were within the scope of intelligence and attainment of every individual and family. Just as certain degree of acquaintance with geography, science, history and arithmetic is deemed as an essential part of a civilized man's mental equipment, it was very necessary for him to learn the general principles of hygiene, and the functioning of his own stomach, heart, lungs, intestines which is physiology, and easy and simple methods of curing cuts, wounds and boils, ordinary fever, cold, headache and such other everyday ailments. This was not only of great individual advantage like a stitch in time which saves nine in the form of doctor's bills or non-repairable damage to his health, but it reduced the medical burden of the state. This was a national blessing and created a society approaching near to the ideal.


This relationship between the individual and medicine is therefore a vital one both from the individual's own point of view as well as the states. The state has the power to impart and the individual the capacity and inclination to learn this essential enlightenment. This requires a recasting of the educational program of the State. It is easy to do and the results are certain to follow. The individuals are the state in our days of democracy, and a democratic program of education cannot afford to ignore this beneficient and in the long run beneficial course of medical enlightenment of every individual member of the State.

Secondary Education

Then the secondary education was given in high schools or Gurukulas where every student was bound to study compulsorily the five subjects:

  1. Sabdavidya or grammar and lexicography
  2. Silpasthanavidya or arts
  3. Cikitsavidya or medicine
  4. Hetuvidya or logic
  5. Adhyatmavidya or science of spiritual philosophy

On completing this course, a student was considered fit to select any special branch of study and join the University. An elementary knowledge of medicine was considered necessary for all the students. They were taught the elementary rules of preservation of health and how to live a full span of life in perfect health by taking care about diet, personal hygiene, actions and character. This shows the importance of the medical science, the basic knowledge of which was considered necessary for every individual. No wonder that the medical science thus became the most popular science of the Aryan civilization.


Observation of these rules and regulation of personal hygiene was moreover preached by the religious code, as purity of heart and mind cannot be generally achieved in an unclean or unsound body. A sound mind presupposes a sound body. Hence cleanliness and preservation of sound health became the subject of religious codes and were enforced in every religious ceremony.

Dharmasastras are full of injunctions regarding purity, ablutions, diet, regulations, behavior, mental and physical discipline. The daily routine and seasonal conduct known as Dinacarya-Rtucarya as well as the general lines of hygienic life known as Swasthavitta are given in elaborate detail in the medical treatises. These formed a part of the universal curriculum of education and ethics. The simple but very important facts that make for a healthy life were the common knowledge of all the people. Few of them have been denoted as belows:

  • Cleansing the teeth and the tongue, ear, the eye and the skin
  • Bath
  • Inunction
  • Massage
  • Non-suppression of the natural urges
  • Selection of food and drink
  • Occasions for avoidance and indulgence in the sexual act
  • Usefulness and manner of taking certain things like curds, butter-milk, honey and ghee


  • The Caraka Samhita published by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society, Jamnagar, India