Talk:The purpose of the study of medicine

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia


Outlining the objectives or purposes which medical education provides, Caraka says:

This science is to be studied by the Brahmanas, the Ksatriyas and the Vaisyas. By the Brahmanas with a view to benefiting all the creatures, by the Ksatriyas as delivering their role of projectors and by the Vaisyas as a means of livelihood; and in general, by all with the object of attaining virtue, wealth and pleasure.

Whatever endeavor a practitioner of medical science makes towards the relief of the ailments of the patients, immaterial to whoever is the patient, he should be constituted of the higher virtue of his life. Whatever wealth or patronage he is able to secure from his association with kings and merchant-princes for ensuring his and his family's life is all that constitutes the wealth of his life. He is satisfied with whatever honors and services he commands through the health he confers.

Study of Medicine

As per Kasyapa

Dealing with this question as to why medicine should be studied, another early master Kasyapa, declares:

Medicine should be studied by the Brahmana for the sake of the knowledge of truth, of acquiring spiritual merit for himself and of extending help to humanity; by the Ksatriya for the sake of safe guarding the health of the people; by the Vaisya for the sake of a livelihood; and by the rest for the sake of service. All may study it for the sake of living the good life.

As per Susruta Samhita

In another great classic, the Susruta Samhita, we find Susruta approaching the great Dhanvantari with the request for granting relief from sufferings to humanity in its pursuit of happiness, for the sake of prolonging lives and for the sake of general good of the people. He says his reason for this as his disciple. He further declaresIn the same book, we again find Dhanvantari declaring:

The purpose of the medical science is release from suffering to those who are diseased and for the maintenance of well-being of the healthy.

He further defines Ayurveda thus:

Medical science is eternal, sacred and bestower of heaven, fame, longevity and subsistence.

Main Objectives

From these references it can be seen that there were three main objectives which induced people to take up the study of medicine.

  1. The first objective, which is the one that is generally the sole objective in this commercial age, is the earning of a livelihood and the people that took up the medical calling from this incentive were in those days naturally recruited from the Vaisya or the merchant class.
  2. The second objective was the acquisition of fame and prestige and the people to whom this objective had the strongest appeal were chiefly from the Ksatriya or Rajanya class, characterized by bold, authoritative and adventurous spirit. Some of these were reigning princes and were able to spread their medical knowledge to whole populations and their bold, heroic and enterprising spirit may have initiated many bold experiments, especially in surgery. These types of medical students were the consultant and specialists.
  3. The third and the most important class of people was that which took up the study of medicine with the objective of the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake or of serving humanity from motives of mercy and philanthropy. This class came mainly from the Brahmanas and it is mainly from this class that the teachers, research scholars and missionary doctors were recruited.

Role of Buddha Sadhu

Later on the spirit of service and philanthropic zeal received further impetus from the ethical teachings of the Buddha and a large band of Buddha Sadhus. These sages dedicated their lives to charitable works and the spread of the medical knowledge of India not only to greater India but to the far corners of the then-known world.


The remarkable progress of medicine during the golden age of Ayurveda was due to the selfless and pioneering spirit evinced by Brahmana teachers and the Buddhist Sadhus. This spirit is emerging in other parts of the world, has gained for that supremacy in knowledge and science.

All these three classes of medical practitioners, though motivated by different impulses, shared in common the three-fold ideal of human life, namely Dharma, Artha and Kama and though each worked in its own particular way, they all served the country and in greater or lesser measure enhanced its well - being and glory.


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