Medicine in Buddhist India

The Buddhist influence on Ayurveda initiated a change in the practice of medicine, not so much in the theory medicine but in the disappearance of many mantras and rituals. This was because of the influence of Buddhism which was the dominant religion in India during those 1000 years from its inception to around the middle of the first millenium CE.

Instructor: NPTEL

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Suggested Time

5 days







Unit 1: Introduction

Buddhist Influence 17 min

Buddha condemned many of the ancient rituals and later on he accepted many of the traditional practices, if they were a benefit to sick people. Basic medical doctrines according to the Buddhist cannon included good health practices, food and drinks in moderation and an austere lifestyle.
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Medical references & Doctrines 14 min

The period from the beginnning of Buddhism to the development of Ayurveda, there are only the texts such as Agniveshatantra, Shushruta Tantra. as well as the Shushruta Samhita that give us an idea of what transpired. The basic doctrine according to Buddhist canon is the Pancabhuta which consists of the five elements: space, air, fire, water, earth.
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Unit 2: Core Practices

Diseases & Treatment 15 min

Diseases were known by many names abadha, amaya and treatment collectively was as called tikiccha. Dhammapada regarded hunger as the worst disease. And Digha Nikaya held there were three disease initially; desire that is iccha, which becomes passion later on; hunger, anasana and senility.    
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Jivaka's Stature 8 min

Jivaka who was Buddha’s physician was found as an orphan at the door step of the palace of the Mauryan empire. He traveled all the way to Takshashila which was very famous as a center for medical studies. He was a brilliant student and hence gained the attention of all due to his major achievements even at a young age.
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Unit 3: Foreign Accounts & Historical Role

Travellers & Spread of Ayurveda 9 min

Chinese travellers gave an account of the medical practices, treatment of individuals, instructions in the five vidyas to the students. There was a spread of Ayurvedic ideas through Buddhist channels to places such as Tibet, Nepal, central Asia, Korea, Japan, Indonesia.
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Bower Manuscript & Historicity 4 min

Bower manuscript was a medical text with great knowledge which was probably developed during the Buddhist period. The historical role of Buddhist medicine which was developed from Atharavaveda which in turn did influence Ayurveda.
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