Welcome to Vidaveda.org’s YouTube
channel, my name is Matheus, coming here today from the medicinal
botanical garden at Gujarat Ayurved University. Today, we are going to discuss: what is Ayurveda? What’s Ayurveda?
This question is actually the reason for Vida Veda’s YouTube channel.
All our videos, all the Samhita studies, everything we’ll do and
everything we’ll talk about is basically directed to trying to
answer this question: what is Ayurveda? There’s no easy answer.
You’ll find many definitions here and there. For example, o Charaka Samhita,
one of our oldest texts, offers an answer to this question,
a very short answer. Sushruta Samhita offers a slightly
different response. Ashtanga Hrdaya ends up being inspired
by these two authors and also offering yet another way to understand what is
Ayurveda. Personally, I have my own definition to understand what is Ayurveda, in modern times. Ayurveda, basically, if you consider
a very famous saying: “Ayuranena veti iti Ayurvedaha”,
the understanding of life is Ayurveda. Ayu and Veda are the two words, the R
is just connecting them. So, Ayu means life, in
general, and Veda means knowledge.
But our knowledge of Ayurveda according to the Samhitas
is more specific, so you’ll see that for example, Caraka defines “life” as:
sharira indriya satva atma samyoga, so the union between the body, the
sense organs, the mind and this element we call atma or avyakta, that which
can’t be observed, this union is called life. So, considering our field of study,
Ayu, life, is the human being. Obviously, you have in Ayurveda
specific branches dedicated to treating animals, for example,
or Ayurveda for the treatment of plants. But the Samhitas, the science
we will study, the subject of this channel is medicine.
It’s the science of human beings. So, what is Ayurveda in my
humble definition? Ayurveda is a scientific medical
system – number 1; based in clinical guidelines – number 2; expressed
in ancient texts, which underwent constant peer review throughout the years;
this knowledge has been updated through time in the form of Samhitas and
Nighantus. So let’s break this definition up
and analyse it point by point. Ayurveda is a scientific medical system.
If you consider any definition of science out there,
from the evolution of science in the Arab world, until the middle of the
19th century, when medicine as we know it came to existence; or even the Hippocratic
method. The fundamentals of what we consider science,
the capacity to observe nature, to create hypotheses and to test
them to know if they are valid or not. This base is
totally present in what we call Ayurveda. So Ayurveda is a
scientific medical system. Based in clinical guidelines.
So, you will see, with patience, with time, that the Samhitas, these texts,
are actually what we today call, in a model of evidence based
medicine, as clinical guidelines. They are truths observed in nature
that were tested. Hypotheses formulated and tested and transmitted
from generation to generation, and questioned and critiqued one generation after the other,
so later, thousands of years later, we could access these clinical guidelines
in books such as the Ashtanga Hrdaya, which were transmitted to the new generation of physicians.
So Ayurveda is based on clinical guidelines.
It is expressed in ancient texts that went through constant peer review.
So these texts were not written in an isolated moment in the past
and never touched again. On the contrary. I understand that
people who study Ayurveda in a more superficial manner might get the
impression that the Samhitas are texts that were produced in a
remote past and that were never touched and that we still study them
in the original form they were written, but this is not true.
If you take the example of Charaka Samhita,
our most ancient text, Charaka Samhita was written between
2 thousand and one thousand years before Christ. The history, which we call
itihasa, is a little confusing. You have some authors pointing to one
date, others to other dates, but to the objective of our study, this
isn’t so relevant. Just try to follow what I’m trying to say. So if
Charaka Samhita was created 2 thousand or a thousand years B.C.,
back then, originally, the first book was called Agnivesha Tantra.
So the first rendering of this work was called Agnivesha Tantra.
In around 360 – 400 B.C. so in the third or fourth century before Christ, a new version
of this book was edited by a scholar named Charaka. So this new
edition was called Charaka Samhita. You can see that the Charaka Samhita, often we call it just “Charaka”, in its origin,
didn’t even have this name. It got this name when the Agnivesha
Tantra was reedited, around the third or fourth century B.C., to take
this new form called Charaka Samhita,
but it didn’t stop there. Later, 600 years after Christ,
we had another large revision and restructuring of this
text, by an author called Drdhbala, and these three authors: Agnivesha,
Charaka and Drdhbala, the compilation of their
knowledge, is what today we call Charaka Samhita. Besides that, from the creation of
Charaka Samhita to this day, it’s very common that, every few hundred years,
a famous author, a respected physician would write a commentary to this
book. So we have hundreds of commentaries to Agnivesha
Tantra, later known as Charaka Samhita.
In the 4th century, we had Battara Harischandra,
for example, the author of Charaka Nyaya, in the 4th century A.D.
In the year 1,060 we had the commentary of Chakrapani
Datta, known as Ayurveda Dipika. This commentary is to date considered
the most respected commentary. See, this commentary was
written in 1,060, almost a thousand years ago, and it’s still
probably the most respected of all commentaries ever written.
In the 15th century, we had Silvanas Sen’s commentary: Tata
Dipika. In the 20th century, Yogendranath Sen wrote the Charakopaskara.
And also in the 20th century, Jyotish Chandra Saraswati wrote the Charaka Pradipika.
Just so you have an idea of how many times this text, o Charaka
Samhita, has been reviewed. So in no way this
text is the same from its creation until today.
We say that Ayurveda is an ancient science and that it begun
thousands of years ago, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a static
science, that it’s still practiced today in the same manner in which
it was prescribed thousands of years ago. So these commentaries
show us how every hundred years or so,
an author would show up and write a commentary to the ancient texts,
giving it new meaning, new interpretations, adding their own opinions.
Besides the Samhitas and their commentaries we also have the Nighantus,
which are another group of ayurvedic classics,
that try to understand how the drugs and procedures
also changed with time. So, sometimes, a herb
recommended by Charaka Samhita, nowadays doesn’t have the same
potency, or doesn’t work in the same way. So you can check a Nighantu, a book
that will discuss these herbs, the formulations. And nowadays I consider,
personally, for example, that modern nutrition science,
to me, is a Nighantu of Ayurveda. It’s a way of understanding the modern world,
of understanding the objects, the nutrients, the modern food, and how these
foods impact our health and our life. So you have the Nighantus, which are books focused specifically on
materia medica, which we call Dravya Guna. So Samhitas and Nighantus
are the base of what I call Samhita based Ayurveda.
In this way, you can understand the way in which we work with
Ayurveda at vidaveda.org. This was my attempt answer to the
question “what is Ayurveda?” I’m sure that it’s not enough,
so we’ll have many many more video from now on, all of them
trying, in one way or the other, to answer this question. I think that this is the
question that comes with anyone having their first contact with Ayurveda.
This is the question that I’m still trying to answer, after years into my studies
in Ayurveda, and that even my teachers, decades into practicing Ayurveda, are still trying to answer.
This is what we try to answer whenever we open a Samhita, whenever we
study Sanskrit, whenever we treat a patient.
Whenever we study Ayurveda, in truth, we are once again
trying to answer it, we are trying to go deeper into the
knowledge of what is Ayurveda. Thank you very much for watching this
video. You can click below to subscribe to the channel and also
hit the like button if you found this helpful.
Soon we will upload more videos and very soon we’ll start
our series specifically dedicated to study the Ashtanga Hrdaya.
Stay tuned that soon there will be much more.