History of Science in Early South Asia
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September 21, 2020
- TimeBuddy - meeting time in different timezones.
- Presenters: Kenneth Zysk (University of Copenhagen) & Tsutomu Yamashita (Kyoto University of Advanced Science)
- Topic: Sanskrit Medical Scholasticism. Readings from the Caraka Saṃhitā: Cikitsāsthāna 2.2 with Jajjaṭa’s Nirantarapadavyākhyā and other commentaries Sanskrit Medical Scholasticism
The committee decided that the first meeting of the Working Group on the History of Science in Early South Asia should be dedicated to medical science and continue as much as is possible the projects that stem from the earlier working group on the Caraka Saṃhitā, begun some years ago in Vienna. In line with this, Tsutomu and I volunteered to chair the first couple of sessions of the workshop.
The seminars will be devoted to the scholastic tradition of medical Sanskrit, as it pertains to the text of the Caraka Saṃhitā. We shall focus on the Caraka Saṃhitā, Cikitsāsthāna 2, which deals with Vājīkaraṇa or “Potency Therapy”. This chapter of Caraka’s corpus was chosen for two reasons. First, it is the first complete chapter that contains the commentary of Jajjaṭa, the earliest extant commentary available to us; secondly, it is the second in a set of two chapters or rather books, which together form a specific system of knowledge, which in all probability was incorporated into the corpus at an early date. The two chapters or books, Rasāyana and Vājīkaraṇa, which together deal with the prolongation and propagation of human life by the use of specialised medicines. Both chapters are constructed in the same manner, being divided into four separate parts (pāda) or chapters, indicating that structurally they derive from a common source.
Since our study aims at the Sanskrit medical tradition of the Caraka Saṃhitā, we wanted to include all the extant Sanskrit commentaries on that text. We are in the process of editing the commentary of Jajjaṭa, which occurs only in 20th century copies of a single lost palm-leaf manuscript. Although a version of the commentary has already been published, it requires critical appraisal from the original sources. The other three commentaries also occur in published versions. For the sake of discussion, the commentaries have been broken up into two groups:
- Old: Jajjaṭa’s Nirantarapadavyākhya (7th-8th cent. CE), and Cakrapaṇidatta’s Āyurvedadīpikā (3rd quarter of the 11thc cent. CE)
- New: Gaṅgādhara’s Jalpakalpataru (mid-19th cent.) and Yogīndranāth Sen’s Carakopaskāra (early 20th cent.)
In the seminars, we shall look at all these commentaries for a given set of verses, first in order to understand the text and how the system of commentary works with medical literature; secondly, to ascertain how the information was transmitted over time; and finally, what kind of historical and cultural information can be gleaned from them.
Since the first part of the chapter Vājīkaraṇa has been published, we begin with the second part or chapter, called simply, “milk has been poured” (āsiktakṣīrika)” over it. Since most of the chapter contains medical recipes or formulae, we shall try to unpack precisely the step-by-step method by which the formula was prepared, which cannot be understood without the help of the scholastic tradition. Information will be distributed before the scheduled seminar. This is the first time for this kind of one-line seminar for most of us, so patience is required in the beginning. As background reading, I suggest that participants look at the following:
- Zysk, K. “Sanskrit commentaries on the Carakasaṃhitā with special reference to Jajjaṭa’s Nirantarapadavyākhyā.” eJournal of Indian Medicine, 2 (2009), 83-99. PDF: https://ugp.rug.nl/eJIM/article/download/24722/22172
- Zysk, K. and Tsutomu Yamashita. “Sanskrit Medical Scholasticism: Jajjaṭa’s Nirantarapadavyākhyā and Other Commentaries on the Carakasaṃhitā, Cikitsāsthāna 2.1,” eJournal of Indian Medicine 10.1 (2018-19), pp. 1-113. DOI: http://doi.org/10.21827/5c3f01174756c
- Scan of MS Thiruvanantapuram ORIML T850 at archive.org
- Nirantarapadavyākhyā entry at Panditproject. org
Lisa Allette Brooks is a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta and the recipient of the Dorothy Killam Memorial Postdoctoral Prize, as well as a 2022-2023 AAS Pipeline Fellowship. Lisa’s current project, Leech Trouble: Therapeutic Entanglements in More-Than-Human Medicines, is a historical and textual study of human-leech medicine in South Asia and a comparative ethnographic study of leech therapy in contemporary ayurvedic medicine and biomedicine. Lisa’s work has been published in the Asian Review of World Histories, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Asian Medicine and in the edited volume Fluid Matter(s) by ANU press (eds. Kuriyama and Koehle). Lisa co-edited a special issue of Asian Medicine, “Medicines and Memories in South Asia” 15.1 (2020) and is the South Asia book review editor for the journal Asian Medicine and reviews editor for History of Science in South Asia. In 2021 Lisa completed a PhD in South and Southeast Asian Studies with Designated Emphases in Science and Technology Studies, and in Women, Gender, and Sexuality at UC Berkeley. Lisa'a interests include multispecies medicine, histories of health, healing, and embodiment, queer and feminist science studies, and sensory studies.
Dagmar Wujastyk is an Associate Professor in the department of History, Classics, and Religious Studies. She is an indologist specializing in the history and literature of classical South Asia, including Indian medicine (Ayurveda), iatrochemistry (rasaśāstra), and yoga. Her publications include Modern and Global Ayurveda – Pluralism and Paradigms (SUNY Press) and Well-mannered medicine. Medical Ethics and Etiquette in the Sanskrit Medical Classics (OUP NY). She is Associate Editor of the journal Asian Medicine and History of Science in South Asia. From 2015-2020, Prof. Wujastyk was Principal Investigator of a European Research Council “Horizon 2020” project on the entangled histories of yoga, medicine and alchemy in medieval India. The project website is http://ayuryog.org/