96 Diseases in Buddhist Works! (Post No.5132)




Date: 20 JUNE 2018


Time uploaded in London –  15-02  (British Summer Time)


Post No. 5132


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We come to know about ancient Indian medical system through Buddhist works in Pali language. The Charaka Samhita and Susruta Samhita books are ancient medical treatises in Sanskrit language. If one collect and compare the details from both the sources, we get a very good picture of ancient Hindu medical system that existed 2600 years. One must remember neither Buddha nor Buddhist scholars wrote any medical books. They only narrate what existed in those days. So we can broadly classify them as Hindu Medical system.


Here are some interesting facts:-

In the days of Buddha, 2600 years ago, Magadha Empire (Modern Bihar and surrounding states) suffered from five diseases; they were leprosy, dry leprosy, boils , consumption (T.B) and fits.


Emperor Bimbisara had Jeevaka , the most famous physician of those days. He got a medical degree from the Taxila (Thatchaseelam) University.

The boils were cut and mustard powder was applied. Bandages were used to cover the boils. Decoctions of herbs and lime (calcium) were used.


For headaches oil was used. Nose spoon and double nose spoon were used to give medicine through nose. A pipe was used to send aromatic vapour. Administration of medicine through nose was mentioned in Brahmajaala Sutta of the Digha Nikaya.

Cow’s Urine

For jaundice, a decoction (Kashaaya) made with cows urine was given. For skin diseases, oil was massaged on the body. Purgatives were also used.

A Brahmin named Mogharaaja (Maharaja) had pimples. As he knew that the house was infected he took shelter in the fields though it was winter. A Brahmin named Samitigutta was attacked by leprosy and his limbs were crumbling.


Steam bath

In case of acute rheumatism, steam bath was prescribed. A pit six feet deep was filled with charcoal and covered with a coating of sand. Some herbs were spread over it. The patient’s affected limbs were applied with herbal oil and asked to show it over the charcoal pit.  They were asked to turn over and over until the whole body was steamed.

In case of fever blood is let out with the help of a horn.


Buddha was treated by a Brahmana Doctor!

Once the Exalted Buddha suffered from disorderly humours (Vaata, Pitta, Kapha) and sent Elder Upavaana to Brahmin Devahita for hot water. The Elder caused Buddha to bathe in hot water and then mixing the molasses with hot water gave it to the Exalted Buddha to drink. He got better soon.

The word Roga denoting various diseases has been defined in the Buddhist commentaries. The diseases were enumerated and classified with reference to the parts of the body affected by them e.g. Diseases of the eye, ear etc.


A’ gaathaa’ in the Sutta Nipata says at first there were three diseases, namely Iccha (Desire) anasana (Hunger) and Jaraa (Aging). The diseases , gradually increased in number and the gaathaa fixing the total number as ninety eight. But the editors of Pali-English could not find all the 98 diseases. Dhammapala in his commentary on the Mahaaniddesa speaks of 96 diseases the roots of which lie in the three humours Vaata, Pitta, semhaa (kapha). Out of the 96, thirty two kinds arise from each humour.

Source:- Dr Bimala Churn Law, Calcutta, Year 1940





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