Doctor and Medicine in Adi Shankara Hymns (Post No.5471)

Written by London Swaminathan
Date: 25 September 2018


Time uploaded in London – 18-18 (British Summer Time)


Post No. 5471


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Doctor and Medicine in Adi Shankara Hymns (Post No.5471)

Hinduism is the only religion where god is praised as Doctor and Medicine. Yajur Veda in the Rudra hymn praise Lord Siva as ‘beshajam and bishak’.
Bishak= Doctor
Beshajam =Medicine (aushatham, Oshadhi)

Even Famous hymns like Vishnu Sahasra Nama call god as bishak or Medicine as beshajam or aushatham. Commentators always talk about the Big Disease, I.e. the birth and death cycle and say that god is the Medicine for this ‘big disease’. This is philosophical interpretation. Actually, it meant normal illness as well.
How do we know that?

Adi Shankara clearly says it in Viveka Cudamani.

Even a great philosopher like Shankara wants people to take medicine for simple health problems. It is amply Illustrated in his similes; I give below a few examples

In sloka 53
The patient who takes proper diet and medicine is alone seen to recover completely— not through work done by others.
In sloka 62
A disease does not leave off if one simply utters the name of the medicine, without taking it. Similarly without direct realisation one cannot be liberated by the mere utterance of the word Brahman.

Slokas like these show that even Adi Sankara wanted patients to take medicine with pathya i.e. dieting.

Some people think that medicines are not required for devotees, which is wrong.



Poets like Thiruvalluvar are very clear about Medicines and diseases. For instance, Valluvar composed ten couplets on Medicine and illness.
Shankara used Medicine as similes; but Valluvar deals with Medicine and Medicineman directly. He believed the diseases were caused by over eating or eating wrong food.
Just two couplets would suffice,
He will be afflicted with numberless diseases who eats immoderately in ignorance of the rules of health- Kural 947

Let a skilful doctor who knows medicines, study the patient, the nature of the disease, the season and treat him – 949.



Manu talks about medicinal herbs in 1-46;7-131;

He says about the punishment for stealing medicine 8-324 and 9-293; he advises the king to take into account the purpose and time of the theft before punishing any one,

Manu talks about selling medicines in 10-87; injuring medicinal herbs in 11-64, 11-145, is a punishable offence.

In 11-238 he links medicinal herbs with penance and Yogis.

These couplets show that the medicinal herbs were used widely and they were revered. Any damage to medicinal herbs was a punishable offence. Even if you have faith in God, still you are advised to take medicines.



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