The thesis on the Concept of Agni in Agurveda with Special Reference to Agnibala-pariksa was one of the nine I had to personally guide and direct when I was working as the Professor of Kayacikitsa at the Post Graduate Training Centre in Ayurveda, Jamnagar. This thesis was ranked first by the eminent adjudicators to whom it was referred. The present publication of it in the form of a book involving some minor changes is meant to provide carefully assessed and critically evaluated data gathered by Shri Bhagwan Dash for the benefit of teachers, Post-Graduate students and Research workers in the field of Ayurveda.
Recent researches in the history of the evolution of medicine in India have shown that by about the third millennium B.C., the medical knowledge had reached its apogee and crystalised into broad based generalizations, positive concepts and principles. There is evidence to show that these concepts and principles represented a high stage of development of medicine at that time. It is recognized today that Ayurveda itself was the outcome of changes on an evolving society. Accordingly, many practices were susceptible to modifications or changes in keeping with the needs of growing urban community. However, the savants of Ayurveda took care to enunciate some of the basic concepts and principles in such a manner as to enable their application at all times, regardless of the changes in the social, environmental and other conditions. It is thus seen that, both Agnivesa and Vagbhata laid emphasis on ten important factors that may have to be examined before arriving at a diagnosis and the determination of the line of treatment in any given disease, regardless of whether they have been described in the classical text or not. The ten factors referred to above are: prakrti, vikrti, sara, samhanana, pramana, satmya, sattva, aharasakti, vyayamasakti and vayas-cf. Caraka: Vimana 8: 94. (According to Vagbhata, these ten factors are dusya, desa, bala, kala, anala, prakrti, vayas, sattva, satmya and ahara-cf. Astangahrdaya: Sutra 12: 67-68). It is seen from the discussion recorded in the texts that these factors should invariably be 'examined both subjectively and objectively. It is, however, seen that the extant editions of the Samhitna-granthas have neither described nor indicated the methods and techniques for carrying out critical investigations of these factors, except for stating, for example, that the status of the agni should be examined with reference to its power to digest and metabolise foods ingested (agnim jaranasaktya parikseta) and the strength by ones ability to work, i.e, exercise ( balam vyayamasaktya parikseta ). It is difficult to believe that the authors of the classical texts would have deliberately ignored the methods and techniques of the examination of these ten factors. The only inference that could be drawn is that either the methods and techniques were imparted by the teacher to the taught orally or, at some point, in the History of Medicine in India, writings on the methodology and technique were irretrievably lost. In the result, critical examination of the ten factors which included agni also became a matter of academic interest and hardly of' any practical significance.
This is a grave shortcoming which has to be rectified sooner or later, better sooner than later, if the practice of Ayurveda is to be meaningful, fruitful and rational. It was with a view to remedying this short-coming that Shri Bhagwan Dash selected the Concept of Agni in Ayurveda with Special Reference to Agnibala-pariksa for study. His intention in doing so was to bring together all the material relating to the concept of agni from different sources, critically evaluate them in the light of advances made by biochemistry in the related fields, and work out methods and techniques for determining the agni-sakti and bala which can be standardised and applied in practice. His approach has been refreshingly novel, bold and imaginative. In doing so, he built up his hypothesis exclusively on the basis of references gathered from the Classical Ayurvedic texts and commentaries on them. He has put tshi hypothesis to experimental tests, adopting some of the modern biochemical parameters. As a humble student of science, he has not dogmatised his findings but has shown a way and indicated an approach to the problem and suggested that the methods he has worked out may have to be standardised in a large number of cases. This is indeed a valuable contribution and my own share in this work was to guide and bless him in his endeavour which were carefully planned and executed.
I have only to add by the way of a compliment to Shri Bhagwan Dash that he was one of my most exacting students which I believe is one of the best qualifications one can think of a good student.
In the progressive days of Ayurveda. Physicians in this country were the foremost exponents and all round practitioners of their time, teaching and practicing all the eight branches of the Science of Medicine. There is a recorded history that students from all parts of the Globe came to have their under-graduate as well as post-graduate studies in the- Medical Faculties of some of the famous Universities of ancient India, namely, TaxiIa and Nalanda. Due to various reasons State patronage was withdrawn from Ayurveda and transferred to those systems of medicine which were of choice of the then rulers of the country. This led to stagnation, obstructed progress, stunted growth and partial functioning from the- affects of which Ayurveda is still suffering.
This period of decadence which can safely be said as the dark age for Ayurveda, has given birth to many misconceptions and often these are incorporated into the texts in various ways. Because of this confusion, one often overlooks the genuine concepts having scientific value and considers them as either wrong or commonsense and this deters him to find out the scientific validity of these statements.
There are many scientific concepts in Ayurveda which need detailed scrutiny to assess their utility in the field of science. The concept of agni is one such factor. a study on which is attempted here.
Agni is one of the ten factors which are required to be examined before initiating the treatment of a patient. The role of agni in the animal body is very much emphasised. It is stated that all internal diseases are caused by the vitiation of this agni. This is the pivot round which the remaining factors responsible for the maintenance of health and causation of diseases as well as decay revolve.
Human body is considered in ancient Indian scriptures al a replica of the universe; whatever is available in the universe they are all represented in the human body, may, be in a modified form, The physical agni (fire) is directly linked up with the biological agni inside the human body.
Samkhya, Nyaya-Vaisesika and other systems of natural philosophy deal with the fundamental principles of Ayurveda. It is, impossible to explain or comprehend the biological phenomena described in Ayurveda without having a good background of the material objects enunciated in these ancient philosophical works. In fact a rational explanation of various aspects of agni can better be provided if its relation with physical agni is elucidated. It is with this in view that in the section-I, agni as conceived in the Samkhya system of philosophy is explained. The Pnri1)umavada which is a logical corolary of Satkaryavada explaining the theory of evoluation of the universe provides a rational explanation for the evolution of rupatanmatra in which rajas is patent, tamas is latent and sattva is sub-latent. It has been shown in the first section that the phenomena of rajas or agni represented in the forces or motion, radiation, heat, electricity and magnetism are implicit in the concept of and potential in the rajoguna of Mulaprakrti.
In the section-II of this work the concept of agni as developed in Nyaya-Vaisesika system of philosophy is explained. There is strik.ing similarity in the concept of physical agni as expounded in this system of philosophy and biological agni described in Caraka. Agni according to Nyaya-Vaisesika is divided into three categories, namely:
( i ) Bhauma or the physical fire;
( ii) Divya or the celestial fire like the lightening, rays of the Sun, Moon and the Stars;
(iii) Audarya or the abdominal fire which is responsible for the digestion as well as metabolism and,
( iv) Akaraja which is present in the metals such as gold and silver.
Combination of agni with a material object results in various types of transformations. In the Nyaya-vaisesika, there is a rational explanation about the various types of changes, the material objects undergo when they come into contact with agni or physical fire. This concept is very relevant inasmuch as it provides some lead about the transformation which the food ingredients undergo in the human body by the reaction of the digestive enzymes which represent the biological agni. It has been shown in this section that the matter and energy are separable only up to a certain level beyond which they are inter-changeable 'and inseparable from each other.
In Section-Ill the concept of agni as developed in Ayurveda is explained. The concept of agni is implicit in the concept of pitta described in Ayurveda. The roots from which the term pitta is derived connote three important aspects of this, Namely, it produces heat, it helps in the burning of food and it controls the various psychic factors which facilitate the individual to achieve siddhis or spiritual perfection. The relation between pitta and agni is fully explained in this Section. The physical characteristics and chemical composition of pitta, and its mode of formation in the human body are explained with special reference to the data available in the modern biological sciences. The importance of grahtu as the site of pittadharakala has been elaborated. The term grahani is generally translated as duodenum, but from the functions, attributed to it in ayurveda, it can be safely said that the part of the alimentary tract extending from the lower part of stomach to the end of the small' intestine should be taken as grahani. With a view to illustrate the function of this part of the body, the knowledge available in modern biology is incorporated in this work. Several other organs which help in the function of this grahani and linked up by ducts and with the duodenum' and small intestine, are also described along with their functions. Different states or agni are described in ayurveda. They are manda or mild, tiksna or aggravated, vlsama or irregular and sama or balanced. The signs and symptoms of these states of agni are described in ayurveda and during modern times there are certain diseases or disease-syndromes which simulate these states of agni. The gastro-intestinal tract has been divided into different physiological as well as anatomical components. To a person not acquainted with this concept, they may appear to be a contradiction. This point has been elucidated in this section. Kostha which represents the gastro-intestinal tract and its various appendages including the organs which are developed from the ectoderm during the process of embryonic development are fully explained.
The process of digestion of food described in ayurveda is based on a slightly different approach inasmuch as the physical state of food after different stages of digestion is taken into consideration and not the chemical transformations. A detailed description of madhura-bhava, amla-bhava and katu-bhava, along with the various important factors which regulate these three stages of digestion are described. Changes which occur in the body because of its coming into contact with various types of digestive enzymes are explained. Apart from the explanation of the digestion in the gastro-intestinal tract, processes of bhutagni-paka by which the heterogenous material which come in the form of food to human body becomes homogenous is explained.
Channels which carry the food after digestion have a very important role to play in the physiology of the human body and the concept of srotas specially the role of the liver in the process of digestion has been fully explained. After the food ingredients are made homogenous, the process of synthesis of various types of tissue elements takes place, and for this type of synthesis, a unique concept is envisaged in ayurveda. The role of various types of enzymes which take part in the synthesis of various products and the process by which metabolic equilibrium is maintained are also explained. Different states of agni (digestive enzymes) directly influence the various events in the human body. A correlation of these two factors incorporating the known knowledge available in modern biology has been brought out.
The product of digestion has to be carried to the stable tissue elements through specific channels. Any obstruction in the channels produces disease and decay in the individual. Efforts have been made to corroborate the concept of capillary system with that of dhatu-vaha-srotamsi described in ayurveda. The role of agni in the maintenance of metabolic equilibrium and the production of lima or the uncooked material in the event of any derangement in this agni or metabolic enzymes have been explained. Several psychic events also regulate the production of these enzymes. Amadosa is considered in ayurveda to be responsible for the production of all types of internal diseases. Even diseases caused by external agents are actually manifested only when there is production of amadosa and subsequent vitiation of agni which is present in that locality. The role of krimis or germs in the manifestation of diseases has been fully recognized in ayurveda. It has also been described that some of these germs are helpful for the maintenance of human body. This concept appears to be mundane in its outlook. The role of germs in the production of diseases, specially with reference to amadosa has been explained. Ama or uncooked material may be produced in the gastro-intestinal tract if the local enzymes are deranged. Similarly, ama can be produced at the level of the tissues if the enzymes responsible for the synthesis of a particular type of tissue element are deranged. The process by which different types of ama are formed both in the gastro-intestinal tract as well as at the level of tissue elements is explained in greater detail.
Agni, apart from the digestive function, is also responsible for the production of strength which has two aspects, namely, (1) strength to resist the occurrence of disease and decay in the human body and (2) strength to perform physical exercises. Bola or strength is in fact a direct product of the tissue metabolism which, produces energy and heat. In Section-IV different methods and different factors from which the strength of agni of the individual body can be ascertained are explained and the data available in Ayurvedic literature for ascertaining the state of agni in the individual's body from outside symptoms with special reference to the constitution of the individual, season, age and other physical signs and symptoms are described. Stool or sakrt, is one of the important products of digestion and metabolism. Apart from the refuse of the food Ingredients, certain endogenous elements come out through the stool. Any change in the process of metabolism affects the endogenous fraction of the stool resulting in a change in its physical as well as chemical characteristics. An effort has been made to ascertain the state of agni inside the human body from various characteristic features of the stool. Some other symptoms which indicate the function of amasaya and pakvasaya have been described. Other symptoms indicating the impairment of the functions of gastro-intestinal tract and dhatvagni are also described.
The material and method actually followed to ascertain the strength of agni, digestion and metabolism, and mamsabala (physical strength) are then described. Various criteria fixed in determining these factors and parameters decided for drawing of conclusions are also described.
Special emphasis is then laid upon the determination of the agni of different dhatus. Diseases produced by the deran- gement of agni of these dhatus are then explained specially with reference to those described in modern medicine.
In the discussion that follows, the data collected by experiments on volunteers and patients have been described and the criteria of demarcating an individual as of pravara-bala, Madhya-bola and avara-bala are also described.
Because of the centuries of accretions, the theories and concepts we find at present in the works of ancient medicine, are interpreted to be commonsense and not scientific knowledge. It is perhaps necessary to examine the difference between the scientific knowledge, the knowledge of commonsense, before the statements including theories and concepts of ayurveda could be put in one or the other category. Very generally described,' commonsense is the aggregate of views commonly held by a group of people without seriously questioning their bonafide. In other words, commonsense knowledge is the knowledge of the first look, knowledge which is self evident or obvious to anyone who is possessed of normal intellectual powers. Science is designated as trained and organized commonsense. Here lies the subtle difference of profound importance. The essence of science lies in the critical technique which is lacking in commonsense. The scientific knowledge is much more rigorously controlled. It is more penetrating in its analysis, more far-reaching in its scope and more carefully guarded in its evaluations and interpretations.
Examined with the above parameters, concepts and theories of ayurveda are scientific except of course those which were interpolated into the texts by people who are not entitled to do so during the period of decadence of the science. It is perhaps necessary in this connection to quote the views of Capt. G. Srinivasa Murti expressed in his memorable monograph on "The Science and Art of Indian Medicine" ( 1923 ). According to him "The Indian systems 'of' medicine (italics mine) are undoubtedly scientific; their general principles and theories (both in subjects of preliminary scientific study like Physics, Physiology and the like, as also in the subjects of medical science proper, like Pathology, Medicine, and so on ) are quite rational and scientific." What is, therefore, now required is to provide the missing links in this field. Concepts and theories are required to be verified with a view to ascertain that they are not the unscientific interpolations made during the period of decadence, and then through scientifically planned experiments, data should be collected to improve upon these scientific concepts and theories. Simultaneously there should be an attempt to demonstrate their applied aspects in the field of diagnosis and treatment of diseases. The present work is an attempt on this line.
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