Origin of Man and Diseases

I most Vedic texts, one can see a specific pattern. A Guru (or teacher) and disciple(s) having conversation on various topics.

As a student of Ayurveda, I am more than fascinated to see this pattern in the Charaka Samhita, one of the ancient texts in Ayurveda. These kind of conversation teaches us a lot about Ayurvedic thought and principles as well as the state of thought the ancient Rishis and students had.

In chapter 25 of Sutra Sthana, there is a conversation between Lord Punarnavasu and his nine disciples. Vamaaka, the king of Kashi (Varanasi) asks Lord Punarnavasu a question about the origin of Man and diseases. In return, Lord Punarnavasu tells his disciples: “You know the knowledge, so you will be able to answer Vamaaka”.

As one can guess, each student gave his own answer, using his knowledge and understanding of the science being taught. I will outline the nine different answers, so each one may see the wonderful mind-storming.

Parikshi

Man originates from the soul, so diseases as well are originated from the soul. The soul collects and enjoys actions and results. Happiness or misery cannot occur without a soul.

Saraloman

The soul cannot be the origin of diseases, as the soul is by itself averse to miseries. Diseases arise from the mind. When the mind is governed and covered by  Rajo and Tamo gunas.

Varyovida

Negates both of his fellow students. How can the mind create diseases? Both physical diseases as well as the mind cannot exist without a body! Rasa is the root of man as well as disease. When water is abundant in Rasa Dhatu, that causes diseases and man as well.

Hiranyaksha

One cannot claim Rasa as the cause. Just like the soul isn’t originally from Rasa, same is true for diseases. All diseases as well as man originate from the six dhatus – the Atman along with the Panchamahabhuta (the five gross elements).

Kaushika

How can living beings originate from the six dhatus (mentioned above), without their ancestors? No. Just like man is born out of man, a cow is born out of cow etc. diseases originate from parents and are hereditary. Man and diseases are both originated from one’s parents.

Bhadrapakya

I’m sorry, this opinion cannot be true. Just like blind parents give birth to a non-blind child. On top of that, if everything originated from the parents, where did the parents originate from? There is only one answer: Karma. Karma is the reason behind man and his diseases.

Bharadvaja

Karma cannot be the reason for man moreover his diseases. Karma always presupposes an existence of an agent. There cannot be a proof to ascertain that action, even if not performed, can result in creation of a living being let alone his diseases. The cause is Svabhava (Nature), like Prithvi (earth) has the nature of roughness, and Apa (water) has the nature of liquidity.

Kankayena

If what my fellow student is saying is true, then all people’s efforts such as rituals, studies etc. are useless and in vain. Results of such actions will be dependent on nature and not on the actions. Origin of disease and man are from Prajapati, with His powers and infinite creative powers.

Bhikshu Atreya

My friend, how can Prajapati bring miseries to his subjects like a cruel man? Kala (Time) is the cause of man and diseases as well. Just as the whole universe is conditioned by time, so man and his diseases.

As one can clearly sees, each student see a different reason for the origin of man and the diseases. And one can also understand each opinion as true. Now comes Lord Punarnavasu to conclude and give His answer:

My students, you all look at the truth from an individual aspect of it. How can the truth be found by relying on one aspect of it alone?

The real truth is all that you have said combined. When those factors are wholesome in combination they create the human being. On the contrary, when these factors are unwholesome they create diseases.

 

When I think of it, there are 9 different answers and according to Vedic knowledge the body is known as “the city with nine gates”. The King of that city is the soul. I am not sure if it is connected to the discussion here or not, just something I thought of.

 

  • Information from Charaka Samhita, Sutra Sthana 25. Chaukambha Sanskrit Studies, Varanasi.
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