Talk:Oath of initiation into medicine

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Significance of Oath

This is done in the form of an oath, which is administered to the student by the teacher in the presence of the sacred fire, Brahmanas and physicians of repute and standing. This ceremony reflects the deep import that the ancients had attached to such undertakings, for by that they sought to impress on the young man entering on his career of enlightenment, the solemnity and sanctity of the pursuit he had taken up.

Oath In Caraka Samhita

The teacher then should instruct the disciple in the presence of the sacred fire, Brahmanas and physicians saying:

Thou shalt lead the life of a bachelor,[1] grow thy hair and beard, speak only the truth, eat no meat, eat only pure articles of food, be free from envy and carry no arms. There shall be nothing that thou oughtest not do at my behest except hating the king or causing another's death or committing an act of great unrighteousness or acts leading to calamity.
Thou shalt dedicate thyself to me and regard me as thy chief. Thou shalt be subject to me and conduct thyself for ever for my welfare and pleasure. Thou shalt serve and dwell with me like a son, a slave or a supplicant. Thou shalt behave and act without arrogance and with care and attention and with un-distracted mind, humility, constant reflection and ungrudging obedience. Acting either at my behest or otherwise, thou shalt conduct thyself for achievement of thy teacher's purposes alone, to the best of thy abilities.
If thou desirest success, wealth and fame as a physician and heaven after death, thou shalt pray for the welfare of all creatures beginning with the cows and Brahmanas. Day and night, however thou may be engaged, thou shalt endeavor for the relief of patients with all thy heart and soul. Thou shalt not desert or injure thy patient even for the sake of thy life or thy living. Thou shalt not commit adultery even in thought. Even so, thou shalt not covet other's possessions.
Thou shalt be modest in thy attire and appearance. Thou should not be a drunkard or a sinful man nor should thou associate with the abettors of crimes. Thou should speak words that are gentle, pure and righteous, pleasing, worthy, true, wholesome and moderate. Thy behavior must be in consideration of time and place and heedful of past experience. Thou shalt act always with a view to the acquisition of knowledge and the fullness of equipment.

Other Norms

  • Those who are of very unnatural, wicked and miserable character and conduct, those who have not vindicated their honor and those that are on the point of death and similarly women who are unattended by their husbands or guardians shall not receive treatment.
  • No offering of gifts by a woman without the behest of her husband or guardian shall be accepted by the physician.
  • While entering the patient's house one shall be accompanied by a man who is known to the patient and who has his permission to enter and one should be well clad and bent of head, self-possessed and conduct oneself after repeated consideration.
  • Entry of the physician should be proper.
  • Having entered the house of the patient, speech, mind, intellect and senses shall be entirely devoted to no other thought than that of being helpful to the patient and of things concerning him only.
  • The peculiar customs of the patient's household shall not be made public.
  • Even after knowing that the patient's span of life has come to end, it shall not be mentioned by the physician as it can cause shock to the patient or to others.
  • Though possessed of knowledge, one should not boast very much of one's knowledge.
  • Most people are offended by the boastfulness of even those who are otherwise good and authoritative.

Oath In Susruta Samhita

Thou shalt renounce all evil desires, anger, greed, passion, pride, egotism, envy, harshness, meanness, untruth, indolence and other qualities that bring infamy upon oneself. Thou shalt clip thy nails and hair close, observe cleanliness, wear brown garment and dedicate thyself to the observance of truth, celibacy and the salutation to elders. Devoting thyself at my bidding to movement, laying thyself down, being seated, taking thy meal and study, thou shalt be engaged in doing whatever is good and pleasing to me. If thou shouldst behave otherwise, sin will befall thee. Thy learning will go fruitless and will attain no popularity.

If the physician do not treat the patient properly despite the proper observance, then it may be sin and all the learnings of the physician will go fruitless.

The physician should treat the patient when they come to thee, like his own kith and kin and relieve their ailments with the medications. One should not treat a hunter, a bird catcher, an out-caste and a person doing sinful acts. Thus, the physician will attain popularity like this and gain fame, righteousness, wealth and fulfillment.

Oath In Kasyapa Samhita

Thou shall be agreeable in disposition and righteous. You should control your senses and be ready to study when called. You shall have no secrets from me, share the suffering of others, bear in mind country and clime and be resolute. You should be away from greed, anger, infatuation, envy, derision, enmity, wine, flesh and females. You should apply yourself to study after serving the preceptor. You should not go away without taking his permission, without having worshiped the preceptor and without completing the full course of study.

Oath In Hastyayurveda

O son! you should never turn deceitful, wicked, greedy, envious, hard-hearted and unfair. You should always be free from lethargy and sin and should have the character of venerable persons and compassion for the family and should always put yourself at the service of the preceptor. If, towards such a submissive student the preceptor is unfair in the matter of clothes, study and food, he will incur the sin committed towards the disciple.
If in spite of the noble dealing of the preceptor in the matter of imparting learning, food and delight, the disciple behaves in a contrary manner, he incurs sin committed towards his preceptor.


The spirit of dedication with which each branch of education was pursued and particularly medical education, is evidenced by the character of the initiation ceremony described in the medical texts such as Caraka, Susruta, Kasyapa and Palakapya. There after going into elaborate details as to how the student should approach the Guru and the auspicious nature of the time and the place, the teacher depicts fully the nature of the duties and responsibilities devolving upon the aspirant to the medical profession, setting out in full the daily behavior during the student-career as well as his conduct as a full- fledged physician.

The students used to take the oath after invoking the names of the great promulgators of Ayurveda, namely Brahma, Dhanvantari, Prajapati, Aswins, Indra, and the Rsi compilers of the great medical text-books. This is the list of names as found in Caraka. Susruta instead of mentioning the individual names of deities and the Rsis refers in general to all presiding deities and Rsis of medicine. In Kasyapa we find mention of Soma, Kasyapa, Sarasvati and Purna Bhaga as being the gods to be invoked at the administration of the oath Palakapya, the author of Hastyayurveda or the science of medicine for elephants, lays down the invocation of the deities and elephants of the quarters, Sankara, Visnu, the sun and the moon, the planets, Skanda and a host of minor deities. On the completion of the initiation ceremony, the student is said to be a Dwija and is designated as a Brahmacari till he completes his life as a student.


It was believed that the first birth is from the womb of the mother and the second birth is through initiation. The Brahmacari is one who has dedicated himself to the pursuit of knowledge, "One who necessarily practices penance or acquires knowledge. He is held in high esteem by all the law givers and the society.

During the student life, special emphasis is laid on celibacy, abstinence from meat-foods, the not carrying any weapons and non-resort to seditious and sinful acts even at the express command of the teacher, to whom the student otherwise owes unquestioning obedience Brahmacari, as he is now called, is according to Kasyapa exhorted to keep a liberal mind and progress with the spirit of the times. The part of the oath which relates to the life that the student was to lead when he actually took up the calling of a physician will be touched upon when we come to the subject of the ceremony marking the completion of the studies or graduation.


  1. It means Brahmacari in hindi.
  • The Caraka Samhita published by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society, Jamnagar, India