Talk:The purpose of the study of medicine

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The purpose of the study of medicine


Outlining the objectives or ends which medical education subserves, Caraka says- "This science is to be studied by the Brahmanas, the Ksatriyas and the Vaisyas. By the Brahmanas with a view to bene�fiting all creatures, by the Ksatriyas as subserving their role of projectors and by the Vaisyas as a means of livelihood; and in general, by all with the object of attaining virtue, wealth and pleasure.

Now whatever endeavour a practitioner of this science makes towards the relief of the ailments affecting those who walk in the path of righteousness, or those who propagate righteousness, or of such persons as his mother, father, brothers, relations and seniors or in whatever measure he meditates on, expounds or practises the spiri�tual truths enshrined in this science of life all - that constitutes the higher virtue of his life. '


Again whatever store of wealth or patronage he is able to secure from his association with kings and merchant-princes with a view to ensuring for himself an easy and comfortable life, or whatever relief from distress he himself is able to extend to those who have sought his protection - all this constitutes the wealth of his life.

Once again, whatever renown comes his way, acclaiming him as a sage, or as a saviour, or whatever honours and services he commands, or whatever measure of health is able to confer on those whom he loves-all this constitutes the satisfaction of a medical mans life. Thus we have dealt with all the points raised without omitting anything.


Dealing with this question as to why medicine should be studied, another early master Kasyapa, declares -


Medicine should be studied by the Brahman a for the sake of the knowledge of truth, of acquiring spiritual merit for himself and of extending help to humanity; by the Ksatriya for the sake of safe guarding the health of the people; by the Vaisya for the sake of a livelihood; and by the rest for the sake of service. All may study it for the sake of living thfe good life.�


In another great classic, the Susruta Samhita, we find Susruta approaching the great Dhanvantari with the request


�For the sake of affording relief from suffering to humanity in its pursuit of happiness, for the sake of prolonging our own lives and for the sake of general good of the people, we would like to hear the Science of Life from which accrues to man his good both here and hereafter. It is for this that we are here as your disciples�.


In the same book, we again find Dhanvantari declaring:


�The purpose of the medical science is release from suffering to those who are in the grip of disease and maintenance of wellbeing as regards those who are healthy��.


He further defines Ayurveda thus:

� Medical science is eternal, sacred and bestower of heaven, fame, longevity and subsistence�.


From these references it can be seen that there were three main objectives which induced people to take up the study of medi�cine. The first objective, which is the one that is generally the sole objective in this commercial age, is the earning of a livelihood, and the people that took up the medical calling from this incentive were in those days naturally recruited from the Vaisya or the merchant class. The second objective was the acquisition of fame and prestige and the people to whom this objective had the strongest appeal were chiefly from the Ksatriya or Rajanya class, characte�rized by bold, authoritative and adventurous spirit. Some of these were reigning princes and were able to spread the fruits of their medical knowledge to whole populations, and their bold, heroic and enterpri�sing spirit may have initiated many bold experiments, especially in surgery. It is from this type of medical students that the consultant and the specialist would be drawn. The third and the most important class of people was that which took up the study of medicine with the objective of the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake or of serving humanity from motives of mercy and philanthropy. This class came mainly from the Brahmanas and it is mainly from this class that the teachers, research scholars and missionary doctors were recruited. Later this spirit of service and philanthropic zeal received further impetus from the ethical teaching of the Buddha and a large band of Buddha Sadhus arose who dedicated their lives to charitable works and the spread of the medical knowledge of India not only to greater India but to the far corners of the then-known world.


The remarkable progress of medicine during the golden age of Ayurveda was due to the selfless and pioneering spirit evinced by Brahmana teachers and the Buddhist Sadhus. This spirit which has unfortunately been on the wane in India for a long time, emerging in other parts of the world, has gained for them that supremacy in knowledge and science which India once enjoyed With the return of freedom to India, the old spirit also is sure to return and restore her to her original high status.


All these three classes of medical practitioners, though moti�vated by different impulses, shared in common the three-fold ideal of human life, namely Dharma, Artha and Kama and though each worked in its own particular way, they all served the country and in greater or lesser measure enhanced its well - being and glory.