But if Sushruta is admired so much for his practical and scientific last of mind, it is his writings on Physiology, which is practically the same as the one adopted, by all schools of the Ayurveda) which have appeared as a stumbling block to the intelligence of many a Western and and Eastern scholar. European Sanskritists have thought fit to translate "Vayu," "Pittam" and "Kapham" (the three main physiological functions) as air, bile and phlegm. But nothing could be more misleading, or erroneous than that. A right understanding of the science of the Ayurvedic medicine, in all its branches, hinges on a right conception of the Vayu, Pittam and Kapham, so we should like to clear up the nature of these three physiological factors before proceeding farther in our enquiry.
A reference to these three physiological factors of Vayu, Pittam and Kapham, under the name of Tridhatu, is first met with in the Rikveda, (3). Sayana explains the term as a synonym for Vayu, Pittam and Kapham. The Vedic physicians possessed at least a considerable knowledge of the process of digestion (4), the circulation of gas in the human organism, and of
(1) It is curious that the phonetic and etymological resemblance between Sanskrit "Juyutsu" and Japanese '"Jiujitsu" (would be fighter) should be so close. Perhaps it was the Buddhist missionaries (and they were not always peaceful hermits) who had carried with them a system of scientific wrestling from India, which was subsequently developed in Japan. Compare with the complete Kano, Jiu-jitsu (Jeudo) by H. Irving Hancock and Katsukuma Higashi. Chart I and III.
Rik. Samhita. I. 3, 6.
Sayana explains it as the properties and functions of flesh, fat, muscles, tendons, ligaments and cartilages. But to the Acharyas of the Ayurveda belongs the glory of first formulating a systematic physiological science, to which end Sushruta as a surgeon did contribute no mean a quota. In the light of Western science the actions of living matter, varied as they are, may be reduced to three categories, viz. (a) Sustentative, (b) Generative, and (c) Correlative functions. The second is not co-extensive with the entire existence of a living organism, Sushruta observes some such distinction among the functions of a living organism when he denominates the living body as the "three supported one" (Tristhunam), and describes the normal Vayu, Pittam and Kapham as its three supports. We wonder how the term Vayu, meaning nerve force, can be confounded with the same term meaning air, since Sushruta derives the former from the root "Va," to move, to spread. Vayu, according to Sushruta, is so called from the fact of its sensory and motor functions such as, smelling, etc. But the Vayu in the Ayurveda is not wholly a physical or organic force, it has its spiritual aspect as well which does not legitimately fall within the scope of our enquiry. It is safe to aver however, that the Ayurvedic physiology, like its sister science in modern Europe, is concerned more with the invisible molecular components of the human organism, than with the workings of its gross members. The holy Agnivesha warns the students of physiology against the danger of regarding the human system as something other than the aggregate of molecules (1).
Charaka Samhita Sharirasthanam, Chap. VII.