We can not better conclude this portion of our dissertation than by speaking a word or two about Agni. Sushruta raises the question whether there is any kind of fire in the human organism other than the Pittam; or are they identical? Sushruta holds that the Pittam is the only fire present in the system, in as much as all acts from the digestion of food to the disintegration of tissues are performed with the help of the Pittam, which includes within its signification what is connoted by Anabolism and Katabolism of Western Physiologists. But Agnivesha and certain sections of the Ayurvedic Acharyayas hold that there are five Anjali-fuls of Agni (1) in the human Organism. This discrepancy is best explained away by including one Yava measure of Agni (enzymes, ferment) in the five Anjali-measures of Pittam.
Bhavaprakasha Part I.
The Ayurvedic Physiology recognises the existence of another kind of Agni, which is called Dhatvagni (protoplasm) and which it classifies into seven different kinds. Arunadatta, the celebrated commentator of the Ashtanga-hridayam, holds that there are as many Dhatvagnis as the constituents of the body. (2)
- Charaka Samhita.
Charaka Samhita, Chikitsasthanam, Chapter XV (Surgical And Medical Treatment Of The Cases Of Difficult Malpresentation Of The Foetus And Of Difficult Labour (Mudha-Garbha)).
Vid Ibid Chap. XX.
The Commentator of the Chhandagya Bhasyam has emphasised the identity of the Pittam and the solar heat. In fact' it was a doctrine of faith among the Rishis that the solar heat pent up in the solids is transformed into organic heat (Bhutagni) which, becoming liberated in the stomach, produces the heat of digestion. (1) All these are but different forms of solar heat. The Dhatvagni and Udaragni lie inert in the organism. It is the Vayu that sets them free and makes them operative.
The Dhatvagnis (protoplasm) of the muscle are not of the same kind as that of the arteries. We cannot resist the temptation of quoting a few lines from Foster's physiology on the subject.*
These facts and other considerations, which might be brought forward, lead to the tentative conception of protoplasm as being a substance (if we may use the word in somewhat loose sense) not only-unstable in nature but subject to incessant change, existing indeed as the expression of incessant molecular, i.e. chemical and physical change, very much as a fountain is the expression of incessant replacement of water. We may picture to ourselves the total change, which we denote by the term "metabolism," as consisting on the one hand, of a downward series of (Katabolic changes) a stair of many steps in which the more complex bodies are broken down with the setting free of energy into simpler waste bodies, and, on the other hand, of an upward series of changes (anabolic changes) also a stair of many steps, by which the dead food of varying simplicity or complexity is with further assumption of energy built up into more and more complex bodies. The summit of the double stair we call "protoplasm" whether we have right to speak of it as a single body: in the chemical sense of that word or as a called Dhatus or fundamental principles of the economy, when in virtue of their correlative and sustentative functions, or with the help of their subservient processes of metabolism and lymphatic circulation, they ensure an equipoise among the different vital and physiological processes in the whole economy which is essential to its perfect health. Biologically considered they are but the primary subtle dynamics of organic life, or as Sayana expresses it, the three fundamental principles of the body.* But when this healthy equilibrium is disturbed either through the agency of any extrinsic or idiopathic factor, when any one of them is abnormally augmented or dominates the other two, thus altering their mutual relation in the economy, naturally certain pathological conditions arise which form the esse of a disease; + or in the parlance of the Ayurveda they are said to have been transformed into Doshas or morbific diathesis. Even blood, which, according to our Acharyayas, forms one of the fundamental principles (Dhatu) of the organism, may be designated as a Dosha (morbific diathesis), when owing to its congestion in any particular organ or member of the body, it brings about a disturbance in its general vascular system and produces pathological conditions which are offshoots of its own deficient or disturbed circulation. They are denominated as Malas,‡ when observed still in grosser or superficial principles of the organism producing those excretions, or organic lesions which appertain to the sphere of morbid Anatomy. Thus we see that the Ayurvedic principles of Vayu, Pittam and Kaphah embrace both the biological and pathological principles of the organism; or in other words, the Ayurvedic physiology elucidates and investigates the causes through which the same principles, which sustain life and the organism, are transformed into the dynamics of disease, lastly pointing out the grosser excretory changes and organic lesions in the external or superficial plane of existence, which form the subject of morbid anatomy and are sometimes confounded with the disease itself. In the Vayu, Pittam and Kaphah of the Acharyayas we have at once a complete picture of the finer sustentative forces of the human economy as well as their antithesis, the constructive as well as the expulsive forces of the inner man, together with an exhaustive analysis of their grosser products which legitimately fall within the sphere of morbid anatomy. A real knowledge of the nature and functions of the Vayu, Pittam and Kaphah may be useful in giving a deeper and clearer insight into the principles of true biology or pathology. It is incorrect to translate Vayu, Pittam and Kaphah as air, bile and phlegm, except under certain circumstances. Vayu, Pittam and Kaphah are air, bile and phlegm only when they are transformed into Malas or grosser organic excretions which are supposed to be so very intimately connected with factors, pathogenetic or pathological, but they are not air, bile and phlegm in those planes of their functions which determine the genesis, growth and continuance of the organism, as well as its death, decay and disinteg ation. The knowledge of a region without that of its antipodes is but a half knowledge, and the principle of Vayu, Pittam and Kaphah is the only one of its kind that tries to embrace the whole sphere of organic existence.
From what has now been stated regarding the functions and significations of the Vayu, Pittam and Kaphah, it will appear that the Acharyayas of the Ayurveda contemplated three different sets of principles in the domains of Biology and Pathology. Vayu, Pittam, and Kaphah are mixture in some way of several bodies. Whether we should regard it as the very summit of the double stair, or as embracing as well as the topmost steps in either side, we can not at present tell. Even if this be a simple substance forming the topmost summit, its existence is absolutely temporary, at one instance it is made at the next it is unmade matter, which is passing through the phase of life, rolls up the ascending step to the top and forthwith rolls down on the other side * * *
Further the dead food itself fairly, but far from being wholly stable in character, becomes more and more complex living material. It becomes more and more explosive and when it reaches the summit its equilibrium is over-thrown and it actually explodes. The whole downward stair of events seems in fact to be a series of explosives by means of which the energy latent in the dead food and augmented by the touches through which the dead food becomes living protoplasm, is set free. Some of those freed energy is used up again by the material itself, in order to carry on this same vivification of dead food, the rest leaves the body as heat or motion.
If this be admitted it almost inevitably follows that what we have called protoplasm, can not be always the same thing : that there must be many varieties of protoplasm with different qualities and with corresponding different molecular structure and composition. Using the word "protoplasm" in this sense, it is obvious that the varieties of protoplasm are numerous indeed, almost innumerable. The molecular protoplasm, which brings forth a contractile kata-state must differ in nature, in composition, that is in construction from glandular protoplasm where kata-state is a mother of ferment. Furher the protoplasm of a swiftly contracting striped muscular fibre must differ from that of the torpid, smooth, unstriated fibre, the protoplasm of a human muscle must differ from that of a sheep or a frog, the protoplasm of one muscle must differ from that of another muscle, in the same kind of animal, and the protoplasm of Smith's biceps must differ from that of Jone's - Foster.
Sayana's Commentary Rig V. I A.