The consensus of western opinions is to place Nagarjuna in the first quarter of the third Century B. C. (2). and for fixing Sushruta as a contemporary of Sakya Sinha Buddha. It is contended that the age immediately preceding Sakya Muni was a period of decadence in Hindu thought ; and the Sushruta Samhita must have been the fruit of a revived intellectual activity which usually follows the advent of a new creed - an assumption which is in favour of the hypothesis of Greek influence on the Hindu system of medicine. But great men there had been in India before Buddha. The age which immediately preceded the age of Buddha was by no means an age of decadence properly speaking, the age which followed the downfall of Buddhism shows, on the contrary, signs of true decadence. India had had eminent philosophers and scientists almost contemporaneously with the great Buddha. The chronological facts collected above from the Mahabharatam, and the Garuda Puranam could have been construed to prove that the age of Sushruta was prior to that of the Mahabharatam but for the internal evidence furnished by the Samhita itself as to the probable date of its composition which we shall have occasion to deal with later on.
Sushruta is mentioned in the
(1) Mahamahopadhyaya Kaviraj Dvaraka Nath Sen Kaviratna of Calcutta subscribes to this opinion - Tr.
(2) Bael's Buddhistic Records of the Western World. Vol.11. P. 212. Stein's Rajatarangini. .
(3) Lalita Vistaram - Raja R. L. Mitter's Edition, Chapter I (Medical Treatment Of The Two Kinds Of Inflamed Ulcers (Dvivraniya Chikitsitam)).
Vartikas of (1) Katyayana (4 Century B. C.) and we have no hesitation in saying tha the original Samhita was written at least two centuries before the birth of Buddha. We are equally ready to admit, on the other hand, that the final recension of the Samhita by Nagarjuna, at least the form in which we have it, was made about the second Century B. C.
Several scholars, on the authority of Dallana (the celebrated commentator of the Sushruta Samhita) endeavour to establish the identity of Nagarjuna (the redactor of this Samhita) with his namesake, the celebrated alchemist of the tenth Century (2). But their contentions fall to the ground when we know that many verses of the Sushruta Samhita occur in the works of Bagbhat (Ashtangahridayam) and Madhava (Nidanam), which are two of the works which were translated by the order of the Kaliph (3) in the eighth century. The internal evidences of the book do not supply us with any authentic material to compose anything like a biography of this father of Hindu Surgery.
The line in the Samhita, which has formed the veritable bone of contention amongst scholars of all shades of opinion as throwing a light upon the probable date of its composition, occurs in the Sharira - Sthanam, in connection with the development of the foetal body and reads as "Subhuti Gautama said that it is the trunk that first developed."