In his masterly classification Mr. Herbert Spencer has, in his Biology, given, indeed, the first place to Anatomy and Physiology, but still it is divested of any elaborate chapters dealing with the subjects.
Want of Descriptive Anatomy and Physiology in the sections of Sarira-sthana itself: -
I The definition of Ayus-
Same as Life as defined by Mr. Herbert Spencer.
In the science of Life a short reference to the structures of the body or its functions is quite sufficient to illustrate its principles, and if we fail to find therein any discourse on the descriptive Anatomy and Physiology, we still consider that there is nothing amiss.
But unfortunately the fate of Ayurveda is otherwise. Though the very name indicates that it is Biology pure and simple, still it is denounced for its dificiencies in Anatomy and Physiology, and doomed for ever.
Sanskrit words are notorious for their confusion of meanings, but, as regards Ayurveda there exists no difference of opinion, at least, so far as the first word is concerned. Ayus is Ayus everywhere in Ayurveda and it is the only fault our venerable Rishis may be reasonably charged with, that they did not put themselves into any great trouble to explain Ayus, but, on the contrary, unlike scientific men, misspent their energy to ascertain the significance of the insignificant portion of Ayurveda, that is the meanings of the root "Vida" in the light of Grammar.
The scientific ear, ever unsatisfied with these grammatical eruditions, has ultimately thrust an Encyclopaedic value upon what is properly speaking, a book of Biology. Of course, there is a marked difference between the two. An ordinary treatise on Biology deals with the general truths of life, and does not represent, by way of illustrations, all its special truths, nor their practical sides, but so far as Ayurveda is concerned, the general truths of Biology are thrown into the background and the special truths, gleaned exclusively from the science of medicine, are given great prominence
so much so, that it is now regarded as a system of Medicine and Surgery which has neither Biology, nor Anatomy, nor Physiology, nor Pathology - but is a systematised Empiricism or Quackery. This is certainly a great misfortune. Apart from the name, the arrangement of the subject, to which we have just referred, at least, in the section of Sárira-sthána (the falsely so-called Anatomy of the Hindus), - is a direct contradiction to its bieng considered as an Encyclopaedic work. The existence of the chapters on midwifery and management of infants in the same, following immediately the chapters on Anatomy, serves as a strong additional evidence thereof. It is an anomaly no doubt, that Midwifery has been offered a place in the section of Anatomy, but the confusion does not get at all confounded, if we are led to believe that the science of generation of a superior race (if we are at all permitted to use the term) forms, indeed, an important department of Practical Biology.
From whatever standpoint we look to the question, we find there are grounds to lead any one to pronounce in our favour and to come to the conclusion at which we now venture to arrive. Besides these two important facts, we now cite the following passage as a strong internal evidence in favour of our view. Maharshi Punarvasu, after giving us a short table of the principal structures of the human body, remarks that even this reference is considered by many as superfluous, on the ground, that an acquaintance with the molecular construction of an organism is quite sufficient to help us as a reliable guide to treatment.
The passage referred to is quoted below: -
Reasons for incorporating Midwifery into this Anatomical section-
Reasons for omitting Descriptive Anatomy.
Now we ask the reader if this is not a sufficient evidence, proving to the hilt, that Ayurveda is nothing but Biology and that we run no risk of committing a grave omission if the chapter on Anatomy is wholesale dispensed with from Ayurveda. For the improvement of this awkward position - that in the section of Anatomy there should be no Anatomy - the entire credit is due to Susruta, as he has very wisely made the suggestion, that a knowledge of the anatomical structures of the body is of great value, at least so far as it helps the Surgeons and the Surgeons only in their operations. * But so far as Biology is concerned with medicine, Susruta does not forget to lay particular stress on the knowledge of the molecular construction of the body. The following memorable passages actually preached by this renowned Surgeon, some three hundred centuries ago, still stands as a model from which modern Science, even in its present advancement, can draw inspirations. He says: -
That is, the protean work of the protoplasm in which the great Self resides cannot be detected by the body's eye; to know its work, mind's eye is necessary, along with the body's eye. For acquiring efficiency in Surgery alone, the dissection of dead body (not of living body as proclaimed by Herophilus), nay, the Avagharshana which brings into view the layers of the epidermis and the dermis, the number and branches of blood-vessels and nerves that lie embedded in muscles, etc. is only necessary. Professor Michael Foster's remarks in his article on Physiology in the Encyclopedia Britannica, to all appearnces, are just in the same line, if not identical with our extract, when he says "that the problem of Physiology, in the future, is largely concerned in arriving by experiment and inference, by the mind's eye, and not by the body's eye alone, assisted, as that may be, by lenses yet to be introduced at a knowledge of the molecular construction of the protean protoplasm; of the laws according to which it is built up and the laws according to which it breaks down; for these laws when ascertained will clear up the mysteries of the protean work which the protoplasm does."
* Susruta recommends dissection on dead human bodies and suggests that it is only required of those who will practise surgery and that students of medicine can do without it. Herophilus practised dissection on living bodies and with the object of practising medicine successfully, but it soon fell into disrepute and did not at all influence the art of Medicine. He was condemmed even by his own pupil Philinus of cos who declared that all the Anatomy his vivisecting master had taught him had not helped him in the least in the cure of his patients. Such indeed was the fate of vivisection for which Europe now takes pride.
But Susruta's, Avagharshana is now considered by many as the only perfect mode of dissection ever known. It is with the help of this method of dissection that the layers of epidermis and dermis could be discovered and blood-vessels with their minute branches could be counted to be as many as thirty millions. Not only this, but also in the opinion of several European savants, Susruta still stands as a model of surgery and European surgery has borrowed many things from Susruta and has yet many things to learn.
In short the knowledge of the molecular construction of the body is just the thing with which Biology is concerned, and such is the unanimous verdict both in the East as well as in the West, in the most ancient and in the most modern Sciences of the world. Now, if the 'knowledge of the molecular construction of the protoplasm, of the laws according to which it is built up, and the laws according to which it breaks down,' is all that is necessary for an accurate knowledge of Anatomy and Physiology, our Ayurveda is pre-eminently the Science we want.
The following extracts, from Charaka Samhitá, are cited here to prove that we are quite justified in our contention.
The knowledge of the Molecular Construction of the body is all that is wanted.
That is, the body is composed of molecules and these are said to be numberless, because no body can count them up.
By their union, they build up the body, and this union is governed by three Laws, viz., the Laws of Váyu, Karma and Swabháva (which are almost equivalent to the three Biological Laws, i.e., the law of heredity, the law of external relations and the law of molecular motion caused by Ethereal vibrations compared with which nerve-impulses - akin to electric force, are grosser and coarser shocks). So far we think we have proved that Ayurveda, as a Biology is not defective, if it contains no descriptive Anatomy and Physiology - descriptive in the same sense as Grey's Anatomy or Kirke's Physiology is.
Its Histiology is molecular; its Pathology is molecular; its Physiology is molecular. Molecular in every sense is the Biology Of the Hindus. Virtually speaking, Ayurveda is our Science of Life, and we will presently shew that Life and Ayus are identical.
The continuous adjustment of molecules, their successive breaking down and building up within an organised living body, without destroying its identity, is the definition of Ayus as suggested by Maharshi Punarvasu.
He says: -
In another place the same definition is repeated with a slight modification and in this he enumerates
(consciousness) as the most distinctive characteristic of Ayus. According to this definition, and
re'er to an organised living body;andare identical with processes of breaking down and building up of the organism without destroying its identity. The idea of continuous adjustment is included also in these two words. So we find, the definition of Ayus, as sugessted by Punarvasu, includes more than what is proposed in Mr. Herbert Spencer's definition of Life. The wordsandas explained by the great annotator Chakrapáni, represent two more distinct phases of Life, the first bearing upon the existence in the system of a preventive factor of putrefaction, the second pointing to the agent or agents that adjust the internal relations by delicate touches, which professor Michael Foster speaks of as "continuously passing from protoplasm to protoplasm and compared with which the nervous impulses