No special apology is necessary for the publication of an English translation of the Sushruta Samhita. The vast medical literature of ancient India practically remains as yet unexplored, and any undertaking, which has the object of making that terra incognita, known to the scientific world, is bound to be welcomed by the public. Spasmodic attempts have been made by several scholars and erudite bodies to bring out an English translation of the Sushruta Samhita, as the most representative work of the Ayurveda, but we regret to say that such efforts have hitherto proved abortive. In spite of incomplete information on the subject many drugs of the Ayurvedic Materia Medica have been adopted by different foreign systems of medicine, and this has afforded us a fresh impetus to issue an English translation of the book, which not only deals with the essentials of Indian Therapeutics but embraces the whole range of the science of Ayurveda, as it was understood and practised by the Vedic sages.
We sincerely hope that the English rendering of Sushruta, which we have undertaken, will, when completed, supply a long-felt want and help to start a fuller inquiry into the properties of the indigenous drugs of India. Many institutions have been already started both in England and Germany with the sole object of studying the aetiology of tropical diseases, and of formulating an empirical system of their prevention and cure, and we hope an English translation of the Sushruta Samhita, embracing as it does the results of researches made by our ancient Rishis in the land of their origin may contribute no small amount of useful information to those bodies. "We have many things to learn" observes Lt. Col. C. P. Lukis, M.D., f.r.c.s., I.M.S., Principal, Medical College, Calcutta, "from the people of this country in respect of medicine and medical science," and;we doubt not that an accurate knowledge of the contents of this splendid monument of the Ayurveda in quarters where it has every chance of being utilised and improved upon will make the human race better equipped to combat the ills of life.
A few remarks on the method we have adopted in editing this work are necessary by way of explanation. We have carefully collated all the available texts of the Sushruta Samhita, whether printed or otherwise, expunging from the body of our work all texts, which, though not proved to be wholly spurious, are of questionable authority, and putting them in foot-notes as "Different Readings" or "Additional Texts." In cases of doubt or discrepancy of opinion we have thought fit to abide by the decision of our revered preceptor, Mahamahopadhyaya Kaviraj Dvarkanath Sen, Kaviratna, and inserted within brackets explanatory clauses, where a strictly literal translation of texts would not convey their true meaning. In many instances it is impossible to find in the English language equivalent words for the technical terms of the Ayurveda. In such cases we have put approximate English words within brackets, after the original Sanskrit terms. For example we have translated the term Ojah as albumen. "But the Ojah of the Ayurveda is a disputed thing. It may mean something like but not exactly albumen; glycogen, which contributes largely to the reproductive activity of the body in certain instances, would appear to be the more correct description. In cases like this we have not put before our readers, any suggestions of our own, but left them free to draw their own inference. And for this purpose we further intend to append to the last volume of this work an index and a glossary illustrating the possible meanings of the Ayurvedic terms with English and Latin synonyms, wherever possible. The true meaning of the Ayurveda can be better explained or understood only with the light of modern science, and we leave it to our European colleagues to carry on the research on the lines we have suggested with regard to this ancient system of medicine, which a better knowledge of its principles and methods will enable them to do.
For the sake of convenience we have divided the entire work into three volumes, the first containing only the Sutrasthanam, the second Nidanam, Sharira and Chikitsa, and the third Kalpa and Uttara Tantram.
We have adopted the diagrams of surgical instruments from that most valuable work of the Thakore Saheb of Gondal, called the History of the Aryan Medical Science, for which I am particularly indebted to His Highness.
In conclusion, we beg to convey our sincerest thanks to our preceptor's son Kaviraj Jogendranath Sen Vidya-bhusana M. A., Dr. U. D. Banerji L. R. C. P., M. R. C. S. (Lond), and Lt. Col. K. P. Gupta M. A., M. D., I. M. S., Professor Janakinath Bhattacharya M.A. B.L., P.R.S. for having kindly examined the different portions of the manuscript. I am grateful to Dr. Surendranath Gosvami B.A., L. M.S. too, for the kind interest he has all along taken in the publication of this work and for various intelligent suggestions, which have been of considerable help to me.
My thanks are also due to numerous learned authors, ancient and modern from whose writings, I have found it necessary to make frequent quotations.
10, Kashi Ghose's Lane. Kunja Lal Bhishagratna,
1st December, 1907. Calcutta. Kaviraj