It was some years ago that we took upon ourselves the rather ambitious task of bringing out the Sushruta Samhita in English. And we may mention that the appreciation the first instalment of our undertaking met with at the hands of scholars at home and abroad considerably encouraged us in completing this huge undertaking.
We desire to record here our deepest feelings of gratitude towards His Highness the Maharaja Sir Sawai Jai Singh Bahadoor, K. C. S. I., of Alwar (Rajputana), who has, by his princely donation, enabled us to bring this highly important work to a completion. It is known throughout India that the illustrious Ruler of Alwar is a great patron of letters and a lover of Ayurvedic Science, and many noble undertakings in our country have depended largely upon his liberal support. No words of mine can adequately express my admiration for the good he is doing to our country.
Raviraj Kunja Lall Bhishgratna, M.R.A.S. ( Lond.)
Now that the whole work is before the public, its worth and importance will be duly judged Our translation does not claim to have any literary excellence, as our sole aim has been to render as faithfully as we could the original into one of the European languages. The technical terms occurring in the Sushruta Samhita cannot be accurately translated into English, as there are no corresponding words in that language which would convey the exact meaning of the original. We have therefore retained the Sanskrit terms, and have in some cases put within brackets such English words as may approximately render the meaning of the original.
No apology is needed for placing before the learned world of the West a scientific treatise of ancient India. We may only mention that the Hindu system of medicine is not a thing of mere antiquarian interest. It is a living system, and even to-day millions of people in India are being treated according to this system. A system which has stood the test of centuries, and which still holds its own against rival systems of the day, cannot be lightly brushed aside as wholly unscientific. It has been said that a system which recognises prayer as one of the means of curing human ailments, can lay no claim to any scientific character. All that we need say in answer to this criticism is that humanity has not yet risen above prayer in any country in the world, and faith in the efficacy of prayer in curing diseases is, instead of dying out, gaining ground in the modern scientific world. Whatever that may be, in actual practice, Hindu medical men, like their brethren of Europe, rely chiefly upon medicine and surgery, but occasionally prescribe prayer also as an efficient form of remedy. While recognising the influence of mind on body, and the efficacy of faith in certain forms of disease, they treat it as a special method, falling more properly within the province of priests.
A few words, however, seem necessary to show what abiding interest there is for all time in such a work as the Sushruta Samhita. We do not wish to enter into any historical criticism to prove that the different systems of medicine in other countries, new or old, have received more than a mere stimulus from the Indian System, and that many foreign discoveries may be traced to the work we are now presenting to the world. The opinions of some modern men of science, who cannot be accused of having any bias in favour of our system, will demonstrate its abiding value.
Surgeon General Sir Pardev Lukis, M. D., L M. S., K. C. S. I., Director-General of Indian Medical Service, was pleased to remark in the course of his speech in the Imperial Legislative Council: -" Many of the so-called discoveries of recent years are merely re-discoveries of the facts known centuries ago to the ancients (Indians)." In noticing the first volume of this very work, the British Medical Journal observed in its issue of November, 1912: - "It is certain that in this ancient medical book there are traces of knowledge which is comparatively recent in the West."
We do not know what reception will be accorded to this work by the public, but we may fairly hope that now that the ancient Indian Medical System and the Indigenous Drugs of this country are being investigated by scientific experts under the direction of the Government of India, this ancient system of Medicine and Surgery will attract the attention of those who have hitherto neglected it as unworthy of notice.
The encouragement which we have received from the Governments of Bengal and Nepal and from the States of Baroda and Mysore, has helped us a great deal and we take this opportunity of expressing our gratitude towards them. The active help extended to us in the preparation of this work by Vaidyaratna Kaviraj Jogindra Nath Sen, Vidyabhusan, M. A., Kaviraj Madhav Chandra Tarkatirtha, Kaviraj Jnanendranath Sen, Kaviratna, B. A., Prof. Satyendranath Sen, Vidya-vagis'a, M. A., and Babu Sachindralal Bhaduri, B. A., B. L., we also specially and thankfully acknowledge. We offer our sincerest thanks also to Dr. U. D. Banerjee, L. R. C. P., M. R. C. S. Dr. Y. M. Bose, M. D. (Chicago) and Kaviraj Surendranath Goswami, Vidyavinode, B. A., L. M. S. who have never failed to give us their valuable suggestions whenever we have sought their advice.
10, Kashi Ghose's Lane,
May 25, 1916.
Kunja Lal Bhishagratna.