Sunday, October 5, 2008


Medicine (bhesajja) is a substance applied or ingested to cure sickness. Ancient Indian pharmacology was based on the idea that medicines could be categorized according to their taste (rasa), their post-digestive effect (vipaka), their potency (virya) and their specific action (parabhava). The Buddha was knowledgeable in drugs and remedies and skilled in prescribing medicines. In the Vinaya he recommended numerous types of medicines and classified them as tallow, roots, astringents decoctions, leaves, fruits, resins, salts and ointments (Vin.I,198-250). Some of the medicines he recommended have been shown by modern research to have therapeutic value. Once, when the Buddha was suffering from an imbalance of the bodily humours, his physician Jivaka prescribed for him oil massages and inhaling the perfume of water lilies (Vin.I,279).
What medicine is to health the Dhamma is to happiness and freedom and thus it is not surprising that the Dhamma is often compared to a potent restorative medicine: `The Buddha is like a skilled physician in that he is able to heal the sickness of the defilements. The Dhamma is like a rightly applied medicine, and the Sangha, with their defilements cured, is like those restored to health by that medicine' (Pj.I,21).

1 comment:

Lotus_in_the_hills said...

Dear Bhante,

Thanks for this series of posts on medicine and healing. The relationship between monks and medical knowledge in several schools of Buddhism has yet to receive adequate attention from scholars of Buddhist Studies, although I think I've come across a few articles on the subject in the past...I need to do some rummaging through my computer to find them...