Wednesday, February 19, 2014

bhrigu samhita

 Bhrigu-Samhita: An ancient manuscript with medical matters of interest
The debate on the inclusion of astrology,
as a science subject, has been quite
acrimonious and at times sanctimonious
too. This is evident in several issues of
Current Science, other technical and lay
publications and in the media. A good
spin-off is the distinct polarization in the
academia and the vocal expression of the
partisan views. Indeed, such a debate
should have been first invited by the
UGC, before the decision. Controversy
and an evidence-based debate amongst
the ‘experts’ is the soul of science and
technology. And the eventual consensus
and the majority decision are then based
on information, data and the level of
contended knowledge.

Unfortunately, we still continue to be
Lord Macaulay’s educational products.
We have not yet revolutionized our
memory-loaded learning into conceptbased
education. Hence, barring a few
exceptions, most of us have no roots in the
Indian scientific traditions, languages and
age-old knowledge base. We have been
raised on a myth that science is universal
and not culturally conditioned. Some of us
who have attempted to study transcultural
aspects of science know better.

During my study for M.D. (Medicine),
I wrote a thesis on ‘The medical aspects
of Bhrigu-Samhita’ in 1963. It was a comparative
study in the history of medicine.
I invited the wrath of my examiners and
the thesis was rejected because it was on
‘Ayurveda’! But what interested me more
in Bhrigu-Samhita were the remarkable
medical descriptions in Sanskrit, on the
circulation of blood, cancer, embolism,
etc. I have cited some of these excerpts
from the manuscript below:

·  ‘The windpipe must be healthy for the
movement of pure and impure air to
and fro from the lungs. The lungs, in
turn, supply the heart with the purified
blood. Then the heart circulates
the blood to the entire body rather
rapidly.’ It is quite a statement in
an old Sanskrit manuscript (Bhrigu R
II/6: 8–9) (circa 3000 B.C. – Bhrigu

·  ‘If at times, due to whatever reasons,
impure blood, a blood clot, or a piece
of fat were to move into the heart,
during circulation, this can jeopardize
the heart.’ (Bhrigu R II/7: 5–6)

·  ‘The germ can also move into the
bones or the seat of the heart. The
disease is called by the name – Kshaya
Roga – The germs are so virulent that
via breath a rapid spread can occur
from one person to another.’ (Bhrigu
R III/20: 5–7)

·  ‘At times even the heart will be
replaced. Such devices exist in
India . . . Indian scientists of a high
calibre will one day replace even liver
or spleen, in future.’ (Bhrigu R II/10:

·  ‘Occasionally, diabetics would benefit
especially from treatment that is
carried out after proper urine examination.
There can be help in other
diseases too by a careful urine
examination.’ (Bhrigu R IV/31: 6–8)

There is an urgent need to salvage
many of our ancient manuscripts of
medicine, astrology, philosophy, etc. We
must conduct 14C-dating to determine the
period of the palm-leaf and other
manuscripts. But the time has come to
look seriously at our heritage in sciences
and humanities, without any ancestral
vain-glory or an outright rejection because,
something does not fit into the western
reductionist world-view.

Bhavan’s S.P.A.R.C,
13th North South Road,
JVPD, Juhu,
Mumbai 400 049, India
Politeness or fear of dissenting?
P. Balaram’s editorials are always
original, interesting, provocative and
elegantly written. Unfortunately, they
do not appear to attract sufficient
discussion, despite the fact that such
discussions would greatly enhance
their value. Though I am an avid
reader of these editorials, I have been
remiss in not reacting to them even
when I have felt the urge. I would now
like to make amends by commenting
on the editorial The importance of
being impolite (Curr. Sci., 80, 1245–

The editorial starts with J. B. S.
Haldane’s conclusion that ‘science in
India is developing with disappointing
slowness . . . because Indians . . . are too
polite’. Without going into an expatriate’s
conclusion almost half a century
ago, the point is that Haldane has attributed
to politeness the failure of Indian
scientists to voice criticisms of the work
of their senior colleagues and their silence,
even when they differ. Being a
fearless person himself, Haldane did not
think of ascribing the silence to fear of
having to pay the price of dissent (impediments
to career advancement, loss of
funding, privileges and perks, etc.). Most
Indian scientists ‘are polite about one
another’s work’ because they are afraid
of being critical. This fear is an inevitable
consequence of an environment in which
dissent is strongly discouraged and ‘constructive
criticism and debate on science’
is virtually absent.
It is only when there is no fear of dissenting
that the question arises of how to
express the dissent. And can one recommend
anything other than the most courteous
and civilized forms of expression?
Haldane argued that there was a ‘choice
between politeness and efficiency’;
instead I submit that there is firstly a
choice between silence and efficiency
and then a choice between politeness and
rudeness. Balaram, therefore, should not
have emphasized ‘The importance of
being impolite’; he should have stressed
‘The importance of polite dissent’, where
dissent is warranted and required.
Hence, it is not politeness that is a
major impediment to the advance of science,
but the absence of debate, criticism
and dissent. For Indian science to flourish,
what is required is a community of
interacting scientists with the wellestablished
traditions of a peer system.
Without the environment of an actively
interacting scientific community, there
cannot be the natural selection of scientific
ideas and data, which alone will
ensure that the fittest theories and
experiments survive. Natural selection of
ideas implies competition and diversity.

736 CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 81, NO. 7, 10 OCTOBER 2001
It cannot arise if there is a monoculture
of views. Truth cannot emerge and science
cannot advance if there is an
absence and/or exclusion of dissent. The
standard way of avoiding genuine controversy
and peer review is to exclude
unorthodox views from seminars, committees,
journals and other forums
(including the peer-reviewing process).
Underlying all this violation of the scientific
tradition and its codes of behaviour
is the fact, ‘he who pays the piper, calls
the tune’. Government and quasigovernment
sources are responsible for
the overwhelming share of science funding,
so that scientific activity depends
strongly on this funding, and almost all
scientists are on the government pay-roll
or perk-roll. There are also a number of
cash-carrying prizes and awards which
act as further inducements to conform,
rather than dissent.
The nuclear tests exposed this weakness
of Indian science. Faced with a
complexity of issues raised by the tests, it
would have been natural for the body
of intelligent and creative scientists to
develop a spectrum of views. Instead, the
virtually unanimous euphoria was astonishing.
Since, it is statistically unlikely
that almost the whole body of scientists
had independently arrived at a single
view, one cannot help suspecting that it
was the fear of dissenting that explained
the ‘unanimity’.
7/12 Palace Cross Road,
Bangalore 560 020, India

No comments: