Vāgbhaṭa (वाग्भट) is one of the most influential classical writers of ayurveda. Several works are associated with his name as author, principally the Aṣṭāṅgasaṅgraha (अष्टाङ्गसंग्रह) and the Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā (अष्टाङ्गहृदयसंहिता). The best current research, however, argues in detail that these two works cannot be the product of a single author. Indeed the whole question of the relationship of these two works, and their authorship, is very difficult and still far from solution. Both works make frequent reference to the earlier classical works, the Carakasaṃhitā and the Suśrutasaṃhitā. Vāgbhaṭa is said, in the closing verses of the Aṣṭāṅgasaṅgraha, to have lived in Sind (today in Pakistan), and to have been the son of Siṃhagupta and pupil of Avalokita. He was a Buddhist, as is shown by his explicit praise for the Buddha by name at the start of the Aṣṭāṅgasaṅgraha, and his praise of the Buddha under the title "Unprecedented Teacher" in the opening verse of the Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā. His work contains syncretic elements.
As per modern scholarship he was an ethnic Kashmiri, and for instance the German Indologist Claus Vogel said "...judging by the fact that he expressly defines Andhra and Dravida as the names of two southern peoples or kingdoms and repeatedly mentions Kashmirian terms for particular plants, he is likely to have been a Northerner and a native of Kashmir..."
Vagbhata was a disciple of Charaka. Both of his books were originally written in Sanskrit with 3000 sutra. According to Vagbhata, 85% of diseases can be cured without a doctor; only 15% of diseases require a doctor.
The ancient Science of Life, Ayurveda, encompasses the sum total of the experience and knowledge of great sages and physicians, going back almost 5000 years. When speaking of the main proponents of Ayurveda during ancient times, three names instantly spring to the mind. They are Sushruta, one the earliest surgeons, Charaka, a medical genius, and Vagbhata. Together they are considered to be ‘The Trinity” of Ayurvedic knowledge, with Vagbhata coming after the other two. According to some scholars, Vagbhata lived in Sindh around the sixth century. Not much is known about him personally, except that he was most likely to have been a Buddhist, as he makes a reference to Lord Buddha in his writings, and his sons, grandsons, and disciples were all Buddhists. It is also believed that he was taught Ayurvedic medicine by his father and a Buddhist monk, named Avalokita.
Classics of Ayurveda
The Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā (Ah, "Heart of Medicine") is written in poetic language and is a work of art for the beauty of its verses, clarity of its descriptions and the logical arrangement of topics. The Aṣṭāṅgasaṅgraha (As, "Compendium of Medicine") is a longer and less concise work, containing many parallel passages and extensive passages in prose. The Ah is written in 7120 easily-understood Sanskrit verses that present a coherent account of Ayurvedic knowledge. Ashtanga in Sanskrit means ‘eight components’ and refers to the eight sections of Ayurveda: internal medicine, surgery, gynaecology and paediatrics, rejuvenation therapy, aphrodisiac therapy, toxicology, and psychiatry or spiritual healing, and ENT (ear, nose and throat). There are sections on longevity, personal hygiene, the causes of illness, the influence of season and time on the human organism, types and classifications of medicine, the significance of the sense of taste, pregnancy and possible complications during birth, Prakriti, individual constitutions and various aids for establishing a prognosis. There is also detailed information on Five-actions therapies (Skt. pañcakarma) including therapeutically-induced vomiting, the use of laxatives, enemas, complications that might occur during such therapies and the necessary medications. The Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā is perhaps Ayurveda’s greatest classic, and copies of the work in manuscript libraries across India and the world outnumber any other medical work. The Ah is the central work of authority for ayurvedic practitioners in Kerala. The Aṣṭāṅgasaṅgraha, by contrast, is poorly represented in the manuscript record, with only a few, fragmentary manuscripts having survived to the twenty-first century. Evidently it was not widely read in pre-modern times. However, the As has come to new prominence since the twentieth century through being made part of the curriculum for ayurvedic college education in India.
The Ah has been translated into many languages, including Tibetan, Arabic, Persian and several modern Indian and European languages. Selected passages of the Ah translated into English have been published in the Penguin Classics series.
Other attributed works
Numerous other medical works are attributed to Vāgbhaṭa, but it is almost certain that none of them are by the author of the Ah.
- the Rasaratnasamuccaya, an iatrochemical work, is credited to Vāgbhaṭa, though this must be a much later author with the same name.
- an auto-commentary on the Ah, called Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayavaiḍūryakabhāṣya
- two more commentaries, called Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayadīpikā and
- the Aṣṭāṅganighaṇṭu
- the Aṣṭāṅgasāra
- the Aṣṭāṅgāvatāra
- a Bhāvaprakāśa
- the Dvādaśārthanirūpaṇa
- A Kālajñāna
- the Padhārthacandrikā
- the Śāstradarpaṇa
- a Śataślokī
- a Vāgbhaṭa
- the Vāgbhaṭīya
- the Vāhaṭanighaṇṭu
- a Vamanakalpa
- A Vāhaṭa is credited with a Rasamūlikānighaṇṭu
- A Vāhaḍa with a Sannipātanidānacikitsā
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- Meulenbeld, G. Jan (1999–2002). History of Indian Medical Literature. Groningen: Egbert Forsten., vol.IA, p.645
- Ibid., vol. IA, pp.391-593
- Anna Akasoy & co., Islam and Tibet: Interactions Along the Musk Routes, Ashgate Publishing Limited (2011), p.76
- Claus Vogel, Vāgbhaṭa Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā. The First Five Chapters of Its Tibetan Version, Franz Steiner (1965), p.13
- Meulenbeld, op. cit., IA, 656.
- Wujastyk, Dominik (2003). The Roots of Ayurveda. London etc.: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-044824-1.
- Meulenbeld, G. Jan (1999–2002). History of Indian Medical Literature. Groningen: Egbert Forsten., vol.IA, p.597
- Rajiv Dixit, Swadeshi Chikitsa (Part 1, 2, 3).
- Luise Hilgenberg, Willibald Kirfel: Vāgbhaṭa’s Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā - ein altindisches Lehrbuch der Heilkunde. Leiden 1941 (aus dem Sanskrit ins Deutsche übertragen mit Einleitung, Anmerkungen und Indices)
- Claus Vogel: Vāgbhaṭa's Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā: the First Five Chapters of its Tibetan Version Edited and Rendered into English along with the Original Sanskrit; Accompanied by Literary Introduction and a Running Commentary on the Tibetan Translating-technique (Wiesbaden: Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft—Franz Steiner Gmbh, 1965).
- G. Jan Meulenbeld: A History of Indian Medical Literature (Groningen: E. Forsten, 1999–2002), IA parts 3, 4 and 5.
- Dominik Wujastyk: The Roots of Ayurveda. Penguin Books, 2003, ISBN 0-14-044824-1
- Dominik Wujastyk: "Ravigupta and Vāgbhaṭa". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 48 (1985): 74-78.