Mandala Of Indic Traditions
Review: Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda. Svoboda, Robert and Arnie Lade.
1998. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited. Pp. 152. Rs. 150/-.
by D.P. Agrawal & Lalit Tiwari
Traditional Chinese and Ayurveda medicine constitute the two major legacies
for health and healing from the ancient world. However, one distinction between
the two is found in the fact that traditional Chinese medicine, as introduced
to the West during the 70s and 80s, has a more physico-materialistic focus.
In both North America and Europe the past few years have seen a dramatic rise
of interest in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, and these two traditional medicine
systems are now established as 'Alternative Medicine Systems'.
This book named Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, written by Robert Svoboda
and Arnie Lade, tries to convey to the reader a basic understanding of Indian
and Chinese traditional medicine systems. In fact, they deal with both, Ayurveda
and Chinese medicine, in the light of their own concepts of ideology, health
and illness in this book.
This book is divided into three parts. The first and second sections deal with
the basic theories and practice of Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, while the
third section consists of a comparative study of both medicine systems, including
an outline of what we know of their historical relationship with each other.
Part I contains nine small chapters on Chinese medicine system. In the first
chapter, the writers deal with the origin and development of Chinese medicine
system. They say, "description of some aspects of early medical practice
in China are found in the Historical Memoirs (Shi ji), which is
the first book in a series of dynastic records written about 500 BC. Subsequent
works especially of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) laid the groundwork for
the medicine system. Three texts of this period stand out, the first is the
Classic of Difficult Issues (Nan Jing) ; the second major work
is, Discussion of Cold Induced Disorders (Shan Han Lung); while
the third is China's first materia medica, Shen Nong's Materia Medica
(Shen Nong Ben Cao)".
In the next two chapters, the authors describe the Tao and Yin-Yang philosophy
and the concept of five elements. In Chinese philosophy Tao is denoted as the
unmanifest source of creation that gives rise to the supreme ultimate from which
the universe unfolds. In the passive state the Tao is empty and non-reactive,
while in active state the Tao is seen as a universal progenitor, which creates
reality and keeps it together, functioning, vitalized. The terms Yin and Yang
refer to the principle of the inherent duality. Five elements are the main base
of Chinese medicine system: wood, earth, fire, metal, and water. In this chapter
the authors also describe the five elements which control the cycles.
"The Essential Substance" is the next chapter of this book where
the writers describe the five essential substances that form the basis for the
development and maintenance of the human body: Qi, Blood (xue), Essence
(jing), Sprit (shen) and Fluids (jin ye). The authors inform
us that these five substances have a dynamic relationship, supporting and nurturing
each other for the benefit of the whole organism. Chinese medicine lays paramount
stress on understanding the relationship of the organs (zang fu) with
the various signs and symptoms manifest in the physical, emotional and mental
levels of existence.
The authors describe the Chinese organ theory in the next chapter of this book.
According to them Chinese medicine in general recognized the functions and patterns
of ten organs which are: liver, heart, spleen, lung, kidneys (Yin organ), gallbladder,
small intestine, stomach, large intestine, bladder (Yang organ), whose relationships
are based upon correspondence with the Yin-Yang and five element theories. The
next chapter deals with the Meridian system of Chinese medicine. The Meridian
system has specifically four major functions: (1) to promote communication between
the internal organs and the exterior of the body, and to connect the individual
to the rhythms of the biosphere and the celestial sphere; (2) to regulate and
harmonize the Yin and Yang as seen in the activities of the organs and substance;
(3) to distribute Qi from the organ to the body; and (4) to protect the body
by creating a protective shield. They describe these four functions in detail
in this chapter. In Chinese medicine system illnesses are classified according
to their origin from external or internal cause. When pathogenic forces disturb
the body's equilibrium and harmony, the diseases are caused and the writers
describe these concepts in their next chapter. In next two chapters, they deal
with the diagnosis and therapeutics such as acupuncture, moxibustion, massage,
Part II of this book is devoted to Indian medicine system, Ayurveda, and contains
ten chapters. The first chapter of Part II describes the origins and development
of Ayurveda. The authors deal with the Indian ancient texts like Charak Samhita,
Sushruta Samhita, etc in this chapter. Second chapter describes the Sankhya
philosophy of Ayurveda. They also draw a detailed diagram, in which this philosophy
is summarized. The basis of Ayurveda is the three doshas (humours), which
are vata (air), pitta (bile) and kapha (phlegm). The authors
summarize the principles, the effects on the body and concepts of these three
humors in their next two chapters. They discuss the three doshas, the
elements from which they arise, increase and decrease in the body according
to the properties (qualities) of the body; qualities, which we derive from our
food, drink and our environment, and through our intrinsic chemistry. In the
next chapter, the authors describe the body channels and their flow. The body
possesses many channels (strotamsi) such as large and small, through
which nutrients and waste move. According to the authors fourteen channels are
primary channels of the human body; three of them deal with nutrition from outside,
seven deal with tissue nutrition; and remaining channels deal with the elimination
of wastes. In the next two chapters, the writers describe the human anatomy,
body structure and constitution, respectively, according to the Ayurvedic texts.
Ayurveda is basically a humoural medical system and conceives of three essential
humours, which cause disease if they become imbalanced. The Ayurvedic concept
of disease is discussed in the next chapter. The diseases are divided into three
categories: endogenous, exogenous and mental. Next two chapters are devoted
to the Ayurvedic concepts of 'Diagnosis' and 'Treatment'.
Part III of this book is very interesting as it deals with the comparison between
the Indian and Chinese medicine systems. Part III has a total of ten chapters
in which the authors compare these two ancient medicine systems through their
origin, historical points of view, energetic-physiological point of view, consciousness,
concepts of diseases, diagnosis and treatments etc. At the end, the authors
concede that Ayurveda and Chinese medicine systems are both living systems of
medicine with ancient roots, the oldest continuously practiced and recorded
medical traditions in the world. Fundamental to both systems is the belief that
an individual who lives according to the nature's laws remains healthy. The
Chinese medicine system follows the concepts of Tao, Yin and Yang and the five
elements, while Ayurveda is based on the Sankhya philosophy and follows the
theory of Doshas, five elements, and the three attributes to explain
their vision of the natural order. The authors believe that basically these
themes of two different medicine paradigms are similar. Another common feature
of both medical systems is the belief in an essential life force, called Prana
by the Indians and Qi by the Chinese.
The authors of this book have done a really good job of comparing these two
ancient traditional medical systems in a relatively brief book. Its very well
illustrated also. The book contains two different appendixes, first is the 'Comparison
of Some Important Medicinal Substances'; and second is 'The Use of Vital Points
in Asia'. The first appendix is very important as in this section the authors
compare some important medicinal substances, such as plants, between Ayurveda
and Chinese medical system.
At the end, we would like to recommend that it's a very educative and informative
book for those interested in ancient Oriental medical sciences.