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 Post subject: Vinaya Pitaka : Medicine prescribed by the Buddha
 Post Posted: Wed May 04, 2005 3:07 am 
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The Buddha, the greatest physician of mind and body
Vinaya Pitaka : Medicine prescribed by the Buddha

by Rohan L. Jayetilleke
CDN /04MAY2005

Gautama Buddha having attained Enlightenment under the Sri Maha Bodhi, at Buddha Gaya, (India), walked in seven days to Isipatana (Migadaya - saranath) of Varanasi (Benares) 288 miles, covering approximately 5 miles an hour. He walked for around 40 miles a day, in order to meet with his erstwhile associates of Uruvela (modern Dhungeswari) Kondanna, Vappiya, Bhadda, Mahanama and Assaji, to deliver his first discourse Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta.

Having discoursed the first sermon, and Kondanna attaining Arhantship, and later the rest of four too attaining Arhantship. Thereafter Yasa, son of Sujatha of Senanigama who offered him Gana payasa and his fifty four friends too entering the Order and attaining Arhantship, enjoyed them with their task spreading the Dhamma.

In the vastness of India
Thus the bhikkhus and the Buddha had to walk many miles in the vastness of India, enduring biting winters and scorching heats of summers, through tracks of various types. The Buddha and the bhikkhus were human, they were subject to physical ailments.

Medicinal systems of India had reached the zenith by the time of the Buddha, medicine being a basic need of society, the Buddha was qualified to frame rules for the use of medicine by the bhikkhus in keeping with monastic rules (Vinaya) and ideals. Hence the whole section (khandhaka) of the Vinaya Pitaka (Mahavagga) is devoted to a discussion of medicine prescribed by the Buddha for ailments of bhikkhus.

A group of five items is very commonly referred to as pancabhesajjani, which were both food and medicine namely, ghee (sappi), fresh butter (novanita), oil (tela), honey (madhu) and treacle (phanita).

Various kinds of oils
Fresh butter and ghee are obtained from the milk of the cow, she buffalo, or she goat. Oils from various kinds of nuts and seeds, namely sesamum, mustard or from the tallow of animals., such as bears, alligators, pigs, donkeys or fish.

Oil from a tree called madhuka, honey from bees, treacle from sugar cane. These constituted a balanced diet and taken regularly in keeping with the Vinaya restriction of taking solid or soft food only in the forenoon, and ensured restoration to normal health and also as a precaution against physical ailments. Because of this medicinal value they were regarded as five standard medicines.

According to Vinaya, 1, page 199, when monks were suffering from an ailment resulting from the heat of the autumn the Buddha recommended these five medicaments, provided they were accepted at certain times in the forenoon. These five kinds of food came under the rule relating to their consumption of soft and solid food. Lay devotees normally went to the monastery in the evening, as they were engaged in their daily chores at home or in the fields or other places of work.

Another medicine prescribed by the Buddha is roots (mula). They were used to prepare decoctions like in Ayurveda. The first in the list is tumeric of which dried roots are powdered and used. The others are ginger Orries root both yellow and white, aromatic and tuberous, garlic and black hellebore recommended by ancient Indian sages for insanity and khus khus a fragrant root. Setties and fans from the latter were allowed (Vinaya 11, p. 130), Finally in the list is nut grass a plant with edible roots. Having recommended this list the Buddha further permitted the use of any kind of roots as medicine on condition in does not serve as a food either solid or soft from noon to dawn the following day.

Resin and gum
In order to grind the roots the Buddha allowed a grinding stone and a pounder. When the monks sought permission of the Buddha to take astringent decoctions, the use of leaves as medicine and fruits too were allowed. Resin was also allowed to be used in medical preparations. As an example he gave the tree called hingu to be used as resin and gum. Salt too was allowed. The Buddha gave a list of five salts viz., sea salt, black salt a kind of rock salt found in Sindhi areas culinary salt and red salt.

According to Vinaya 1, p. 204 - 5, Pilindavacca Thera was afflicted with vatabadha and the physician wanted to give him a decoction of oil which was mixed with alcohol. A Group of monks who were recalcitrant elements, abused taking this particular decoction and got intoxicated. The Buddha then being informed decreed that the decoction should not have colour or taste of liquor. Thereby percolation of alcohol was restricted to a very minimal dosage. When a monk was bitten by a snake a decoction of four filthy things of dung urine ashes and clay was prescribed (Vinaya 1.p.206).

In case a monk had taken poison accidentally a concoction of dung a decoction prepared from the mud turned by a plough was prescribed. In case of constipation a preparation of raw lye for jaundice (panduregabhada) a compound of cow's urine and yellow myrobalan were prescribed by the Buddha. In case of eye ailments the Buddha gave a prescription details of which are available. Various kinds of external applications in the form of collyrium (anjana) were allowed. In order to store these he perimited an ointment box (anjani) turned out of bone, ivory, horn, reed, bamboo, wood, crystal, copper and conch shells.

Various devices
In respect of rheumatism in the limbs (angavata), sweating treatment (sedakamma) and various devices such as vats filled with hot water (udakakothaka), where the patient had to be put into, were prescribed. The old stone 'behet oru' found at Anuradhapura are these medicinal oil vats introduced by Arhant Mahinda, when established the Order of Maha Sangha in the third century B.C. and the hot water bath he had made to be built while planing the holy city of Anuradhapura, are reminiscent of the vats decreed by the Buddha.

The Buddha even prescribed medication for cracked feet. In case of nasal disorders, including headaches the Buddha prescribed application of certain medicinal oil on the head and ineffective administration of the oil through the nose was allowed. Part of oil to be administered to the nostrils, or to inhale the smoke, by lighting a wick smeared with the medicinal oil.

Those references in the Vinaya indicate that the Buddha knew that in order to lead a life of righteousness one has to be of sound health. Thus he not only discoursed the path of detachment to attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana but also to maintain oneself physically in the pink of health.

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