Asceticism and Healing in Ancient India: Medicine in the Buddhist Monastery (Indian Medical Tradition)

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The rich Indian medical tradition is usually traced back to Sanskrit sources, the earliest of which cannot much antedate the Common Era. In this book Kenneth Zysk shows that Buddhist scriptures some centuries older than this contain abundant information about medical practice and are our earliest evidence for a rational approach to medicine in India. He argues that Buddhism and the medical tradition were mutually supportive: that Buddhist monks and people associated with them contributed to the development of medicine, while their skills as physical as well as spiritual healers enhanced their reputation and popular support. Drawing on a wide range of textual, archaeological and secondary sources, Zysk first presents an overview of the history of Indian medicine in its religious context. He then examines primary literature from the Pali Buddhist Canon and from the Sanskrit treatises of Bhela, Caraka and susruta. By close comparison of these two bodies of literature Zysk convincingly shows how the theories delineated in the medical classics actually became practice.

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