Project Aims

Classical Indian medicine, Ayurveda, is one of the few intellectual disciplines of ancient India that can truly be said to have a thriving life in modernity. Ayurveda is supported by the Indian government as part of India’s national health-care system, and also has a burgeoning presence internationally as part of complementary and alternative medicine. Modern stakeholders in Ayurveda continually refer to its antiquity and early literature as a source of validation, and yet none of the foundational Sanskrit texts of Ayurveda has been critically edited or scientifically translated. Furthermore, Ayurveda is of profound importance to understanding the development of early classical Indian philosophy. Indian physicians developed methods of debate, analysis and interpretation, and theoretical foundations for their science that both borrowed from philosophical traditions such as Vaisesika, Samkhya, Yoga and the Buddhist tradition and contributed to the further development of certain concepts. The full understanding of these relationships and their meaning is only possible on the basis of critically edited texts and trustworthy, philologically-informed translations and studies.
The project addresses these points by providing a critical edition and translation of two vitally important sections of the Carakasamhita, namely Vimanasthana 1-7 and Sharirasthana 1-7. These two parts of the work cover topics that include etiology of diseases, anatomy, pathology, epidemiology, epistemology, embryology, the embodied soul, the microcosm and macrocosm, and the path to spiritual liberation. Even the most medically-oriented topics are discussed in terms that contain philosophical implications.
The project builds on the success of the previous FWF projects P14451-SPR, P17300-G03 and P19886-G15, which have established the University of Vienna as an internationally-recognized centre of excellence in editing, translating and interpreting early classical Ayurvedic literature. These projects have also created the largest digital archive of Sanskrit medical manuscripts in the world. The innovative use of information technology adopted from evolutionary biology in conjunction with traditional philological methods of textual analysis has led to new breakthroughs in stemmatic analysis and the analysis of manuscript cross-contamination. Building on this foundation, the project aims to develop and extend the larger research project into new areas. The previous projects focussed especially on the important early Sanskrit medical accounts of the processes and theory of formal debate, that bear a strong relationship with early Nyaya theories of debate. The present project moves on to consider, among other topics, the use of early Vaisesika, Samkhya, Yoga and Buddhist materials in the Carakasamhita. The chapters chosen for this project present fundamental epistemological and systemic issues that are central to Ayurvedic reasoning as well as the investigation of the question “What is Man?” in the most profound philosophical and physical senses.
Three basic resources established by the previous projects enormously benefit the progress of the project. The first resource is the digital archive of manuscripts, which was assembled by a great deal of bureaucratic negotiation and numerous painstaking tours of Indian libraries. Not only have almost all surviving manuscripts of the Carakasamhita been located, but in most cases digital copies exist already in Vienna. The second basic resource is the development of the stemma codicum for Vimanasthana, chapter 8, of the Carakasamhita. This analytical achievement organises and structures the testimony of the available manuscripts in a manner that guides the editor through the forest of their variant readings and possible relationships. This stemma is likely to apply to the project with little modification, and will thus save great time and effort in collating and editing. The third basic resource is the human scholarly tradition that has built up at the University of Vienna in working with Sanskrit manuscripts, Ayurvedic texts, and the processes of collation and critical editing. The value of such a tradition of working is enormous. The participants of the previous projects, several of whom continue to work on the project either directly or as project advisors, have developed methods of collaboration, communication, and working that have taken years to build up, and that embody substantial expertise of inestimable value for the project.
The project will lead to the publication of numerous original research articles on topics in Ayurveda and Indian philosophy as well as to major critical editions and translations of two philosophically-important parts of the Carakasamhita. They will also explicitly exemplify the highest professional standards of work in Indology.