Philosophy and Medicine in Early Classical India III

01.04.2011 - 31.03.2016

Project lead: Karin Preisendanz

FWF, P23330


  • Vitus Angermeier (01.04.2013 - 31.01.2014 / 01.04.2014 - 30.04.2014 / 01.09.2014-31-07.2015 / 01.10.2015-28.02.2016)
  • Heidrun Jäger (21.10.2015-31.03.2016)
  • Thomas Kintaert (01.11.2015-30.03.2016 )
  • Cristina Pecchia (18.07.2011-17.10.2012 und 16.12.2012-16.1.2013)
  • Dimitri Robl (15.11.2015 - 31.3.2016)
  • Dominik Wujastyk (01.04.2011-30.04.2014)
  • Alexander Wrona (1.3.2016-31.3.2016)

Classical Indian medicine, Āyurveda, is one of the few intellectual disciplines of ancient India that can truly be said to have a thriving life in modernity. Āyurveda 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 Āyurveda continually refer to its antiquity and early literature as a source of validation, and yet none of the foundational Sanskrit texts of Āyurveda has been critically edited or scientifically translated. Furthermore, Āyurveda 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 other philosophical traditions 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 addressed these points by providing a critical edition and translation of a foundationally important section of the Carakasaṃhitā (first to second c. CE), namely, Vimānasthāna Chapter 1, by finalizing a critical edition of Vimānasthāna Chapter 8, and by documenting the extensive manuscript evidence for Vimānasthāna Chapters 2-7 and Śārīrasthāna Chapters 1-3. These parts of the work cover topics of fundamental importance to understanding early-classical Indian medicine 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 there in terms that contain philosophical implications. The project built on the success of previous FWF projects which have established the University of Vienna as an internationally recognized center of excellence in editing, translating and interpreting early classical Ayurvedic literature. These projects have also created the largest digital archives of manuscripts of the Carakasaṃhitā and its commentaries in the world, augmented by an archives of physical surrogates. 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, which included a hypothesis of the stemma codicum for Vimānasthāna Chapter 8 – an analytical achievement that helped to organize the testimony of 60 manuscripts for Vimānasthāna 1-7 and 50 manuscripts of Śārīrasthāna 1-3 –, the project extended the larger research project into new areas. Its resulting original research articles treated, among other topics, fundamental issues of medical epistemology and debate, and the use of early Nyāya, Vaiśeṣika, Sāṃkhya and Buddhist materials in the Carakasaṃhitā; its textual history within the wider context of oral and textual practices in South Asia in terms of its segmentation and chapter names; the context of the many printed editions of the work in the cultural and political history as well as the history of science in India; and the theoretical presuppositions and methodology of its critical editing before the background of the stemma. Attitudes towards the body and the medical profession in ancient South Asia were other related topics of study.