ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Monastic Therapeutics and Cultural Ecology of Medicine During Pregnancy and Childbirth: Buddhist Medical Practices in Pre-Modern South Asia


Singh Anand - Former Professor Nalanda University, School of Buddhist Studies, Nalanda, India


05 – Health, disease and epidemics: multidisciplinary perspectives on the socio-ecology of medicine in pre-modern South Asia


 In the past, it was melancholic to think that Buddhist monasteries whose members strictly abided by the rules of celibacy could engage themselves in medical practices related to pregnancy and childbirth. The archaeological discoveries of the Naigamesha cult in the monasteries of Jetavana, Kumrahar, Vaisali, Bodhgaya, and Nalanda, the propitiation of the Hariti cult in Rajagriha- Nalanda and then across Asia, and discoveries of the manuscripts of medical treatise in China, Nepal, Tibet, and other parts of Central Asia opened a new vista of rich medical tradition in the Buddhist monasteries of South Asia, especially related to pregnancy and childbirth. A Chinese version of the Kaśyapa-rsi-prokṭa-stricikitsa-sūtra (Kia-ye sien jen shuo yi niu jen hing-Sūtra of Gynecology by Rishi Kaśyapa), a part of Chinese Tipitika prescribes care and treatment of women in their different stages of pregnancy. It was a fortunate discovery as it was translated into Chinese by monk Dharmabhadra, a resident of Nālandā Mahāvihāra. He visited China in 937 CE and resided there till 1001 CE. During his long stay in China, he translated more than 118 Buddhist treatises into Chinese.  This medical treatise was translated between 982 to 1001 CE. It was similar to the chapter related to the aphorism of procreation in the work of Caraka, Bhela, and Kaśyapa. The work begins with the praise of two great physicians of India, Jīvaka, and Kaśyapa. It was said that once Jīvaka was perturbed by the chronic issues