In ancient India, learning spanned four quarters of one's life. Learning was sought from the teacher, from one's individual effort, from fellow students and in the last quarter, from the school of life itself. This book belongs to the third quarter for students of Ayurveda regardless of their background in medicine, science, or humanities. Apart from topics in the eight branches of Ayurveda, the book also deals with Ayurvedic Biology which seeks to study the concepts and procedures of Ayurveda with the tools of modern biology.
M S Valiathan is a National Research Professor of the Government of India. He is a medical graduate from the University of Kerala and completed his postgraduate training in general surgery from the University of Liverpool and other hospitals in the UK. He did his specialisation in cardiac surgery from the Johns Hopkins and Georgetown University Hospitals in the US. He was a cardiac surgeon for over three decades. His shift to Ayurvedic studies resulted in the publication of three volumes on Caraka, Susruta and Vagbhata, and an Introduction to Ayurveda. The Department of Science and Technology set up a Task Force in Ayurvedic Biology under his chairmanship to promote research in the nascent discipline. He currently resides in Manipal.
In 2015, I was privileged to record a course of video lectures on "India's Ayurvedic Inheritance" for the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), which has achieved great success in providing over 800 high quality, open access video lecture courses for the students in our engineering colleges. This book is based on the general plan of my lectures but differs in contents and style. Its title harks back to the traditional Indian concept of four aspects of lifelong learning. These were instruction by the teacher, individual effort, learning from companions and lastly, wisdom gathered over a life time. The present book, it is hoped, may become a companion in Ayurvedic studies.
I am grateful to NPTEL authorities especially Professor Mangala Sunder Krishnan of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Chennai for the support extended to me throughout my happy association with them and for endorsing the publication of this book. A word of thanks is due to Shri Madhu Reddy of Universities Press and Orient Blackswan Limited for permitting the use of many illustrations in this book from my three volumes on Caraka, Susruta, and Vagbhata published by them in the last decade. I am greatly indebted to my wife, Ashima, for her support during the preparation and recording of the NPTEL lectures and the writing of this book.
It is a pleasure to thank Dr Ramdas M Pai, Chancellor of the Manipal University, 'who has encouraged me for the past many years in my literary endeavour in the congenial academic environment of the University. Manipal University Press (MUP) is one of the youngest and precocious institutions of the University, which has grown rapidly under the leadership of Dr Vinod Bhat, Vice Chancellor, Manipal University, Manipal and Dr Neeta Inamdar, Professor and Head, Department Ayurvedic Inheritance: A Reader's Companion of European Studies (DES) and Chief Editor of MUP. I would extend my sincere appreciation to them for welcoming the publication of this book. Also, I would like to thank Professor Prabhakar Sastri for his masterly role in its critical editing. Ms Usha Kamath has not only typed the manuscript and its revisions with admirable skill and patience but also, made it ready for the publisher as she did for my four earlier books on Ayurveda. I am very thankful to her for her unfailing efficiency and devotion to work.
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