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On the Meaning of Rasāyana in Classical Yoga and Āyurveda

Philipp A. Maas

Draft of 9 January 2018

Abstract: This article deals with rasāyana in the discipline of Yoga. More specifically, it focuses
on the meaning of the word rasāyana in the Pātañjalayogaśāstra (PYŚ, late fourth or early fifth
century CE), the oldest surviving Sanskrit exposition of Yoga as a soteriological system of
thought from a Brāhmaṇa perspective. By interpreting the two difficult and slightly obscure text
passages of the PYŚ that mention rasāyana in the light of its older commentaries and on the basis
of additional references to rasāyana and related conceptions in early classical āyurvedic and
upaniṣadic literature, the chapter concludes that for Patañjali rasāyana was a magically longevity
potion prepared from unidentified herbs. The PYŚ neither refers to rasāyana as a branch of
Āyurveda nor to alchemy. Some commentators of the PYŚ, however, interpret Patañjali’s
mentioning of rasāyana differently. While Vācaspatimiśra in the later half of the tenth century
follows the PYŚ closely, the eleventh-century commentator Bhoja relates rasāyana to alchemy.
Finally, the eighth-century (?) commentator Śaṅkara relates Patañjali’s rasāyana to Āyurveda.
Even though this interpretation is probably at odds with Patañjali’s authorial intention, it is not at
all far fetched, since already the oldest surviving definition of āyurvedic rasāyana in Cara-
kasaṃhitā Cikitsāsthāna 1.1.7–8 present rasāyana as a means for the acquisition not only of
miraculous longevity but also of further extraordinary qualities and capacities.

The present article deals with the concept of rasāyana in the Pātañjalayogaśāstra (PYŚ).
This work, which is the oldest surviving systematic Sanskrit exposition of Yoga from a
Brāhmaṇa perspective, was probably partly compiled and partly composed at the end of
the fourth or the beginning of the fifth century CE by an author-redactor with the name
Patañjali.1 In the second and third chapter of his work, Patañjali discusses various super
human abilities, powers (aiśvarya) and perfections (siddhi),2 that a yogi obtains during
his progress towards spiritual liberation (apavarga or mokṣa). These perfections arise in

See Maas 2013: 57–68.
On yogic powers in different South Asian religions see Jacobson 2012.


i.5 This brief passage provides a window to a detail of the religious world view of Patañjali and his contemporaries. “By mantras” [means] attaining the power of levitation. herbs. one goes wherever one wants to go. 5 janmauṣadhimantratapaḥsamādhijāḥ siddhayaḥ (sūtra 4. mantrair ākāśagamanāṇimādilābhaḥ. oṣadhibhir asurabhavaneṣu rasāyanenetyevamādiḥ. and the like.53 or whether both accounts of superpowers are derived from a common sources. i.4 These specifically yogic practices are. Patañjali also recognizes four additional non-yogic means to superpowers.e. and (4) ascetic practices that apparently differ from the specifically yogic form of asceticism that Patañjali refers to as the result of religious observances (niyama) in 3 See PYŚ 2. ascetic practice. Already at the outset on the way to liberation. and the like. which at the present stage of research is unknown. p.. the yogi acquires a whole range of extraordinary abilities by keeping ascetic commitments (yama) and observances (niyama). ed.7 The remaining four means for the generation of siddhi-s are (1) birth (janman).1 is a reformulation of Abhidharmakośabhāṣya 7.55. mantras. samādhijāḥ siddhayo vyākhyātāḥ (PYŚ 4. according to the commentaries of Vācaspatimiśra I and of Śaṅkara the rebirth as a divine being with innate extraordinary powers. 7 See above. kāmarūpī yatra tatrakāmaga ityevamādi.45. 1–5). which Patañjali portrays comprehensively in the preceding part of his yogaśāstra.1). 4 See PYŚ 3. e. in any form one desires. etc. cannot be decided. not the only way to paranormal abilities.1. tapasā saṃkalpasiddhiḥ. Ascetic practice [generates] the perfection of reaching whatever one wants.. of which he provides a list at the very beginning of the fourth chapter (pāda) of his PYŚ: Birth. to become minute. Absorption generates the perfections that have been explained [in the previous section of the Pātañjalayogaśāstra].53. i. however.. 2 . “By herbs” [means] from rasāyana in the mansions of Asuras.consequences of practicing the eight ancillaries or means (aṅga) of yoga. in which the belief in the possibility to overcome the limitations of the human existence played a prominent role. magical formula. fixation (dharaṇā). 4.35–2.. meditation or visualization (dhyāna). dehāntaritā janmanā siddhiḥ.e. Whether Pātañjalayogaśāstra 4. and absorption generate perfections (siddhi) (sūtra 4.6 From the perspective of Yoga.e.3 Additional superpowers and paranormal insights arise through the sequential application of three forms of object-related meditations. the most important method leading to the generation of perfections is the last mentioned absorption (samādhi).g.1). A perfection [generated] by birth is innate to the body. n.16–3. ll. (3) mantra-s. 6 Vasubandhu provides a very similar account of superpowers from a Buddhist perspective in his Abhidharmakośabhāṣya 7. Āgāśe. and absorption (samādhi). 176.

ed. “herbs” (oṣadhi).e. and the like.PYŚ 2. like the sage Māṇḍavya. 9 oṣadhisiddhim āha – asurabhavaneṣv iti. see Shee 1986: 196–200. Or by using rasāyana in this very world [one may obtain perfections].1. Vācaspati differentiates two kinds of rasāyana that are supposedly available in different parts of the cosmos. 1. Vācaspatimiśra’s Tattvavaiśāradī on rasāyana Vācaspatimiśra I comments on Patañjali’s reference to rasāyana in his tenth-century Tattvavaiśāradī (TVai) as follows: He (i. manuṣyo hi kutaścin nimittād asurabhavanam upasaṃprāptaḥ kamanīyābhir asurakanyābhir upanītaṃ rasāyanam upayujyājarāmaraṇatvam anyāś ca siddhīr āsādayati. ihaiva vā rasāyanopayogena yathā māṇḍavyo munī rasopayogād vindhyavāsīti. 3 .10 Quite surprisingly.” In attempting to elucidate this difficult passage. It is not at all obvious what exactly he has in mind when he explains that the generation of perfections “‘by herbs’ [means] from rasāyana in the mansions of Asuras.8 The present article is focused on the second mentioned cause of perfections. neither of these mythological accounts of Māṇḍavya’s life contains the motif of rasāyana. p.” In both cases rasāyana generates the extraordinary capacity to overcome old age and death as well as other superpowers. 950 CE). 176. he attains freedom form old age and death and other perfections.e. Bhoja (ca. however.. who inhabited the Vindhya mountains after (or: because) he had used rasa. either “in the mansions of Asuras” or “in this very world. the following part of this chapter analyzes the explanation of this passage in the three commentators Vācaspatimiśra I (ca.34–44. Vācaspati refers to the sage (muni) Māṇḍavya. In order to exemplify how humans may use rasāyana. This sage is a well known character in several narratives. i. It therefore appears that 8 On the power-generating effect of non-yogic ascetic practices as depicted in the Mahābhārata.101. Patañjali’s reference to rasāyana is. 1040 CE) and Śaṅkara (eighth century?). 10 Mahābhārata 1.9 In this brief explanation.e.. (Tattvavaiśāradī on PYŚ 4. The different versions of the narrative are analyzed in Utgikar 1922.. i. The large majority of these narrate how the sage survived impalement that he suffered as a punishment for a crime of which he was innocent. Āgāśe.. because Patañjali relates this cause to rasāyana. Nor does any of these stories mention the residence of its protagonist in the Vindhya mountains. the author of the bhāṣya-part of the PYŚ) explains perfections generated by herbs: “In the mansions of Asuras. 17-20). ll. brief and quite obscure.” It is well-known that if a human being reaches for some reason or other a mansion of Asuras and applies the rasāyana that lovely Asura maidens present to him.

” This purpose of rasāyana.1 in addition to the sparse information that Patañjali provides.1 was inspired by a further mention of rasāyana that occurs in PYŚ 3. p.e. accordingly. This enjoyment is lovely. it is impossible to provide a definitive answer to this question.1 because he regarded this survival as a miraculously achieved longevity. i. however. It appears. agrees with the one that Vācaspati specifies in his commentary on PYŚ 4. that Vācaspati mentions Māṇḍavya in the context of PYŚ 4. by the girls of a special class of demonic beings. i. ed. 13 tatra madhumatīṃ bhūmiṃ sākṣātkurvato brāhmaṇasya sthānino devāḥ sattvaviśuddhim anupaśyantaḥ sthānair upanimantrayante: “bho ihāsyatām iha ramyatāṃ kamanīyo ’yaṃ bhogaḥ kamanīyeyaṃ kanyā rasāyanam idaṃ jarāmṛtyuṃ bādhate …” iti (PYŚ 3. The only information that the commentator adds to Patañjali’s original remark is that rasāyana is applied by lovely Asura maidens. There.. notice in this regard the purity of the mind of a Brāhmaṇa who realizes the stage [of spiritual progress called] “Full of Honey.51. 11 Albrecht Wezler (1997: 535.12 The yogi on the second level.e. lost today? Or did Vācaspati provide an ad hoc explanation of Patañjali’s reference to the mansions of Asuras that he himself did not fully understand? At the present state of research.. 12 See Maas 2014: 78–85. Patañjali describes this as follows: If heavenly beings.” they invite him to their heavenly places: “Hello there.51. it remains unclear which conception of rasāyana in the world of humans Vācaspati expected to share with his audience.” is spiritually advanced to such a degree that he becomes attractive to heavenly beings or gods. 169.. Āgāśe 1904. again. ll. please stay here. 12. 4 . that Vācaspati’s explanation of PYŚ 4. This rasāyana prevents old age and death … . Vācaspati’s reference to rasāyana in a different realm of the cosmos is also obscure.e.”13 The gods offer the yogi sexual pleasure (bhoga) along with a means to overcome its innate transience. who is called a yogi “at the honey stage. This girl is lovely. What may have been Vācaspati’s source of this specification? Did he expect his readers to share with him mythological knowledge that is.e. i. Patañjali introduces a fourfold classification of yogis according to their respective spiritual progress towards liberation. i. please enjoy yourself here. a rasāyana that “prevents old age and death. however. longevity.Vācaspati alludes to an altogether different narrative of the sage Māṇḍavya than the ones that have survived to the present day. The gods may then tempt him to abandon his spiritual aspirations in favor of heavenly pleasures. the gods.11 and. 7-10).) argues.. n.

Hard to obtain in this mortal world. In any case. an open question. 14 Kaṭha-Upaniṣad 1. who finally chooses an answer to a question concerning the nature of the afterlife of humans. Even on the basis of this limited information it is. however. Whether or not the Kaṭha Upaniṣad may have influenced Vācaspati’s Tattvavaiśāradī on PYŚ 4. possible to conclude that the commentator thought of rasāyana as a magically potent herbal elixir of longevity. 5 . Death offers three boons to Naciketas. Olivelle 1998: 378 f. Look at these lovely girls. the account of rasāyana in PYŚ 3. girls of this sort are unobtainable by men.1 may result from the combination of both references to rasāyana in the PYŚ. Death is initially reluctant to answer this question and tries to persuade Naciketas to relinquish this wish by offering various alternatives in the following way: 24 And if you would think this an equal wish – You may choose wealth together with a long life. In this assessment.14 This passage from the Kaṭha Upaniṣad shares with Vācaspati’s explanation of PYŚ 4. the reference in PYŚ 4. Vācaspati’s comment on PYŚ 4. in this wide world.24 f.).51 and in 4. Since a reference to the purpose of rasāyana as well as the motif of lovely girls occur in PYŚ 3. Achieve prominence. Vācaspati follows his base text closely.1 the motifs of longevity and sexual pleasures in a different realm of the cosmos as an alternative to a spiritual or philosophical aspiration.1 does not contain the motif of sexual pleasure. Naciketas. and.: etat tulyaṃ yadi manyase varaṃ vṛṇīṣva vittaṃ cirajīvikāṃ ca / mahābhūmau naciketas tvam edhi kāmānāṃ tvā kāmabhājaṃ karomi // 24 // ye ye kāmā durlabhā martyaloke sarvān kāmāṁś chandataḥ prārthayasva / imā rāmāḥ sarathāḥ satūryā na hīdṛśā lambhanīyā manuṣyaiḥ / (ed. second. however.Patañjali’s two references to rasāyana in PYŚ 3.51 as well as in Vācaspati’s commentary on PYŚ 4. Vācaspati’s explanation of rasāyana does not fully elucidate its base text. and transl. with chariots and lutes. First.1 remains.51 in composing a gloss in PYŚ 4.1 differ from each other mainly in two respects.51 does not refer to Asuras mansions. This narrative is not located in an Asura mansion but in the house of Death in the next world. partly because Vācaspati’s reference to Māṇḍavya remains incomprehensible due to historical contingencies and partly because Vācaspati did not have much to say on the specifics of rasāyana treatments in Asura mansions. This approach of drawing upon the information from PYŚ 3.1. 25 You may ask freely for all those desires. There. And I will make you enjoy your desires at will.1 may have suggested itself to Vācaspati on the basis of his acquaintance with well-known mythological account of Naciketas’s encounter with the god of Death in the Kaṭha Upaniṣad. This elixir is unavailable for humans under normal conditions.

”17 In this succinct explanation. Patañjali’s obscure reference to the mansions of Asuras with a reference to mercury (pārada). 16 Bhoja did not consider the sūtra part of the PYŚ a work in its own right. which. identified rasāyana as an alchemical practice. p. This is also the case in the Rājamārtaṇḍa on Yoga Sūtra 4.” mercury cannot count as an herbal ingredient. ed. around 1040 CE. who may or may not be identical with the author of the Brahmasūtrabhāṣya.2.1. 17 auṣadhisiddhayo yathā – pāradādirasāyanādyupayogāt (Rājamārtaṇḍa on YS 4.16 This commentary is indebted to the bhāṣya part of the Pātañjalayogaśāstra to such a degree that it can hardly count as an independent work in its own right. in contrast to Patañjali and Vācaspati. see Maas 2013: 61. from which no literary references to the use of mercury in South Asia exist. according to David G. his commentary is committed to the intellectual climate of his own time rather than to that of the composition of the PYŚ. White (1996: 148) can probably be dated to the tenth or eleventh century. i. the Pātañjalayogaśāstravivaraṇa (8. His reference to mercury indicates that he. Bhoja explains the word “herbs” in agreement with the bhāṣya as a reference to rasāyana. c. Āgāśe 1904: second pagination. Bhoja’s Rājamartaṇḍa on rasāyana Approximately one-hundred years after Vācaspati. 84.e. Bhoja replaces. provides a further interesting explanation of the passage under discussion: 15 For Bhoja’s date of see Pingree 1981: 337. At some instances. Śaṅkara’s Pātañjalayogaśāstravivaraṇa on Rasāyana The probably earliest but definitely most informative commentary of the PYŚ.18 3.1. 6 . because in contrast to what is to be expected from a commentary on the word “herb. Bhoja’s explanation is nevertheless informative. This explanation is at odds with its base text. l. however. In this regard. Bhoja provides the following explanations how “herbs” (oṣadhi) function as a source of superpowers: “Perfections from herbs” are those caused by the application of rasāyana and so on that involves mercury and so on. 18 The oldest alchemical work that has survived to the present date is the Rasahṛdayatantra.15 king Bhoja of Mālava composed a commentary exclusively on the sūtra part of the PYŚ with the title Rājamārtaṇḍa. 8).. mercury plays a central role in alchemical practices. There.?) by a certain Śaṅkara. Bhoja’s commentary expands the bhāṣya. however. Throughout this work.

It appears. The identification of this plant is unclear and maybe impossible. HIML Vol. since the two plants soma and āmalaka are frequently mentioned as ingredients of rasāyana treatments from the time of the early Sanskrit compendia onwards. or ought to be. In this regard.1. is.20 repeatedly mentions āmalaka in its account of rasāyana in Cikitsāsthāna 1. p. the rasāyana-induced paranormal powers differ from innate superpowers. to the time span of 100–200 CE.).. pp.and Suśrutasamhitā cannot be the same as the particular substance used at the end of the Vedic period. HIML.22 19 oṣadhibhir asurabhavaneṣu rasāyanena somāmalakādibhakṣaṇena pūrvadehānapanayenaiva (Vivaraṇa 4.1. Śaṅkara mentions that rasāyana involves the consumption of two plants. [Perfection generated] “by herbs” [means] from rasāyana in the mansions of Asuras by eating [plants] like soma and āmalaka. approximately the sixth century BC. because several unidentifiable plants were called soma in South Asian religions from the earliest times onwards. 114 dates the Carakasaṃhitā. see Meulenbeld. Vol. that a slightly earlier date in the middle of the first dentury is the best educated guess.. I A. ed. Polaka Sri Rama Sastri and S. which result from a rebirth as a specifically powerful divine or semi-divine being. 22 “That the soma known to much later authors of early medical texts such as the Caraka. soma and āmalaka. I A. which was probably composed in the first century CE.21 contains a quite comprehensive account of the application rasāyana treatments based on soma. however. In addition. because he apparently took this knowledge for granted among his readers.19 Śaṅkara did not consider it necessary to specify which perfection(s) rasāyana brings about. Āyurvedic Rasāyana and Superpowers The Carakasaṃhitā (CS). Śaṅkara’s specification indicates that he interpreted the word rasāyana in PYŚ 4. which may be dated to the second century CE. an Indological truism” Wezler 2001: 198. i. 317f.1 as a reference to Āyurveda. Krishnamurthi Sastri. p. R. 3. which has a quite diverse redactorial and transmissional history (on which see Maas 2010). without abandoning a previous body. This obviously presupposes the abandonment of the previous body. 342– 344. The Suśrutasasaṃhita (SS). 7 . 21 For different dates assigned to the Suśrutasaṃhitā.e.). This plant is usually identified with the Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis Gaertn. He confined himself to stating that the acquisition of perfections from herbs does not require the abandonment of a previous body (pūrvadehānapanayanenaiva). 20 Meulenbeld.

13. However. additional superpowers are also referred to. this is the eightfold power. hearing. 504 ab). etad aṣṭaguṇam aiśvaryaṃ yogalabhyam api somarasāyanāl labhyate. greatness. levitation. mastery and the inevitable fulfillment of desires. Ḍalhana explains the word aiśvarya as designating the set of eight paranormal capacities that are mentioned in the Carakasaṃhitā Śārīrasthāna 1. explains [the eightfold power] differently: “Entering the mind of other persons. In an alternative gloss.The main purpose of āyurvedic rasāyana according to the CS and the SS is the same purpose as that is mentioned in PYŚ 3. … .14-19. namely “the perfection of reaching whatever one wants” (saṃkalpasiddhi). 504.51. irresistible will. p. extension.13. The Carakasaṃhitā. Dominik Wujastyk 2003: 129. acting according to one’s will. transl. sovereignty. vision. 2. note 5. with infallible willpower. however. the capacity of yogis (aṣṭavidhaiśvaryaṃ yathā — aṇimā laghimā prāpti prākāmyaṃ mahimā tathā | īśitvaṃ ca vaśitvaṃ ca tathā kāmāvasāyitā iti. knowledge of objects. 24 “Eightfold power” [means] minuteness. explicitly mentions eight superpowers (aiśvarya) that are generated in the course of a rasāyana treatment according to his Cikitsāsthāna 29. namely the generation of longevity. l.140 a–141b] (Nibandhasaṃgraha on Suśrutasaṃhitā Cikitsāsthāna 29. 25 oṣadhīnāṃ patiṃ somam upayujya vicakṣaṇaḥ | … nikhilān vedān vindati tattvataḥ | caraty amoghasaṅkalpo devavac cākhilaṃ jagat || (Suśrutasaṃhitā Cikitsāsthāna 29. Soma.24 In the subsequent section of his work. mindfulness. He moves like a god through the whole world.13.1. This eightfold power may either be obtained by yoga or from a rasāyana involving soma.” This effect of rasāyana is identical with the result of ascetic practices mentioned in PYŚ 4.23 The 12th-century commentator Ḍalhana identifies these extraordinary capacities with the eight aiśvaraya-s mentioned in PYŚ 3. … truly knows all sacred knowledge. beauty and invisibility according to one’s whish. 8 . Suśruta concludes his account of rasāyana involving the use of soma by stating that: [t]he visionary man who makes use of the king of plants. transl.45 as resulting from yogic absorption.25 The application of a soma-related rasāyana leads to the extraordinary mental capacity of possessing all sacred knowledge and to the physical superpower to roam the whole world like a god with “infallible willpower. man achieves eightfold lordship” (tāv upayujyāṣṭaguṇam aiśvaryam avāpya … Suśrutasaṃhitā Cikitsāsthāna 29. for example. 26 See above. Suśruta.26 23 “Using these two [kinds of soma]. p. carake punar anyathoktam — āveśaś cetaso jñānam arthānāṃ chandataḥ kriyā | dṛṣṭiḥ śrotraṃ smṛtiḥ kāntir iṣṭataś cāpy adarśanam || ity aṣṭavidham ākhyātaṃ yogināṃ balam aiśvaram | [Carakasaṃhitā Śārīrasthāna 1. Dominik Wujastyk 2003: 130.

391–474. p. ed.. it is called rasāyana. blood and so on. p. Trikamji. 376b.” The usage of the word ādi “and so on” suggests that the word rasa in rasāyana is not a single item. All these interpretation consider the first word of stanza 8a “a means to obtain” (lābhopāya) to be a paraphrase of the second part of the compound rasāyana.30 explained the word rasādi as follows: Because it is a means to obtain the best [bodily elements] chyle. however. “way” (ayana).1. but the first item in a list of several others. the commentator of the Suśrutasaṃhitā who flourished approximately at the same time as Aruṇadatta explained the term rasāyana in his Nibandhasaṅgraha in two alternative ways. HIML. 28 Carakasaṃhitā.29 A clue to determining the meaning of rasa in rasāyana is the paraphrase of rasa as śastānāṃ rasādīnāṃ “the proclaimed rasa and so on. Cikitsāsthāna 1. this early and very prominent account of the alleged effects of rasāyana has the following wording: dīrgham āyuḥ smṛtiṃ medhām ārogyaṃ taruṇaṃ vayaḥ | prabhāvarṇasvaraudāryaṃ dehendriyabalaṃ param || 7 || vāksiddhiṃ praṇatiṃ kāntiṃ labhate nā rasāyanāt | lābhopāyo hi śastānāṃ rasādīnāṃ rasāyanam || 8 ||28 The final two pāda-s of stanza 8 contain an etymological explanation of the word rasāyana.. a matter of discussion. 31 yasmāt śreṣṭhāṇāṃ rasarudhirādīnām yo lābhopāyaḥ. Vol. the famous Āyurveda author Vāgbhaṭa incorporated the stanzas into his seventh-century Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā. Rasāyana is thus a means or a way to obtain rasa.7–8. Vol. 663. The specific meaning of the semantically multivalent term rasa within the compound rasāyana is. sa rasāyanam ucyate (Sarvāṅgasundarā on AH Uttarasthāna 39. for example. which already in pre-modern South Asia was interpreted in various ways. In Caraka’s compendium. Aruṇadatta.e. Different pre-modern commentators have tried in different ways to identify the items to which the formulation “rasa and so” refers.The acquisition of paranormal powers by means of rasāyana is not only prominently mentioned in the SS. It also occurs in two stanzas that were originally part of the rasāyana section of the CS. 9 . i. 30 See Meulenbeld HIML. I A. p. pp.31 Ḍalhana. 27 See Meulenbeld. 1A.27 The stanza is also occurs in the Aṣṭāṅgasaṃgraha Uttarasthāna 49.2. 29 Apte (1957: 1331) records thirty-three different meanings for the noun rasa. From there.2. 923a). who composed his commentary with the title Sarvāṅgasundarā in the late-twelfth-century.

this list does not occur at all. Both commentators identify the word rasa in rasāyana with the initial item chyle of the well-known list of the seven bodily elements (dhātu) of (1) chyle (rasa). (4) fat.. the above quoted etymological explanation of rasāyana in CS Ci 1. i. How should rasāyana be a means to obtain “proclaimed” bodily elements? To which act of proclamation could the attribute śasta refer? The rasāyana-section of the CS. after Vāgbhaṭa had composed his Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya in the seventh century. (6) marrow.. This list figures prominently in āyurvedic sources from early mediaeval times onwards. it means their increase. 34 See note 4 in AHS Ci 39. and (7) sperm.e. who was apparently aware of this semantic problem. the means.e. In the earlier compendia of Caraka and Suśruta.1.2. Instead of a single standardized list of bodily elements these early sources draw upon various lists of elements that figure side by side in different medical contexts.. 33 See Maas 2008: 142.8 as referring to the bodily elements chyle (rasa) etc. post digestive flavors. p. Aruṇadatta.32 Aruṇadatta’s first explanation of the term rasāyana is basically identical with the first etymological analysis of the term by Ḍalhana. according 32 rasādidhātūnām ayanam āpyāyanam. Rasāyana [means] the progress.1. (2) blood. Or. athavā bheṣajāśritānāṃ rasavīryavipākaprabhāvāṇām āyurbalavīryadārḍhyānāṃ vayaḥsthairyakarāṇām ayanaṃ lābhopāya rasāyanam.33 Since a standardized list of bodily elements did not yet exist at Carakas’s time. p. the thriving. i. (3) flesh. A further problematic aspect of the identification of rasa in rasāyana with “bodily elements” is that it does not fit well with the attribute śasta “proclaimed” in the expression śatānāṃ rasādīnāṃ of pāda 8ab. evaded it by silently replacing the word śasta “proclaimed” from his base text with śreṣṭha “best” in his commentary. i. 923a. and specific actions that lead to the firmness of power and manliness throughout the life span and prolong a youthful age. A similar strategy was applied by an unknown scribe of the Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya who changed the original śastānāṃ “proclaimed” to saptānāṃ “seven” in order to emphatically suggest a reference to seven bodily elements. This is the general pharmacological concepts of Āyurveda. 10 .e. rasāyana is the way. stabilization. 498b). for the medication-based obtainment of the tastes (rasa). does not at all refer to the improvement of bodily elements as a result of rasāyana.34 Ḍalhana’s alternative explanation draws upon a different list of terms that is also headed by the word rasa. or generation. potencies. (5) bones. in any case. Alternatively. of the bodily elements chyle and so on. vardhakaṃ sthāpakam aprāptaprāpakaṃ vety arthaḥ (Nibandhasaṅgraha on SS Ci 27. is anachronistic and therefore untenable.

because it does not refer to any peculiar characteristic of rasāyana.” By interpreting rasa to mean the “principle asset” of rasāyana. i. Apparently.. i. and since they do not receive any particular attention in the context of rasāyana. 36 See Apte. p.” This understanding is unforced. if the pharmacological concepts of Āyurveda would be the key to unravel Caraka’s etymological analysis of the word rasāyana. and specific actions of food (and medicinal substances) influence the ratio of humors or doṣa-s in the human body. on other words. i.. post digestive flavors. unconvincing. rasa.. Cakrapāṇidatta simply explains that by using the expression “rasa and so on” [Caraka] refers also to “mindfulness and so on. 1331a. p. The eleventh-century medical author and commentator Cakrapāṇidatta provides a surprisingly elegant and simple interpretation of CS Ci 1. is forced.e. an unsuitable one to disease. rasa. the two stanzas CS Ci 1. potency.8.”35 This brief comment reveals that the commentator understands the compound rasādi as a reference to the listed assets of rasāyana.v. it solves the previously mentioned problem of the meaning of the attribute śasta “proclaimed.. then rasa would in rasāyana would mean “tastes. i. The first part of the compound rasādi.36 Moreover.e. On the basis of this interpretation. best part” of something. s. i. especially in internal medicine (kāyacikitsā). to longevity and empowerment.1.e.8 that is much more convincing than the solutions presented so far. refers to the first item in the list of assets. Since the mentioned pharmacological concepts are of fundamental importance in several branches of Āyurveda. the commentator was as much at loss to provide a convincing etymological analysis of the term rasāyana as his colleague Aruṇadatta. Ḍalhana’s attempt to relate the āyurvedic pharmacology to the special effects of rasāyana.7–8 can be translated as follows: 35 rasādigrahaṇena smṛtyādayo ’pi gṛhyante (Āyurvedadīpikā on Ca Ci 1.1.” This means that for Cakrapāṇidatta the word rasa in rasāyana does not designate any technical āyurvedic term. to “a long life.e.1. 11 .1. A suitable ratio of humors leads to which the tastes (rasa). historically unproblematic and in agreement with the well recorded meaning of the word rasa as “the essence. but the “principal” of the listed items. to dīrgham āyuḥ “a long life. 376b).e. or. the referent of śasta does not have to be sought anywhere in the CS but in the stanzas CS Ci 1.. If Ḍalhana’s alternative explanation would be correct.” Ḍalhana’s explanation is. however.7a–8b that list the assets of rasāyana. to the most important result of rasāyana.

This expression may either refer to the fulfillment of the normal life expectancy. health. The case is less clear for one of the last mentioned assets. 376 b. mindfulness and power. Through rasāyana a man obtains a long life.7.38 Śaṅkara’s view. “perfection of speech” (vāksiddhi). Rasāyana is well known to be the means for obtaining the proclaimed “principle asset” (rasa i. complexion and voice as well as fame and beauty are desirable mental or physical qualities that lack any paranormal connotation..54–56. a long life) and so on. when he relates that several groups of ascetics acquired an “immeasurably long life” (amitāyus) after rejuvenating their bodies by consuming a rasāyana. They gave up their old bodies and obtained an excellent young age.e. intelligence. excellence of strength. which may either consist in the ordinary human ability to speak in a perfect way. ed. Āyurvedadīpikā on Carakasaṃhitā. These great ascetics.. 38 “The Vaikhānasas. Cikitsāsthāna 1. 378 b). health. furnished with intelligence. therefore agrees with the just discussed evidence from the rasāyana sections in the compendia of of Caraka and Suśruta. which according to Āyurveda is one hundred years. did no longer sigh from exhaustion and weariness..1. complexion and voice. youthfulness. comes necessarily about. a “long life. practiced foremost asceticism and chastity for the sake of the highest state” (vaikhānasā vālakhilyās tathā cānye tapodhanāḥ | rasāyanam idaṃ prāśya babhūvur amitāyuṣaḥ || muktvā jīrṇaṃ vapuś cāgryam avāpus taruṇaṃ vayaḥ | vītatandrāklamaśvāsā nirātaṅkāḥ samāhitāḥ || medhāsmṛtibalopetāś cirarātraṃ tapodhanāḥ | brāhmaṃ tapo brahmacaryaṃ ceruś cātyantaniṣṭhayā || Carakasaṃhitā Cikitsāsthāna 1. p. the greatest capacity of body and senses.e.e.37 The first mentioned and most important result of rasāyana. 12 . p. i. Trikamji. according to which āyurvedic rasāyana is a means to paranormal abilities. depending on the interpretation of the words dīrgham āyus. Quite obviously. mindfulness. excellence of strength. fame and beauty. i.” may or may not refer to a paranormal phenomenon. in a debate. Cakrapāṇidatta evidently interpreted vāksiddhi in the later way when he provided the explanation that perfection of speech” [means] whatever one says. or it may refer to paranormal longevity. perfection of speech. Trikamji. The account of brāhmarasāyana in the CS clearly indicates that Caraka at least in this special context has the second alternative in mind. youthfulness. Most of the assets of rasāyana that Caraka mentions in Ci 1. intelligence.1.e. the Vālakhilyas and also other great ascetics consumed this rasāyana and acquired an immeasurable life span. mindfulness. i. Śaṅkara was well acquainted 37 vāksiddhiḥ yad ucyate tad avaśyaṃ bhavatīti.7–8. ed. were healthy and composed. as for example.. or in the specifically yogic perfection of being able to determine the course of future event by merely mentioning its outcome.

with the concept of āyurvedic rasāyana.. neither the Jaina literature. 4. Bardwell L. Leiden 1952. ed. Washburn Hopkins. however. Albrecht Wezler. in Hinduism. where they belong to a class of gods called Bhavanavāsin (i. and it continues to be obscure for modern academic scholars. and. The mansions of the Asuras Patañjali’s reference to Asura mansions in PYŚ 4. Bruce Long. those who live in palaces). s. Strasburg. in the palaces of Asuras] may be derived from their alleged capacity for outwitting “the gods by recuperating and even reviving themselves after being wounded or slain by the gods” (see E.1 reveals his intelligence and profound knowledge of Āyurveda. But it is but mythologically logical that the mansions of the demons are regarded as the place where human beings can get one of the elixirs-of-life.40 Asuras also figure in Jaina cosmology. appears plausible.39 Wezler’s guess that the Asura’s possession of rasāyaṇa may result form a mythological demand for a balance of powers between the gods and the Asuras. because the true ambrosia (produced among other goods by the churning of the milk ocean) was appropriated by the gods.1 was apparently enigmatic for his pre- modern commentators.v. saw Patañjali’s reference to Asura mansions a result of “mythological logic”: The idea that the elixir-of-life is available “in their palaces” [i. Epic Mythology. 1915. and J. Tāvatiṃsa. the Asuras inhabit a region of the cosmos located at the bottom of mount Sineru (Skt.41 However. 105. and his commentary on PYŚ 4. Smith. 13 . they do not occur in Brāhamanical Sanskrit sources but in Buddhist literature. 40 See Malalasekera 1960: 1002. In contradiction to what may be expected.49. 184).e. There. as can be seen at other instances. however. Meru) that is called asurabhavana. it is quite surprising that not a single literary account of rasāyana in Asura mansions besides the PYŚ and its commentaries appears to have survived in pre-modern South Asian literature.. of a wide range of further Sanskrit systems of knowledge. n. “Life Out of Death”. Nevertheless.e. as far as I can see. the so-called anti-gods. It therefore comes as a surprise that Śaṅkara has nothing to relate about the mansion of Asuras as the place of rasāyana treatments. nor the Buddhist Pāli canon contain. I a single reference to rasāyana practicing Asuras or Asura 39 Wezler 2001: 217. 41 See Kirfel 1920: 261. not entirely absent. References to the mansion of the Asuras that do not mentions rasāyana are.

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