Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Hallucinations in the Classical Indian System of Ayurveda: A Brief Overview

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Hallucinations in the Classical Indian System of Ayurveda: A Brief Overview

Article excerpt

Byline: Anuradha. Balsavar, Smita. Deshpande

The ancient Indian system of medicine "Ayurveda" is a compendium of various health related theories and practices and explained the abnormal state of mind, i.e., psychopathology in various contexts. Hallucinations were deemed abnormal. In Ayurvedic classics, hallucinations were called false perceptions (mithyajnana), illusions (maya), infatuations (moha), or confusion (bhrama). Hallucinations were not independent but a symptom of mental disorder (manasa roga). Hallucinations of different sensory organs were observed and explained. These symptoms could be observed in patients suffering from any illness of tridosha origin, organic disease or psychiatric disorder. False perceptions observed in patients were used as tools to understand the prognosis of the condition. This article may help provide preliminary insight and encourage interdisciplinary study toward understanding one of the main symptoms of schizophrenia.


History is like a screen in which the past lightens the present and the present brightens the future. [sup][1] As a fast developing country, India's pride is in its rich history, traditions and philosophies with its ideologies, requirements and support system different from western counterparts. [sup][2] The traditional Indian system of medicine "Ayurveda" is not only a herbal tradition, but a science with a comprehensive approach to life along with fundamental principles of diagnosis and treatment. Ideally, the significant contributions of Ayurveda should be synthesized with modern science. Ayurveda scholars were reputed for philosophical theories of psychological disorders. [sup][3] When explored, we recognize the richness, comprehensiveness and intense possibility of paradigms and wisdom contained in this ancient Indian literature, and its potential to enrich our professional knowledge. [sup][4] Indian psychiatrists are increasingly open to the incorporation of Ayurvedic concepts in practice. [sup][2] As we move forward, we need to identify, maintain, and communicate ancient Indian concepts. [sup][5]

Hallucinations have fascinated human beings down the ages, and were sometimes regarded as messages from god, or as spiritual or religious visitations. However, the ancient Indian treatment system of Ayurveda was surprisingly modern in its interpretation of this phenomenon. In Ayurveda, a hallucination is something that is perceived. Perception, known as " jnana 0" cannot be achieved without involvement of the mind ( manas ).

Concept of Mind (Manas) in Ayurveda

Ayurveda regards life as the combination ( samyoga ) of body ( sharira ), organs of conation and cognition ( indriya ), mind ( satva ), and soul ( atma ). [sup][6] But for practical purposes, the mind ( manas ) and body ( sharira ) were separately defined and their entity and doshas separated. Bodily doshas ( sharirika doshas - vata , pitta , kapha ) and mental doshas ( manasika doshas - rajas , tamas ) mutually affect each other.

As per Ayurveda, the mind has immense potential along with its attributes of conscious and creative energy. [sup][4] According to Charaka the father of Ayurveda, manas is the entity responsible for observation and thinking. The word manas is derived from the root word " mana - jnane ," " mananat - manah ." Manas in Sanskrit, means to know, think, believe, imagine. The mind is inactive ( achetana ) by itself but gets activated ( chetana ) by the self or soul ( atma or atman ). Although beyond sensory perception (it cannot be seen or felt), it is a material substance ( dravya ), since it has both quality ( guna ) and action (karma) coexistent within itself. It is the internal organ for perception. Manas links the soul ( atma ) with sense organs and their sensory objects such as sound, touch, shape, taste, and smell. The soul ( atma ) is the basis of all experience, while mind ( manas ) is only the instrument of experience. …

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