Sophisticated Misrepresentations and elaborate Academic Falsehoods : Claims of Ayurveda’s “supposed” Greek origins dismantled …

Dr Priyanka Shandilya

Editorial Note: This article is part of a Series on the purvapaksha of Western interpretations of Āyurveda. The claims and arguments made in the paper “The Science of Medicine” , by Dominik Wujastyk are examined with the traditional drishti. Some of the important and essential “tools” of videshi scholarship, are “misinterpreting epistemology , mixing of vocabularies from different traditions , skewing of ontology , agenda driven mischievous translations”. All of these and more are on display in this work of “scholarship”. Despite the malicious and venomous nature of scholarship, such scholars are celebrated in India as intellectual colonization of most Indian Universities and institutes , is much too deep, and a level playing field for authentic discourse is yet to be achieved.

Indian civilizational thought leaders such as Shri Rajiv Malhotra have been talking about the the malicious nature of India oriented studies for decades , but very little seems to have changed. The intellectual rot is astonishingly deep and is not going to be fixed anytime soon.

See the previous articles of Dr.Priyanka here.

Author’s Note:

This paper is a purvapaksha of the pages from 393 to 396 of D.Wujastyk’s (DW) article titled “The science of medicine”(SOM)1. This paper also includes a puravpaksha of the chapter named “The Ayurvedic theory of the Wind and Greek pneumatism”2 from the book “The classical doctrines of Indian medicine   Its origins and Greek parallels” by Jean Filliozat, (JF) which DW presents as  evidence to support his view- “Pneuma” of the Greeks being same as “Prana” of the Indic concept and that “prana” indeed is of Greek origin or rather a product of rapprochement (Indo-Iranian source-Aryan invasion theory). 

A brief note on the content of DW and JF’s works is given, followed by a detailed purvapaksha in the latter half of this paper. In this paper two issues are explicitly discussed 1. Rebuttal to “prana = pneuma” theory put forth by DW and JF. 2.An attempt to explain the “manifestation-continuance” of Indic knowledge tradition across ages, with the help of “Srushti utpatti” concept explained in Vishnu purana(VP), as a counter to the “Mythology-fication and manipulation of dates of Ayurveda treatises” by authors like DW and JF. Part A explains the content from DW’s article SOM and Part B describes the content from JF’s chapter on Pneumatism.

DW-D.Wujastyk, JF– J.Filliozat, CS– Charaka samhita, SS– Sushruta samhita, BS-Bhela samhita, VP– Vishnu purana. SOM-The science of medicine Acharya Chakrapani  Commentator of CS Acharya Dalhana  Commentator of SS

PART A   A brief note on the content of D.Wujastyk’s paper “Science of medicine”(SOM).

[Note  Content of DW’s paper has been reproduced verbatim in certain places where they are italicised ,in other places they have been paraphrased (Non-italicised)]

According to DW, “The systematic and scholarly tradition of Indian medicine began historically with appearance of the three treatises CS, SS and BS around 2000 years ago”. “Panini’s grammar had some antecedent material like the “Nirukta “of Yaksha which showed linguistics in its childhood. Unlike this, not much of precursory work is found in case of Ayurveda. Yet even before the formation of these specialist texts of ayurveda (Ayurveda treatises, the samhitas) some material related to the medicine could be recovered from the chiefly religious texts of India”.

Further DW writes, “It is often claimed that ayurveda organically evolved from the Vedas”. DW quotes Mira Roy’s work that tries establishing continuity between the concepts of the Vedas (Specially Atharvaveda) and of Ayurveda through the concepts like “Five vital breaths” theory (Pancha vata/Pancha prana). DW, dismissing the finding says “these supposed parallels break down on a closer examination”. To prove his point DW writes that, the “Five breaths” appearing in Sutrasthana Chapter 12 *Vatakalaakaliya of Charaka Samhita, was put into the mouth of Vayorvida [“Vayorvida” means the “Knower of vata/vayu] , insinuating that the concept of “five breaths” could be a later adjunct to CS. DW says, “after Vayorvida makes his point on Vata, another sage dismisses it and talks about “Pitta (Agni)” and yet another talks about Kapha(Soma) later”. *[“Vatakalaakaliya”- is a chapter on “Guna-Dosha of Vata/Vayu chiefly, together with the description about Pitta-Kapha and how this trio together sustain the body. This chapter is presented in the style of a “Dialogue between rishis like Vayorvida-Marichi-Kapya- Atreya].

DW conjecturing on the significance of this chapter of CS states, “All we can really deduce from these passages is that a doctrine of five breaths existed at the time of the composition of the medical encyclopaedias. Of course, this is well known  the five breaths are already discussed in the much earlier literature of the Upanishads and Brahmanas. But although the doctrine of the breaths is mentioned in the early medical texts, it does not become an important part of medical thought or practice until the composition of a much later work called the Ayurveda sutra. This synthetic work, probably written in the early seventeenth century, tries for the first time to combine doctrines from ayurveda and a form of tantric yoga (Meulenbeld 1999–2002  IIa.499ff.)”.

Talking on the antecedents of Indian medicine DW says, “Roy points out that although a later Vedic text, the Rigvedapratishakhya(16.54), refers to a medical treatise called Good Medicine (Subheshaja), it is the Mahabharata that first refers to medicine as a science of eight parts… and uses the word ayurveda as the name of the science of medicine”. DW dismissing Roy’s argument writes, “The Compendium of Caraka contains a passage in which the physician is advised on how to respond, when pressed by questioners on the subject of which Veda his science belongs to (¯.30.21). He should answer that he is devoted to the Atharvaveda because that Veda prescribes rituals and prayers to enhance and prolong life, and this is the purpose of medicine too. The context suggests that this passage should be read as a slightly knowing suggestion, in which the physician is being advised to claim allegiance to a Veda because his interlocutor requires it of him, and as part of a didactic strategy, rather than for any more fundamental reason connected with real historical connections. It is tempting to read Roy’s arguments above, and others like them, as adhering to exactly this ancient recommendation”, insinuating that the interlocutor (Author of CS) nudges its practitioners to owe allegiance to the Vedas.

DW readily concludes, though without any actual textual evidence, If ayurveda does not derive from Vedic medical traditions, what then are its antecedents? One serious suggestion which has recurred in the literature on ayurvedic history is that some of the innovative doctrines of ayurveda were “copied” from Greek physicians in Gandhara. Jean Filliozat tested this idea in his book on classical Indian medicine, and indeed found parallels between Indian and Greek thought, especially regarding the doctrines of breath. [Sans- Prana, Greek-Pneuma]”

DW, commenting on the history of origin of ayurveda says, “Books on history of Indian medicine written even by contemporary scholars start by repeating the mythological accounts given in the beginning of the samhitas in which medicine is passed from the gods to the humans through a chain of divine beings and spiritual teachers. Such scholars seem unable or unwilling to see such an account for what it is, a common frame for initiating any orthodox shastras…….”.

DW, then introduces the concepts of “Linguistics” for his analysis and interprets the origin of ayurveda, “Accounts of origin cast as historical discourse should be seen as having two dimensions horizontal and vertical and concluding that these accounts of origin should not be conflated with horizontal history”, making it all mythical and legendary. “This is the story of how knowledge – which is essentially of God – has come to us mere mortals. Such a spiritual narrative is not to be confused or conflated with horizontal history, although the narrative may be cast in the language of past tenses and linear teacher–pupil descent. What we are being told is how the present work is an imperfect reflection of divine omniscience, a mirror – and many Sanskrit texts are called “Mirrors” of this or that subject – of what is known in heaven. So when, at the start of the foundational texts of Sanskrit medicine, we are told of the passage of medical knowledge from the gods to ancient sages such as Dhanvantari and Atreya, and thence to other humans such as Agnivesa and Susruta, to Caraka and Nagarjuna, we do not necessarily need to try to grasp all these figures as historical personages in the horizontal dimension. We are in the presence, rather, of a kind of apologia….”

After the “Mythology-fication” of the origin of Ayurveda, DW quotes from Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya’s work (A communist historian as per DW’s words) that discusses “Hinduization of ayurveda”, where in the Ayurveda which was originally “Non-religious” and empirically oriented was Hindu-ized to make it appealing to the Brahmin elite”. Commenting on this work DW says- “…….but even Mr.Chattopadhyaya could not trace where this (ayurveda) empirical tradition came from”. It is from here on that DW starts claiming about the Buddhist roots of Ayurveda. One of the wobbly arguments that he makes in support of this theory is that, the Buddha was called as “Medicine Buddha”.

DW’s Science of Medicine (SOM) and Its suggestions.

  • Severing connections of ayurveda from the Veda-Upanishads to establish false identicalness with the Greek content, by introducing the idea of “Indo-Iranian” origin of ayurveda through the “Aryan invasion of India”.  
  • Mythology-fication of “Accounts of Origin of Ayurveda- its Rishi Parampara” and pushing the dates of the composition of Ayurveda treatises forward (to 2000 years) to bring it closer to Greek-Buddhist period.
  • Trivialization of values of Aastik tradition, claiming “Ayurveda” to be non-religious (non-vedic) originally.
  • Claims ayurvedic concept “Prana” to be a borrowing from the Greek or as an outcome of rapprochement.

DW in SOM has produced J.Filliozat’s work on “Pneumatism”, to prove “Prana” in the Indic thought to be same as Pneuma (Breath) of the greek thought. Therefore, a glimpse of what JF has explained in the chapter on pnuema is given below. A common rebuttal to the claims of DW and JF will be made later.

Part B

J. Filliozat

The title of J.Filliozat’s book is “Classical doctrines of Indian medicine  Its origins and its greek parallels”. DW presents contents from the seventh chapter of this book which is “The Ayurvedic Theory of the Wind and Greek Pneumatism2 as exemplary evidence to prove his theory to suggest that the Indic concept of “Prana” actually was sourced from the Greek idea of “pneuma”.

Since, DW has attested JF’s work as a proof, one would naturally want to find out the line of argument that JF has adopted to establish the similarity between Prana and Pnuema.

The gist of chapter 7 from JF’s book is of great significance to this purvapaksha. As rebutting these very “evidences” would automatically topple the entire theory (disprove the very grounds of DW’s argument) and clarify how “Prana” is not in any way analogous to ”pnuema”.

JF says : “The texts whereby the three oldest Indian manuals of medicine teach that all motor activity inside the organism comes from  an internal organic breath identical to the atmospherical wind  are in close accord amongst themselves…….a similar physiological concept of the wind also exists in Greek medicine” and suggests that “Peri phuson” a Greek work, has commonalities with Atreya’s school of thought [CS and BS].

The chapters from ayurveda treatises that JF has chosen to provide as evidence, describe about “Vata/Vayu – Its physio-pathological conditions”. In the pretext of explaining the “Prana” concept, JF has translated the entire chapter on “Vata/Vayu” from Ayurvedic treatises like the Charaka Samhita- Sushruta Samhita and Bhela Samhita.

Most of the content of JF’s chapter is mostly a word-to-word translation of 1.Vatakalakaliya of Charaka samhita. 2. Vata kalakaliya of Bhela samhita 3.Vatavyadhi Nidana of Sushruta Samhita [referred to as “ayurveda chapters” in this article] that constitute about 70 % of the content of 7th chapter in JF’s book. Total number of pages in 7th chapter is ~33 pages (196-228).His translation of chapters concerning Vata constitute , 1. CS- 196 to 203 pages 2. SS- 208 to 218 Pages and 3.BS-205 to 207 pages. And one observation that is un-missable  is that not only does JF avoid using the term “Prana” but makes  sure to replace it with the term “Breath” every time it appears in these ayurveda chapters. Also, JF translates Vata and Vayu  as “Wind” and “Air” respectively.

 It is pertinent to note that, the term “Prana” in these ayurveda chapters denotes, chiefly one among the five subtypes of Vata/Vayu  viz.  ‘Prana-Udana-Samana-Apana and Vyana’ which are translated by JF as “Breath of front-Breath of upper body-Concentrated breath-Low breath-Diffused breath” respectively”.

JF, after having translated CS’s chapter opines that, “Their conceptions were too vague to be able to concretise themselves as physical representations and a deepened observation would have destroyed them immediately instead of making them more precise”. Moving on to translating the chapters on Vata from SS and BS, JF states “the corresponding text of Sushruta will give us more details on the pneumatic pathology of ayurveda.

He then translates Vatakalakaliya from BS and “wonders as to how then “CS (Agnivesha Tantra) of (Agnivesha) and BS, differ in their style of presentation of “Vatakalakaliya adhyaya”, if both of them are the disciples of Atreya and these works (CS and BS) are the report of Atreya’s words”. Where CS reports it in a dialogue form, while BS presents it as a strict verse. Though the content in the two texts is foundationally not different”. Then JF puts forth a possible explanation for the same, but with a concealed intention of snatching the antiquity of CS. He says, “perhaps Charaka (Who did “Pratisamskara” of Agnivesha tantra), could be the reason for this difference in the style of presentation of CS (suggesting, many things in CS could be later insertions which are not as antique as it is believed to be). Further JF writes, “the fact that the names of the traditional masters of Ayurveda such as Atreya, Agnivesha and Charaka are suspected of being more legendary than historical

 JF then takes up Vata vyadhi chapter of SS and translates it entirely. Commenting on the difference between the contents of CS and SS, JF says, “The differences between Sushruta and the texts of the tradition of Atreya  do not go to the basics of the doctrine, they are above all a result of the fact that, Sushruta does not insist on the cosmic role of wind, and on the contrary gives details of its actions in the body. Sushruta……though technically much more medical, referring to a later development of medicine. The Hippocratic Manual on Breaths teaches the same general doctrine as taught by the three Indian texts.

JF at the end of the translation of each of the aforesaid chapters from the ayurveda treatises, widening the scope inserts certain claims as to how there could be similarity between Indic and Greek thoughts about the concepts other than just “Prana and Pneuma”. Talking about Vatakalakaliya chapter of CS that explains about purusha embodying the “Vayu-Agni-Soma” in the form of Vata-Pitta-Kapha. JF writes, “The discussion of the rishis gathered together shows clearly the various tendencies which have dominated the ancient Physio-cosmological speculations of Indians and whose classical theory is the synthesis summarised by Atreya. He attributed the main role in the organism to an unique element wind, fire or water……this inevitably recalls the attitude of the Ionian physiologists seeking the primordial element and finding the same, Thales in water, Anaximenes in Air or Heraclitus in Fire….”    

Marking the end of translation spree JF writes, “The three great Indian texts of medicine are thus unanimous in making the “Wind as Soul of the world” and of the body in the concrete sense of the word soul. The Various Winds, Organic Breaths and Animal spirits are the principles of the entire manifestation of life in the body”.

JF later gives an account of “On Breaths“ manual of the Greeks, straight away concludes that there is general concordance between this and Indian pneumatism”, without backing it up with any comparative analysis. JF also writes “There is profound analogy between On breaths and Indian pnuematism but not a close correlation…. on Indian side the doctrine is too ancient because of its vedic attachments and Indo-Iranian prehistory,.. On the Greek side, only a free imitation of an Indian model could be admitted ….. The problem posed by concordances between this manual and the Sanskrit works is not one of borrowing a text but that of cultural relations.” JF in his concluding remarks writes “The manual on breaths thus belongs to an entire Greek literature of Pneumatic Physiology which serves as a pendant to Sanskrit literature concerning the physio-pathological role… It is the eventuality of the relations between these two literatures rather than that of the relations between the texts themselves ……”.


A Purvapaksha is elucidated under the following headings.  

  1. Conceptualization of “Prana” as per the Upanishadik thought (Various dimensions of “Prana” are compiled)
  2. Conceptualization of “Prana” as Charaka and Sushruta samhitas (Omitted by JF and DW).
  3. Puravpaksha of claims of DW and JF regarding “Prana” to be same as “Breath”.
  4. Conceptualization of “Manifestation and continuity” of Indic shastras/Ayurveda with the help of concepts from Vishnu purana.

To counter the claims made by DW in “SOM” and JF’s content on “Prana being same as Pneuma”, it is important to understand how Ayurveda and allied Indic texts conceptualise the idea of “Prana”. This would consequently reveal the glaring “dissimilarities and non-connectedness” between the Greek and Indic thoughts and also would re-establish the inherent closeness of Ayurveda with the Vedas. In this paper “Prana” as conceived by the Upanishad and ayurvedic treatises is explained.

Pneuma and pneumatism (breath)

Before we go into the details of “Prana”, here is how ‘Pneuma and Pneumatism” are defined.

  • Pneuma3 is defined as  In Theology   SoulSpirit. In classical medicine   An invisible liquid or vapor held to travel throughout the body and to be necessary to and associated with life. In Stoicism  A mixture of air and fire held to be the divine organizing principle of the universe
  • Pneumatism4 is defined as   In Medicine, Alexandrian medical school, or sect, based on the theory that life is associated with a subtle vapour called the Pneuma; it was, in essence an attempt to explain respiration.

Definitions themselves serve as proof to unravel the dissimilarities between “Prana” and “Pneuma”. Yet, it is important to know about the conceptualisation of “Prana” to see if the two really match or share any semblance even.

‘Prana – Beyond the “pneuma (breath)” tenet.

Introduction   Vishnu Purana (VP), in the episode of the Syamantaka upakhayana5 narrates how “Shree krishna’s Prana was getting enhanced during his prolonged tussle with Jambuvanta, through the “anna-jala” offered with great reverence as part of the “uttara kriyas” that were being performed by his relatives at Dwaraka, thinking him to be dead”.  Upanishads say, everything in this creation is nothing but prana6. According to Charaka samhita, ahimsa is the superior most promoter of Prana7 . 3. And in Bharata (India) it is very common to hear people utter the term “Pancha prana” to refer to their favourites or to denote something that is precious to them. This is a gist of various dimensions of Prana which has trickled down since generations from the Vedas into the psyche of people of Bharata. We unknowingly, subconsciously know the fact that the prana is not “Breath”/Breathing”.  Here is a compilation of various aspects and functions of Prana as per the Upanishads.

1, “Prana”and its dimensions as per the Upanishadic literature.

Prana is discussed at lengths in the Prashna Upanishad (PU)8.  

1. Prajapati with the desire to create Praja,created Prana (=Aditya) along with Rayi (=Soma /Anna)

2. Aditya is said to be the Prana of the Praja

3.Among the “Vayu-Jala-Agni-Vak-Shrotra devatas, Prana is the chief.  

4. Prana is “Aditya-Indra-Ambuda-Jala”.

5. Prana is of five forms, termed as ‘Pancha Prana”.

6. Prana in the form of  prajapati,  moves about in the womb for /during the conception.

7. Prana is born from the atman and is nothing but a shadow (Chaya) of the supreme atman which driven by the “karma enters a yoni giving rise to life.

8. Realisation of “Prana” leads to “Amrutatwa” (Moksha).

In Kena Upanishad9, the term prana appears in relation to Ghranendriya (Olfactory sense faculty). The term “Pancha prana” appears in Shwetashwatara Upanishad(10. In a different context the term “Prana” is used to denote “Vitality/Life”. In Aitareya Upanishad11 – too Prana is used in relation with the ghranendriya. Taittiriya Upanishad 12

1. Describes the “Pranamaya kosha” where prana is used to denote the vitality/life force.

2. In another context, prana is said to be “Brahman”

3. “Prana” is verily “Anna” where it denotes vitality/life force.

Chhandogya Upanishad13

1.“Jala” becomes “Prana” after a certain stage of its transformation (paka) in the body.

2. Subtlest form of liquids (Ap) enhances the prana.

3. “Prana” is “dominated /enhanced by Ap”.

4. Prana is like the hub of the wheel, to which all the vitals are fixed.

5. It rejects equating the Prana to just breathing/respiration or with the body and says “Prana is the life force”, the inscrutable.   

“Prana” –The root meaning 14

 Acharya Dalhana, the commentator of Sushruta Samhita has defined “Prana” as “Pranayanti jeevanyanti iti pranah”. Which means, an entity/anything that imparts-sustains and nourishes the life is termed as “Prana”. As we can see, the term “prana” appears multiple times in Upanishads with a spectrum of context dependent meanings related to the various aspects of Loka and Purusha, but converging at the root meaning “to impart and sustain life”. The same line of thought is strongly palpable in the ayurveda literature too, which propounds and conceptualises “Prana” in the similar fashion. (I am restricting to upanishadik thought, as the vedic references are not cited here).

2. “ Prana”- Its dimensions and domain of influence as per ayurvedic treatises

A. Prana and Sushruta samhita(SS)  SS presents “Prana” in a unique way. The term Prana appears numerous times in the SS.

SS propounds the idea of “Dwadasha pranah”(12 pranas). “Agni -Soma-Vayu-Satwa-Rajah-Tamas-Bhutatman-Pancha indriyani” constitute the 12 pranas16. All these 12 components impart and sustain life/vitality in a person in their own distinct ways and hence are called as “Prana”, says Acharya Dalhana14. “Marmas”(~Spots of vitality/life in the body) are said to be the seats  of “prana”(12) as per SS17.The term prana has been also used to denote “Bala (~Strength and Endurance)”18by Acharya Dalhana. Among the 5 Subtypes of Vata/Vayu, the prana-vata is responsible for sustaining and nourishing the “Pranas”(12)19. Also, “Prana-apanou”, is one of the characteristic features of the “karma purusha”(embodied being)20.

These are the various dimensions of prana that converge in the root meaning “Pranayanti jeevanyanti”. The conceptualisation of prana in SS is in line with the upanishadic and CS-BS and is in no way comparable with the concept of Pneuma/Breath.

The aforementioned passage explains the conceptualisation of “prana” in SS. This description of prana is omitted in entirety by JF. Instead a chapter “Vata Vyadhi Nidana” that deals with “Vata/Vayu” is picked to prove Prana=Pneuma by misrepresenting the content.  

B. Prana and  Charaka samhita(CS)  

Like SS, the CS has multiple references of “prana” spread across the treatise that explain various dimensions/layers of prana in different aspects of life. These references are omitted by JF.

Compilation of various dimensions of prana according to CS (Based on Chakrapani’s commentary).

According to CS, “Prana eshana” is one among the three pursuits of life where “prana’ refers to “Life and Longevity”21. Chakrapani refers to “Prana” as “Jivitam” which also happens to be a synonym of “AYU” as per CS and is defined as “Jeevayati pranan dharayati” meaning, that which sustains prana and keeps one alive22.“Prana” (The vital life force- Jivita/Ayu rupi) permeates the entire body. Prana is intimately associated with “Ayu” and they reside in the “Hrudaya”. Despite the similarity between prana and “Ayu”, the distinction between the two is maintained in the treatise. CS in the chapter of Rasayana uses the term Prana to denote life and longevity23. Anna and paana is said to be “Prana” (~food imparts and nourishes prana)24. Prana is the subtype of vata/vayu 25. Chakrapani, refers to prana as “Ucchwasa”(expiration)  in the contexts where Prana-Apanou term is mentioned26. Prana also is used to denote “Bala”(~Strength and endurance) of a person27. Chakrapani, while interpreting the meaning of the term “Indriya-sthana”, terms “INDRA” in the word “Indriya” as “Prana”. And this section deals with the features/signs and symptoms of Indra/Prana(~Indriya)28. Aitareya Upanishad explains “Idandra or Indra” to be another name of the “Atman/Brahman”29[Prana=Indra=Atman].

Prana and Various spheres of life   

In accordance with the results of pervious karma (Shubha-ashubha), the beings associate themselves with “Prana” (Life) in different yoni 30. Like any other component of loka and  pursuha, Prana too has “physical-spiritual and metaphysical” spheres.  

Post conception and post natal-ly the prana is sustained in the bhoutik sphere by “Anna-pana” (Food-Water etc). And at the spiritual-metaphysical sphere it is enhanced by non-bhoutik modalities like that of “Ahimsa”. Ahimsa by its virtue imparts dharma and shubha karma and enhances the “prana”.

Prana chiefly resides in the “Dasha prana ayatanas”(10 principal seats of prana)31. “Prana-vaha srotas”32,the structures related to the “Prana” are rooted in the “Hrudaya” and Mahasrotas”. In this context, the term “Prana” refers to “Prana vata”32. “Shiras”(~Head) is said to be the special seat of “IndriyaPrana vaha srotas”33. All the above references that actually constitute the idea of Prana are omitted in DW/JF’s works.

The state and nourishment of prana is dependent on the state of the Vitals of the body like “Rakta34-Ojas35-Agni36,37”and is chiefly controlled and regulated by the “Vayu”(not air/wind)38.

Omitting the actual conceptualisation of Prana, JF has only translated prana as breath and suffixes prana after each vata subtype. He uses the terms vayu-prana interchangeably to make it appear as though the chapter is exclusively dealing with “Breath and wind”.

Prana and Vayu  Why distinction between the two is essential?

According to CS, Prana is controlled by “Vayu”. Here the two things “Prana” and “Vayu” need to be elucidated. “Prana” has been already been explained in above paragraphs.

Vayu and Its functions in various spheres  –Functions of Vayu as per CS sutrasthana-12th chapter 39(which is chosen as evidence by JF to prove alleged similarity between Wind and Vayu and Pneumaand Prana) is as follows-

1. Motor-sensory(including the activities of Manas-Intellect-Cognition)- Reproductive -Digestive-Respiratory and Excretory activities of the body [~Adhyatmika and Adhibhoutik dimensions].

2.Vayu carries out the functions related to the climate-seasons-ecology, dynamics of cosmos and creation-dissolution and so on[~Adhidaivika dimension].

In other words, this passage in CS tells about the various manifestations of “Vishnu” which is a synonym of “Vayu40 in the brahmanda and pindanda.In the same chapter, Vayu is defined by various other synonyms like Bhagavan-Swayambhu-Niyanta-Dhata-Yama-Vishwakarma-Vishwarupa40,which is consistent with the Vishnu Purana (VP). Each synonym speaks volumes about how Vishnu manifests himself as Srushti. This passage in CS about the Adhidaivika layer of Vayu has been used by JF to equate “Vayu” to “Soul” of the Greek notion.

CS uses the term “Praneshwara” 41 for Vayu as it influences and controls the prana. Vayu (all the spheres) when is functioning in normalcy, sustains the prana and when aggravated ( Kupita), it destroys or takes it away 38. Knowing the distinction between Vayu and Prana and the three layers in which vayu operates, is important, as this is the differentiating feature between the Indic thought of Vayu and Greek’s Wind.  Prana should be seen in all the above dimensions and not merely as “Breath”. Hence, the percolation of “Vayu (Vishnu)” into Purusha, in all the three spheres has to be identified and named accordingly. This is of major consequence from the treatment point of view too. As the bhoutik modalities are required for afflictions at the bhoutik level, while this won’t do, if the affliction is of Adhidaivik in nature.

Even though the Prana is a reflection of the Atman (Vishnu/Vayu), the type relationship between the two is that of a “controlled” and “controller”. Hence, the distinction in terminology is very essential, which is why Prana cannot always be used interchangeably with “Vata” and vice versa.

Which also means that, merely by

1.Explaining (Translating) the chapter on “Vayu”.

2. Selectively comparing the content with manuals of “On breaths” manual.

3. Omitting the actual idea of Prana in the Ayurveda  and Indic context,one cannot claim to have proved Hellenistic “Breath” to be same as “Indic “Prana”, which exactly is what JF has attempted.

Just translating the content without any comparative study of the content one cannot conclude that “On breaths” had influence on the Indic thought of Prana and Sanskrit literature.  

Summary of Prana as per Ayurveda treatises – What we can gather from all the above paragraphs on Prana is that, it has multitude of dimensions ranging from being “Life-Longevity, Expiration, Breathing, Strength- bhutatman and the atman itself”. All the key players of Srushti, right from the Atman- Bhutatman- Indriya and Triguna + Tridoshas are all Prana. Same tenet is presented in a different way in CS and BS and is congruent with the Upanishadic thought of Prana.

3. Purvapaksha of claims by DW and JF

JF has translated the entire chapter on “Vata/Vayu” from the Ayurvedic treatises, CS SS and BS, in the pretext of surveying and explaining the “Prana” concept, omitting the actual conceptualisation and dimensions of “Prana” of the Indic thought/Ayurveda treatises.

1.“On breaths” 42 v/s Ayurveda  

A. The summary of “On breaths manual”, by JF “resembles” Ayurvedic ideas in bits and pieces. The description about wind and breath in this manual is very superficial and shallow, where in only the easily perceivable and obvious functions of “wind”, like uprooting the trees, causing epizooty- miasma, breath seizes there is death are mentioned. While Ayurveda and Indic thought on Prana and vata/vayu are far more profound and deep and are in no way comparable to Pneuma and Wind. These theories look very superficial and non technical when seen from an ayurveda perspective. The only seeming semblances are  

1.Bodily and atmospherical wind (Anemos and Atmos)  

2. Pneuma- as an all-powerful entity

3.Pathological conditions of wind explained in “On breaths”.

B. Unlike the Greek thought which considers “Food-Drinks and Breath” as the three elements that nourish the body, CS and Indic thoughts propound that “Anna-Udaka”(Ahara) as the imparters and sustainers of Prana. This also shows that Prana is not same as “breath” of Greeks.

2. Kala (time) -“Wind” is said to be the governing force that brings about the seasonal changes as per the “On Breaths” manual. It is true that “Rutunam pravibhaga” is a function of vayu according to CS 39too. But, the difference is that, these functions are carried out not by the atmospheric wind that is around us, but the supreme all powerful “Vishnu/Vayu”. (According to SS, “Kala” is responsible for this function) 43

According to VP, “Kala” is that form of “Vishnu” mediated by which the “Union and Dissociation” of Prakruti and Purusha occurs during the process of creation and dissolution44. Since, “Kala” is beginning-less, the process of creation–sustenance-dissolution also continues forever44.With the “Kala” comes Karma which is a key player in keeping the continuity of creation and cosmos. Interestingly, SS explains this “Kala” explicitly in a different section as to how it regulates the climate and the cosmos45, which is totally in line with CS and VP. But this passage on Kala has failed to attract any attention of the western authors.

3. Ionian physiology of Greeks       

JF taking the example of CS’s Vata Kalakaliya chapter says- “The concept of “Vayu-Agni-Soma” shows various tendencies in the then Indian society, comparing it to the theories proposed by Thales-Anaximenes-Heraclitus that Water-Air-Fire respectively as the primordial element, but the difference is that, each of these Ionian physiologists, propounded one element either water-air or fire to be the sole primordial cause of the universe. Not all the three jointly like it is in Ayurveda/ Indic thought.  

Content of the Indic treatises are Aptopadesha/Agama that are not an outcome of a trial-and-error processes but are eternal truths, as they are propounded by the Aaptas(~Jnani). Not sure, if these physiologists qualify to be aaptas. According to Britannica, Thales who proposed “water” as the primordial element also was the proponent of “flat earth theory” 46 and no writings of his survives today.

4. Tridosha  The trio

The trio of “Vayu-Agni-Soma” in the form “Vata pitta kapha” jointly sustain the Body and Cosmos and not independently. Even though Vayu is said to be all powerful, there are many functions that are exclusive to Pitta and Kapha. Specific, unique functions of Vayu-Pitta-Kapha have been explained in CS in the same chapter. JF also, tries to suggest that “Vayu” is the all powerful and enjoys same place as that of “Air” in Greek philosophy. But, even though Vayu is all powerful and is said to control kapha-pitta, it is only the trio together that sustain the purusha-loka and not solitarily.

To maintain the consistency is very difficult, when things are selectively quoted or misrepresented. Which is why inconsistencies are quite amply found in JF’s work. JF claims that the Vayu of Ayurveda and Air of Greek philosophy to be same, by citing the so called “All powerfulness nature of Vayu”. But, forgetting this conjecture, JF contradicts himself in a different context, when he tries drawing parallels between “Vayu-Agni-Soma” of CS and “Water- air- fire” of Ionian theory. Which would mean, Agni-soma just like Vayu too can be “all powerful” as they can independently initiate the creation of universe [Ionian theory propounds these 3 elements to be the “Independent” cause of the universe (or primordial elements)].

5. Pancha prana  JF and DW, conveniently insert the Upanishadic nomenclature of Pancha prana for the pancha vata (Prana, Udana, Samana, Apana, Vyana) into ayurveda treatises and suffix the term “Prana” to each of the 5 subtypes of vata/vayu in CS SS BS.

Prana is said to be dependant on the “Agni”(~Digestive-Metabolic force).  Chakrapani, in the context of Agni, interprets “prana” as “Pancha Vayavah (Five subtypes of Vayu” 36,37. But, it has been shown in the aforesaid paragraphs as to how the term “Prana” adorns various interpretations. It is clear that, Prana and Vayu in Ayurveda context cannot be used interchangeably always, as “Prana” in Ayurveda has various dimensions to it, but they all converge in the root meaning “To impart life” like it is in the Upanishadic thought. 

6. Choice of content  

In an attempt to look for matching references in Ayurveda texts, JF landed on Vatakalakaliya adhyaya of CS-BS and on SS for pathological conditions of Vata, which is the closest apparent match to the Greek content on Pneuma and Breath combined. The motive here could be to not only to “claim” “similarity” between “Wind-Vayu” and “Pneuma and Prana”, but also, to claim that the entire Vata/Vayu conceptualisation had origins in the Greek thought and was added into Ayurveda texts much later. This subliminal insinuation takes a brazen form in DW’s later works, where he claims Vayu to be a later add-on to “Kapha-Pitta duo” in Ayurveda.

7. The modus operandi  

Each time Prana appears in these chapters on Vata, JF replaces it with the term “Breath”. replaces Vayu with Air and Vata with Wind. Prana in these contexts is referring to the subtypes of Vata/Vayu/Maruta [“Prana udana apana samana vyana”]. Continuing the “Pancha prana” nomenclature of Upanishadic/Vedic thought into all the three Ayurveda treatises, JF translates these five subtypes of Vata/Vayu as- Prana -“Breath of front”, Udana- upward breath, Samana-concentrated breath, Vyana- Diffused breath, Apana- Low breath”. In the same passage of CS, the term “Prana” is used to denote “life/Vitality”, which too has become “breath” in JF’s work.

It is quite surprising to note, how JF and DW, who at every opportunity attempt to divorce the content of Ayurveda from the Vedas, are liberal in case of “Pancha prana” when they retain the same nomenclature from the Upanishads into their works on Ayurveda. Even though, the concept of Prana in Ayurveda texts is consistent with Upanishad/Vedas, the 5 subtypes of Vata/Vayu are referred to as Panchatma maruta/vayu 47  , without a suffix (Prana-Udana), and not as “Pancha prana”. Context sensitivity is something of great significance.

Suffixing of Prana to each of the five subtypes of Vata would make the content appear as something related to Prana (Pancha Prana instead of Pancha Vata) using which they could possibly show that these three chapters on Vata/Vayu are all about Wind and Breath. DW shies away from accepting Pancha prana in Ayurveda texts to be consistent with Vedas, but conveniently retains only the “Nomenclature” , as an aid to distort the content.

Without a doubt, it is the Prana vata, which does “Prana/Hrudaya avalambana”[ sustains life or is the very vitality]. But, to use only this aspect of Prana and leave out the details, which actually form the idea of “Prana” in overall Indic context, is nothing but motivated quoting.

They start off with an intent to prove Prana is pnuema, end up translating the content on Vata/Vayu from Ayurveda treatises and declare prana to be same as pneuma. JF also declares that the “On breaths” manual of Hippocrates, to be originally of greek origin and that it serves as a pendant to Sanskrit literature. And all this, without any comparative study or analysis of the content.

JF at the same time also has justification for not furnishing any comparative analysis. He states that, the similarity is in the general ideas and not between the texts themselves. If that is the case, how can JF simply compare and conclude that Prana is same as pneuma, while the references glaringly state otherwise. This misrepresentation of Indic concepts is later reproduced by the authors such as DW. 

8. Selective quoting

Selective quoting starts from JF’s chapter on “Ayurvedic theory of Wind and Greek pneumatism”, where he says that “Wind” is responsible for the “Motor activities”, omitting the equally important function of Vata/Vayu. the “Sensory and cognitive functions”. JF also diligently translates even the “sensory functions of vata from CS-SS”, but never puts it across where it really matters. Because, the summary of “on breaths manual” doesn’t mention any such similar functions of “wind”.

9. Weird Translations – Apart from the absurd translations of “Pancha prana”/ Pancha vata as “Five breaths”, the absurdity reaches its pinnacle when JF translates “vata shamaka” as “Sedatives of wind”, Vata rakta as “Windy blood” so on.

10. DW states, “Even though the concept of “pancha prana” was there in Upanishads and Ayurveda treatises it was not an important  part of the medical discourse up until the “Ayurveda sutra was written”. In earlier paragraphs it has been shown that, not only the “pancha vata/prana”, but also the actual conceptualisation of various dimensions of prana was very much there in the ayurveda texts. This shows ayurveda inherits NOT the Greek as alleged by DW and JF, but Vedic-upanishadik thought. Also, this paper, describes how prana greatly diverges from the idea of breath/pneuma.

11. Vayorvida and Pancha vata  DW makes a suggestive statement that the concept of “Five vital breaths”(referring to pancha vata) was added later into CS by a mythical character called “Vayorvida”[Vayorvida- knower of vayu]. This argument is not right because

1. The division of vata/vayu into five subtypes is merely oupacharika (for convenience/name sake) i.e division is made based on the Location and the Function 47. which means ayurveda can be practised or diagnosis can be made, even without naming these subtypes.

2. There are multiple references to these subtypes by name, deeply embedded in the treatises, other than just the “Vata” chapters surveyed by DW and JF. 3. JF when he says “knower of vayu” (Vayorvida), insinuates that it could only be a mythical character or a symbolic representation. But it is interesting that, this so-called mythical character the ‘Knower of vayu”(Vayorvida), also happens to know much more than just “Vata”, as his name appears in two other discourses on “Six rasa” 48 and “purusha utpatti” 49 in CS.

4. Sanatanatwa and Shashwatatwa of Indic knowledge tradition( ayurveda)

Western authors like DW and JF have been repeatedly suggesting that the Ayurveda has no roots in the Vedas instead originates from the Greek philosophy. These authors repeatedly raise questions about the origin of Ayurveda and the personages  like Brahma-Indra-Dhanwanatri and others mentioned in these accounts, tagging them to be “Legendary and Mythical” to deny them the historical status, subjecting the ancientness and vigour  of the traditional Indic knowledge system to test. In order to rebut these misinterpretations, it is essential to know about the “origin-spread-continuity-eternalness” of creation process and how the supreme atman manifests. The Indic knowledge tradition too embodies the same Shashwatatwa-Nitya-twa (Permanence-Eternality) since it also is a manifestation of “Vishnu” (Supreme atman).  

CS while describing how and why the Ayurveda is ‘Shashwata” states that, Ayurveda is beginning-less and Shashwata because there was no such phase, where in the “Ayu and Buddhi Sanatana” did not exist. To understand this phenomenon of how the continuity of the creation process is maintained, the “Puranik” literature which explicitly discusses about these has to be studied. In this article an attempt is made to understand these concepts from the “Vishnu purana” point of view, which would in itself serve as a rebuttal to DW and JF’s  Mythologification of Ayurveda jnana prampara.

It is an all together a different argument whether Puranas came chronologically later or earlier to CS/SS, as the shashwatatwa of Indic knowledge tradition goes beyond the boundaries of numerical dating.  However, there is credible evidence to suggest that both Puranas and Upanishads co-existed “An analysis of some aspects of ‘Chronology’ in ‘The Early Upaniṣads ‘and some observations of consequence to the Global History of Philosophy before c. 500 BCE” 50. The fact of the matter is that, there is a close congruence between the content of Indic texts like, Upanishad- Purana and Ayurveda Samhitas. This similarity in “Jnana parampara- fundamental tenets and goals” should be the criteria for comparison and not the isolated ostensible resemblances like, in case of “Pneuma=prana and Wind=Vayu”.

A. Vishnu Purana 51 and Shashwatatwa

  1. Srushti originating in Vishnu

The entire creation emanates from “Vishnu” the supreme according to Vishnu Purana. “The term Vishnu means “Visherdhatoho  praveshanath”(Meaning “to enter or to permeate”). Vishnu permeates the entire creation. He takes three forms dominated by one of the three gunas (Satwa-Rajas-Tamas) to create–sustain and dismantle creation. For being a miniscule part of the great creation/Vishnu, the humans too are the embodiments of Trigunas.

“Kala” a Rupantara (Swaroopa) of Vishnu is an important factor in maintaining the perpetuality in “Gati” (Movement) of creation and destruction. Kala is quantified in terms of units by the human time scale. Kala is measured by the units from as small as “Eye blinks” (time taken for an eye blink-Nimesha) up to as enormous as Yugas < Manvantara < kalpas” . It is in terms of these units of kala by human time scale that the “Ayu” of Brahman is measured. One day of Brahman is  “1000 chaturyuga complexes” and his Ayu is 100 years.  

The Srushti occurs in the beginning of each Kalpa and the Kala keeps it going without a pause. It is said that, after the completion of 14 Manvantaras, the Kalpa of 1000 Yugas comes to an end. Followed by the same quantum of “night”, where in the Brahma rupi Vishnu rests on the “Sheshashayya”, after having swallowed the Trilokas. In the beginning of every “Kalpa” the Bhagwan with the dominance of “Rajo guna” initiates the process of creation again. Knowledge about the Kala and its divisions is the key in understanding the process of manifestation of this Cosmos-Veda and their Sanatanatwa, as they are a Parampara originating from Vishnu.

B. “Yuga –Veda” and Vishnu : Cyclic nature of Yuga and its impact on the Veda.

Towards the end of each Chaturyuga, there is Veda lopa (Derangement in the practise of Veda) and it is then that the Saptarshigana arrive for its revival. Just as the 6 Rutus (Six  seasons) repeat cyclically every year with their respective characteristic features, so do the Chaturyugas, with their respective characteristic features (Yuga dharma). Veda is nothing but Vishnu/his manifestation. Just like, the cosmos that manifests from Vishnu, the Vedas too get “manifested- elaborated and dwindled” in accordance with the Yuga dharma. Revival of which is done by Vishnu himself taking various Avataras. In the Dwapara yuga, Vishnu takes the “Vyasa” rupa and elaborates the Vedas [“Vistara”-Meaning of the term Vyasa]. Veda is one, but its divisions are thousands.

C. The ayurveda agama . Timeless (anadi) and Imperishable

 “Manu-Saptarshi-Devata gana-Indra and Manu’s children” – are the “Manvantara Adhikaris” who are created and destroyed within the same manvantara. These are the names of the “Padavi”(positions) held and not the names of any individual. VP enlists the appointees for Padavi of each Manvantara and they are Vishnu Vibhutis. Personages appearing in the origin accounts should be seen from this backdrop. These Padavis (Office/Position) are enduring and permanent, where as its possessor changes for each Manavantara. Personages like “Daksha prajapati”-“Indra” in Ayurveda avatarana (Agama) should be understood in this context. Which makes the numerical dating of Ayurveda treatises only oupacharika (namesake), as the “Jnana” transcends all measures of time not Yuga not even Manvantara but beyond, since this Parampara is “Anadi” (Beginning less) and “Shashwata” (imperishable).

D. Ayurveda – A shakha (Branch) of Veda/Vishnu

In each “Dwapara yuga” Vishnu adorns the “Vyasa” rupa and makes “Pravibaga” (Branching-simplification) of the Veda as there is a general decline in the human features like Strength-Vigour and Lustre.

The “Veda rupi” tree has thousands of “Shakha” (Branches) of which the Chaturveda form the main  shakhas .They are further branched out into the Shakhas-Anushakas. This is how every Indic Shastra originates from Vishnu /Veda. “Ayurveda” naturally is a ‘Shakha” of the Veda/Vishnu. VP includes Ayurveda among the eighteen “Vidya-s”. Corroborating this, the reference from CS that says “Shakha and Vidya” to be synonyms of “Ayurveda” 52.

According to VP, the shakha/branches remain unchanged in all Manvantaras. Which is another evidence to show the continuity and to establish how the personages (Padavis) like Daksha-Indra-Dhanwanatari rishis and others are actually continuous in nature and so is Ayurveda. According to VP, Dhanwanatri, was blessed by Vishnu in his previous birth and was assigned a task of categorising Ayurveda into 8 Angas (Ashtanga ayurveda).  

So, all the chronological dates of Ayurveda treatises, be it 2000 yrs or 3000 yrs or more, is not the point that we should be discussing, as the continuity of Bharatiya jnana parampara stretches far beyond.

This entire knowledge structure is consistent across all Indic  shastras and forms the Astik tradition. The entire thread of narrative in the VP is in complete congruence with CS and SS. The same line of thought can be traced in Vishnu-Sahasranama which is a part of Mahabharata. Comparison between the texts if is at the level of foundational tenets, it will not lead to distortion of the concepts. If done in isolation, it will lead to misinterpretations such as the ones in JF and DW’s papers.

This explanation of Vishnu purana, sheds light on various aspects concerning the “Origin and eternalness of Ayurveda” 

  1. Continuity of Ayurveda/Indic Shastra tradition beyond the fathomable numerical chronology.
  2. The personages that are mentioned in the “Accounts of Origin of Ayurveda” are not mythical and are not later appendages in order to “Hinduize” the treatises as claimed.
  3. Concepts of VP about creation, are same as that in CS–SS that reiterate the  “Anaditwa and Shashwatatwa” of Ayurveda.
  4. Establishes how Ayurveda or any shastra is just another form of Vishnu=Veda itself. 
  5. The position of “Vishnu” (Vayu) in CS and SS is same as that in the Vishnu Purana. 
  6. Very importantly these references from VP re-establish the “Vedic-Upanishadik and Puranik” roots of Ayurveda and its similitude with the former, estranging it from the “Greek thought”.

One can still pose an argument that “All this Astikata” itself is merely a belief or a bias. But, Astikata forms the very qualifying requisite for study of Indic shastras. Sushruta samhita says, “Concepts  propounded in the samhita should never be subjected to scrutiny, but should be practised as it is, since it an Aptopadesha/Agama and has stood the test of the time”. Ayurveda texts have never curbed the right for “Jignasa”, but this should be strictly done within the constructs of the shastras using the “Tarka” and “Yukti” pramana. Otherwise, it will end up becoming “Vitanda”.


1The science of medicine by Dominik Wujastyk https //  
2The Classical Doctrine Of Indian Medicine   Its Origins And Its Greek Parallels by J.Filliozat https //  
3https //
4https //
5Vishnu Purana, Geeta press Gorakhpur, Pg No.279
6PU  2/13, Pg 30 .Prashna Upanishad(With Commentary of Shanakaracharya);Translated by Swami Gambhirananda;Swami Mumukshananda, Advaita Ashrama
7CS Sutra 30/15
8Prashna Upanishad (With Commentary of Shanakaracharya); Translated by Swami Gambhirananda;Swami Mumukshananda, Advaita Ashrama   Pg 6,8,21-22,24-25,26,33,42.
9Kena Upanishad(With commentary of Shanakaracharya); Tanslataed by Swami Gambhirananda;Swami Bodhasarananda,Advaita Ashrama  Pg 25
10Swetashwatara Upanishad(With commentary of Shankaracharya);Translated by Swami Gambhirananda; Swami Bodhasarananda, Advaita Ashrama – Pg 65,114
11Aitareya Upanishad; (With commentary of Shankaracharya);Translated by Swami Gambhirananda; Swami Bodhasarananda, Advaita Ashrama   Pg 24
12Taittiriya Upanishad; (With commentary of Shankaracharya);Translated by Swami Gambhirananda; Bodhasarananda, Advaita Ashrama  Pg 90,92-93,160,164.
13Chhandogya Upanishad  Swami Krishannanda,The divine Life Society, Sivananda Ashram,Rishikesh  Pg 121,122,223,224,227,228
14SS Shareera 4/3-Dalhana
16SS Shareera 4/3
17SS Shareera 6/15
18SS Sutra 33/5,28/20
19SS Shareera 1/13
20SS Shareera 1/17
21CS Sutra 11/3
22CS Sutra 1/42
23CS Chikitsa 1/2/3
24CS Sutra 27/3
25CS Sutra 12/8
26CS Shareera 1/70,CS Siddhi 9/5
27CS Chikitsa 3/141
28CS Indriya ½
29Aitareya Upanishad; (With commentary of Shankaracharya);Translated by Swami Gambhirananda; Swami Bodhasarananda, Advaita Ashrama    Pg 41
30CS Shareera 1/77 Dr.R.K.Sharma, Vaidya Bhagavan Dash Choukamba Sanskrit Series office 2007
31CS Sutra 29/3
32CS Vimana 5/8
33CS Siddhi 9/5
34CS Sutra 24/4
35CS Sutra 30/11
36CS Sutra 27/342,349
37CS Chikitsa 15/3-4
38CS Sutra 12/8,17/18,Siddhi 9/7
39CS Sutra 12/8( First Half)
40CS Sutra  12/8 ( Second Half)
41CS Chikitsa 28/249
42“On Breaths” manual https //
43SS Sutra 6/3
44Vishnu Purana, Geeta press Gorakhpur P 1/2/24
45SS Nidana 1/5-8
46https // https // https //
47CS Chikitsa 14/24,SS Nidana 1/11-12
48CS Sutra 26/8
49CS Sutra 25/12
50https //
51Vishnu Purana ,Geeta press Gorakhpur, Pg Nos.-267,279,186,184,176,177,175,172,11,15,25,32
52CS Sutra 30/31

Dr. Priyanka Shandilya
Dr. Priyanka Shandilya

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