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Sattvāvajaya, Psychology, and Ritual Possession in India

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<em>Caraka Sahitā</em> states that <em>Sattvāvajaya</em> is one of the three primary categories of <em>cikitsā</em> or treatment (cf. <em>Car. Sūtrasthāna</em> 11.54, <em>Car. Vimānasthāna</em> 8.87; also <em>Astāngasagraha-sūtrasthāna</em> 12.3). This term has never been adequately explained, in spite of reasonable definitions in these texts. The other two categories of <em>cikitsā</em>, namely <em>yuktivyapāśraya-cikitsā</em>, rational therapy, and <em>daivavyapāśraya-cikitsā</em>, spiritual therapy involving mantra recitation, fire ritual, and other explicit religious practices, have been explored at great length. <em>Caraka</em> (<em>Sūtrasthāna</em>) 11.54 defines <em>Sattvāvajaya</em> as “the repeated restraining of the mind from harmful objects“ (<em>sattvāvajaya punar ahitebhyo 'rthebhyo manonigraha</em>). What does this mean? Although I mentioned this in my 2006 book (<em>The Self Possessed: Deity and Spirit Possession in South Asian Literature and Civilization</em>), I also avoided this term as best I could. Now, after rethinking it, I believe I can determine its meaning. Because the Sanskrit commentaries are all but silent on this topic, I have been forced to resolve this only with the help of examination of recent and contemporary practice of spirit healing in India. In this paper, I will provide a textual analysis of this elusive term and provide supporting evidence from modern healing sites, particularly the increasingly well-known temple in Rajasthan called Balaji.

Affiliations: 1: University of Iowa


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