mana in heart or head?

Dominik Wujastyk ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK
Wed Apr 8 11:13:55 UTC 2009

I am not aware of any tantrik descriptions of dissection at all, and would 
be very interested to see chapter and verse.  My guess is that DC (whose 
work I value) was either wrong, or thinking of Bhela, or exaggerating.

There is a subsidiary, but important point here.  "Dissection" refers 
specifically to the medico-surgical exploration of the body for the goals 
of medicine or forensic science.  It doesn't mean just cutting up a body, 
or cutting up a body for ritual or other purposes.  I made this point in 
more detail in my paper:
  Wujastyk,D. (2002). "Interpreter l'image du corps humain dans
  l'inde pre-moderne," in Bouillier,V., Tarabout,G. (ed.) Images du corps
  dans le monde Hindou. Paris: CNRS Editions, 71-99.

As we all now know, following the perception and art-historical 
discoveries of the late 20th century, what you see is determined by what 
you know and what you expect to see.  Thus, cutting a body for ritual 
purposes, one finds 33 parts, because there are 33 participants who each 
need to be given an part.  This is not dissection.

Finally, discourse on the brain in ancient Indian texts, including medical 
texts, is extremely limited.  It's function was certainly *not* known, and 
it was viewed as some sort of fatty tissue (vasā(-chaṭā)).

Nobody has explored this adequately to my knowledge, but it is my belief 
that such remarks as exist about the brain (mastiṣka, mastuluṅga), 
including the tantric (but non-āyurvedic) concept of semen storage in the 
brain, are likely to have originated in China, and come to India probably 
through communications from Buddhist monks.  (However, these ideas also 
occur in the Timaeus, so that has to be taken into consideration.)  The 
idea of brain-semen is present in nascent but clear form in the medical 
manuscripts from tomb 3 of the Mawangdui burials of 168 BC (Don Harper, 
Early Chinese Medical Literature, 1998), and can be traced in later 
Chinese literature from that time.  This is many centuries earlier than 
the occurrence of the ideas in India.


Dr Dominik Wujastyk

long term email address: wujastyk at

On Wed, 8 Apr 2009, Dipak Bhattacharya wrote:

> It is very difficult to remember the exact details but at least this 
> much can be said with certainty that the late Debiprasad 
> Chattopadhyay had pointed out in the Lokayata Darshan (Beng.Calcutta 
> 1956) or in its English version Lokayata:A Study in Indian materialism 
> (Calcutta,1959), perhaps in both, that Tantrikas who desected human 
> bodies held that the location the mind was in the skull. In fact their 
> discovery was that the brain is responsible for thought. I read the 
> books in the sixties. DB
> --- On Wed, 8/4/09, Dominik Wujastyk <ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK> wrote:
> From: Dominik Wujastyk <ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK>
> Subject: Re: mana in heart or head?
> Date: Wednesday, 8 April, 2009, 2:33 PM
> Hi, Peter,
> The Bhelasamhita is unique in being an ancient Skt text that locates mind,
> manas, in the head (between the palate and the skull).  References in
> Bhelasamhita ch.8, e.g.,
> śirastālvantaragataṃ sarvendriyaparaṃ manaḥ 2cd
> and
> ūrdhvaṃ prakupitā doṣāḥ śirastālvantare sthitāḥ 10ab
> Best,
> Dominik

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