Reckoning up the body : logics of enumeration and arrangement in Buddhist and Āyurvedic inventories of anatomy



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Indian accounts of anatomy from the early centuries of the Common Era display a shared desire to enumerate the parts of the human body. Two such accounts occur in the foundational texts of āyurveda --- the Caraka-saṃhitā and Suśruta-saṃhitā --- and another in the Buddhist commentarial text, the Visuddhimagga. Scholars have mined these medical sources in particular to determine the extent and accuracy of anatomical knowledge in ancient India. But little has been done to understand the logics that these sources apply in dismembering, enumerating, and rearranging the body. A close reading reveals three distinct ways by which the materiality of the body could be interpreted in ancient India to conform to broader ideologies and epistemologies. Moreover, through examining both āyurvedic and Buddhist sources, it soon becomes clear that generalizations like "religion" and "medicine" mask the constellation of complex and often-overlapping concerns present in these various studies of anatomy.