Should Charaka Shapath Replace Hippocratic Oath for Doctors?

February 22, 2022

Physicians, of all men, are most happy: Whatever good success they have, the world proclaimeth and what fault they commit, the earth covereth.” – Francis Quarles (1592-1644), English poet.

Against such cynical approach to medicine and healing in today’s world, Hypocrates of Greece (BC450- 370) gave the world what has come down as Hyppocratic Oath which doctors take at their commencement of practice and are supposed to live by through their professional career.

An English version of the oath.

“I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.

I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help”.

(This English version of the Hippocratic Oath was written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University).

The Hippocratic Oath is an oath of ethics historically taken by physicians. It is one of the most widely known of Greek medical texts. In its original form, it requires a new physician to swear by a number of healing gods to uphold specific ethical standards.

Physicians (doctors) all over the world, including India, swear by this oath at the commencement of their practice and at formal functions of the profession.

That brings me to an Indian language saying: “A Carpenter without any job was shaping his offspring’s buttocks.” Whether he was in his idle time working to produce another baby is a matter for guessing – but well confirmed by the population explosion in India. But, some in India, including doctors, are pampered by the state not to work on their profession but think of advancing the profession on the whole. The body of such thinkers have now proposed to shift from the historic Hypocratic Oath (western medicine) to Charak Shapath(Ayurveda) for the Indian fraternity of physicians. What is this Shapath and who want it to be substituted in the place of the traditional Hippocratic Oath?

In a discussion meeting with the authorities of all medical colleges in India, the National Medical Commission of India presented a proposal to replace the Hippocratic Oath with the "Maharshi Charaka Shapath" while conducting the white coat ceremony with parents in medical colleges. However, several medical practitioners individually and collectively as also the media have protested against the proposal.

Here are some excerpts from Charaka Shapath which runs into several pages – but you get the trend.

The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Your response is invited in the format given below. (Pl.stroll down a bit).


Also read:





By John B Monteiro
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Comment on this article

  • Prabhu, SK/Canada

    Wed, Feb 23 2022

    Rudolf Rodrigues, Mumbai: Yes, you are right! Taking the oath is just a formality. Adhering to it in principle and practice is very very rare . In India, it is a reflection on the behaviour of the society itself. So also in most societies. In N.America where I reside now, the president of US and many of his followers have taken oaths to the Constitution and then lied every minutes of the day or night! It is sad!

  • Veer, Mangalore

    Wed, Feb 23 2022

    At present in india our govt doesn’t follow the constitutional oath then hippocratic oath is far cry, in fact it’s Hypocratic oath malpractice in india. No surprise.

  • francis lobo, Mangalore

    Wed, Feb 23 2022

    Any oath you take is it going to improve in your profession ?. I took an oath when I graduated as Engineer (that also I think Hippocratcic), but I don't remember a word of it. Can any medical practitioner or an engineer be persecuted based on the oath he has taken, then only an oath is worth it. We have seen people taking oaths for a safe environment and then littering all around. Our Politicians taken oath on the Constitution and speak against it. This is almost a Hippocracy and that is why it is called maybe " Hippocratic Oath". But your second oath reminded me of the Taliban version where it says a woman should be accompanied by a male partner, you should not commit adultery, etc., etc... The highlight of this new oath is King is always supreme and if your patient does not respect him you should not give medical treatment to him. This is what we call nowadays sedition or UAPA. So the doctor who has taken such an oath can be a UAPA case. I hope a" New India" poem of Rabindranath Tagore should be the right oath anybody can take for any profession if at all it is required

  • Mangalurian, Mangaluru

    Wed, Feb 23 2022

    Thank you Mr Monteiro. The Hippocratic Oath is 2,300 years old. The other pretension would have been a 20th century innovation. Whatever the West has, someone tries to copy it here and give it some fancy name.

  • Rudolf Rodrigues, Mumbai

    Tue, Feb 22 2022

    Sir with due respect to your writeup, whichever oath you take the ultimate aim is to make fast money and own all the fancy things to show off to the world! You might have read in recent times how high level people have sold their conscience and ethics and stooped to the lowest levels in front of money, very recent example is of the NSE CEO! IMHO, oaths are just a formality!

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