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Prajnaparadha is one of the three crucial fundamental causes of diseases. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 11/43]. It means an intellectual error or defective judgment. The intellect (buddhi) is the commanding factor over all habits. It differentiates between good and bad, suitable and unsuitable things for the individual, and is a major cause of distress. The errors in taking diet, opting for wrong lifestyle, which is not suitable for one’s constitution and health are mainly caused by intellectual error or defective judgements. This leads to indulgence in a variety of causative factors resulting in occurrence as well as recurrence of the disease.

Section/Chapter/topic Health / Prajnaparadha
Authors Deole Y.S., Anagha S.
Reviewer and Editor Basisht G.
Affiliations Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.P.G.T.& R.A., Jamnagar
Correspondence email,
Publisher Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.T.R.A., Jamnagar, India
Date of first publication: March 27, 2021
DOI 10.47468/CSNE.2021.e01.s09.046

Literal meaning

In Sanskrit, ‘prajnaparadha ’ is formed by the combination of two words, ‘prajna’ (intellect) and ‘aparadha’ (offense/fault/error). The Sanskrit word prajna is derived from the word root “jna” by adding the prefix-“pra” which denotes superior knowledge or intelligence. It means judgment, distinguishing capacity, discrimination etc.[1]

The word aparadha is derived from adding the prefix “apa” (meaning badly) to the word root “radha” (meaning to accomplish). It means error, mistake, fault, sin, offense, crime etc.[2]

Thus, the term 'prajnaparadha ' means intellectual error. (SAT-J.49) This leads to indulgence in harmful activities and diseases. (SAT-C.76)[3]

Definition and importance

  • Wrong deeds done on account of the impairment of intellect, wisdom, and memory, leading to the aggravation of all dosha is collectively known as ‘intellectual error (prajnaparadha )’. [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/102]
  • Understanding the subjects in an improper way due to the impairment of intellect and also inaccurately executing this improper judgment is termed as ‘prajnaparadha ’. [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/109]
  • Any kind of the wrong action (karma) executed by body, mind or speech comes under the category of an intellectual error.[Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 11/41]

Fundamental cause of disease

It is considered as one of the three major causative factors for any kind of disease. The other two causes are the unwholesome union of the sense organs with their objects (asatmya indriyaartha samyoga), and seasonal effects (parinama).[Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 11/43], [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 20/5], [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 28/7], [Cha. Sa. Nidana Sthana 1/3]

It is a specific causative factor for exogenous (agantu) diseases.[Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 7/51]

The excessive outburst of emotions like jealousy, grief, fear, anger, egoism, hatred etc. and all other mental disorders are result of defective intellectual functioning. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 7/52]

The root cause of all kinds of epidemics is mentioned as “unrighteousness” (adharma) which is born out of intellectual error. [Cha. Sa. Vimana Sthana 3/20]

Sub-domains of intellectual defect

The three domains involved in normal functioning of intellect are dhi (intelligence), dhriti (restraint) and smriti (memory).Any error in these three faculties can lead to intellectual defect or error. The error is termed as ‘vibhramsha’ or a specific defect.

a)Defective comprehension (dhi vibhramsha)(SAT-A.196)

Intelligence (dhi) has the power of understanding or comprehension. Incorrect comprehension or knowledge occurs due to defective intelligence. The intellect judges the beneficial as non-beneficial and vice versa. If something eternal is viewed as ephemeral and something harmful as useful, and vice versa, this is indicative of the impairment of intellect. For, the normal intellect views things as they are. [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/99]

b)Defective restraint (dhriti vibramsha)(SAT-A.197)

Restraint (dhriti) is the power of retention/ resolution, stability or control over intellectual functions. The ideal control of the intellect keeps the mind and the sense organs away from harmful things. When this control is lost, the person indulges in harmful things. Addictions to alcohol, smoking, etc. are the result of this kind of error. The mind indulging in worldly enjoyments cannot be restrained from harmful objects due to the impairment of dhriti (controlling power). Dhriti that can restrain the mind (from its harmful objects). [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana1/100]

c)Defective recall or memory (smriti vibramsha)(SAT-A.198)

Remembrance of things that are directly seen, heard (scriptures) or experienced is memory. In practical life, memory reminds the person to the decision of intellect about harmful or beneficial things. If the memory is impaired due to a person being overcome by rajas and tamas, the recollection of knowledge of reality or self is impaired. This is known as the impairment of smriti. Normally smriti contains everything memorable. Thus, the person indulges in wrong or harmful things. [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/101]

Actions induced by intellectual defect

A person indulged in various wrong or harmful actions that can cause disease are as follows:

  • Forcible stimulation of natural urges and suppression of the manifested ones
  • Exhibition of undue strength, working beyond one’s capacity
  • Over indulgence in sexual acts
  • Negligence of the suitable time and method of administering of treatment (i.e. non utilization, excessive utilization, and impaired utilization of therapies)
  • Initiation of action in improper time
  • Loss of modesty and good conduct
  • Disrespecting those that deserve respect
  • Indulgence in harmful objects
  • Resorting to the factors that are responsible for the causation of madness
  • Walking and travelling at improper time and places
  • Friendship with persons of bad character
  • Harbouring malice, vanity, fear, anger, greed, ignorance, intoxication and bewilderment or
  • Bad actions arising out of any of them, and/or
  • Physical evil acts arising out of rajas and tamas constitute prajnaparadha.[Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/102-108]

The intellectual defect leads to impairment of mind, sense organs. [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/109] Thus it is a major cause of psychiatric and cognitive disorders.

Contemporary views

According to contemporary views, cognitive distortions are negatively biased errors in thinking which increase the vulnerability to various mental disorders like depression.[4]

These include the following[5]

  • mindreading (the process of assuming that all other people think negatively about myself)
  • catastrophizing (the process of forming negative predictions of upcoming events)
  • all-or-nothing-thinking (perceiving something as either-or, without considering the other possibilities)
  • emotional reasoning (giving more importance to emotional responses rather than objective evidence)
  • labelling (considering oneself negatively forever based on a single adverse event)
  • mental filtering (avoiding all the positive information and focusing only on negative information)
  • overgeneralization (predicting that the occurrence of one negative event will result in additional bad events related to it)
  • personalization (assuming oneself as the cause of a negative event)
  • should statements (the obstinate attitude that something should be taken place only in a certain way)
  • Minimizing or disqualifying the positive (ignoring the positive events that have happened).

Cognitive errors may occur with different frequencies across social and achievement domains, particularly depending on the content of an individual’s core beliefs.[6]

Three types of indulgence

There are three types of indulgence in all activities due to intellectual defect.

a) Excessive functioning (atiyoga): Any activity that is done beyond a desirable limit.

b) Inadequate functioning (ayoga) : Any activity that is done not up to the desirable level.

c) Improper functioning (mithyayoga): Any activity that is done in a way other than the wholesome/ recommended manner.

Three types of actions

The three types of activities are assessed for intellectual defect as follows:

a) Physical (kayika) actions: related to physical activity

b) Verbal (vachika): related to speech

c) Mental (manasika): related to thoughts

Importance in diagnosis

Intellectual error (prajnaparadha) is mentioned as the main causative factor for psychosis (unmada).[Cha. Sa. Nidana Sthana 7/10]

The intellectual errors or defects can be diagnosed by observation, interrogation, careful history taking, and follow-up of the patient. Good memory (smriti) is one of the qualities of patient required for successful management of the disease. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 9/21].

If the memory is impaired as in intellectual defects, it can adversely influence the effect of therapy.

The intellectual error of physician

Misdiagnosis or mismanagement of disease can occur due to the intellectual error of a physician. This can lead to iatrogenic errors. To know the prognosis of a disease condition, signs of good and bad prognosis are observed. An ignorant physician may sometimes wrongly perceive some symptoms as fatal signs (arishta lakshana) and sometimes he may not even recognize the evident fatal signs (arishta lakshana) in the patient and act accordingly. All these are the result of intellectual errors. [Cha. Sa. Indriya Sthana 2/6]

Cognitive errors are considered as one of the diagnostic errors which is an important concern regarding patient safety. They are mainly associated with failures in perception, failed heuristics, and biases. These are collectively known as cognitive dispositions to respond (CDRs).[7]

Importance in management of disease

Intellectual errors (prajnaparadha) can provoke all dosha in the body. It is crucial to remove the intellectual errors in disease management and regaining health. In the management of psychological defects (manasa dosha), measures promoting knowledge of self (jnana), scientific knowledge (vijnana), restraint (dhairya), memory (smriti), and concentration (samadhi) are advised. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 1/58]

Among the three treatment modalities, psychotherapy (sattwavajaya) is mentioned as the withdrawal of the mind from harmful objects. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 11/54].

Importance in the preservation of health and prevention

All the mental disorders and emotions like jealousy, grief, fear, anger, egoism, hatred, etc. are born out of error in intellect. So, avoidance of such emotions, control over sense and motor organs, improving the memory power, maintain the specific orientation of place, time, and one’s own self, and following the regimen of good conduct are guidelines to prevent exogenous as well as psychological disorders. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 7/ 53]

The practice of Yoga and meditation is helpful for maintaining the different domains of intellect in their proper functioning.

Current researches

  • In an observational study on 108 patients, it was found that the variety of external, occupational, social and familial factors play significant role in the pathology of premature ageing by disturbing the overall psychological status. The factors are influenced by intellectual errors (prajnaparadha). The link of mind-body relation with reference to contemporary concept of psycho-neuro endocrinology is established. [8]
  • In a research, cellular processes such as inflammation, proliferation or death, and oxidative stress have been shown in murine models resembling cognitive impairment in humans. This leads to changes in behaviour, memory loss, inability for decision-making, and attention-related problems.[9]
  • Recent studies provide evidences showing the influence of yoga practices in improving cognitive functions.[10]
  • A randomized clinical trial conducted in 30 patients of major depression showed additional improvement in cognitive functions in patients who practiced yoga and meditation in combination with conventional antidepressant medication. Additional improvement was observed in manipulation of information in the verbal working memory, attention span as well as visuo-motor speed of the depressives.[11]

More information

Related Chapters

Naveganadharaniya Adhyaya, Unmada Nidana, Katidhapurusha Sharira, Manas, Buddhi, Unmada Chikitsa


SAT = Standard Ayurveda Terminology, Cha. = Charak, Su. = Sushruta, Sa. = Samhita, A. = Ashtanga, Hr. = Hridaya,

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