Friday, 30 December 2011

The Chárváka System

Mádhava Áchárya 

[Madhavacharya was a minister of the Vijayanagara empire. He later became the 12th Jagadguru of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham from 1380 to 1386CE. He is the author of Sarva-darśana-saṃgraha, a compendium of Indian Philosopy, which discusses sixteen philosophical views. The Carvaka System (reproduced below) forms the first chapter. Sarva-darśana-saṃgraha was translated into English by Edward Byles Cowell and Archibald Edward Gough and was published at intervals in the periodical Pandit between 1874 and 1878. It appeared in book form in 1904. The entire book is available online at the Project Guttenberg]

The Prologue

1. I worship Śiva, the abode of eternal knowledge, the storehouse of supreme felicity; by whom the earth and the rest were produced, in him only has this all a maker.
2. Daily I follow my Guru Sarvajña-Vishṇu, who knows all the Ágamas, the son of Śárṅgapáṇi, who has gone to the further shore of the seas of all the systems, and has contented the hearts of all mankind by the proper meaning of the term Soul.
3. The synopsis of all the systems is made by the venerable Mádhava mighty in power, the Kaustubha-jewel of the milk-ocean of the fortunate Sáyaṇa.
4. Having thoroughly searched the Śástras of former teachers, very hard to be crossed, the fortunate Sáyaṇa-Mádhava1 the lord has expounded them for the delight of the good. Let the virtuous listen with a mind from which all envy has been far banished; who finds not delight in a garland strung of various flowers?

Chapter I

The Chárváka System

[We have said in our preliminary invocation "salutation to Śiva, the abode of eternal knowledge, the storehouse of supreme felicity,"] but how can we attribute to the Divine Being the giving of supreme felicity, when such a notion has been utterly abolished by Chárváka, the crest-gem of the atheistical school, the follower of the doctrine of Bṛihaspati? The efforts of Chárváka are indeed hard to be eradicated, for the majority of living beings hold by the current refrain—

While life is yours, live joyously; None can escape Death's searching eye: When once this frame of ours they burn, How shall it e'er again return?
The mass of men, in accordance with the Śástras of policy and enjoyment, considering wealth and desire the only ends of man, and denying the existence of any object belonging to a future world, are found to follow only the doctrine of Chárváka. Hence another name for that school is Lokáyata,—a name well accordant with the thing signified.2

In this school the four elements, earth, &c., are the [3]original principles; from these alone, when transformed into the body, intelligence is produced, just as the inebriating power is developed from the mixing of certain ingredients;3 and when these are destroyed, intelligence at once perishes also. They quote the Śruti for this [Bṛihad Áraṇy. Up. ii. 4, 12], "Springing forth from these elements, itself solid knowledge, it is destroyed when they are destroyed,—after death no intelligence remains."4 Therefore the soul is only the body distinguished by the attribute of intelligence, since there is no evidence for any soul distinct from the body, as such cannot be proved, since this school holds that perception is the only source of knowledge and does not allow inference, &c.

The only end of man is enjoyment produced by sensual pleasures. Nor may you say that such cannot be called the end of man as they are always mixed with some kind of pain, because it is our wisdom to enjoy the pure pleasure as far as we can, and to avoid the pain which inevitably accompanies it; just as the man who desires fish takes the fish with their scales and bones, and having taken as many as he wants, desists; or just as the man who desires rice, takes the rice, straw and all, and having taken as much as he wants, desists. It is not therefore for us, through a fear of pain, to reject the pleasure which our nature instinctively recognises as congenial. Men do not refrain from sowing rice, because forsooth there are wild animals to devour it; nor do they refuse to set the cooking-pots on the fire, because forsooth there are beggars to pester us for a share of the contents. If any one were so timid as to forsake a visible pleasure, he would indeed be foolish like a beast, as has been said by the poet—

The pleasure which arises to men from contact with sensible objects, Is to be relinquished as accompanied by pain,—such is the reasoning of fools; The berries of paddy, rich with the finest white grains, What man, seeking his true interest, would fling away because covered with husk and dust?5
If you object that, if there be no such thing as happiness in a future world, then how should men of experienced wisdom engage in the agnihotra and other sacrifices, which can only be performed with great expenditure of money and bodily fatigue, your objection cannot be accepted as any proof to the contrary, since the agnihotra, &c., are only useful as means of livelihood, for the Veda is tainted by the three faults of untruth, self-contradiction, and tautology;6 then again the impostors who call themselves Vaidic pundits are mutually destructive, as the authority of the jñána-káṇḍa is overthrown by those who maintain that of the karma-káṇḍa, while those who maintain the authority of the jñána-káṇḍa reject that of the karma-káṇḍa; and lastly, the three Vedas themselves are only the incoherent rhapsodies of knaves, and to this effect runs the popular saying—

The Agnihotra, the three Vedas, the ascetic's three staves, and smearing oneself with ashes,—

Bṛihaspati says, these are but means of livelihood for those who have no manliness nor sense.

Hence it follows that there is no other hell than mundane pain produced by purely mundane causes, as thorns, &c.; the only Supreme is the earthly monarch whose existence is proved by all the world's eyesight; and the only Liberation is the dissolution of the body. By holding the doctrine that the soul is identical with the body, such phrases as "I am thin," "I am black," &c., are at once intelligible, as the attributes of thinness, &c., and self-consciousness will reside in the same subject [the body]; like and the use of the phrase "my body" is metaphorical "the head of Ráhu" [Ráhu being really all head].

All this has been thus summed up—

In this school there are four elements, earth, water, fire, and air; And from these four elements alone is intelligence produced,— Just like the intoxicating power from kiṇwa, &c., mixed together; Since in "I am fat," "I am lean," these attributes7 abide in the same subject, And since fatness, &c., reside only in the body,8 it alone is the soul and no other, And such phrases as "my body" are only significant metaphorically.
"Be it so," says the opponent; "your wish would be gained if inference, &c., had no force of proof; but then they have this force; else, if they had not, then how, on perceiving smoke, should the thoughts of the intelligent immediately proceed to fire; or why, on hearing another say, 'There are fruits on the bank of the river,' do those who desire fruit proceed at once to the shore?"

All this, however, is only the inflation of the world of fancy.

Those who maintain the authority of inference accept the sign or middle term as the causer of knowledge, which middle term must be found in the minor and be itself invariably connected with the major.9 Now this invariable connection must be a relation destitute of any condition accepted or disputed;10 and this connection does not possess its power of causing inference by virtue of its existence, as the eye, &c., are the cause of perception, but by virtue of its being known. What then is the means of this connection's being known?

We will first show that it is not perception. Now perception is held to be of two kinds, external and internal [i.e., as produced by the external senses, or by the inner sense, mind]. The former is not the required means; for although it is possible that the actual contact of the senses and the object will produce the knowledge of the particular object thus brought in contact, yet as there can never be such contact in the case of the past or the future, the universal proposition11 which was to embrace the invariable connection of the middle and major terms in every case becomes impossible to be known. Nor may you maintain that this knowledge of the universal proposition has the general class as its object, because if so, there might arise a doubt as to the existence of the invariable connection in this particular case12 [as, for instance, in this particular smoke as implying fire].

Nor is internal perception the means, since you cannot establish that the mind has any power to act independently towards an external object, since all allow that it is dependent on the external senses, as has been said by one of the logicians, "The eye, &c., have their objects as described; but mind externally is dependent on the others."

Nor can inference be the means of the knowledge of the universal proposition, since in the case of this inference we should also require another inference to establish it, and so on, and hence would arise the fallacy of an ad infinitum retrogression.

Nor can testimony be the means thereof, since we may either allege in reply, in accordance with the Vaiśeshika doctrine of Kaṇáda, that this is included in the topic of inference; or else we may hold that this fresh proof of testimony is unable to leap over the old barrier that stopped the progress of inference, since it depends itself on the recognition of a sign in the form of the language used in the child's presence by the old man;13 and, moreover, there is no more reason for our believing on another's word that smoke and fire are invariably connected, than for our receiving the ipse dixit of Manu, &c. [which, of course, we Chárvákas reject].

And again, if testimony were to be accepted as the only means of the knowledge of the universal proposition, then in the case of a man to whom the fact of the invariable connection between the middle and major terms had not been pointed out by another person, there could be no inference of one thing [as fire] on seeing another thing [as smoke]; hence, on your own showing, the whole topic of inference for oneself14 would have to end in mere idle words.

Then again comparison,15 &c., must be utterly rejected as the means of the knowledge of the universal proposition, since it is impossible that they can produce the knowledge of the unconditioned connection [i.e., the universal proposition], because their end is to produce the knowledge of quite another connection, viz., the relation of a name to something so named.

Again, this same absence of a condition,16 which has been given as the definition of an invariable connection [i.e., a universal proposition], can itself never be known; since it is impossible to establish that all conditions must be objects of perception; and therefore, although the absence of perceptible things may be itself perceptible, the absence of non-perceptible things must be itself non-perceptible; and thus, since we must here too have recourse to inference, &c., we cannot leap over the obstacle which has already been planted to bar them. Again, we must accept as the definition of the condition, "it is that which is reciprocal or equipollent in extension17 with the major term though not constantly accompanying the middle." These three distinguishing clauses, "not constantly accompanying the middle term," "constantly accompanying the major term," and "being constantly accompanied by it" [i.e., reciprocal], are needed in the full definition to stop respectively three such fallacious conditions, in the argument to prove the non-eternity of sound, as "being produced," "the nature of a jar," and "the not causing audition;"18 wherefore the definition holds,—and again it is established by the śloka of the great Doctor beginning samásama.19

But since the knowledge of the condition must here precede the knowledge of the condition's absence, it is only when there is the knowledge of the condition, that the knowledge of the universality of the proposition is possible, i.e., a knowledge in the form of such a connection between the middle term and major term as is distinguished by the absence of any such condition; and on the other hand, the knowledge of the condition depends upon the knowledge of the invariable connection. Thus we fasten on our opponents as with adamantine glue the thunderbolt-like fallacy of reasoning in a circle. Hence by the impossibility of knowing the universality of a proposition it becomes impossible to establish inference, &c.20

The step which the mind takes from the knowledge of smoke, &c., to the knowledge of fire, &c., can be accounted for by its being based on a former perception or by its being an error; and that in some cases this step is justified by the result, is accidental just like the coincidence of effects observed in the employment of gems, charms, drugs, &c.

From this it follows that fate, &c.,21 do not exist, since these can only be proved by inference. But an opponent will say, if you thus do not allow adṛishṭa, the various phenomena of the world become destitute of any cause.

But we cannot accept this objection as valid, since these phenomena can all be produced spontaneously from the inherent nature of things. Thus it has been said—

The fire is hot, the water cold, refreshing cool the breeze of morn; By whom came this variety? from their own nature was it born.
And all this has been also said by Bṛihaspati—

There is no heaven, no final liberation, nor any soul in another world,  
Nor do the actions of the four castes, orders, &c., produce any real effect.  
The Agnihotra, the three Vedas, the ascetic's three staves, and smearing one's self with ashes,  
Were made by Nature as the livelihood of those destitute of knowledge and manliness.
If a beast slain in the Jyotishṭoma rite will itself go to heaven,  
Why then does not the sacrificer forthwith offer his own father?22
If the Śráddha produces gratification to beings who are dead,
Then here, too, in the case of travellers when they start, it is needless to give provisions for the journey.
If beings in heaven are gratified by our offering the Śráddha here,
Then why not give the food down below to those who are standing on the housetop?  
While life remains let a man live happily, let him feed on ghee even though he runs in debt;  
When once the body becomes ashes, how can it ever return again?  
If he who departs from the body goes to another world,  
How is it that he comes not back again, restless for love of his kindred?
Hence it is only as a means of livelihood that Brahmans have established here  
All these ceremonies for the dead,—there is no other fruit anywhere.  
The three authors of the Vedas were buffoons, knaves, and demons.  
All the well-known formulæ of the pandits, jarpharí, turpharí, &c.23  
And all the obscene rites for the queen commanded in the Aśwamedha,  
These were invented by buffoons, and so all the various kinds of presents to the priests,24  
While the eating of flesh was similarly commanded by night-prowling demons.

Hence in kindness to the mass of living beings must we fly for refuge to the doctrine of Chárváka. Such is the pleasant consummation.


1 Dr. A. C. Burnell, in his preface to his edition of the Vaṃśa-Bráhmaṇa, has solved the riddle of the relation of Mádhava and Sáyaṇa. Sáyaṇa is a pure Draviḍian name given to a child who is born after all the elder children have died. Mádhava elsewhere calls Sáyaṇa his "younger brother," as an allegorical description of his body, himself being the eternal soul. His use of the term Sáyaṇa-Mádhavaḥ here (not the dual) seems to prove that the two names represent the same person. The body seems meant by the Sáyaṇa of the third śloka. Máyaṇa was the father of Mádhava, and the true reading may be śríman-máyaṇa.

2 "Śaṅkara, Bháskara, and other commentators name the Lokáyatikas, and these appear to be a branch of the Sect of Chárváka" (Colebrooke). Lokáyata may be etymologically analysed as "prevalent in the world" (loka and áyata). Laukáyatika occurs in Páṇini's ukthagaṇa.

Kiṇwa is explained as "drug or seed used to produce fermentation in the manufacture of spirits from sugar, bassia, &c." Colebrooke quotes from Śaṅkara: "The faculty of thought results from a modification of the aggregate elements in like manner as sugar with a ferment and other ingredients becomes an inebriating liquor; and as betel, areca, lime, and extract of catechu chewed together have an exhilarating property not found in those substances severally."

4 Of course Śaṅkara, in his commentary, gives a very different interpretation, applying it to the cessation of individual existence when the knowledge of the Supreme is once attained. Cf. Śabara's Comm. Jaimini Sút., i. i. 5.

5 I take kaṇa as here equal to the Bengali kunṛ. Cf. Atharva-V., xi. 3, 5. Aśváḥ kaṇá gávas taṇḍulá maśakás tusháḥ.

6 See Nyáya Sútras, ii. 57.

7 I.e., personality and fatness, &c.

8 I read dehe for dehaḥ.

Literally, "must be an attribute of the subject and have invariable concomitance (vyápti)."

10 For the sandigdha and niśchita upádhi see Siddhánta Muktávali, p. 125. The former is accepted only by one party.

11 Literally, the knowledge of the invariable concomitance (as of smoke by fire).

12 The attributes of the class are not always found in every member,—thus idiots are men, though man is a rational animal; and again, this particular smoke might be a sign of a fire in some other place.

13 See Sáhitya Darpaṇa (Ballantyne's trans. p. 16), and Siddhánta-M., p. 80.

14 The properly logical, as distinguished from the rhetorical, argument.

15 "Upamána or the knowledge of a similarity is the instrument in the production of an inference from similarity. This particular inference consists in the knowledge of the relation of a name to something so named." Ballantyne's Tarka Sangraha.

16 The upádhi is the condition which must be supplied to restrict a too general middle term, as in the inference "the mountain has smoke because it has fire," if we add wet fuel as the condition of the fire, the middle term will be no longer too general. In the case of a true vyápti, there is, of course, no upádhi.

17 'Αντιστρἑφει (Pr. Anal., ii. 25). We have here our A with distributed predicate.

18 If we omitted the first clause, and only made the upádhi "that which constantly accompanies the major term and is constantly accompanied by it," then in the Naiyáyika argument "sound is non-eternal, because it has the nature of sound," "being produced" would serve as a Mímáṃsaka upádhi, to establish the vyabhichára fallacy, as it is reciprocal with "non-eternal;" but the omitted clause excludes it, as an upádhi must be consistent with either party's opinions, and, of course, the Naiyáyika maintains that "being produced" always accompanies the class of sound. Similarly, if we defined the upádhi as "not constantly accompanying the middle term and constantly accompanied by the major," we might have as an upádhi "the nature of a jar," as this is never found with the middle term (the class or nature of sound only residing in sound, and that of a jar only in a jar), while, at the same time, wherever the class of jar is found there is also found non-eternity. Lastly, if we defined the upádhi as "not constantly accompanying the middle term, and constantly accompanying the major," we might have as a Mímáṃsaka upádhi "the not causing audition," i.e., the not being apprehended by the organs of hearing; but this is excluded, as non-eternity is not always found where this is, ether being inaudible and yet eternal.

19 This refers to an obscure śloka of Udayanáchárya, "where a reciprocal and a non-reciprocal universal connection (i.e., universal propositions which severally do and do not distribute their predicates) relate to the same argument (as e.g., to prove the existence of smoke), there that non-reciprocating term of the second will be a fallacious middle, which is not invariably accompanied by the other reciprocal of the first." Thus "the mountain has smoke because it has fire" (here fire and smoke are non-reciprocating, as fire is not found invariably accompanied by smoke though smoke is by fire), or "because it has fire from wet fuel" (smoke and fire from wet fuel being reciprocal and always accompanying each other); the non-reciprocating term of the former (fire) will give a fallacious inference, because it is also, of course, not invariably accompanied by the special kind of fire, that produced from wet fuel. But this will not be the case where the non-reciprocating term is thus invariably accompanied by the other reciprocal, as "the mountain has fire because it has smoke;" here, though fire and smoke do not reciprocate, yet smoke will be a true middle, because it is invariably accompanied by heat, which is the reciprocal of fire. I wish to add here, once for all, that I own my explanation of this, as well as many another, difficulty in the Sarva-darśana-śaṅgraha to my old friend and teacher, Paṇḍit Maheśa Chandra Nyáyaratna, of the Calcutta Sanskrit College.

20 Cf. Sextus Empiricus, P. Hyp. ii. In the chapter on the Buddhist system infra, we have an attempt to establish the authority of the universal proposition from the relation of cause and effect or genus and species.

21 Adṛishṭa, i.e., the merit and demerit in our actions which produce their effects in future births.

22 This is an old Buddhist retort. See Burnouf, Introd., p. 209.

23  Rig-Veda, x. 106. For the Aśwamedha rites, see Wilson's Rig-Veda, Preface, vol. ii. p. xiii.

24 Or this may mean "and all the various other things to be handled in the rites."


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