Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Materialism of the Samkhya Philosophy

V. Brodov

The founder of the Samkhya1 philosophical system and the author of the Samkhya-sutra was, as is generally believed, Kapila (c. 6th-5th centuries B. C.). The Samkhya-sutra was lost, so that we have to use later sources - Isvarakrishna Samkhya Karika (3rd-4th centuries C. E.), Vacaspati Misra's Samkhya Tattva Kaumudi (9th century), and others.

Kapila's primary principle is that the world is material. Matter (prakrti) is the basis of every­thing that is, it is omnipresent, eternal, and one. The motion of prakrti is just as eternal as prakrti itself. Primordially, prakrti has no outside cause, for matter (prakrti) has neither beginning nor end. Kapila wrote that the world was not created, and therefore there was no creator; the world itself was the cause of the world; the world developed gradually.

Kapila recognised the objective nature of the cause-and-effect links in nature, self-development of nature from the lower forms to the higher. The first sloka of the Samkhya-Karika says that there is continuity in the development of the world from the lower to the higher... Nothing can arise out of something that does not exist... There is a close tie between cause and effect. If that were not so, everywhere at any moment anything at all could arise. Each cause conditions a specific effect, and there can be no cause without an effect. The effect is always inseparable from the cause. Therefore any existence is conditioned.

Kapila used the materialist doctrine of the cause-and-effect links to substantiate his atheism and to criticise the religion of Brahmanism. He wrote that, if the first cause is God (Brahma) and the world is the effect, there is a discrepancy between cause and effect. There can be, however, no discrepancy between cause and effect. The cause of this world is matter (prakrti). The universe is the result of modifications of matter.

As we see, Kapila uses the category of causality from the very start in the exposition of his philosophical views. That is not accidental. The point is that the positions of Samkhya on causality were the decisive premise which deter­mined its philosophical orientation. In criticising Machism, Lenin pointed out: "The question of causality is particularly important in determining the philosophical line of any of the recent 'isms' ".2 As we see it, this idea of Lenin's is entirely valid, methodologically, relative to some of the oldest "isms".

According to the Samkhya doctrine, everything (any phenomenon) has its material cause. All relations between cause and effect are conceived in the sense that the latter is always present in the former.3 The following are the Samkhya arguments in favour of this.

There are two kinds of causes, material (in which the effect is latent) and efficient or pro­ductive (which helps the effect to manifest itself). If we accept, however, that the material cause does not contain the effect, the concept of "productive cause" loses its meaning, for it has no object of action.

Assuming that an effect arises out of a cause in which it is not contained is tantamount to asserting that existence arises out of nonexistence, or some­thing emerges out of nothing.

An effect must be of the same nature as the cause; they have the same basis. A cloth may only be made out of yarn (not out of milk); curds may be made out of milk (rather than out of yarn), etc.

The theory that the effect exists before it manifests itself is called Satkarya- vada.4

Thus Samkhya asserts that there are no effects without causes. Everything in nature has a cause of its own, including body and soul, sensations and intellect, which are "limited and dependent ob­jects".

Only "the cause of all causes and effects", that is, prakrti (matter), has no cause. " ... The products are caused, while prakrti is uncaused; the products are dependent, while prakrti is independent; the products are many in number, limited in space and time, while prakrti is one, all-pervading and eternal."5

According to the Samkhya doctrine, prakrti consists of three forces or gunas - sativa, rajas, and tamas. Sativa is regarded as something light and illuminating; rajas, motivating and mobile; tamas, heavy and restraining. Analysis of the Samkhya Karika shows that in effect sativa IS potential consciousness; rajas, the source of motion, action, and development; tamas is that which re­strains action and slows down development. These three gunas, constituting the basis of any object or phenomenon, are inseparably connected and mutually condition one another. They are connected as closely as flame, oil, and lamp wick.

The gunas are a kind of primary principles - ­mass (tamas), energy (rajas), and. the conscious principle (sativa).6 Everything in nature is charged, as it were, with these three principles. The interaction between them consists in that energy cannot exist without mass, while conscious phenomena do not exist without energy. How does an object or phenomenon emerge or is shaped, then? The process begins with individual particles of the three forces, indifferently scattered through primary matter, being gathered together into who~es under the impact of natural affinity; this results in non-uniform pressure in various parts of matter, so that bodies distinct from one another are gradually formed instead of uniform indifferent matter.

The emergence or formation of some object or phenomenon does not signify creation of matter, In the same way as the disappearance of an individual object or phenomenon does not mean destruction of matter. In the process of evolution, nature does not increase or diminish quantitatively. Matter cannot be either created or destroyed. The sum total of all matter - of all its actual or potential states - always remains constant. The elements of matter are in eternal motion which cannot stop for a second even; any material process, any growth or withering away is nothing but redistribution of matter, its transition from the past into the present and from the present into the future, or from potentiality to actuality. Redistribu­tion of mass and energy engenders the entire diversity of the material world, the world of plants and animals.

The idea that matter (mass and energy) does not grow or diminish quantitatively but is merely redistributed in the process of emergence and destruction of individual objects and phenomena of nature, can be regarded as one of the strokes of genius of ancient Indian thinkers who anticipated later discoveries. In a most general form, this can be viewed as a distinct expression of the idea of the Law of conservation of the mass of substance as it is known to modern natural science. It should be stressed at the same time that anticipation as one of the forms of perception of scientific truth was characteristic of many outstand­ing thinkers of antiquity. As Engels put it, thinkers of the past brilliantly anticipated countless numbers of truths whose correctness is now proved scientifically.

Matter and the laws of its evolutionary de­velopment are knowable. The ways or channels through which man receives knowledge of the objects and phenomena surrounding him are the five sense organs.

The entire infinite variety of matter is classified into five basic forms or essences: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Samkhya regards the process of world manifestation as ordered development of matter from the finer forms to the most dense ones which are referred to as "material elements" (mahabhuta). These "essences" are similar to the Greek "elements", with the exception that what in Graeco-Roman philosophy is referred to as the "fifth essence" (quintessentia) is called the first essence, or spatiality (akaca) in Samkhya.

We do not set ourselves the task of considering the interconnections and mutual relations between the gunas and essences, although this question is of great interest both on the epistemological and ontological plane. But we should dwell, however briefly, on the relationship between the gunas and prakrti. The point is that Samkhya is the first and probably the only philosophical school in India to make a serious attempt to formulate the philosophical concept of matter.

We know that there were materialists in Europe (such as Ludwig Feuerbach, for instance, who rejected the abstract speculations of Hegel) who negated the existence of matter as the being of "the general", calling it "an empty abstraction", and recognised matter only as the being of individual things. From this viewpoint, only in­dividual things are genuinely material, like this house, this tree, these leaves, etc. That which is given in direct sense perception, that is, the individual sensual objects, is indeed material.7 This view, however, was deficient in divorcing the singular from the general, violating as it did their dialectic unity.

Philosophers of the Samkhya school were also guilty of divorcing the singular from the general, but it is very important to point out that they recognised the reality of both. In their view, matter (prakrti) exists in two independent forms, one general and one singular, and that was where the metaphysical gap lay.

Matter of the first form ("the general") is substance, the first cause of the world of objects; in it, the gunas are in a state of equilibrium, and it is therefore without qualities, which prevents man from perceiving it through the senses. It is there­fore incognisable, but the incognisability results from its fineness rather than from nonexistence.

Matter of the second form ("the singular") is an infinite number of moving objects, phenomena, and events developing in space and time. The singular is accessible to the sense organs, it is knowable.8

The stumbling block for the Samkhya authors was the question of the origin of consciousness. Ram Mohan Roy believes that purusa was created by Kapila as an explanation for the origin of consciousness.

According to Kapila, purusa is the omniscient and extremely fine element which, as distinct from prakrti, possesses consciousness. Prakrti is the object or matter; purusa is the subject or conscious­ness. There are grounds to believe that Kapila was fearful lest this proposition of his should be given an idealistic interpretation. As distinct from atman, said Kapila, purusa does not create anything, it is passive; it is merely a passive witness; only prakrti is active, and so on. Prakrti is the subject of action; in the process of spontaneous de­velopment it comes in contact with purusa and ultimately cognises itself; purusa is devoid of the ability for self-cognition.

The inconsistencies and errors of the Samkhya School relative to the origin and essence of con­sciousness were readily exploited already in antiquity by representatives of religious orthodoxy.

In the Middle Ages, Gaudapada, Vacaspati Misra and other commentators (or followers) of Kapila's doctrine made further concessions to idealism, recognising the existence of souls independent of matter.

On the whole, an inconsistent position on this score gave rise to reproaches on the part of idealists for concessions to materialism as well as on the part of materialistically-minded Indian philosophers, Thus S. Radhakrishnan criticises Kapila for deviation from idealism: "If we admit the Samkhya view of prakrti and its complete independence of purusa, then it will be impossible to account for the evolution of prakrti. We do not know how latent potentialities become fruitful without any consciousness to direct them.,,9

Ram Mohan Roy holds an opposite view of the Samkhya philosophy, indicating that its weakness lies in negating the historicity of de­velopment. Had the Samkhya philosophy asserted that at a definite stage in the development of the world, consciousness (chaitanya) arises out of things, while quantitative changes, reaching a certain phase of development, become qualitative changes producing new qualities, then the whole inconsistency (asangati) would have disappeared. Correctly criticising the anti-historical (metaphy­sical) quality of the Samkhya philosophy, Roy regrettably commits an error himself, comparing Kapila's materialism to that of the French phi­losophers of the 18th century. The point is that the French materialism of the 18th century was a historical product of a qualitatively different epoch, and of a different class; it was different in its content.

Such is a brief characteristic of the materialism pf the Samkhya School

  1. Indologists differ as to the origin of the name of this philosophical system. The word samkhya has two principal meanings: (I) count or computation; (2) profound meditation, reasoning, counting the pros and cons, struggle both in the intellectual and physical senses. Taking into account the first meaning, Gough explains the name Samkhya from the fact that in this system the principles of the U panisads were listed. We believe that the scholars who reckon with the second meaning (like S. Radhakrishnan, Ram Mohan Roy, and others), have a better case. The meanings of the word Samkhya is close to Gr. philosophia, dialektike.
  2. V. I. Lenin, "Materialism and Empirio-Criticism", Col­lected Works, Vol. 14, p. 153.
  3. Let us point out that Buddhists, Nyayiks and Vaisesikas adhere to another view of this question. They believe that the effect does not actually exist in the material cause. Their argument is that if the effect existed in the material cause, there would be no need for the efficient cause. (If, for instance, the pot actually exists in the clay, what is the potter for?). The theory (vada) that the effect does not exist in the material cause before it is produced is sometimes called Arambha-vada, that is, the theory of the origin of the new in the effect.
  4. Advaita Vedantists also adhere to the Satkarya-vada, with that essential difference that the transition of the cause into the effect is declared to be merely an appearance or Illusion (vivarta). The following explanation is given here: If we saw a rope and took it for a snake, that does not mean that the rope had turned into a snake. Similarly, if Brahman created our universe that does not mean that it actually became the universe that it created. Brahman (in this instance, cause) remains identical to itself and immutable, while the universe (in this case, effect) is merely appearance or illusion
  5. S. Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy., Vol. II, p. 260.
  6. S. Dasgupta (see A History of Indian Philosophy,. Vol. I, Cambridge, 1922, pp. 244-245) interprets sativa as "intelligence-­stuff"; rajas, as "energy-stuff", and tamas, as "mass-stuff".
  7. This view has its sources in the nominalist tradition. In the Middle Ages nominalism, according to Marx, was the first expression of materialism which struggled against medieval scholasticism. The progressive thinkers of the 17th century (in particular Hobbes, Locke, and Spinoza in his theory of the individual things) also relied on nominalist principles in their fight against Aristotlean scholasticism. French materialists also turned to that tradition as an antidote to objective idealism.
  8. Pradhana - prakrti in the state of equilibrium of the gunas - is just as unknowable as the Kantian thing-in-itself. Prakrti is knowable only in the state of non-equilibrium of the gunas, that is, what is knowable here is the dynamics of the gunas rather than pradhana; the transition from pure potentiality (avyaktam) to actuality (vyaktam) is cognised.
  9. S. Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy, Vol. II, p.326
(Source: Indian Philosophy in Modern Times - Part-1, Chapter 1; page 98-107)

Title: Indian Philosophy In Modern Times
Author: V Brodov
Translated from the Russian by: Sergei Syrovatkin
Publisher: Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1984
Length: 366 pages

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Cārvāka Miscellany

Ramkrishna Bhattacharya

The notes propose to throw light on certain aspects of materialism in ancient India and point out some longstanding errors that have gone unnoticed. Some links are also sought to be established between the pre­-Cārvāka materialism and the Cārvāka/Lokāyata system that emerged in or around the sixth/seventh century CE.

I. Max Müller’s faux pas

Modern scholars nowadays seldom (if at all) refer to Friedrich Max Müller (1823-­1900). But to our great-­grandfathers he was a highly respected man, both as an Indologist and as a friend of India. In his once-­celebrated work, The Six Systems of Indian Philosophy (1899), he wrote: ‘The name of Kārvāka [Cārvāka] is clearly connected with that of Kārva [Cārva] and this is given as a synonym of Buddha by Bālasāstrin in the [Sanskrit] preface to his edition of the Kāśikā (p. 2). He is represented as a teacher of the Lokāyatika or world­wide system, if that is the meaning originally intended by that word.’1

It is a comic faux pas. Had Max Müller cared to turn a few pages of the said edition of Kāśikā, on reaching p. 49 he would have found that the word Buddha (on p.2) is a mere misprint for buddhi (intelligence). Bala Sastri was simply paraphrasing the words of Vāmana-Jayāditya, the authors of Kāśikā. In their explication of Panini’s Astādhyayi, 1.3.36, they had written, nāyate cārvi lokāyate, and explained the sentence as follows: ‘Cārvī is buddhi. Due to his association with it (intelligence), the teacher, too, is called Cārvī. He establishes the principles of the Lokāyata-sāstra (the science of Lokāyata) with the help of reason. Thus, he is respected and worshipped by his disciples.’2

One, however, cannot be sure whether the word, lokāyata, here stands for the science of disputation (vitandāśāstra, as in all Pali and Buddhist Sanskrit works) or the Cārvāka system of philosophy.3 But the word definitely refers to a system based on reason.

Max Müller was misled again due to a further misprint: cārva, a meaningless word, for cārvi, ‘intelligence’. He took cārva to be a namesake of Buddha.

II. The Debt of the Mimāmsā‚ and Nyāya-Vaiśesika to the Cārvāka

Ember Krishnamacharya, editor of the editio princeps of Śantaraksita’s Tattvasangraha (eighth century CE), notices a number of verses that are taken verbatim from Kumārilabhatta’s works (seventh or eighth century CE).4 Kumārila was a Mīmāmsaka and a staunch opponent of the Buddhists. The editor, however, failed to notice four verses in Chapter 22 that deal with the Lokāyata. Satkari Mookherjee was the first to point out: ‘The entire argument put in the mouth of the materialist [in Tattvasangraha] is boldly taken mutatis mutandis from Kumārila’s Śloka-vārtika. The Ślokās from 1865 to 1868 are reproduced verbatim and Sls. [Śloka-­s] 1869 to 1871 are but a summarized version of Kumārila’s Ślokās 59-­64 and 69­-73, Atmavāda, S.V. [Slokavartika], pp.703-07 5

Recently Eli Franco has observed, ‘It seems that the most orthodox and the heterodox schools [sc. the Mīmāmsā‚ and the Cārvāka] have joined forces to criticize the Buddhists.... Yet the question arises whether these are Mimāmsā arguments adopted by the Cārvāka or vice versa.6 He takes Kumārila to be the debtor. Santaraksita, too, knew them to be Cārvāka arguments but found it ‘ quote them in an already versified form’7 (as done by Kumārila).

Mookherjee also notes that Sriharsa, a tenth-century Nyāya-Vaiśesika philosopher, ‘employs similar arguments to prove the impossibility of metempsychosis [= rebirth] in the Buddhist theory of Soul or rather no­-Soul.’8 He further says, ‘We are tempted to believe that Sriharsa has borrowed his arguments from Kumārila whom he quotes with great respect in other places.’9

It appears then that both the Mīmāmsā and the Nyāya-Vaiśesika schools, in their polemics against the Buddhists, borrowed some of their weapons from the Cārvāka arsenal. Kumārila took them first and Sriharsa in his turn took them from Kumārila.

III. Cārvāka in a work on poetics

An interesting reference to the Cārvāka occurs in Locana by Abhinavagupta (tenth / eleventh century CE). It is a commentary on Anandavardhana’s influential book (itself a commentary) on poetics, Dhvanyāloka (ninth century CE). Anandavardhana says that words in poetry have a two­fold meaning: the stated one (vācya) and the suggested (pratiyamāna) one.10 Defending this approach, Abhinavagupta writes that the concept of two­fold meaning is necessary, for ‘discerning critics decide that it (the suggested meaning) should be the very soul of poetry.’11 Then he adds: ‘But those whose minds are confused due to its intimate association with the aspect of “the stated meaning” start doubting its separate existence, even as the Cārvākas who doubt the separate existence of an entity like the soul apart from the body.’

The Cārvāka theory of the self (soul) is that it is inseparable from the body. So long as the body is alive, consciousness, cognition, etc. are to be found accompanying it. The soul, unlike what the idealist philosophers say, cannot exist without a substratum, that is, the body. Abhinavagupta cleverly refers to this concept.

Both Anandavardhana and Abhinavagupta were Kashmirians. Udbhata Bhatta, a Cārvāka philosopher, also belonged to Kashmir (if he is the same Udbhata mentioned in Kalhana’s Rājatarangini)12 Abhinavagupta’s reference to the Cārvākas also disproves Rhys Davids’ view (if further evidence to disprove it is at all required) that there was no school of thought or a system of philosophy called the Lokāyata, although all writers from Kumārila and Sankaracarya to Sayana-Madhava (fourteenth century) use the name, Lokāyata and Lokāyatika, as “mere hobby­horses, pegs on which certain writers can hang the views that they impute to their adversaries, and give them, in doing so, an odious name.”13

IV. Ajita Kesakambala: A belated appearance

The earliest verses attributed to the Cārvāka / Lokāyata are found quoted in two commentaries on a work by the Buddhist philosopher, Nāgārjuna (second century CE).14 The verses run as follows:

“Man (purusa) consists of only as much as is within the scope of the senses. What the vastly learned ones speak of (as true) in but similar to (the statement): ‘Oh! Blessed one! Look at the footprints of the wolf.’15

‘Oh! the fair one, possessing beautiful eyes! Drink and eat. Oh! The one with a charming body! That which is past does not belong to you. Oh! The timid one! The past never comes back. This body is only a collectivity [of the four natural elements, namely, earth, air, fire and water].’ ”16

The story behind these verses has been told by the commentators of the Haribhadra’s Sad-darsana-samuccaya.17

What has so far gone unnoticed is that in their commentaries on Nāgārjuna’s Mādhyamaka-sāstra, Buddhapalita (fifth century CE), Bhavaviveka (fifth / sixth century) and Candrakirti (sixth / seventh century) refer to the materialist doctrine18 but, instead of referring to any Cārvāka aphorism or verse, all of them go back to the words of Ajita Kesakambala, a senior contemporary of the Buddha. Thus we have the Sanskrit version of the beginning of a passage that is attributed to Ajita in a Pali Sutta: ‘This world does not exist, the other world does not exist. There is no effect of good and evil deeds, there is no result. There is no self-created being, etc.’19

The passage needs some explanation. The first sentence does not mean that Ajita denies the reality of this world. It simply suggests that performance of religious duties yields no result either in this world or in the next. That is to say, contrary to the assurance given in the Dharmasastras, sacrifices, etc. ensure neither wealth and wellbeing in this world (abhyudaya) nor the summum bonum, liberation (nihsreyasa).20

In the last sentence the words translated as ‘self-created being’ are sattva upapāduka in the original. ‘According to Buddhist belief, living beings are divided by their mode of birth into four classes: those born of the egg such as birds, some snakes, etc.; those born of moist heat such as insects, etc.; those born of the womb such as mammals and men; and those born of themselves such as gods, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Cakravartins, hell-dwellers, etc.’21

In short, then, Ajita denies the existence of all gods as well as the efficacy of performing rituals.

Buddhapalita and others elected to go back to the earlier, proto-materialist doctrine rather than the doctrine that developed the materialist view anew.22

V. Tracing an Unidentified Verse

It has been shown that the Visnudharmottara Mahāpurāna is the source of the famous verse attributed to the Cārvākas, ‘So long as there is life, live happily’ (yavaj jivam sukham jivet), etc.23 A part of this couplet was changed by Sāyana-Mādhava, the Vedantin (fourteenth century) to read: ‘Drink clarified butter (even) by borrowing’ (rnam krtva ghrtam pivet) while in all other sources (both before and after Sayana Madhava) it reads: ‘Nothing is beyond the reach of death’ (nāsti mrtyor agocarah). In the Mahāpurāna, the couple of lines, however, does not constitute a stanza (sloka) by itself. They are the second and first lines of two consecutive stanzas.24

Another such couple of lines has been quoted from the same source (Visnudharmottara Mahāpurāna) in three later works.25 The couplet, as before, originally formed the second and first lines of two consecutive stanzas. They run as follows:

‘Penances are only various forms of torment, and abstinence in merely depriving oneself of the pleasure of life. The rituals of agnihotra, etc. appear only to be child’s play.’26

It cannot be ascertained whether the author of the Visnudharmottara Māhapurāna quoted it from another source (oral or written) or composed the lines himself. In any case, the Cārvāka view seems to have been reflected in these lines although the author of the Mahāpurāna was as much opposed to materialism as the later writers who quoted these lines.

VI. Bhāguri or Bhāgurī?

B. N. Puri in his study on Patañjali (second century CE) writes:

The Lokāyatas were not unknown in that period. Patañjali refers to Bhaguri as a famous exponent of this school who provided specimens of the Lokāyata doctrines according to his views (varnikā Bhāguri Lokāyatasya), or way of life (vārtika Bhāguri lokāyatsya). 27

On the basis of this interpretation Puri concludes: “The name of the founder of this school – Cārvāka is not mentioned by the Bhasyakara‚ra (sc. Patañjali), but his philosophy was well-known.”

It is rather odd that Puri did not notice that the name is not Bhaguri, but Bhaguri„ in Kielhorn’s edition as also in the two commentaries by Kaiyata and Nagesabhatta, who explain the word as tikāvisesah and Lokāyatasāstrasya vyākhyanarupo granthaviseseah, a commentary on the Lokāyatasāstra.28

Monier-Williams mentions both Bhaguri and Bhaguri, the first, meaning the name of a person, the second, of a work. So there is no reason to confuse the two, yet Puri and many others have made this mistake. 29

Incidentally it may be observed that this Lokāyatasastra most probably is not a book of the Cārvāka/Lokāyata school but rather a work of the art and science of disputation, or tarkasāstra, noted in the Kautiliya Arthasāstra.30

Notes and References

  1. Varanasi: The Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, 1971 reprint of the second posthumous edition of 1903, p. 99. Max Müller refers to Kāśikā by Vāmana­-Jayāditya, ed. Bāla Śāstri [Varanasi: Medical Hall, 1898]. 
  1. Since Bāla Śāstri’s edition is not easily available, readers may consult any available edition of Kāśikā, for example, the one edited by Nārāyana Misra (Varanasi: Chowkhamba, 1969) or another ed. Raghuvir Vedālankar (Delhi: Prācyavidyāpratisthānam, 1997). See also V. S. Agarwal, Indian as known to Panini, Lucknow: University of Lucknow, 1953, p. 393. 
  1. See Ramkrishna Bhattacharya, ‘On Lokāyata and Lokāyatana in Buddhist Sanskrit’, Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Vol. LXXIX, 1998, pp. 231­-235 and ‘The Significance of Lokāyata in Pali’, Journal of the Department of Pali, University of Calcutta, Vol. 10, 2000, pp. 39­46. See also ‘Lokāyata and Lokāyatana in Sanskrit Dictionaries’, Indian Skeptic, Vol. 12, No.11, March 2000, pp. 15­-18. All are now included in my Studies on the Cārvāka/Lokāyata, Firenze: Societa Editrice Fiorentina, 2009. 
  1. Baroda: Oriental Institute, 1926, Vol. 2, Appendixes, pp. 83­97. The text has been translated into English by Ganganath Jha, published by the same publisher in 1937­39. Both the text and translation have been reprinted in 1968 and 1986 respectively (the latter has been brought out by Motilal Banasridass (MLBD), Delhi). Pandit Dvarikadasa Shastri has also published the text (Varanasi: Bauddha Vihāra, 1968, reprinted in 1981). The number of verses is one short of the Baroda edition. 
  1. The Buddhist Philosophy of Universal Flux, Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1935, p. 204 n2 (reprinted by MLBD, Delhi, 1975). 
  1. Dharmakirti on Compassion and Rebirth, Wien (Vienna): Arbeitkreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien. Universität Wien, 1997, p. 100. 
  1. Ibid, p. 101. 
  1. Mookherjee (n5), p. 204 n2. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Dhvanyāloka and Locana, ed. Kuppuswamy Sastri and others, Madras: The Kuppuswamy Sastri Research Institute, 1944, Uddyota ONE, pp. 88-­89. 
  1. Ibid. I have quoted from the translation by K. Krishnamoorthy (with some modifications). See Abhinavagupta’s Dhvanyāloka­-Locana, New Delhi: Mahendra Lachmandas Publications, 1988, pp. 98-­99. 
  1. See ‘Udbhata’, New Catalogus Catalogorum. Vol. Two, ed. V. Raghavan, Madras: University of Madras, 1966, p. 31, referring to Rājatarangini, 4. 495. 
  1. T. W. Rhys Davids, Dialogues of the Buddha, Vol. 1, Oxford, 1899, p. 166. C. Bendall pointed out in 1900 that Rhys Davids was mistaken in saying so (Athenaeum, 30 June, 1900). 
  1. The Madhyamakaśāstra of Nāgārjuna with Akutobhaya, an auto­-commentary by Nāgārjuna, Madhyamakavrtti by Buddhapālita, Prajñāpradipa by Bhāvaviveka, and Prasannapadāvrtti by Candrakirti, ed. Raghunath Pandeya, Delhi: MLBD, in two vols., 1988-­89. The two commentaries mentioned in the text refer to the last two. 
  1. Ibid., Vol. 2, pp. 3 (on 16. 1), 64­65 (on 18.6). Bhāvaviveka alone quotes both, Candrakirti only the first one. It is to be regretted that Pandeya, the editor of the work, while restoring the first verse in Bhāvaviveka’s commentary from its Tibetan translation to Sanskrit (the original text is lost) wrote loko’yam instead of puruso. This is totally unwarranted. The Tibetan version has skyes-­bu (203 b8 and 232 b6) which cannot but be purusah. 
The verse occurs in many other writings but Haribhadra (and following him, Rājasekharasuri and a few others) wrote loko’yam (which Pandeya remembered): everyone else wrote puruso. (For all relevant sources see the article mentioned in n17 below).

Pandeya also failed to discern that the next two lines in the Tibetan translation (203 b8­204 al and 232 b7­8) constitute a verse, and so he printed them as prose.

  1. This verse is also found (with minor variants) in Haribhadra’s Sad-darsana-samuccaya (v. 82), Silanka’s commentaries on the Acaranga ­and Sutra-krtangasutra-s, and Rajasekharasuri’s Sad-darsana-samuccaya. 
  1. Parable of the Wolf’s Footprints’, Indian Skeptic, Vo,. 12, May 1999, pp. 31­36. and its revised and enlarged version in Jain Journal, 36: 3 (January 2002), pp. 134­48.The latter is now included in my Studies on the Cārvāka/Lokāyata, Firenze: Societa Editrice Fiorentina, 2009. 
  1. See Madhyamakasastra (n14), Vol. 2, pp. 60, 63­64, 66 (on 18. 5­7). 
  1. Sāmañña­-phala-­sutta’, Digha Nikāya, ed. J. Kashyap, Patna: Pali Publication Board (Bihar Government). Part I. 1958, p. 48. In the Pali Sutta there is another clause before the last one: ‘There is no father, there is no mother’ which is omitted by Buddhapālita and others. 
  1. A detailed discussion will be found in my ‘Ajita Kesakambala: Nihilist or Materialist?’ The Journal of the Asiatic Society, Vol. XLI, No. 1, 1999, pp. 74­83. It is included in my Studies on the Cārvāka/Lokāyata, Societa Editrice Fiorentina, Firenze, 2009. 
  1. Claus Vogel, The Teachings of the Six Heretics, Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1970, p. 21 n9. Vogal refers to Nāgārjuna’s Dharmasamgraha and anon., Mahabutpatti as his authorities. For a different interpretation of the term, upapaduka, see Graeme Macqueen, A Study of the Sramanyaphala-sutra, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1988, p. 39 n65. 
  1. No Cārvāka/Lokāyata fragment so far available echoes the words of Ajita as found in the Pali Sutta. It strengthens the view that the Cārvāka/Lokāyata did not originate from Ajita’s circle in the fifth century BCE but developed later independently. There is no evidence to support the continuity of the materialist tradition from Ajita to the compilation of the Cārvāka­-sutra (or the Paurandara­sutra). Erich Frauwallner, too, has made a distinction between ‘The oldest materialist doctrines’ (represented in his opinion by Purana, Ajita and Kakuda) and ‘The Lokāyata System’ (which, he believes, arose in the pre­-Christian period, founded by Cārvāka). See his History of Indian Philosophy, Delhi: MLBD, Vol. 2, 1997, pp. 219­221. Eli Franco and Karin Preisendanz have followed him in this regard in their article on the Indian School of materialism in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward Craig, London: Routledge, 1998, Vol. 6, p. 179 (‘Early materialists’ and ‘The classical materialistic philosophy’). 
  1. See my article, “ rnam krtva ghrtam pibet’—Who said this?”, Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research, Vol. XIV, No. 1, September-­December, 1996, pp. 170­74. For some additional sources see ibid., Vol. XVII, No.1, Sept.­-Dec., 1999, p. 76. This is now included in my Studies on the Cārvāka/Lokāyata, Firenze: Societa Editrice Fiorentina, 2009. 
  1. Visnudharmottara Mahapurana, I. 108. 18cd­-19ab. Bombay: Ksemaraja Srikrishnadasa, Saka 1834, f. 70. 
  1. See Haribhadra, Lokatattvanirnaya, Ahmedabad: Sri Hamsavijayaji Jain Free Library, Vikramasamvat 1978, verse 34, f. 25a (reads bhogavañcanah (sic!) in the second pada); Jayantabhatta, Agamatambara, III. 9, eds. V. Raghavan and Anantalal Thakur, Darbhanga: Mithila Vidyapith, 1964, p. 57 (reads –vañcanam) and Gunaratna, Tarka-­rahasya-­dipika‚, ed. Luigi Siali, Calcutta: The Asiatic Society, 1905­1914, p. 302, verse 1 (misprinted as 2) (reads yatna­-for yatana­, samgama for samyama and vañcana). The verse originally occurs in the Visnudharmottara Mahapurana (n24 above), I. 108. 14cd-­15ab, p. 70. 
  1. I quote the translation from Cārvāka/Lokāyata ed. Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya in collaboration with Mrinal Kanti Gangopadhyaya, New Delhi: Indian Council of Philosophical Research, 1990, p. 269. 
  1. B. N. Puri, India in the Time of Patañjali, New Delhi: Mushiram Manoharlal, 1990, p. 178. 
  1. F. Kielhorn (ed.), The Vyakarana­-mahabhasya of Patañjali, Vol. III, Bombay, 1909, p. 325­-326 (on Astadhyayi 7. 3. 45 (7), (8)); Vyakaranamahabhasya with Kaiyata’s Pradipa and Nagesabhatta’s Uddyota, Part III, Delhi: MLBD, 1967, p.210. 
  1. Monier Monier-­Williams, A Sanskrit-­English Dictionary, (1899), Delhi: MLBD, 2002, p. 752, column 1, bottom. 
  1. The Kautiliya Arthasastra, Part I, ed. R. P. Kangle, Bombay: University of Bombay, 1965, 1.2.10. For a detailed discussion, see Ramkrishna Bhattacharya, Studies on the Cārvāka/Lokāyata, Firenze: Societa Editrice Fiorentina, 2009, pp. 131-­36. 
Acknowledgements: Amitava Bhattacharya, Rinku Chowdhury, Sanjit Sadhukhan. 

This paper was published in Tulsi Prajna (Ladnun) 38:152, July-December 2011

Ramkrishna Bhattacharya taught English at the University of Calcutta, Kolkata and was an Emeritus Fellow of University Grants Commission. He is now a Fellow of Pavlov Institute, Kolkata.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Elements of Materialism in the Nyaya and Vaisesika Philosophy

V. Brodov

Elements of Materialism in the Nyaya Philosophy

The Nyaya (Sanskr. "rule", "substantiation", "method", "logical inference", "introduction to a subject", "deduction", "logic in general") is a philosophical system or school that took shape ap­proximately at the end of the 1st century C. E. Go­tama (c. 3rd century B. C.) is regarded as the originator of the Nyaya philosophy. His Nyaya-sutra is basically a materialist work.

The Nyayiks mostly studied questions in episte­mology, or "the science of reasoning" (tarka­vidya)1 Their basic proposition is that the material world (nature) exists objectively, and the existence of the external objects does not depend on the source of knowledge. The objects and phe­nomena of nature are cognised by man through the five senses. Everything that is inaccessible to sense perception has no real existence. Therefore Brahma (God) does not exist either.

V Brodov
The sense perception of objects is regarded as the touchstone of the reliability (or truth) of our knowledge. Vatsyayana (4th century C. E.), a commentator of the Nyaya-sutra, wrote that trustworthy knowledge was obtained from the coming in touch or contact (sannikarsha or sambandha) of the sense organs (indriya) and their object. This knowledge is called pratyaksa jnyana (sensory knowledge).

According to the Nyayiks, thinking capable of leading man to attainment of the truth, or "cog­nition in agreement with reality", is only possible in the presence of four elements: the subject of cognition (pramatri), the object of cognition (prameya), trustworthy knowledge (pramiti), and syllogism (pramana) as the means of cognition.

Nyayiks were mainly concerned with working out the instruments of cognition (the pramanas). Their teaching is therefore often termed Pramanashastra, or the science of the pramanas. Four kinds of pramanas were recognised in all: perception (pratyaksa), inference (anumana), comparison (upamana), and verbal testimony (sabda).

It is not our task here to consider the Nyaya philosophy in detail. We would merely like to point out that the Nyayiks' sensualism was ma­terialist in nature.

Endeavouring to bring out the similarity of the ideas of the Nyaya and the Charvakas, Ram Mohan Roy in his History of Indian Philosophy cites the historical legend to the effect that the first forms of this philosophy (Nyaya.- V. E.) was moulded by the hand of Brhaspati, so that men still speak of the cognitive ability (buddhi) of Brhaspati.

Later, in the early Middle Ages, when Hinduism replaced the religion of Brahmanism and the attacks of the orthodox religion on materialism intensified, the Nyaya philosophy was penetrated by preachers of idealism and theistic attitudes (Va­caspati, Udayana, Vardhamana, and others). Va­rious attempts were made to achieve a "logical proof of the existence of God", to spread the belief in the existence of the individual soul as a substantial being, etc. At the same time, Vat­syayana, Uddyotakara, and Visvanatha continued to defend the atheist line of Gotama.

It should be noted that the works of modern bourgeois scholars refer mostly to the medieval Nyaya -or, to be more precise, its theistic and idealist additions. The situation is much the same with the Vaisesika philosophical system.

Elements of Spontaneous Materialism and Dialectics in the Vaisesika

It is generally accepted in historical and phi­losophical literature that Kanada (c. 3rd century B. C.) was the founder of the Vaisesika school and the author of the Vaisesika-sutra. The final redaction of the sutras dates from some time not later than the 1st century C. E.

Studies by Soviet Indologists have shown clearly that there is a distinct materialist tendency in the religious idealist system of the Vaisesika, a rational kernel under the idealist integument of the system, as it were. That is not accidental, for out of all the systems of Indian philosophy the Vaisesika philosophy was most closely connected with the natural-scientific views of ancient Indians.

The Vaisesikas proceed from the view that two worlds, the sensual and the suprasensual, exist objectively. They consider the supersensual world from dualist positions, and the sensual world, from those of materialism.

We shall restrict ourselves to a short exposition of the Vaisesika atomistic theory.

According to the Vaisesika-sutra, the development of the sensual world is based on atoms existing in space; they are countless in number; they are also eternal. All that is consists of four basic elements: earth, water, light, and air. Accordingly, the atoms of which the elements consist are di­vided into four kinds: the atoms of the earth, the atoms of water, the atoms of light, and the atoms of air. Akasha (ether) has no atomic structure; it fills empty space between the atoms.

Atoms are impermeable, being indivisible. Their. indivisibility is illustrated by the following example. Assume that we have separated the fibers of a cloth; we shall then obtain yarn. Proceeding· in this way, we shall obtain cotton from the yarn, which may be divided into infinitely small par­ticles. Finally, we come to a situation where these small particles of cotton can no longer be divided. These infinitely small indivisible particles are called atoms, and their combinations make up the world.

Comparing the atomistIc theories of Democritus and Kanada, we find considerable discrepancies between them. According to Democritus, atoms are indivisible, immutable, qualitatively homoge­neous, and distinguished from one another only by their quantitative properties - form, size, order, and position. This was the basis for the deterministic theory of the universe, which insists that every event is the result of necessity, and there are no accidental objects or phenomena in the world.

Epicurus, who continued the line of Democritus, gave the atoms the property of having weight, postulating also that the atoms had not only vertical but also "swerve" motion or deviation from the straight line. Thus necessity was complemented with accident; the motion of atoms was recognised to be free.

According to Kanada's theory, each atom is qualitatively different from all others, possessing visesa, that is, unique specificity, of which there are as many varieties as there are atoms themselves.

According to Democritus, atoms are in eternal and continuous motion, whereas Kanada considers atoms to be immutable, inert, and devoid of inner motion. The motion of atoms, that is, their combination, separation and mechanical shifting, is due to external causes - the action of an external object. That is the "visual" cause. Apart from the visual (tangible or perceptible) cause, Kanada also postulates the existence of an invisible (adrishta) cause regarded as the ultimate cause of all atoms. The force of adrishta is natural, not divine.

Thus the Vaisesika atomistic theory should be described as a materialist one. Vaisesikas recognised the materiality of the world, regarding man's reasoning (consciousness or mind) as the product of material atoms.
  1. The Nyayiks were the creators of Indian formal logic. The story is current that during Alexander the Great's campaign in India Brahman priests described the entire system of the Nyaya logic to the Greek philosopher Callisthenes, who was in Alexander's army and later passed on this system to Aristotle. This logic was said to form the foundation of Aristotle's logical theory. This view gained wide currency at one time in Oriental countries. Modem scholars, however, reject it. Jawaharlal Nehru writes: "In fact Nyaya means logic or the science of right reasoning. It is similar in many ways to Aristotle's syllogisms, though there are also fundamental differences between the two. The principles underlying Nyaya logic were accepted by all other systems [of Indian philosophy.- V. B.) and, as a kind of mental discipline, Nyaya has been taught throughout the ancient and medieval periods and up to to-day in India's schools and universities ... " (Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India, Asia Publishing House, Bombay, 1961, pp. 190-191 ).
(Source: Indian Philosophy in Modern Times - Part-1, Chapter 1; page 93-98)

Title: Indian Philosophy In Modern Times

Author: V Brodov
Translated from the Russian by: Sergei Syrovatkin
Publisher: Progress Publishers, 1984
Length: 366 pages

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Manufacturing a Riot

Ram Puniyani

In Saidabad and Madannapeth areas of Hyderabad (April 1st week, 2012) violence was unleashed against the local Muslims. In this violence several houses were damaged, many a people were injured and women were raped. Just before the incident Praveen Togadia had given an inflammatory speech in the area. There was news that fundamentalists (read- Muslims) have thrown beef and green color in the Hanuman temple. This news was enough to instigate the violence. The police succeeded in arresting the culprits, who turned out to be those belonging to Hindu communal outfits. 

On the New Year eve, 1st January (2012), in Sindagi town of Bijapur Pakistan flag was seen on the government buildings. The news spread with rapid speed and violence which followed led to the burning of six state transport buses and many other vehicles. As it turned out it was the activists of Sri Ram Sene of Pramod Mutallik, an ex-RSS Pracharak (Propagator), who first hoisted the Pakistan flag and then went about telling people about the same.

There are many more dimensions of both these acts of violence, brought in by using religious identity, symbols and emotive appeals.  Communal violence is a cancer which has spread in to the body politic of our society. The very foundation of communal violence is the ‘social common sense’ the ‘hate-other' ideology build around the myths and biases prevalent against the ‘others’. As such communal violence is the superficially visible part of the communal politics, a politics deriving its legitimacy from the identity of religion. To begin with the hatred for ‘other’ community’ started getting consolidated around the communal projection of History, supplemented by aspects from the present social life of a community, exaggerated and put forward in a derogatory way. In pre-partition period the violence was emerging from both communal streams and British were a sort of neutral umpires.

With partition process Muslim communalism got deflated, violence changed its form and started assuming different trend leading to rise of conservatism; orthodoxy amongst Muslims. The minority communalism promoted more conservative values amongst minorities and also gave provocations to the majority communalism. After the quiet period after the ghastly post-partition riots, violence started surfacing after 1961 with Jabalpur violence, in the wake of which Pundit Nehru, the then Prime minster of the country, constituted National Integration Council, which has been playing some insignificant role in promoting national integration. It is more of a debating club, meeting once a while, forgetting about the issue in the intervening period.

The communal violence, where two communities are made to pitch against each other has been changing its character and now communal groups, who are on the provoking and attacking spree have a clear goal of intimidating and subjugating the religious minorities. At the same time the pretext is manufactured that Muslims are violent or Christians have attacked, ‘they’ begin the violence and then get the ‘deserved’ punishment.  This again is a totally make believe construct. The two incidents which have taken place amply show the anatomy of manufacturing a riot. The majoritarian communal streams have built up their strength by polarizing the communities along religious lines. Founded on the deeper biases against minorities, the rumors played the role of triggering the violence, or rumors play the role of the precipitating factor in the concentrated solution of ‘Hate other’. Many rumors have been used, killing of the cow, abduction/rape of Hindu women, cutting of the breast of women, discretion of the holy place/book etc. Adding on the list has come in this Pakistan flag, which is a quiet an innovation during last some time.

The violence by and large is a planned one and is made to look a spontaneous one, that too sparked by the minorities. The Hyderabad and Sindagi incidents are new pointers to this. Earlier in the Kandhamal, violence was triggered on the pretext of the death of Swami Laxmananand, who as such was killed by Maoists. Swami Laxmananand’s dead body was taken in a procession through Christian minority areas, and the rivers of blood followed. The Gujarat violence was undertaken in a pre planned manner on the pretext of the burning of train in Godhra and the merchants of death followed. In Mumbai after the demolition of Babri Mosque, some Muslim youth threw stones on the police station, the Shiv Sena activists threw Gulal (Orange color of celebration used mostly by Hindus) on a mosque and Bal Thackeray gave the call for ‘teaching them a lesson’. So far many inquiry commissions and citizen’s tribunals have pointed out the role of the majoritarian communal organization. Starting from the report of Bhivandi riots (Madon Commission) to Mumbai violence (Sri Krishna Commission), their conclusions are similar to a large extent. The riot instigation is done in a way, it is orchestrated it in such a fashion, as if the Muslims have thrown the first stone or Christians have precipitated the violence. 
Dr. V.N. Rai, a police officer did his doctoral work on the theme of riots between 1968-1980 (Combating Communal Conflicts), and a longish quote from this book will enlighten us on the issue, “very often the way in which the first stone is thrown or the first hand is raised in aggression, suggests an outside agency at work, an agency that wants to create a situation in which members of the minority community commit an act which ignites severe retribution for themselves. In order to guard them against external criticism and to preserve their self righteousness, violence is projected to be started by Muslims. It is as if a weaker person is pushed into the corner by a stronger, forcing him to raise his hand so that he may be suitably punished for his `attack'. Before the punishment is meted out a suitable hue and cry can be made about the fact that because the person cornered is naturally wicked and violent, he is bound to attack first" (Pg. 56-57).” 
Now there is some change in the trajectory of the riot instigation; there is a continuity and change in the issues used to manufacture the riots. Now the communal elements are becoming bolder to hoist the Pakistan flag or to throw the piece of beef and green color more boldly. The other change is in the relative increase in the percentage of victims belonging to minority community. By 1980s 65% of victims were Muslims (V.N.Rai) in 1991 it was 80% (Union Home ministry data) and by 2001 this percentage has further gone up. These data tell their own tale. The communal violence has polarized the communities along religious lines, and has given flesh and blood to the communal politics. It has laid the foundation for identity related issues coming to the fore and marginalizing the core issues of society. 
While large number of measures are needed to curb the communal violence and to snub the organizations deliberately playing mischief, it is imperative that multi layered approach is taken up to bring peace and harmony in the society. We need to battle against the stereotypes and biases at all the levels, amongst the people and amongst the administration. At the same time a major step of setting up inter-religious committees in all the areas can combat the rumors or find the truth as to who has hoisted the flag or thrown beef, and this may prevent the violence in many a situations.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Materialism of the Charvakas Lokayatikas

 V Brodov

Brhaspati (c. 7th-6th century B. C.) is believed to be the founder of the Charvaka Lokayatika School and the author of its Sutras. The Charvakas Lokayatikas are materialist philosophers. It would be a rude error, however, to restrict the Brhaspati line to the materialism of the Charvakas Lokay­atikas. That would mean narrowing down the social basis of Indian materialism, belittling its significance, and distorting the actual history. The materialist tendency is actually inherent in nearly all the sys­tems or schools of Indian philosophy, including the objective-idealist system of the Vedanta of the new times, which is shown in the second half of the present work.

To characterise the philosophical materialism of the Sutras period, it is important to single out the following general features:

  • recognition of the fact that the external world, of which man is part, exists objectively and is therefore not a product of his brain but exists independently of any consciousness;
  • recognition of the fact that the external world manifests itself in a law-governed fashion, the laws being capable of change only through physical action rather than through ideas, magic, or prayer;
  • negation of the existence of supernatural forces; the view that the world develops spontaneous­ly, without outside interference;
  • recognition of man's perceptions of the objects or phenomena of the outside world (sense experien­ces) as the only source of knowledge;
  • rejection of the view that knowledge is esote­ric, innate, or intuitive (mystical);
  • recognition of the fact that the nature of man's life and activity is determined by the condi­tions of his life and not by a deity.

Some of these features are inherent, in some form and to a certain extent, in many systems of Indian philosophy of the medieval period and even of the modern times.

It was Brhaspati who gave ancient Indian mate­rialism its distinctive shape. Another outstanding representative of this school was Bhishan. One of the most ancient puranas, the Padma Purana, says that a certain man named Kanada discovered the great teaching called Vaisesika. Gotama compiled the Nyaya shastras, Kapila wrote the Samkya sha­tras, a certain Brahman named Jaimini expounded the greatest atheist teaching and a man named Bhishan, the despised Charvaka teaching, while Vishnu himself, to rout the demons, took the image of Buddha to preach the completely impious doctri­ne of Buddhism.

This passage from the Padma Purana is also quoted by Vijnana Bhiksu, a major representative of the Samkhya philosophy. Bhishan's name is mentioned in the Mahabharata (Santiparva and Salyaparva), in the writings of Manu, and so on. Expressing the hopes and moods of the poorest strata of Indian society, Bhishan was sharply crit­ical of Brahmanism, the Vedic religion, and the ideology of the priests. The compilers of the Vedas,

he said, were hypocrites and swindlers. Invoking the Vedas, the priests dupe the simple people with meaningless jumbles of words, living in luxury at the expense of the poor people bringing them of­ferings. Who the offerings for? Gods were non­existent and had never existed. Should there be of­ferings to the deceased relatives? But these became dust and needed no food. Just as a lamp that became extinguished would not be rekindled if oil was added to it, a dead man would not rise from the dead after a sacrificial ritual. Even if we assume that our dead relatives need food, why should we pass the food to the priests? Why should the priests eat the food if our dead ones are to be fed? That is about the same as feeding the people of one village while intending to feed those of another.

The Charvakas rejected the idea of the existence of God, recognising four material elements as the substance: earth, water, fire, and air. Combina­tions of these elements produce all objects and phenomena of nature, both material and spiritual. The soul is a body endowed with consciousness; the soul does not exist outside the body. Conscious­ness emerges from unconscious elements as their temporary combination in a specific form under definite conditions. In substantiating this proposition, Bhishan said that a man could not get drunk by eating some rice and a kind of molasses made of beetroot. A mixture of rice and molasses, however, is used to prepare wine on which man can get drunk. Consciousness is nothing but the result of a certain process of combining material elements. A man's death signifies simultaneous destruction of both consciousness and soul. A Charvaka named Ajita Kesakambalin (6th century B. C.) said that both a wise man and a fool die along with the body, both are dead, and have no existence after death.

The Charvakas decried religious superstition which kept the people ignorant and oppressed, and opposed their view of cognition as the result of sense perception to religious visions. This viewpoint of naive sensualism certainly had its weak points. While recognising sensations and perceptions to be the only source of knowledge, the Charvakas failed to realise the dialectical unity of the sensual and the rational elements in cognition. They viewed the results of man's cognitive activity in the form of abstract thinking as untrue or at any rate unrelia­ble, containing elements of subjective arbitrariness and errors. The mind (that is, abstract thinking), said the Charvakas, did not exist without sensa­tions and perceptions. Propositions and syllogisms were only possible on the basis of those data which were obtained through sensory channels. Moreover, abstract logical thinking (the mind) could not add anything to that which was given in sense percep­tions. In other words, they failed to see the dialectics of the transition from cognition of phenomena to cognition of the essence, having a very limited and narrow conception of human practice and its role in the process of cognition. For the Charvakas, prac­tice was the process itself of sense perception of the individual objects and phenomena of nature. The role of practice as the criterion of truth was reduced to the verifying activity of our sense organs.

Vasiliĭ Vasilʹevich Brodov
It should be borne in mind, however, that the primary goal of the Charvakas was dealing a crush­ing blow to the ideology of Brahmanism. Jawa­harlal Nehru wrote on this account: "The materia­lists attacked authority and all vested interest in thought, religion and theology. They denounced the Vedas and priestcraft and traditional beliefs, and proclaimed that belief must be free and must not depend on pre-suppositions or merely on the authority of the past. They inveighed against all forms of magic and superstition. Their general spirit was comparable in many ways to the modern materialistic approach, it wanted to rid itself of the chains and burden of the past, of speculation about matters which could not be perceived, or worship of imaginary gods ... " 1

The opponents of materialism (mostly the priests, the Brahmans) did not only persecute the materi­alist philosophers themselves, they burned their works, so that materialist literature (the literature of the Charvakas Lokayatikas) was almost comple­tely wiped out. "Among the books that have been lost," Nehru points out, "is the entire literature on materialism which followed the period of the early Upanishads. The only references to this, now found, are in criticisms of it and in elaborate attempts to disprove the materialist theories.,,2

The Charvaka materialism is characterised by direct orientation against idealist and religious doct­rines, the desire to prove the untenability of ide­alism and to denounce the falsity and deception of religion and its preachers. Thus the Charvakas' main purpose was denouncing Brahmanist ideology rather than creating a consistent philosophical sys­tem.

The doctrine of the Charvakas Lokayatikas can be reduced to the following four propositions.

(1) Four material elements (mahabhuta) are the basis of all that is: fire, earth, water, and air.3 These elements are spontaneously active, with a force of their own (svabhava) inherent in them.

(2) Only "this world" (laka) exists; there is no hereafter or life after death;4 that is, after man's death, his life is neither continued "there" (that is, in the Brahman-Atman world) nor revived "here" (on this earth). The Charvakas said:

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?5

The Charvakas criticised the religious idealist proposition that "consciousness is the property of the immortal soul", insisting that consciousness died with the death of man, while man himself disintegrat­ed into the four basic elements. "Man is composed of four elements," they wrote. "When man dies, the earthly element returns and relapses into the earth; the watery element returns into the water, the fiery element returns into the fire, the airy element returns into the air, the senses pass into space.'6

(3) There are no supernatural (divine) forces. God is an invention of the rich to dupe the poor. Charvakas taught that the religion of Brahmanism, just as any other religion, was untenable and harm­ful, for it distracted the attention and strength of the poor towards worshipping imaginary gods, off­ering sacrifices to unknown forces, listening to abstract preaching, etc. Religious writings were based on the fantasies of a certain group of persons materially interested in all this.

(4) There is no soul - in the sense in which the ministers of religious cults and, in agreement with the latter, the philosophers used the term. It is matter that thinks, rather than the soul which is alleged to exist independently of matter.

(5) The law of karma (requital for both good and bad deeds) is an invention of the adherents of religion employed also by idealist philosophers. The source of evil on this earth should be looked for in the cruelty and injustice existing in society rather than in the properties of human nature and inevitable sufferings said to be predetermined from on high.

(6) The only source of the knowledge of nature is sense perception. Only direct perception (through the five senses) gives man genuine knowledge (pra­tyaksa). Only that exists which can be directly perceived. That which cannot be perceived does not exist; it does not exist precisely for the reason that it cannot be perceived. By "that which cannot be perceived" the Charvakas meant first and fore- most such religious "essences" as God, the soul, the heavenly

According to the Charvakas, sense perceptions can be of two kinds, external and internal. Internal perceptions emerge through the action of reason (manas). External perceptions are linked with the activity of the five sense organs.

Accordingly, knowledge itself is divided into two kinds or forms: the first kind is the result of contact between the sense organs and the objects of the external world; the second kind of knowledge arises through mental operations on the basis of sense data. 


  1. Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India, Asia Publishing House, Bombay, 1961, p.100
  2. Ibid. The same idea is to be found in many other studies in the history of Indian philosophy. Debiprasad Chattopad­hyaya, a prominent Marxist scholar, writes: "Apart from the mere mention of such lost treatises, what we now concretely possess are a few stray references to the Lokayata - views, or to its followers called the Lokayatikas, as preserved in the writings of those who wanted only to ridicule and refute the Lokayata ... This philosophy had the misfortune of being known to us only through the writings of its opponents ..:' (D. Chat­topadhyaya, Lokayata. A Study in Ancient Indian Materialism, People's Publishing House, New Delhi, 1959, p. 7) 
  3. Hence one of the most probable versions of the origIn of the name "Charvaka"; char "four", vak "word", that is, "four words".  
  4. Loka means "world", so that the ancient Indian materi­alists are sometimes called "Lokayatikas". Etymologically, the word taka means "that which is widespread among the people"; "that which is essentially secular". 
  5.  S. Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy, Vol. I, George Allen & Unwin Ltd, London, 1977,p. 281
  6. Ibid, p. 273 

Title: Indian Philosophy In Modern Times
Author: V Brodov
Translated from the Russian by: Sergei Syrovatkin
Publisher: Progress Publishers, 1984
Length: 366 pages


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