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.


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