Saturday, 15 September 2012

Ajita Kesa-Kambalin


In the Samannaphala Sutta and elsewhere the following doctrine is ascribed to the philosopher Ajita, nicknamed[1] “of the Hair-garment,” very probably because he and his followers affected that mode of dress –

“There is no such thing as alms or sacrifice or offering. There is neither fruit nor result of good or evil deeds. There is no such thing as this world or the next. There is neither father nor mother, nor beings springing into life without them (opapatika). There are in the world no Recluses or Brahmins who have reached the highest point, who walk perfectly, and who, having understood and realised, by themselves alone, both this world and the next, make their wisdom known to others. A human being is built up of the four Elements. When he dies, the earthy in him returns and relapses to the earth, the fluid to the water, the heat to the fire, the windy to the air, and his indriyas or faculties pass into space. The four bearers, he on the bier as a fifth, take his dead body away. Till they reach the burn­ing ground men utter forth eulogies: but there his bones are bleached, and his offerings end in ashes! It is a doctrine of fools, this talk of gifts. It is an empty lie, mere idle talk, when men say there is profit therein. Fools and wise alike, on the dissolution of the body, are cut off, are annihilated; and after death they are not.”

As is evident, this doctrine of Kesa-kambalin is a violent denun­ciation of both the Brahmanic ritualism and the Upanishadic doctrine of the Atman. With evident allusion to texts like Kaushitaki Upanishad. iv. 19, or the anupravesa texts from the Aitareya or Chhandogya Upanishads, Ajita declares that nothing is real that is not corporeal: “As a man drawing a sword from the scabbard can say, ‘This is the sword and that is the scabbard,’ not so are we able to separate the soul from the body, pointing out, ‘this is the soul and that is the body.’” Ajita's view comes nearest to the view of the Materialists like Charvaka, whose (or whose teacher’s) obiter dicta are familiar to us in the opening pages of the Sarvadarsanasamgraha.

[1] His opponents characterized his teaching also - like a hair-garment­ - as amongst the most disagreeable of things:  cold in the cold weather, hot in the hot, and always unpleasant to touch.

Courtesy: History of Indian Philosophy: The Creative Period – First Published in 1927

About the authors:

Shripad Krishna Belvalkar (1880-1967) was born at Kolhapur, Maharashtra and was educated at Bombay and Harvard universities. He was Honorary Secretary of All India Oriental Conference in1926-27. He was elected as Honorary Fellow, Royal Asiatic Society, London in 1947. He was co-founder and Honorary Secretary of Bhardarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune in 1915-18 and 1927-33. His publications include: Systems of Sanskrit Grammar (1915), Rama’s Later Hisotry (1925), Dandin’s Kavyadarsa (1924), and Bhagavadgita (1941)

Ramachandra Dattatraya Ranade (1886-1957) was born at Jamkhandi in Karnataka. He was Emiritus Professor of Philosophy and Vice-Chancellor, Allahabad University.  His important publications are: Constructive Survey of Upanishadic Philosophy (1926), Mysticism in Maharashtra (1930), Philosophical Essays (1956), and Shri Bhagavat Gita (1958)


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