Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Development of Materialism in India: The Pre-Cārvākas and the Cārvākas

Ramkrishna Bhattacharya
The existence of more than one materialist school before the Cārvāka (eighth century) has been admitted by modern scholars.[1] They have used different nomenclatures to denote the pre-Cārvāka and Cārvāka materialist systems. I prefer to use simpler names, «old materialism» and «new materialism».[2] Unlike them, however, I do not propose to confine the Pre-Cārvāka materialists to the period before the Common Era. My contention is that such schools appeared even in the Common Era and they existed side by side for a long time.

The radical departure made by the new materialists (the Cārvākas) was most apparent in the field of epistemology: even though the ontology of the old and the new materialists was similar, the partial acceptance of inference as a valid means of knowledge marked off the new materialists from the old ones. The sūtra work most probably redacted by Purandara seems to have retained the old form of the aphorism: nānumāna pramāam, inference is not an instrument of valid cognition. Purandara and following him Aviddhakara and Udbhaabhaṭṭa took pains to assert that inference based on perception is perfectly admissible but an inference on the basis of verbal testimony or authority was not.[3] If we do not want to appear uncharitable to Hemacandra and others who continued to ridicule the Cārvākas for not admitting inference as such,[4] we must say that their understanding of «new materialism» was faulty; they failed or more probably refused to distinguish between the old and new approaches.

To most of the people materialism (some prefer to call it naturalism or physicalism) in India means the Cārvāka or what came to be known as its namesake, Lokāyata.  Both the words are often used figuratively for materialism in general without, however, any ulterior motive, but as a matter of habit.[5] The origin of the Cārvāka/Lokāyata materialist system is thus traced back to hoary antiquity,[6]  at the least to the first millennium BCE.[7]

There is enough evidence to prove that the Cārvāka/Lokāyata was not the only system of materialism in India. Even if we exclude the early inklings of materialist thought lurking in the igveda[8] and some of the Upaniads, and in the teachings of Ajita Kesakambala as found in the Dighanikāya, there are several indications of the existence of several pre-Cārvāka philosophical schools that were for all intents and purposes fundamentally materialistic, although there were some differences of opinion among them  (stated in clear terms in the Tamil epic Maimēkalai 27.272-273, to which I shall soon revert) as there were different interpretations of certain sūtras among the Cārvākas themselves.[9]

Yet the fact is that we do not come across the name of Cārvāka in the field of philosophy before the eighth century.[10] Three other words, nāstika, lokāyata and bārhaspatya, were already current to designate materialism although the same words, particularly nāstika and lokāyata, were also used in other senses too.[11] By the eighth century, however, all these words have become interchangeable in signification and so used in the works of several Buddhist, Jain and Brahminical authors such as Kamalaśīla,[12] Śīlāka,[13] Jayantabhaṭṭa[14] and others. Hemacandra (AC 3.526-527) records all the four words as synonymous in his lexicon. Names like dehātmavāda, indriyātmavāda, mana-ātmavāda, prāātmavāda,[15] etc. apparently refer to some pre-Cārvāka systems of philosophy, for these views are discussed separately, unconnected with the Cārvāka/Lokāyata.[16] Sāyaa-Mādhava, perhaps following Śakara, mentions dehātmavāda in SDS, chapter 1 (p. 6), to mean the Cārvākas.

It needs to be emphasized that materialism in India, however, did not begin with the Cārvāka/Lokāyata. On the other hand, it came as the culmination of a long history of heterodoxy and the attempt to see nature «just as it is, without alien addition».[17] There are several words in Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit that bear evidence to the existence of materialist outlooks, if not of systems, before the Cārvākas. We shall take up two such words first.

1. Nāstika

The oldest word implying dissidence from the orthodox Brahminical view of the world is of course nāstika, the Neinsager (to use a convenient word once employed by Bertolt Brecht in his play Der Jasager und der Neinsager). The KUp (sometime after the fifth century BCE) is perhaps the first attempt to refute the heretical idea, namely, denial of the after-world, which characterized the idealists and the materialists in India.

The word nāstikya, like another such word avaidika, however occurs only once in the whole Upaniadic literature, and that too in a later text, MUp 3.5 and 7.10 respectively. We learn from Vāmana and Jayāditya, commentators of Pāini’s Aṣṭādhyāyī, that it is the existence of the after-world that is affirmed and denied by two sets of people; those who affirm are known as āstikas; those who deny, nāstikas.[18] This was the original meaning of these terms. Other meanings, such as the upholder and the denigrator of the Veda,[19] the theist and the atheist (current in modern Indian languages such as Bangla, Hindi, Marathi, etc. even today), etc. came later.

The Jains explain the word somewhat differently: a nāstika is one who thinks that there is no virtue and vice, nāsti puya pāpam iti matirasya nāstika.[20] To this Malliea adds the denial of the after-world[21] and Guaratna, the denial of the self: te (scil. nāstikā) ca  jīvapuyapāpādika na manyante.[22] The opposition is on ethical grounds rather than ontological.

Medhātithi in his commentary on the Manu, explains the word nāstika in two senses:  a denier of the after-world (paralokāpavādin; on Manu 8.22) and as one who hold the  view that the Vedic doctrines are false (vedapramāākānām arthānā mithyātvādhyavasaya; on Manu 4.163). It may be pointed out that the first signification is directly connected with ontology (the view rejecting the existence of the extra-corporal and imperishable self distinguishes the materialists from the idealists) while the second is more relevant to the domain of epistemology (whether śabda, verbal testimony, is to be admitted as a valid instrument of cognition, and if so, if the Veda is to be admitted as the highest of such testimony). The materialists are to be called nāstika in the first sense only. In fact Buddhist and Jain savants join their voice in condemning the materialists as nāstikas whereas in the second sense the Buddhists and the Jains too are branded so. In both senses, however, the approbatory nature of the word is obvious. Like another such word, pāaṇḍin, it is loaded with an attitude of censure and disapproval.  

Nāstika is the commonest word to suggest irreligious attitude. Whether in the Mbh 12.36.43 or Vātsyāyana’s commentary on NS 1.1.2, nāstikya is used in this sense.[23] But Vātsyāyana also employs the word to mean materialism (on NS 3.2.61). Similarly the āhiyavādī/natthiyavāī in the Saghadāsagai’s Vasudevahiṃḍī (pp. 169, 275) and the nāhiyavādī in Haribhadra’s Samarāicca Kahā (p. 164) is a materialist. Āryaśūra’s Jātakamālā 23.57 employs the work nāstika to suggest a materialist or a non-believer.

A passage from the Vasudevahiṃḍī (p. 275), a Prakrit work written in the third century, makes the position of some earlier natthiyavāis (nāstikavādins) clear:

jahā idadhau jahicchāë dasaīya uppajjati, puo vi jahicchāë paviassaë;  eva na koï ettha sārabhūö atthi [*na koï*] jo  sarīrapabheë ï parabhavasakāmī (Emphasis added).
«As the rainbow is seen accidentally and disappears accidentally again, so is there no essence, [nothing] that goes through another birth to another body».

E. Frauwallner  (1997, vol 2: 222) interprets a Cārvāka sūtra I.9, jalabudbudavaj jīvā, «Souls are like water bubbles» (see Bhattacharya 2009: 79, 87) as a denial of the rigorous law of retribution following from the power of good and bad actions. This would make the Cārvāka/Lokāyatas appear as accidentalists (yadcchāvādins). But E. Franco’s (1997: 99) way of viewing the simile as an expression of epiphenomenalism, in my opinion, is more appropriate. The analogy has nothing to do with necessity and accident.[24]

2. Bhūtavāda

The presence of several groups of pre-Cārvāka materialists is testified by an old Jain canonical work, the SKS (1.1.1-20, 2.1.15-16). Śīlāka (ninth century) in his commentary on the SKS employs the word bhūtavādin along with Bārhaspatya, Cārvāka and Lokāyatika (on SKS 1.1. 6-8, pp.10-11). He identifies egesā (in Sanskrit ekeām) with the bhūtavādins and calls them «followers of the doctrine of Bhaspati» (on SKS 1.1.7-8). He uses another synonym, tajjīvataccharīravādin (on SKS 1.1.11-14; pp. 13-14), «one who holds that the spirit and the body are identical» as well as nāstika (on SKS 1.1.14; p.15). The SKS also refers to several other presumably materialist schools that mostly spoke of five elements (1.1.7-8, 15, 20-25) instead of four (which the Cārvākas did). Śīlāka apparently did not attach any importance to bhūtacatuṣṭayavāda (four-elements doctrine) of the Cārvākas and identified even the bhūtapañcakavādins (mentioned in SKS 1.1.7)[25] at first with the Cārvākas and then as bhūtavādins and Bārhaspatyas! Śīlāka’s identification of many of the opponents of the Jain creed, however, is not always convincing. In his comments on the same text (on SKS 2.1.20) he himself is uncertain about the identity of «the second man» and proposes two alternatives: either the Laukāyitakas or the Sākhyas. He uses all the names of materialists current in his time – Cārvāka, nāstika, Bārhaspatya, bhūtavādin (also pañcabhūtavādyādyā and more elaborately as pañcabhūtāstitvādivādina (on SKS 1.1.20-25; p. 19), and Laukāyatikas (besides tajjīvataccharīravādins) – interchangeably, as many others such as Kamalaśīla and Jayantabhaṭṭa do (see above).

We do not know whether materialism appeared in south India (as recorded in Maimēkalai, composed between the third and the seventh century CE) quite independent of the developments in the north. Whatever the case may be, there can be little doubt that materialism in course of time gained adherents even in faraway Kashmir.[26] In or around the eighth century one such school came to be known as the Cārvāka. Partial acceptance of the validity of inference was their hallmark. They distinguished themselves from the bhūtavādins and other earlier materialists by declaring their view regarding inference in no uncertain terms. Yet a host of their opponents, whether they were Brahminical, Buddhist or Jain, continued to criticize them for not admitting inference at all as an instrument of cognition.

Who are the bhūtavādins? In the list of rival claimants for the first cause (jagatkāraa) given in the ŚvUp 1.2, bhūtāni (the elements), along with time, svabhāva (own nature), niyati (destiny) and others are mentioned. There is no way to prove that bhūtavāda was a direct descendent of the doctrine of bhūtāni. We first read of the bhūtavādins in the Maimēkalai who in many respects resemble the lokāyatikas. The bhūtavādin, however, says that on doctrinal points they have some differences with the Lokāyatas. This Tamil epic does not mention the Cārvākas, but does refer to the Lokāyatas. A bhūtavādin is made to declare the basic doctrine of the system he adheres to in the following terms (27.265-76; p. 154):

When aathi (?) flowers, sugar and the rest
Are mixed, wine is made. Life too appears
By the mixing of elements, vanishes
When they separate as sounds from a drum.
Conscious elements produce life within
And unconscious one produces the body
Each appearing through their elements.
This is the truth. Words different from this
And other facts are from Materialists [Lokāyatas].
Sense perception is valid. Inference
Is false. This birth and its effect conclude
Now. Talk of other birth is falsity.[27]

The words of the bhūtavādin have been paraphrased by a late medieval commentator in the following way:

When certain flowers and jaggery are boiled together, liquor is born which produced intoxication. Just as when elements combine, consciousness arises. Consciousness dissolves with the dissolutions of the elements composing them like the disintegration of sound. Elements combine to produce living bhūtas and from them other living bhūtas will be born. Life and consciousness are synonymous. From non-living bhūtas consisting of two or more elements rise non-living bhūtas of the same type. Lokāyata is a variant of this system that agrees in fundamental with this system. Observation is the method by knowledge is obtained. Inferential thinking is illusion. This worldly life is real. Its effect is experienced in this life only. The theory that we enjoy the fruits of our action in our next birth or in another world is false.[28]

So far as the Maimēkalai is concerned, the number of elements admitted by the bhūtavādins is not specified; hence there is no way of ascertaining whether the bhūtavādins spoke of five or four elements. The first statement regarding the rise of consciousness is very much similar to the Cārvāka aphorism: «As the power of intoxication (arises or is manifested) from the constituent parts of the wine (such as flour, water and molasses)».[29] The rejection of rebirth is a basic materialist position which can be traced back to much earlier sources.[30]

The bhūtavādin in the Tamil epic, however, rejects inference as such, declaring it to be false. On the other hand, the Cārvākas, as it has been pointed out time and again,[31] do admit inference in all worldly affairs.

3. The Old and the New Materialists: Points of Difference

In view of all this the new materialists (Cārvākas) may be distinguished from the old materialists of all sorts in the following respects:

a) Instead of five elements (including ākāśa or vyoma, space) as their principle (tattva), the Cārvākas spoke of four, excluding space,[32] presumably because it was not amenable to sense-perception.
b) The bhūtavādins believed in two kinds of matter: lifeless and living. Life originates from living matter, the body from the lifeless. The Cārvāka/Lokāyatas did not believe in such duality; to them all beings/entities were made of the same four basic elements.[33]

c)  There was another domain in which the two differed more radically. Some of the Pre-Cārvāka materialists were accidentalists (yadcchāvādins); they did not believe in causality. On the other hand, the Cārvākas appear to have endorsed causality;[34] they adopted the doctrine of svabhāva-as-causality rather than the opposite one, namely, svabhāva-as-accident.[35]

d)  The Cārvākas admitted the validity of inference insofar as it was confined to the material and perceptible world (hence verifiable), not extended to the invisible and unverifiable areas, such as the imperishable soul, god, omniscient persons (admitted by the Buddhists and the Jains as well), the outcome of performing sacrifices called apūrva (as claimed by the Mīmāsakas), etc.,[36] while some of the old materialists rejected inference as such as an instrument of cognition, and clung to perception alone.


a) Primay sources and abbreviations

AC = Hemacandra, Abhidhānacintāmai: The Abhidhānacintāmai of Hemachandrāchārya. With His Own Notes (2 vols.), ed. by H.T. Seha,  B.J. Dośī and M.M. Jayantavijaya, N.L. Vakil, Bhavnagar 1914-1919.
Āryaśūra, Jātakamālā: Jātaka-mālā by Ārya Śūra, ed. by P.L. Vaidya, The Mithila Institute, Darbhanga 1959.
Aṣṭ = Pāini, Aṣṭādhyāyī: Aṣṭādhyāyī of Pāini, ed. and Engl. trans. by S.M. Katre, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi 1989.
AYVD = Hemacandra, Anyayogavyavacchedadvātṛṃśikā (see SVM).
Bhaspatisūtra: Brihaspati Sutra, Or the Science of Politics According to the School of Brihaspati, ed. by F.W. Thomas, Motilal Banarsidass – The Pubjab Sanskrit Book Depot, Lahore 1971 (rep.).
BS = Bādarāyana, Brahmasūtra: The Brahmasūtra Śakara Bhāya. With the Commentaries Bhāmatī, Kalpataru and Parimala, ed. by A.K. Śāstrī and V.L. Shastri Pansikar, Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, Varanasi 1982.
BSB = Śakara, Bharmasūtrabhāya (see BS).
EPU = Eighteen Principal Upaniads, ed. by V.P. Limaye and R.D. Vadekar, Vaidika Samsodhana Mandala, Poona 1958.
Haribhadra, Samarāicca Kahā: Samaraicca Kahā. A Jaina Prakrta Work, ed. by H. Jacobi, The Asiatic Society, Calcutta 1926.
Jinendrabuddhi, Viśālāmalavatī Pramāasamuccayaīkā: Jinendrabuddhi’s Viśālāmalavatī Pramāasamuccayaīkā: Chapter 1 (vol. 1), ed. by. E. Steinkellner, H. Krasser and H. Lasic, China Tibetology Publishing House – Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, Beijing – Vienna 2005.
KUp = Kaha Upaniad (see EUP).
Manu = Manusmti: Manu-Smti, With Nine Commentaries by Medhātithi, Sarvajnanārāyaa, Kullūka, Rāghavānanda, Nandana, Rāmacandra, Mairāma, Govindarāja, and Bhāruci (6 vols.), ed. by. J.H. Dave, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay 1972-84.
MBh = Mahābhārata: The Mahābhārata (19 vols.), crit. ed. by V.S. Sukthankar et alii, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona 1933-1966.
MUp = Maitrī (or Maitrāyaī or Maitrāyaīya) Upaniad (see EPU).
NM = Jayantabhaṭṭa, Nyāyamañjarī: Nyāyamañjarī of Jayanta Bhaṭṭa, With the Commentary of Granthibhaga of Cakradhara (3 vols.), ed. by. G. Sastri, Sampurnanand Sanskrit Vishvavidyalaya, Varanasi 1982-84.
NS = Gautama, Nyāyasūtra: Nyāya Darśana Vātsyāyana Bhāya [in Bengali], ed. by Ph. Tarkavagīśa, West Bengal State Book Board, Calcutta 1989 (rep.).
Rām = Rāmāyaa: The Vālmīki Rāmāyaa: The Ayodhyākāṇḍa, ed. by P.L. Vaidya, Oriental Institute, Baroda 1962.
Sadānanda Kāśmīraka, Advaitvabrahmasiddhi: Advaita-Brahma-Siddhi by Kaśmīraka Śrī Sadānanda Yati, ed. by G. Tarka-Darshanatirtha and P. Tarkavagish, University of Calcutta, Calcutta 1932.
Sadānanda Yogīndra, Vedāntasāra: Vedāntasāra, Or The Essence of Vedānta of Sadānanda Yogīndra, Engl. trans. by S. Nikhilānanda, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta 1990.
Saghadāsagai, Vasudevahiṃḍī: Vasudevahiṃḍī prathama khaṇḍam, ed. by M. Caturavijaya and M. Punyavijaya, Gujarat Sahitya Akademi, Gandhinagar 1989.
SDS = Sāyaa-Mādhava, Sarvadarśanasagraha: Sarva-Darśana-Sagraha of Sāyaa-Mādhava, ed. by. V.S. Abhyankar, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Insitute, Poona 1978 (rep.).
DSam = Haribhadra, adarśanasamuccaya: adarśanasamuccaya of Haribhadra Sūri. With the Commentaries Tarka-rahasya-dīpikā of Guaratna Sūri and Laghuvtti of Somatilaka Sūri and an Avacūrni, ed. by M.K. Jain, Bharatiya Jnanapitha, Varanasi 1969.
Śīlāka, Sūtrakgasūtraīkā (see SKS).
Sīthalai Sāttanār, Maimēkalai: Silappattikaram, Manimekalai [by Iakō Aika and Sīthalai Sāttanār], Engl. rendering by L. Holmstörm, Orient Longman, Hyderabad 1996.
SKS = Sūtrakgasūtra:
Ācārāgasūtram and Sūtrakgasūtram with Niryukti of Ācārya Bhadrabāhu Svāmī and the Commentary of Śīlākācārya, ed. by Ā.S. Mahārāja (re-ed. with Appendix by M. Jambūviyajaji), Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi 1978.
Sureśvara, Mānasollāsasagraha: Śrī Śakarācārya’s Dakiāmūrti Stotra with the Vārttika Mānasollāsa of Sureśvarācārya, ed. and Engl. trans. by S. Harshananda, Ramaskrishna Math, Bangalore 1992.
SVM = Malliea, Syādvādamañjarī: Syādvādamañjarī of Malliea, with the Anyayoga-Vyavaccheda-Dvātriśikā of Hemacandra, ed. by. A. B. Dhruva, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona 1933.
ŚvUp = Śvetaśvatara Upaniad (see EPU).
TRD = Guaratna, Tarkarahasyadīpikā: Shadarśana-samuchchaya by Haribhadra with Guaratna’s Commentary Tarkarahasya-dīpikā, ed. L. Suali, The Asiatic Society, Calcutta 1905.
TS = Śāntarakita, Tattvasagraha: The Tattvasagraha of Ācārya Śāntarakita with the “Pañjikā” Commentary of Ācārya Kamalaśīla (2 vols.), ed. by D. Śāstrī, Bauddha Bharati, Varanasi 1968.
TSP = Kamalaśīla, Tattvasagrahapañjikā (See TS).
Vācaspatimiśra, Bhāmatī (see BS).
Vāmana and Jayāditya, Kāśikā: inīyavyākaraasūtravtti. Kāśikā of Pt. Vāmana and Jayāditya (2 vols.), ed. by N. Miśra, Chowkhamba, Varanasi 1996.
Vātsyāyana, Nyāyabhāya (see NS).
Vyom = Vyomśivācārya, Vyomavatī: Vyomavatī of Vyomśivācārya (2 vols.), ed. by G. Shastri, Sampurnanand Sanskrit Vishvavidyalaya, Varanasi 1983-1984.
Yāmuna, Siddhitraya: Śrī bhagavad Yāmunamuni viracita Siddhitrayam, ed by. T. Virarāghavācārya, Tirupati Śrīvāī Mudraālaya, Tirupati 1942.

b) Secondary sources

Bhattacharya, R.: 2009a  Reasoners and Religious Law-makers: An Ancient Indian Case Study, «Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research», 26, 49-56.
Bhattacharya, R.:  2009b  Studies on theCārvāka/Lokāyata, Società Editrice Fiorentina, Firenze.
Bhattacharya, R.: 2010a  Commentators on the Cārvākasūtra: A Critical Survey, «Journal of Indian Philosophy»,  38, 419-430.
Bhattacharya, R.: 2010b  «LokāyataDarśana and a Comparative Study with Greek materialism», in P. Ghose (ed. by), Materialism and Immaterialism in India and the West: Varying Vistas, Centre for the Studies on Civilizations, New Delhi, 21-34.
Bhattacharya, R.: 2010c  «LokāyataMaterialism: Classification of Source Materials», in  S. Charan Goswami (ed. by), Lokāyata Philosophy: A Fresh Appraisal, The Asiatic Society, Kolkata, 37-42.
Bhattacharya, R.: 2010d  What theCārvākas Originally Meant: More on the Commentators of the Cārvākasūtra, «Journal of Indian Philosophy», 38, 529-542.
Bhattacharya, R.: 2012 Svabhāvavāda and the Cārvāka/Lokāyata: A Historical Overview, «Journal of Indian Philosophy», 40, 593-614.
Bronkhorst, J.: 2007    Greater Magadha: Studies in the Culture of Early India, Brill, Leiden.
Chattopadhyaya, D.: 1989    In Defence of Materialism in Ancient India, People’s Publishing House, New Delhi.
Chattopadhyaya, D. and Gangopadhyaya M.K.: 1990    Cārvāka/Lokāyata, Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi.
Dasgupta, S.: 1975    A History of Indian Philosophy (vol. 2), Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi (rep.).
Del Toso, K.: 2012    «tebhyaś caitanya : il “sé” secondo il Materialismo indiano», in A. Cislaghi and K. Del Toso (ed. by), Intrecci filosofici. Pensare il Sé a Oriente e a Occidente, Mimesis, Milano-Udine, 135-153.
Engels, F.: 1966    Dialectics of Nature, Progress Publishers, Moscow.
Franco, E.: 1997    Dharmakīrti on Compassion and Rebirth, Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, Universität Wien, Wien.
Franco, E and Preisendanz, K.: 1998    «Materialism, Indian School of», in E. Craig (ed. by), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (vol. 6), Routledge, London, 179.
Frauwallner, E.: 1997    History of Indian Philosophy (2 vols.), Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi.
Gangopadhyaya, M.K.: 1984    Indian Logic in Its Sources: The Validity of Inference, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi.
Hiriyanna, M.: 1952    Popular Essays in Indian Philosophy Kavyalaya Publishers, Mysore.
Marx, K. and Engels, F.: 1957    On Religion, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow.
Mookerjee, S.: 1935    The Buddhist Philosophy of Universal Flux, Calcutta University, Calcutta.
Radhakrishnan, S.: 1948    Indian Philosophy (vol. 1), George Allen and Unwin, London.
Sen, A.K.: 2005    The Argumentative Indian, Penguin Books, London.
Tarkavagisa, Ph.: 1982    Nyāyadarśana o Vātsyāyana Bhāya (vol. 3), Paschimbanga Rajya Pustak Parshat, Calcutta (rep.).
Vanamamalai, N.: 1973    Materialist Thought in Early Tamil Literature, «Social Scientist», 2, 25-41.
Whitney, W.D.: 1890    Translation of the Kaha-Upaniad, «Transactions of the American Philological Association», 21, 88-112.

[1] Frauwallner (1997, vol. 2: 219) speaks of the oldest Materialistic doctrines of Puraṇa Kāśyapa, Ajita Keśakambalin and Kakuda Kātyāyana and (Ibidem: 221) the Lokāyata system (which Frauwallner believes «arose in pre-Christian period» and one Cārvāka was its founder).  Franco and Preisendanz (1998: 179) call them «Early Materialists» and «the Classical Materialistic Philosophy» (sixth century).

[2] In his tenth thesis on Feurbach, Marx distinguishes between «old materialism» and «new materialism». See Marx and Engels (1957: 72). Similarly, Engels (1966: 255) in his study of Ludwig Feurbach branded the whole of pre-Marxian materialism as «old materialism».

[3] For details see R. Bhattacharya (2010a), (2010d) and (2010c).

[4] Cf. AYVD, v. 20; SVM, p. 129; Vācaspatimiśra, Bhāmatī on BS 3.3.53 (tranlsated in Chattopadhyaya and Gangopadhyaya 1990: 242-243).

[5] Speaking of the adherents of a different school of materialists, Guṇaratna (TRD, p. 300) called them cārvākaikadeśīyāḥ, some sections of the Cārvākas. Sadānanda Yogīndra’s Vedāntasāra (124-127; pp. 70-72) speaks of several Cārvākas professing sthūlaśarīrātmavāda, indrīyātmavāda, prāṇātmavāda and ātmavāda, sections. Phanibhushana Tarkavagisa (1982: 69) endorses this view. More recently Johannes Bronkhorst (2007: 309) speaks of a materialist Cārvāka (not the demon) in the Mbh.

[6] P.L. Vaidya (1962: 703), in his edition of the Rām., even goes to the extent of saying that «the tenets of Lokāyata school are as old as humanity itself»!

[7] Sen (2005: 23).

[8] See Del Toso (2012: 138-141).

[9] See Bhattacharya (2010a), (2010d) and (2010c).

[10] Jinendrabuddhi’s Viśālāmalavatī Pramāṇasamuccayaṭīkā, p. 24: atha vā cārvākaṃ pratyetaducyate. For other references see note 11 below.

[11] Bhattacharya (2009a: 187-92), (2009b).

[12] See Haribhadra, ṢDSam, chapter 6. The chapter is devoted to the exposition of Lokāyata (lokāyatā vadanty evam, etc.; 80a), but in 85d we read: cārvākāḥ pratipedire. See also Kamalaśīla who, in his commentary TSP on TS, chapter 22, entitled Lokāyataparīkṣā, uses the names Cārvāka and Lokāyata interchangeably. See TSP, vol. 2, pp. 639, 649, 657, 663, 665, also 520 (bārhaspatyādayaḥ), 939 (lokāyataḥ) and 945 (lokāyatam).

[13] On SKS (pp.10-11) and on (p.15).

[14] NM, vol 1, pp. 9, 43, 154, 275, 387-388, etc.

[15] In Śaṅkara’s BSB on BS 1.1.1, we find the following expressions: śarīram evātmeti viparyayo lokāyatikānām; indriyāṇyevātmetīndriyacaitanyavādīnām; manaścaitanyavādin mana eveti. Vyom (vol. 2, p. 126), bhūtacaitanyavādapakṣa. NM (vol. 2, p. 218), also indriyacaitanyapakṣa (Ibidem, p. 219), yet another view which G. Sastri has called manaścetenatvavāda (Ibidem); Sureśvara’s Mānasollāsasaṃgraha 5.14-22; Yāmuna’s Siddhitraya, pp. 19-24; Sadānanda Yogīndra’s Vedāntasāra, pp. 70-72; Sadānanda Kāśmīraka’s Advaitvabrahmasiddhi, chapter 2 (each chapter is called mudgaraprahāra), pp. 101-102.

[16] S. Radhakrishnan (1948 : 280) is of the opinion that what is common to all these views is that «the soul is only a natural phenomenon». Hiriyanna (1952: 26) thought that such views were variants of the Cārvākas (26).

[17] Engels (1966: 198).

[18] Kāśikā on Aṣṭ 4.4.60 (p. 396).

[19] A nāstika is the defiler of the Veda: nāstiko vedanindakaḥ (Manu 2.11).

[20] AC auto-commentary, p. 334.

[21] SVM, p. 130.

[22] TRD, p. 300.

[23] See Bhattacharya (2009b: 227-231).

[24] It may be noted in this connection that the same simile was used in the SKS to uphold the idealist view ( «As for instance, a water-bubble is produced in water, grows in water, is not separate from water, but is bound up in water: so all beings have the Self for their cause and their object, they are produced by the Self, they are intimately connected with the Self, they are bound up in the Self».

[25] saṅti paṃca mahabbhūyā ihamege simāhiyā | pudhavī āu teu vā vāu āgāsapaṃcamā || («Some profess [the exclusive belief in] the five gross elements: earth, water, fire, air and space»). Mbh 12.267.4 also mentions «five great elements» (mahābhūtāni pañceti) in relation to a similar, if not the same, doctrine.

[26] Udbhaṭa, who composed a rather unusual commentary on the Cārvākasūtra (now lost), was a Kashmirian as was his arch opponent, Jayanta, author of the NM.

[27] In another translation (or rather a prose adaptation), the distinction between the bhūtavādins and the laukāyatikas is somewhat differently explained: «The Bhūta-vādīs hold that the world is formed out of the five elements alone, without any divine intervention. We agree with the Lokāyata, the sage said, and believe that when the elements combined together, a material and a spirit come into existence. That is all. We believe that perception alone is our means of knowledge and nothing else. We recognise only one birth and we know that our joys and pains end on earth with this one life» (Holmstörm, 1996: 170).  

[28]  This paraphrase has been translated into English by N. Vanamamalai (1973: 36). The commentator further says (Ibidem) that there were three such schools: Bhūtavāda, Lokāyata and Sarvaka (meaning Cārvāka?). If so, the commentator must have flourished after the eighth century, for the name, Cārvāka, as has been said before, does not occur in the context of philosophy before then.

[29] See Bhattacharya (2009b: 79, 87; fragment I.5).

[30] The KUp, as said before, is perhaps the first attempt to refute the heretical idea, namely, denial of the after-world. There is, however, no reference to hell in the KUp (as Whitney, 1890: 92) so perceptively noted); the deniers of the after-world are forced to repeated redeath and subsequent rebirth on earth. It is in Mbh 12.146.18 that we read of the abode of Yama (yamakṣaya) where the messengers of Yama (yamadūtas) bring back the deniers of the other-world; such sinners have to stay there for a while before they are sent back to earth. The elaborate picture of hell with its eighty four pits (kuṇḍas) developed later, mainly in the Purāṇas.

[31] Mookerjee (1935: 368-369), Dasgupta (1975: 539), Gangopadhyaya (1984: 32, 55 note 1, 56 note 4, 66 note 51), Chattopadhyaya (1989: 52) and Bhattacharya (2010b: 28-30).

[32] Bhattacharya (2009b: 78, 86; aphorism I.2).

[33] Bhattacharya (Ibidem: 78-79, 86; aphorisms I.1-3).

[34] See SDS, pp. 12-13.

[35] For a study of the doctrine of svabhāva, see Bhattacharya (2012).

[36] For sources see Bhattacharya (2009: 57-58) and (2010b: 28-30).

Acknowledgements: Amitava Bhattacharyya, T. Seshasayee, Krishna Del Toso.

This essay was first published Esercizi Filosofici 8, 2013, pp. 1-12. 

The PDF version of the essay can be downloaded here: 


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