Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Tattvopaplavavāda of Jayarāśi and its Alleged Relation to the Cārvāka/Lokāyata

Ramkrishna Bhattacharya

The Lion of Upsetting of all Principles (Tattvopaplava-siṃha) by Jayarāśibhaṭṭa has been claimed by some scholars to be the only surviving Cārvāka work. Others have challenged this view.i Since there is no external evidence to settle the question, the debate continues solely on the basis of internal evidence and intrinsic probability. No near-unanimous (total unanimity is seldom found) conclusion has been reached to date. Instead of summarizing the whole debate (which is of a technical nature), a few issues are raised below. They go against branding Jayarāśi a Cārvāka, but identify him rather as a founder/follower of a totally new doctrine, which is quite distinct from both materialism on the one hand and any form of illusionism (māyāvāda) or nihilism (śūnyavāda) on the other. His is ‘the doctrine of upsetting principles,’ tattvopaplava-vāda. This is the name used by Jayarāśi’s critics; nowhere is he called a Cārvāka or ‘one belonging to a section of the Cārvāka’ (Cārvākaikadeśīya).ii It is basically an annihilationist doctrine. Although Jayarāśi is called a skeptic, there is no room for such a thing as doubt in his work. He is convinced that there can be no principles, tattvas, because there is no such thing as pramāṇa.  
Now, Vātsyāyana in the exordium of his Nyāya Aphorisms (Nyāyasūtra) states at the outset (on 1.1.1) that one has to admit not only pramāṇa, but also the other three, pramātṛ (knower), prameya (the object rightly known), and pramiti (right knowledge of the object): ‘With these four, tattva reaches its fulfillment.’ M.K. Gangopadhyaya suggests that, as opposed to tattvopaplavavāda, Vātsyāyana’s view may be called ‘the doctrine of establishing the principles,’ tattva-vyavasthāpana-vāda.iii It seems Vātsyāyana had a predecessor of Jayarāśi in mind, and against such an opponent he felt it necessary to assert all the four elements stated above. This assertion can be understood only against the backdrop of an opponent who denied pramāṇa as such. 
Skepticism’ has a definite significance in western philosophy; it is improper to use it in the Indian context.iv A skeptic has no axe to grind; he or she merely doubts the veracity of all views. Jayarāśi however has a definite view of his own. At the end of his work he claims that even those (questions) which could not become the object of knowledge of even the preceptor of the gods have been raised by Bhatta Sri Jayarāśi, for the shake of removing the pride of the infidels.v On the basis of this declaration, and the Cārvāka aphorisms quoted at the beginning of the work, he has been called a Bārhaspatya (follower of Bṛhaspati, the legendary founder of materialism) or a Cārvāka/ Lokāyata. To this facile identification D. Chattopadhyaya objects, ‘[A]ccording to the Indian philosophical tradition no real representative of a system would ever dream of boasting intellectual superiority to the founder of the system itself. Jayarāśi, who claims to be intellectually superior to Bṛhaspati, could thus hardly be a follower of Bṛhaspati himself, i.e., could hardly be the leader of any imaginary offshoot of the Cārvāka or Bārhaspatya system.’vi 
Gangopadhyaya endorses this view and adds: the way Jayarāśi uses honorific plural in mentioning his own name along with Bṛhaspati, bhaṭṭaśrījayarāśi-devagurubhiḥ…, places him in the seat of the preceptor of the gods, which goes against the Indian tradition. Jayarāśi further claims that all his opponents will be defeated by his arguments. This too is not the style of the explicators of Indian philosophy. The way of writing of later writers, even if they express views of their own, is suave and modest, as if they mean to suggest that this significance was inherent in the text itself.vii 
Chattopadhyaya adduced another argument against the identification of Jayarāśi as a Cārvāka:

It is moreover necessary to remember that Jayarāśi claims as his final achievement the annihilation of the vanity of the Pāṣaṇḍin [pākhaṇḍin]-s ([Tattvopaplava-siṃha Baroda ed.] p.125). Now whatever might have been the exact meaning of the word pāṣaṇḍin,viii it could by no stretch of imagination have excluded the Lokāyatikas and Cārvākas.ix

Gangopadhyaya further elucidates:

According to the lexicographers in the word pākhaṇḍa means trayīdharma [i.e., the Vedas]; those who refute (khaṇḍayati) that dharma are pākhaṇḍa, i.e. anti-Vedic nāstikas. The Cārvākas in Indian philosophy are well-known by the appellation nāstikaśiromaṇi [vide Sarva-darśana-saṃgraha, ed. Abhyankar, chap.1, p.2]. Then how can Jayarāśi be a supporter of Cārvāka?x

The derivation of pākhaṇḍa is of course an instance of folk etymology, but such derivations, however absurd, are pointers to actual usage. Unless pākhaṇḍa was once current in this sense, such a derivation would not be proposed at all. The etymology is required to conform to common understanding, justifying the sense in which it was already in use.

Did the Cārvākas or the earlier bhūtavādins and lokāyatas (mentioned in the Tamil epic, Manimekalai, 27.264-277) call themselves bārhaspatyas, thereby giving a stamp of approval to the Purāṇic origin of their philosophical system which in its turn takes its cue from a legend in the Maitrī Upaniṣad (7.9)? No available fragment suggests so. On the other hand, from Purandara we learn that the new materialists used to call themselves Cārvākas and we also know from other sources that the base text of their school was known as the Paurandaraṃ sūtram, and there was also a commentary (an auto-commentary) called Pauraṃdariya vitti as well.xi The very idea of referring to their origin to the suraguru (devaguru) or calling him bhagavān, as found in theTattvopaplava-siṃha, would be anathema to them.

There is indeed a Cārvāka at the very beginning of the Tattvopaplava-siṃha. But he is not Jayarāśi, but another person who is presented as a Cārvāka out to challenge Jayarāśi’s doctrine of upsetting tattva as such. This objector has to be a Cārvāka, for who but a Cārvāka would refer to the basic premises of materialism and stand upon them? The presence of this objector and the way Jayarāśi gets into controversy with him clearly indicate that Jayarāśi himself was not a Cārvāka or did not even belong to ‘a section of the Cārvāka’ (cārvākaikadeśya). He prided in claiming that he could understand Bṛhaspati’s sūtras better than the Cārvākas themselves. Jayarāśi always refers to Bṛhaspati, the mythical guru of the gods, never to a real-life philosopher like Purandara or Aviddhakarṇa, as Kamalaśīla, Karṇakagomin, Anantavīrya, Cakradhara, and Vādidevasūri do. Thus Jayarāśi supports the purāṇic story of the origin of materialism. Sāyaṇa-Mādhava too refers to Bṛhaspati as the author of a number of verses that are found in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa and Buddhist and Jain sources.xii


i Eli Franco (Perception, Knowledge and Disbelief: A Study of Jayarāśi’s Scepticism (Delhi: MLBD, 1994) )modifies this assertion by calling Jayarāśi a sceptic Lokāyata rather than a materialist (XII-XIII), but very few pay attention to his distinction. They call Jayarāśi a Cārvāka or a Lokāyata, apparently meaning a materialist.

ii For instance, Vidyānandasvāmin, Aṣṭasahasrī (Mumbapuri: Nirnayasagara Press, 1915) 37: tadime tattvopaplavavādinaḥ… ; idem,Tattvārthaślokavārttika (Mumbapuri: Nirnayasagara Press ,1918) 80, 195; Anantavīrya, Siddhiviniścayaṭīkā (Kashi: Bharatiya Jnanapith,1959) 277-278 – all treat the Cārvāka and tattvopaplava-vāda separately. – For a survey of the Jayarāśi controversy, see Sukhlalji Sanghvi and Rasiklal Parikh, Introduction to the Tattvopaplavasiṃha of Jayarāśibhaṭṭa (Baroda: Oriental Institute, 1940) i-xiv, reprinted in Cārvāka/Lokāyata (n28 above), 492-504 and Eli Franco (n34 above), XI-XIII, 4-8. For the other view see Walter Ruben (reprinted in Cārvāka/Lokāyata, 505-519), and K. K. Dixit (reprinted in Cārvāka/Lokāyata, 520-530), D. Chattopadhyaya, Indian Philosophy: A Popular Introduction (New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 1964), 222-223, and In Defence of Materialism in Ancient India (New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 1989) 36-41. See also R. Bhattacharya in an interview with Krishna Del Toso, “The Wolf’s Footprints: Indian Materialism in perspective,” Annali 71 (2011): 183-204 (particularly 188-191), and Tattvopaplavasiṃha of Jayarāśibhaṭṭa, trans. V. N. Jha (Ernakulam: Chinmaya International Foundation Shodha Sansthan, 2013) xi. 
iii “Mukhavandha” (Foreword ) to D. K. Mohanta , Tattvopaplavasiṃha: Jayarāśibhaṭṭer Saṃśayavāda ( Kolkata: Sanskrita Sahitya Bhandar, 1998) [xiii]. 
iv It is also improper to translate nāstika as ‘agnostic’ (as Goldman has done in his translation (The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki, vol. 1, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1984) 136), for a nāstika in its earliest use is a non-believer in the other-world, later one who denies the authority of the Veda; then one who says there is no god or gods (atheist). In short he or she is a typical neinsager (one who says no). But he or she is neither a doubter nor undecided about acquisition of knowledge as such. See R. Bhattacharya, “Development of Materialism in India: the Pre-Cārvākas and the Cārvākas,” Esercizi Filosofici 8 (2013): 1-12.
v Sanghvi and Parikh (see n34 above) 124; V. N. Jha (n34 above) 464.

vi Indian Philosophy: A Popular Introduction, (see n34 above) 222-23. Even earlier, in two essays in Bangla published in 1963 (see his Saṃghaṃ Śaraṇaṃ Gacchami ityādi agranthita racanā (Kolkata: Ababhas, 2010) 74-84) Chattopadhyaya stated the same point. 
vii M. K. Gangopadhyaya , “Mukhavandha,” [xi].

viii The Śabda-kalpa-druma (Kalikata: Hitavadi Karyyalaya, 1836 Saka era (1924 CE)) glosses pāṣaṇḍa as one who behaves contrary to the Veda, one who bears all the marks (i.e., a heretic) ; the Buddhists, the Jains and others (some commentators on the lexicons name these two communities in particular); The Sanskrit-Wörterbuch (Eds. O. Böhtlingk and R. Roth (Delhi: MLBD, 1990 reprint)) glosses pāṣaṇḍa as Irrlehre (untaught), Ketzerei (heresy), also Ketzer (heretic).

ix D. Chattopadhyaya, Indian Philosophy, 223.

x M. K. Gangopadhyaya, Foreword, [xi]. The etymology of pākhaṇḍa as suggested is found in an anonymous verse quoted in Bhānuji Dīkṣita’s Rāmāśramī (Vyākhyāsudhā), a commentary on the Nāmaliṃgānuśasana (Amarakoṣa) (Varanasi: Chaukhambha Sanskrit Sansthan, Vikrama era 2099), Brahmavarga, 44d.

xi R. Bhattacharya, Studies, Chap. 5.


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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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Jain commentator Silanka (writing in 9th century on Sutrakritanga) mentioned a group of philosophers known as Ajnanikavadin (Sceptics), or the followers of the doctrine of Ajnanikavada, or simply Ajñana. These philosophers believed in impossibility of knowledge, and prescribed the suspension of judgement as the best course of action. Jayarasi's work precedes or is contemporaneous to Silanka, and it is possible that Silanka had Jayarasi in his mind. The radical scepticism of Jayarasi's work seems to fall in line with Ajnanas rather than Carvaka. Is it possible that Jayarasi described himself as an Ajnanika? I am not sure if scholars have looked into it. It is impossible to describe Jayarasi as anything else other than a Sceptic; and there was a long tradition of such radical scepticism in Indian philosophy. I am not sure why scholars have tried to pigeon-hole Jayarasi as a Carvaka. The proper question might be how much was he influenced by the earlier Sceptics like Sanjaya Belatthiputta, mentioned in Buddhist texts

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