CARVAKAS-LOKAYATAS....Ancient Schools of Materialism (400 B.C.)


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Lo·ka·ya·ta......a materialistic school of philosophers in India that regarded only matter as real, sense data as the only source of knowledge.

Anti-Lokayata school.....A non-Buddhist school in ancient India that is thought to have arisen in opposition to the Lokayata school. Both schools existed in Shakyamuni's time. The Lokayata school, also known as the Charvaka school, argued that people are made of earth, water, fire, and wind, and that they have neither a previous life nor a next life. Followers of the school obeyed the conventions and trends of the world, including public opinion, and expounded a materialist and hedonistic doctrine. In Shakyamuni's time, Ajita Kesakambala, one of the six non-Buddhist teachers, expounded such a doctrine. The Anti-Lokayata school taught that one should oppose the conventions of the world and tried to refute the Lokayata followers. The "Peaceful Practices" (fourteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra reads, "They [bodhisattvas] should not associate closely with non-Buddhists, Brahmans, or Jains, or with those who compose works of secular literature or books extolling the heretics, nor should they be closely associated with Lokayatas or Anti-Lokayatas."(sgilibrary.org)

The world lokayata was used to refer to the person who believed in the reality of this world and the physical existence of man and of other beings on earth and nothing else. 'Loka' means the world and 'lokayata' means he who is centered around or relies upon this world only. The lokayatas believed in the existence of this world only, neither in heaven nor in hell, neither in vice nor virtue. They accepted only that reality which they could subjectively perceive and interact with, not in any imaginary world or some kind of ideal world.....(hinduwebsite.com)


The school would have been born between 600-400 B.C.E. TheBuddhist texts of this period mentions several heterodox teachers such as Sanjaya,the skeptic, Ajita, the materialist, Purana Kasyapa the indifferentist and Kosala, thefatalist and Katyayana whose ideas in someway or the other come closer to the viewsof Carvakas. It is probably in this ambience of skepticism, materialism and nihilismthat Carvaka philosophy would have originated. It must be noted that it is around thesame time that the Atomists and the Sophists became popular in Greece. Though it isa remote possibility that the Atomists, the Sophists and the Carvakas would haveinfluenced one another, it is evident that all these shared certain common views....(books.google)

In ancient India the atheists known as Carvakas or Lokayatas were very popular. They denounced Vedas Vedic rituals and all forms of divine worship. The did not believe in God or Soul and exhorted people to make enjoyment as the sole aim of their lives as they believe death was the end of all and there was no afterlife. Although the Carvakas disappeared from the religious scene of India thousands of years ago their philosophy lives through Hinduism in a subtle manner. It may sound incredible but some elements of Carvaka philosophy is reflected in Hinduism in the form of Purusharthas or principal aims of human life...(rtbot.net)

Cārvāka was a living philosophy from the eighth century to the twelfth century after which this system seems to have disappeared without leaving any trace. The reason for this sudden disappearance is not known.

The Cārvāka school of philosophy had a variety of atheistic and materialistic beliefs. They held perception to be the only valid source of knowledge.

To Cārvākas, the step which the mind takes from the knowledge of something to infer the knowledge of something else, could be accounted for by the its being based on a former perception or by its being in error. Cases where inference was justified by the result, were seen only to be mere coincidences.....Therefore, Cārvākas denied metaphysical concepts like reincarnation, extracorporeal soul, efficacy of religious rites, other world (heaven and hell), fate and accumulation of merit or demerit through the performance of certain actions. Cārvākas also rejected the use of supernatural causes to describe natural phenomena. To them all natural phenomena was produced spontaneously from the inherent nature of things....(wikipedia)

No independent works on Cārvāka philosophy can be found except for a few sūtras composed by Brihaspati. The 8th century Tattvopaplavasimha of Jayarashi Bhatta (ca. 8th century) is often cited as the only extant authentic Cārvāka text, but which also shows Madhyamaka influence. Shatdarshan Samuchay and Sarvadarśanasaṅ̇graha of Vidyaranya are a few other works which elucidate Cārvāka thought...(wikipedia)

The Yogācāra Buddhists, Jains, Advaita Vedantins and Nyāya philosophers considered the Cārvākas as one of their opponents and tried to refute their views. These refutations are sources of Cārvāka philosophy since, they continued to be made even after all the authentic Cārvāka/Lokāyata texts had been lost.

The Lokayata or Charvaka School, taught by Ajita, also rejected karma. Not only that, it also rejected rebirth and any such thing as a living soul. It advocated hedonism, teaching that all actions should be spontaneous and should come from one’s own nature (Skt. svabhava) – in other words, they should be natural. The aim of life was to experience as much sensual pleasure as possible. This school rejected all forms of logic and reasoning as valid ways of knowing anything...(wordnik.com)

Historically, the roots of Buddhism lie in the religious thought of Ancient India during the second half of the first millennium BC. That was a period of social and religious turmoil, as there was significant discontent with traditional Vedic religion (and more exactly its later form, Brahmanism), which had dominated India until then. It was challenged by numerous new ascetic religious and philosophical groups and teachings that broke with the Brahmanic tradition and rejected the absolute authority of the Vedas and the Brahmans. These groups were a continuation of a non-Vedic strand of Indian thought distinct from Indo-Aryan Brahmanism, and ideas originating in this religious culture, such as samsara, karma, reincarnation, and moksha were adopted by Brahmin orthodoxy. At the same time, they were influenced by, and in some respects continued, earlier philosophical thought within the Vedic tradition as reflected e.g. in the Upanishads. These movements included, besides Buddhism, various skeptics (such as Sanjaya Belatthiputta), atomists (such as Pakudha Kaccayana), materialists (such as Ajita Kesakambali), antinomians (such as Purana Kassapa); the most important ones in the 5th century BC were the Ajivikas, who emphasized the rule of fate, the Lokayata (materialists), the Ajnanas (agnostics) and the Jains, who stressed that the soul must be freed from matter. Many of these new movements shared the same conceptual vocabulary - atman (“self” or “soul”), buddha (“enlightened one”), dhamma (“rule” or “law”), karma (“causality”), nirvana (“transcendent freedom”), samsara (“eternal recurrence”) and yoga (“union”) and held that the originally good Vedic doctrine was in need of reform. A particular criticism of the Buddha's was Vedic animal sacrifice.Their leaders, including Buddha, were often known as śramaṇas. The Buddha declared that priests reciting the Vedas were like blind leading the blind.According to him, those priests who had memorized the Vedas really knew nothing.He also mocked the Vedic "hymn of the cosmic man". He also declared that the primary goal of Upanishadic thought, the Atman, was in fact non-existent,, and, having explained that Brahminical attempts to achieve liberation at death were futile, proposed his new idea of liberation in life.At the same time, the traditional Brahminical religion itself gradually underwent profound changes, transforming it into what is recognized as early Hinduism. In particular, the brahmans thus developed "philosophical systems of their own, meeting the new ideas with adaptations of their doctrines"...(wikipedia)

Materialism originated in ancient Greek philosophy during the 6th century b.c.e., and in China and India around the same time, if not even earlier. In Greece in the 5th century the atomists Leucippus and Democritus argued that all that existst is matter (in the form of limitless number of tiny indivisible partcles - atoms) and empty space, and that the differences in the sense objects are due to variations in the size and shape of atoms and their combinations.....The atomism of Democritus and Leucippus was strenuosly challanged by the great Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle....(ancienthistory.com)

Scientific Materialism and Analytical philosphy.......The rise of science and advances made in chemistry, physics, and mechanics contributed to the strengthening of materialism from the late 18th century through the early decades of the 20th. The discovery of chemical elements led to the revival of atomic theory. The publication of Charles Darwin's works on evolution demonstrated the possibility that living organisms can be accounted for on a material basis without any need to refer to a biblical Creator or supernatural purposes. The invention of the computer in the later 20th century suggested to materialists that mind itself can be explained purely in terms of matter and of electrical connections within the brain tissue.



August 2012

John Hopkins....Northern New Mexico


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