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Sem. Edilbert B. Concordia
September 12, 2011
“Eat, drink and be merry for you have only one life to live.”
- Charvaka/ Lokayata
CHARVAKA / LOKAYATA materialism
Elements of the Ultimate principles: FIRE WATER, EARTH, AIR.
Bodies, senses and objects are the results of diff. combination of elements.
CONSCIOUSNESS arises from matter. SOUL is NOTHING but the CONSCIOUS BODY.
INDIVIDUAL Individual Hedonism HEDONISM ARTHA (wealth) KAMA (sensual pleasure)
There is NO other world than this. ENJOYMENT is the ONLY END of human LIFE.
SUMMUM BONUM OF LIFE
DEATH alone is LIBERATION.
CHARVAKA/ LOKAYATA’S CONCEPT OF LIFE AND DEATH
The Charvaka or Lokayata School, a classical school of Materialism and Skepticism, is known for its attacks on religious practices, and, from a Western perspective provides evidence that not all classical Indian philosophy is religiously or mystically oriented. Materialism, in philosophy, is the doctrine that all existence is resolvable into matter or into an attribute or effect of matter.1 According to this doctrine, matter is the ultimate reality, and the phenomenon of consciousness is explained by physiochemical changes in the nervous system. Materialism then is the antithesis of idealism, in which the supremacy of mind is affirmed and matter is characterized as an aspect or objectification of mind. On the other hand, Skepticism in philosophy is the doctrine that denies the possibility of attaining knowledge of reality as it is in itself, apart from human perception.2 By gradual extension of its meaning, the word skepticism has also come to signify doubt about what is generally accepted as true. All philosophical skepticism is ultimately epistemological; that is, it is based on views about the scope and validity of human knowledge. The school of Materialism is very old. It was a reaction to Vedic natural religion with its rituals and sacrifices. While materialism as a system reveals its appearance only between the seventh and the second centuries B.C., there is a reason to believe that materialist ideas existed around the tenth century B.C. Traces of materialistic ideas may be found in the Vedas and the Upanishads. Thus, Radhakrishnan has pointed out that “Materialism is as old as philosophy and
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. Ibid
the theory is to be met within the pre-Buddhistic period also. Germs of it are to be found in the hymns of the Rig Veda.3 In its most generic sense, “Indian Materialism” refers to the school of thought within Indian philosophy that rejects supernaturalism. It is regarded as the most radical of the Indian philosophical systems. It rejects the existence of other worldly entities such an immaterial soul or god and the after-life. Its primary philosophical import comes by way of a scientific and naturalistic approach to metaphysics. Thus, it rejects ethical systems that are grounded in super naturalistic cosmologies. The good, for the Indian materialist, is strictly associated with pleasure and the only ethical obligation forwarded by the system is the maximization of one’s own pleasure. The terms Lokāyata and Chārvāka have historically been used to denote the philosophical school of Indian Materialism. Literally, “Lokāyata” means philosophy of the people. The term was first used by the ancient Buddhists until around 500 B.C.E. to refer to both a common tribal philosophical view and a sort of this-worldly philosophy or nature tradition. The term has evolved to signify a school of thought that has been scorned by religious leaders in India and remains on the boundary of Indian philosophical thought. After 500 B.C.E., the term acquired a more critical connotation and became synonymous with sophistry. It was not until between the 6th and 8th century C.E. that the term “Lokāyata” began to signify Materialist thought. Indian Materialism has also been named Charvaka after one of the two founders of the school.4 Charvaka and Ajita Kesakambalin are said to have established Indian Materialism as a formal philosophical system, but some still hold that Bṛihaspati Lanka of the Rig Veda was
Villaba, Magdalena. Philosophy of the East, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. 1996 p.69
its original founder. Bṛihaspati allegedly authored the classic work on Indian Materialism, the Bṛihaspati Sutra. There are some conflicting accounts of Bṛihaspati’s life, but, at the least, he is regarded as the mythical authority on Indian Materialism and at most the actual author of the since-perished Bṛihaspati Sῡtra.5 The Brihaspatisutras are said to have contained the doctrines of the materialists. Unfortunately, this has been lost. Most of what we know of their thoughts were gathered from the words of the idealist thinkers who have quoted them extensively and contradicted them. Brihaspati is said to be the first to visualize matter as the ultimate reality. He and his disciples were not believers of God, opposed the conception of the immortal soul and the life after death. Paramesthin, another Vedic thinker aside from propounding the idea that matter is primary, proclaimed that there was no possibility of knowledge of anything beyond original matter. Brigue, another materialist, said, “As Matter all beings exist and to Matter all being depends and return.” Indian Materialism has for this reason also been named “Bṛihaspatya.”6
Etymological Meaning of Charvaka and Lokayata
Two interpretations are given for the word “Charvaka”. According to one interpretation, the word “Char” means charming and alluring and the word “vak” means speech. Probably, the Charvakas were good orators and their words were instantly appealing to the audience as they appealed to the senses directly and required no blind faith to sustain themselves. Another sect which was so close to the lokayatas in their thinking was the sect of Kapalikas, who believed in the practice of sex and disgusting rituals to gain siddhis or spiritual powers. Probably, the
http://www.charvaka.edu/indmat/ Villaba, Magdalena. Philosophy of the East, p.70
Charvaka School must have provided some background from which the later schools of Tantricism emerged both in Hinduism and Buddhism as a way of conciliation between materialism and naturalism. There are other theories regarding the origin of the term “Charvaka”. Charvaka is said to be the name of the chief disciple of Brihaspati. According to another view, Charvaka is not a proper name but common name given to a materialist for it signifies a person who believes in the “eat, drink and be merry” way of life for the root “Char” means to eat; also to eat up all the ethical and moral considerations.7 The Charvaka/Lokāyata is the only systematized form of materialist philosophy in India that is known to date. There were other pre-Charvaka proto-materialist schools too that preached certain materialist views but their views were not systematically set down in the form of sayings as the Charvakas did. Some of these pre-Charvaka proto-materialist views are encountered in the Upaniṣhads, Pali and Prakrit canonical works (of the Buddhists and the Jains respectively) and their commentaries as well as in the Jābāli episode in the Rāmāyaṇa, the Mokṣadharmaparvādhyāya in the Mahābhārata and some of the Purāṇa-s (particularly the Viṣṇupurāṇa and the Padmapuraṇa), and last but not least, in old Tamil poems such as the Manimekalai. All of these are not to be equated with the Charvaka/Lokāyata. Some of the views recorded in them are authentic expositions of this or that proto-materialist view, but some are of dubious authenticity. There is a tendency in the Rāmāyaṇa and some Purāṇa-s to treat the Buddhists, the Jains and the Charvakas as representing a single school of nāstikas, that is, defilers of the Vedas, and to attribute the views of one to the other quite inappropriately.8
Ibid p.70 http://carvaka4india.blogspot.com/2011/08/materialism-in-india-synoptic-view.html
Lokayata is a synonym for Charvaka. Dasgupta explains that the term literally means that which is found among people. It may, therefore be interpreted as a commoner, and so by implication, it could mean a man of low and unrefined taste. Lokayata also meant a system of philosophy based on this world (loka). It has no concepts on the other world (heaven or hell). The word Lokayata was used to refer to the person who believed in the reality of this world and the physical existence of man and other beings on earth and nothing else. “Loka” means world and “lokayata” means he who is centered around or relies upon this world only.9
According to the Charvakas, there is no such thing as the atman. One does not and cannot perceive the atman, and one cannot establish its existence with the help of inference, because inference is not a valid source of knowledge. The Charvakas state that consciousness is not due to the atman.. When a man dies, his/her consciousness goes away and one cannot prove that it vanishes and exists somewhere else. Being conscious is a strange quality of the living human body. It can keep back the consciousness so long as the physical parts are healthy and stay together in a certain form. Consciousness thus is an emergent quality of the physical parts coming together in specific proportions. It is regarded as mere product of mater. For example, when yeast is blended with certain juices, they turn into wine. The property of being wine is a new quality which yeast and juices obtain when blended. A particular grouping of the elements in a particular form gives rise to a vital, living force- the soul which is present as long as the body lives. Thus, the so-called Soul is simply the Conscious living body. Therefore, according
Villaba, Magdalena. Philosophy of the East, p.70
to Charvaka metaphysics, life also is only a new configuration of matter. Nothing but matter is real.
The atman or self-awareness is only the physical body with a new emerging quality. But one always says that, `I have a handsome body, a tall body` and so on. If the `I` is not different from the body, how can it say: `I have such and such a body`? To this the Charvakas answer by saying that the use of `have` in these expressions is only conventional, created by the false impression that the `I` is different from the body.10 The Charvaka metaphysics speak of the mind (manas), which is different from the atman. But the Charvakas appear to think of mind as the consciousness in its knowing function, which of course is not separate from the body. The body together with its consciousness is the atman and consciousness in its experiencing function is the mind. Mind knows the external world through the senses. The world is the material world only. According to the Charvaka metaphysics, it does not consist of five elements. Earth, water, fire, air, and ether are the usual five elements corresponding to the qualities smell, taste, color, touch, and sound, and also corresponding to the five sense organs, nose, tongue, eye, touch, and ear. Excepting ether, the first four elements are perceivable. Hence the Charvakas deny the reality of ether. It was believed that the cause of sound in the ear was the all-pervading ether. But the Charvakas say that sound is caused by air touching the ear. Sound occurs due to the movement of air, not of ether. 11
http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Carvaka Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.
The other four elements make up the world. A particular combination or mixture of the four elements was the cause of the universe. They consist of tiny particles. The particles accepted by the Charvakas are visible particles; they could not accept the reality of anything that could not be comprehended with the senses. The elements are eternal and are therefore indestructible. It is their combination that undergoes production and dissolution. Creation simply means the production of an object through the combination of the four elements. A particular combination of the four elements makes up a specific object-say ten parts of earth, four parts of water, six parts of fire and three parts of air- make up a man. Destruction will simply mean the dissolution of the combination of elements.12
Charvaka metaphysics are of the faith that there is no external cause for the four elements coming together and obtaining the qualities of life and consciousness. It is their natural quality to come together and to have those qualities. However one cannot generalize on this process and establish a law that, whenever these four elements come together in certain ratio, life and consciousness will emerge.13 The elements may alter their nature any time. One cannot, therefore say that Nature comprises some eternal laws. Every event is a probability, and if it develops into something, then it develops according to its own peculiar nature. One may conclude that, according to the Charvaka metaphysics, the existence of everything is a chance, and that there are no laws of nature, but every object possesses its own nature.
Villaba, Magdalena. Philosophy of the East, p.71 Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.
The Charvakas’ Theory of Knowledge is the most significant aspect of such School. Perception is the only means of true or valid knowledge-this is the Epistemological doctrine of the Charvakas. The only way of realizing truth is by the evidence of the sense. They rejected the validity of inference for which one proceeds from the known to the unknown; for them, there is no certainty in this. They said that inference was not a valid source of knowledge, because the major premise of an inference cannot be proved. For instance: Wherever there is smoke, there is fire (Major premise); This mountain has smoke (Minor premise); There is fire in the mountain (Conclusion).
This is the classical example of inference in Indian epistemology. The Charvakas ask – (1) `How can we formulate the major premise unless we have seen all the instances of smoke? If we have not seen all the instances, how can we logically be justified in using the word `wherever`? If we have seen all the instances, we must have seen the present case, viz. the mountain also. (2) Then what is the use of making an inference when we have already perceived that there is fire in the mountains?14 Hence the Charvakas say that inference is either impossible
or unnecessary. Inference cannot generate truth. 15 The distinction between ultimate and empirical knowledge is unknown to them, amounted to very low philosophical stature. However, there are additional accounts of the Lokāyata that suggest that the epistemology was more advanced and positivistic than that of mere skepticism. In fact, it has been compared to the empiricism of John Locke and David Hume. The Charvakas denied philosophical claims that could not be verified through direct experience. Thus, the Lokāyata denied the validity of inferences that were made based upon truth claims that were not empirically verifiable. However, logical inferences that were made based on premises that were derived from direct experience were held as valid. It is believed that this characterization of the epistemology of the Lokāyata most accurately describes the epistemological position of contemporary Indian Materialism. Charvakas were, in a sense, the first philosophical pragmatists. They realized that not all sorts of inference were problematic; in order to proceed through daily life inference is a necessary step. For practical purposes, the Lokāyata made a distinction between inferences made based on probability as opposed to certainty. But, the crude Charvaka position has been severely criticized by all systems of Indian Philosophy. To refuse to accept the validity of inference is to refuse all thoughts, all discussion, which are made possible by inference. Thoughts and ideas cannot be perceived since they are not natural objects; they can only be inferred.16 Perception which the Charvaka considered as valid is, in fact, oftentimes in many respects, “untrue”. Example, we perceive the earth as flat, yet it is round. We perceive the sun as small, yet it is bigger than earth. Such perceptual knowledge is
Villaba, Magdalena. Philosophy of the East, pg.71
contradicted by inference. Such data can give us more sensation but it takes thought or conception to arrange them into order and give them meaning and significance. Certainly, the Charvakas cannot support their views without the use of reason and this presupposes the validity of inference.17
The most common view among scholars regarding the ethics of Indian Materialism is that it generally forwards Egoism. Egoism the doctrine or attitude that one’s own interests are of greater importance than any other consideration or thing. Lokayatas believed only in this living world and not in another world. For them, there is no soul surviving death, thus they do not believe in an immoral soul and consequently, in any spirit or god. There is no heaven or hell, nor life after death.18 Death for the Charvakas is the termination of human existence. Since they had the concept of the non-existence of another world, Sensual Pleasure was regarded as the summum bonum of life. Eat, drink and be merry, for you have only one life to live. The Lokayatas did not think it’s possible for human beings to be absolutely free from feelings, joys and sorrows. Men must therefore strive for the lessening of sorrows and pains and the enhancement of the delights of life. The Ethics of Charvaka is a Crude Individual Hedonism.19 Hedonism is a school of thought which argues that pleasure is the only intrinsic good. The doctrine that pleasure is the sole or chief good in life and that the pursuit of it is the ideal aim of conduct. In other words, a
Ibid p.71 Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. 19 Villaba, Magdalena. Philosophy of the East, p.74
hedonist strives to maximize sensual pleasure. Of the four human values accepted by other systems of philosophy- Artha (wealth), kama (pleasure), Dharma (obligation), and Moksha (spiritual release), they only accepted Kama (sensual pleasure) which was regarded as the end, and Artha (wealth), which is regarded as the means to realize that end. Dharma and Moksha was rejected.20 They did not believe in a God who was the master of all creation. The belief of a creator or god for the Charvakas was useless for explaining or understanding the universe, because the existence of a God could not be proved either by perception or by reason. They were atheists. They criticized the Brahmin priests and their craft. Vedic rituals and animal sacrifices for them were considered meaningless. Ethical practices and one’s spiritual education in Indian culture are intimately tied to one another. Those who identify with the Indian Materialist School are criticized by the prominent Indian philosophical schools of thought because they are viewed as largely ignorant of both metaphysical and moral truths. This sort of ignorance is not
perceived as a grave threat to the greater good of society, but rather to the individual who is deprived of spiritual and moral knowledge. 21 Their rejection to the authority of the Vedas and the denouncement of the Brahmana priests must have been one of the causes of the downfall of such Materialistic School. But the very reason should be sought in the Lokayaktika’s denial of the dignity of human life. The pleasure of a dog is certainly not the same as the pleasure of a man. There is a qualitative difference in pleasure. It was for this reason that, later on, a distinction was made between the Crude Materialists and the refined Materialists. The Crude Materialists regarded only Artha and Kama; the Refined Materialists considered the three values of Life- Artha, Dharma and Kama.
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. http://www.iep.utm.edu/indmat/
The Charvakas rejected the orthodox Indian religious-philosophical systems whose authority was derived from the Vedas and Vedic principles; they not only denied the existence of an absolute god and of the soul (the Brahman and Atman) but also rejected the concepts of dharma and karma as the basis of morality. The Charvakas held that only what is directly perceived is true; this world is all that exists, and matter is the only reality. Concentrating on the development of ethical concepts, the Charvakas regarded the notion of good and evil as an illusion created by the human imagination. In their view, only the pain and pleasure of sensory existence are real. They rejected the ascetic restrictions imposed by the rules of the Indian religious-philosophical systems, asserting that the achievement of pleasure is the one goal of human existence. They held that one should strive toward the goal even though the pleasure may be coupled with suffering. The Charvaka’s consistent materialism and hedonism makes it a unique phenomenon in the history of Indian thought, even with respect to unorthodox Indian philosophical systems.
General Principles of the Charvaka / Lokayata System:
1) There are only four elements which are alone the ultimate principles: earth, water, fire and air. 2) Bodies, senses and objects are the results of the different combinations of elements. 3) Consciousness arises from matter. 4) The soul is nothing but the conscious body. 5) There is no other world than this. 6) Enjoyment is the only end of human life. 7) Death alone is liberation. -End-
1) Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. 2) Villaba, Magdalena. Philosophy of the East, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. 1996 3) http://carvaka4india.blogspot.com/2011/08/materialism-in-india-synoptic-view.html -Internet 4) http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Carvaka- Internet 5) http://english.turkcebilgi.com/Charvaka
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