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Origin and History of Lokayata (Charvaka) philosophy

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 The branch of Indian philosophy is today not considered to be part of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, Cārvāka (Sanskrit: चार्वाक), also known as Lokāyata, is a system of Indian philosophy that assumes various forms of materialism, philosophical skepticism and religious indifference.[1]it is classified as a heterodox Hindu (Nāstika) system.[2][3][4] characterized as a materialistic and atheistic school of thought. Cārvāka emerged as an alternative to the orthodox Hindu pro-Vedic Āstika schools, as well as a philosophical predecessor to subsequent or contemporaneous nāstika philosophies such as Ājīvika, Jainism and Buddhism, the latter two spinning off into separate religions in the classical period of Indian philosophy.[7]

As opposed to other schools, the first principle of Cārvāka philosophy was the rejection of inference as a means to establish metaphysical truths.[8][9]
Etymologically, Cārvāka means “agreeable speech” or “sweet talkers” (cāru – agreeable, pleasant or sweet and vākspeech) and Lokāyata signifies “prevalence in the world” (lokaworld and āyata – prevalent).[10][11][12][13] The name Lokāyata can be traced to Kautilya’s Arthashastra, which refers to three ānvīkshikīs (logical philosophies) — Yoga, Samkhya and Lokāyata. However, Lokāyata in Arthashastra, does not stand for materialism because the Arthashastra refers to Lokāyata as a part of Vedic lore. Lokāyata here probably refers to logic or science of debate (disputatio, “criticism”) and not to the materialist doctrine.[14]

Similarly, Saddaniti and Buddhaghosa in the 5th century connect the “Lokāyata” with the Vitandas (sophists). It is only from about the 6th century that the term Lokāyata was restricted to the school of the materialists or Lokyātikas. The name Cārvāka was first used in the 7th century by the philosopher Purandara, who referred to his fellow materialists as “the Cārvākas”, and it was used by the 8th century philosophers Kamalaśīla and Haribhadra. Adi Shankara, on the other hand, always used Lokāyata, not Cārvāka.[15] By the 8th century, the terms Cārvāka, Lokāyata, and Bārhaspatya were used interchangeably to signify materialism.[16]

Ajita Kesakambali, a senior contemporary of the Buddha (sixth/fifth century BCE), is earliest documented materialist in India.[16] He probably inspired the basic tenets of Cārvāka philosophy i.e. of no soul and existence of four (not five) elements[17] Although materialist schools existed before, Cārvāka was the only school which systematized materialist philosophy by setting them down in the form of aphorisms in the 6th century. There was a base text, a collection sūtras or aphorisms and several commentaries were written to explicate the aphorisms.[18] E. W. Hopkins, in his ‘The Ethics of India (1924)’ claims that Cārvāka philosophy was contemporaneous to Jainism and Buddhism, mentioning “the old Cārvāka or materialist of the 6th century BC”.

Rhys Davids assumes that lokāyata in ca. 500 BC came to mean “skepticism” in general without yet being organized as a philosophical school, and that the name of a villain in the epic Mahabharata, Cārvāka, was attached to the position in order to disparage it. The earliest positive statement of skepticism is preserved from the epic period, in the Ramayana, Ayodhya kanda, chapter 108, where Jabāli tries to persuade Rāma to accept the kingdom by using nāstika arguments (but Rāma then refutes him in chapter 109):[19]

“ O, the highly wise! Arrive at a conclusion, therefore, that there is nothing beyond this Universe. Give precedence to that which meets the eye and turn your back on what is beyond our knowledge. (2.108.17)”
The Cārvāka school thus appears to have gradually grown out of generic skepticism in the Mauryan period, but its existence as an organized body cannot be ascertained for times predating the 6th century. The Barhaspatya sutras were likely also composed in Mauryan times, predating 150 BC, based on a reference in the Mahabhasya of Patanjali's (7.3.45).[19] Cārvāka was a living philosophy up to the 12th century AD after which this system seems to have disappeared without leaving any trace.

The reason for this sudden disappearance is not known.[16]Brihaspati is sometimes referred to as the founder of Cārvāka or Lokāyata philosophy. The earliest direct quote from Brihaspati’s lost writings is found in the text Sarvasiddhantasamgraha, which is sometimes controversially attributed to Shankara. In the Sarvasiddhantasamgraha, the author quotes Brihaspati as follows:“Chastity and other such ordinances are laid down by clever weaklings; gifts of gold and land, the pleasure of invitations to dinner, are devised by indigent people with stomachs lean with hunger. The building of temples, houses for water-supply, tanks, wells, resting places, and the like, please only travelers, not others.

The Agnihotra ritual, the three Vedas, the triple staff, the ash-smearing, are the ways of gaining a livelihood for those who are lacking in intellect and energy. The wise should enjoy the pleasures of this world through the more appropriate available means of agriculture, tending cattle, trade, political administration, etc.[20]”


‪1.‬^ Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli; and Moore, Charles A. A Source Book in Indian Philosophy. Princeton University Press; 1957. Princeton paperback 12th edition, 1989. ISBN 0-691-01958-4. p. 227.

2.‬^ “Philosophical & Socio” by M.h.Siddiqui, p. 63|quote=”Carvaka is classified as a “heterodox” (nastika) system”, “part of the six orthodox schools of Hinduism” ‪3.‬^ Radhakrishnan and Moore, “Contents”.

‪4.‬^ p. 224. Flood, Gavin (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

‪5.‬^ Though this school of thought is not commonly considered as a part of six orthodox schools of Indian Philosophy, Haribhadra Suri, a Jain mendicant from c. seventh century, considers this school as a part of those six in his book ShaDdarshan Samucchaya. Potter, Karl H. (2007). The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Buddhist philosophy from 350 to 600 A.D. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publications. pp. 435–436. ISBN 978-81-208-1968-9.

6.‬^ Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore. A Source book in Indian Philosophy. (Princeton University Press: 1957, Twelfth Princeton Paperback printing 1989) pp. 227–49. ISBN 0-691-01958-4. ‪7.‬^ Bhattacharya 2011, p. 9.
‪8.‬^ a b Cowell and Gough, p. 5.

‪9.‬^ Bhattacharya 2011, p. 58.
‪10.‬^ Richard King (1999). Indian Philosophy: An Introduction to Hindu and Buddhist Thought. Edinburgh University Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-7486-0954-3.
‪11.‬^ N. V. Isaeva (1 January 1993). Shankara and Indian Philosophy. SUNY Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-7914-1281-7. Retrieved 31 December 2013.

12.‬^ Monier-Williams (1899); the name literally means “speaking nicely”, from cāru “agreeable” and vākspeech
‪13.‬^ Cowell and Gough, p. 2; Lokāyata may be etymologically analysed as “prevalent in the world ” (loka and āyata)

14.‬^ Bhattacharya 2011, p. 27.
‪15.‬^ Bhattacarya 2002, p. 6.

‪16.‬^ a b c d Bhattacharya, Ramakrishna. History of Indian Materialism. Retrieved 27 July 2012. ‪17.‬^ Bhattacharya 2011, p. 29.
‪18.‬^ a b c d e Bhattacharya, Ramkrishna. Materialism in India: A Synoptic View. Retrieved 27 July 2012. ‪19.‬^ a b see Schermerhorn (1930).
‪20.‬^ Rangacharya, M. Sarva Siddhanta Sangraha of Sankaracarya: Text with English