Buddhist And Jain Ehtics - Pt. 3
( Originally Published 1922 )
The third movement of which we are to take notice here has nothing in common with the other two except that they are all alike heretical. Buddhism and Jainism departed from the doctrine of the infallibility of the Veda, and on the basis of certain principles which were common to Indian thought erected structures of their own. The Charvakas, on the other hand, departed from the ground principles not only of Hindu thought but of all thought that makes religion possible. Our information regarding them is very scanty, and what we have is derived chiefly from an account given of them in the Sarva Darsana Samgraha. and from references to them in various other works, for example in the Bhagavadgita. They were given the name Charvakas from the name of the supposed founder of the sect, Charvaka. They were also known as Lokayatas, secularists or materialists. They held that the four elements, earth, water, fire, and air, were the original principles of all things, and that intelligence was produced from them in the same way as the intoxicating power liquors was produced by the mixing of certain ingredients. According to this theory the soul is nothing apart from the body, its relation to which may be regarded as that of an epiphenomenon. Sense perception is the only source of know-ledge, and the only good for man is that enjoyment which the senses are capable of giving. No doubt all pleasure is mixed with pain, but that does not affect the truth that pleasure is the only good. Our business is, as far as possible, to avoid the pain which accompanies pleasure, just as a man in eating fish takes the flesh and avoids the scales and the bones.
The Charvakas pour scorn on orthodox religion. The Vedas, they say, are the inventions of rogues, and are tainted by untruth, self-contradiction, and tautology ; the sacrifices were instituted by priests as a means of livelihood ; and the teachings of the pandits are inconsistent with each other. There is no Supreme God, no hell, and no deliverance in the sense in which it is believed in by the orthodox. The gist of the practical teaching of the Charvakas, with its many similarities to Cyrenaic doctrine, is given in a passage quoted in the
Sarva Darsana Samgraha, and we transcribe it here.
There is no heaven, no final liberation, nor any soul in another world, Nor do the actions of the four castes, orders, &c., produce any rea effect.
The Agnihotra, the three Vedas, the ascetics three staves, and . smearing ones self with ashes,
Were made by Nature as the livelihood of those destitute of know-ledge and manliness.
If a beast slain in the Jyotishtoma rite will itself go to heaven, Why then does not the sacrificer forthwith offer his own father ? If the Sraddha produces gratification to beings who are dead,
Then here, too, in the case of travellers when they start, it is needless to give provisions for the journey.
If beings in heaven are gratified by our offering the Sraddha here, Then why not give the food down below to those who are standing on the house-top ?
While life remains let a man live happily, let him feed on ghee even though he runs into debt ;
When once the body becomes ashes, how can it ever return again ? If he who departs from the body goes to another world,
How is it that he comes not back again, restless for love of his kindred ?
Hence it is only as a means of livelihood that Brahmans have established here
All these ceremonies for the dead,— there is no other fruit anywhere. The three authors of the Vedas were buffoons, knaves, and demons. All the well-known formulae of the pandits, jarphari, turphari, &c. And all the obscene rites for the queen commanded in the Asvamedha, These were invented by buffoons, and so all the various kinds of presents to the priests,
While the eating of flesh was similarly commanded by the night-prowling demons.
This doctrine has exercised but little influence on the main currents of Hindu thought ; and we mention it only to show that India, like other lands, has produced some thinkers who have not hesitated to declare themselves to be egoistic hedonists. It is doubtless this school which is condemned in such extreme terms in the Bhagavadgita :
Perverted in spirit, mean of understanding, cruel in works, they that uphold this creed arise as foes for the destruction of the world.