Carvaka - Research - References
#1
Want to share interesting references on Carvaka with others here?

And vet them perhaps?

Please feel free to post them to this thread!
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#2
Trance -

Few years ago i read an article about Atheism in India and had come across these names Nasthika and Carvaka.
This translation you have posted is very interesting, during one of the discussions with friends, i heard them say that
there were upanishads or granthas on Atheistic thoughts.

How fascinating, 650 BC, an era when similar ideas had popped up in the Greek lands.

Could you share some more of your research material and verses if time permits. I am sure a lot of people would be delighted to know and read about such institutions.
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#3
(29-Mar-2010, 05:58 PM)jithu.nv Wrote: Trance -

Few years ago i read an article about Atheism in India and had come across these names Nasthika and Carvaka.
This translation you have posted is very interesting, during one of the discussions with friends, i heard them say that
there were upanishads or granthas on Atheistic thoughts.

How fascinating, 650 BC, an era when similar ideas had popped up in the Greek lands.

Could you share some more of your research material and verses if time permits. I am sure a lot of people would be delighted to know and read about such institutions.

Hi Jithu

Welcome to the Carvaka Forum.

Dr Kamath is our researcher and I'm sure that he'll be posting information when he has time.

One good book on Indian argumentation but which also discusses ancient Indian atheistic thought is called the Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sens.

A Google search will also provide a large number of links and sites.

Some of the information isn't reliable though.

Dr. Kamath is working on the content for our Carvaka site which will eventually be a comprehensive collection of materials on Carvaka which are vetted and reliable.
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#4
Most of the information (if not all) that we know about Charvaka is obtained from the literature of Critics of Charvaka.
The name charvaka itself is more likely to be a mocking word used by the critics.

Charvaka means "one who talks nicely" - which could be equated to "glib-tounged"

The charvakins were portrayed as materialists who were self-centered and seeped in over-indulgence in sensual pleasures.

There is hardly any literature available which can be attributed to a any of the nastiks, lokayatas or charvakins (except for one Tattvopaplavasimha - by Jayarasi bhatta ~800AD)
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#5
(30-Mar-2010, 09:40 PM)drnbala Wrote: Most of the information (if not all) that we know about Charvaka is obtained from the literature of Critics of Charvaka.
The name charvaka itself is more likely to be a mocking word used by the critics.

Charvaka means "one who talks nicely" - which could be equated to "glib-tounged"

The charvakins were portrayed as materialists who were self-centered and seeped in over-indulgence in sensual pleasures.

There is hardly any literature available which can be attributed to a any of the nastiks, lokayatas or charvakins (except for one Tattvopaplavasimha - by Jayarasi bhatta ~800AD)

Hi drnbala

Welcome to the Carvaka Forum.

Yes I agree. Your assessment of the situation is correct. I strongly disagree with interpretation presented by the critics of Carvakan thought of course.

It's been a standard criticism of theism across the planet that atheistic beliefs are self-indulgent and focused on sensual pleasures while ignoring the materialist and scientific approach to evaluating our world.

And it's a shame that there isn't more original material available so to some extent we'll have to filter out the criticisms.

It's certainly going to be a challenge :-).
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#6
Trance,

The original research into this is obviously very much needed. I would love to see the actual references to Carvaka in the religious texts that attempted to debunk them. I look forward to when these can be made available on the Carvaka website!
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#7
I found some interesting info from this blog by Manju – http://bantwal.blogspot.com/search?q=carvaka
Though I would share the same.


Charvakism was an Indian school of thought which perhaps the only Indian philosophy that was materialistic in nature. However, their real influence on Indian social life was absolutely nothing. Perhaps, a wrong step in the evolution of civilized Indian society.

The basic features:

* God is non-existent.
* There is no pre-existence or after-life.
* There is no such thing as salvation (moksha); death itself is salvation.
* Happiness is the only goal of life.
* The wise should seek happiness with productive work.
* Pursuit of music, eroticism, medicines etc., add comfort to life.
* Distinction of class and caste are humbug.
* The term "chastity for women" is rubbish (men and women are alike as far as chastity is concerned).

It is said that, Charvakas were attacked for the fourth point. What about other points? Not much is said about that except they were called 'vitandavaadi's(one who indulge in jugglery of words). Madhvaacharya said that it was very difficult to refute their arguments. At that time India was a society where many schools of thoughts supposed to have lost out to Vaidiks in debates. And Charvakism was supposed to be undebatable! So even with such strong foundations why couldn't they attract the great majority of intelligent people of that period to its fold?

The fringe philosophers:
The other name for Charvakism is Lokayata. Some people define it as 'philosophy of common people'. But I would go with the other definition that is 'philosophy of worldly'. Since I am sceptical about the number of common people among its followers I won't go with the former definition. In my opinion, there were only few philosophers at any point of time subscribing to this school of thought. And they didn't have any position in the society.

One striking feature of Charvakism was its relentless opposition to Brahmins and its call for rebellion against authority. These two things possibly demonstrate their position outside the public sphere of influence. Also, since none of the Indian schools of thought or the establishment found it necessary to open educational institutions for the common people, it was impossible for Charvakas to attract the vast majority of the population which was too superstitious, barbaric and illiterate to accept their philosophy.

So it leaves us with brilliant people of that era. Though I have talked about tendency of Indians to follow whatever their ancestors had said without any question, this kind of closed mindset baffles me. Was Charvakas’ strong stand on happiness too distasteful for the ascetic minded Indians? Extremely hard to believe. Were Charvakas the people outside the Aryan (this includes Vaidiks, Jains and Buddhists) society? Were they descendents of Greeks(who had developed such kind of materialist philosophy by that time) who stayed back in India. Hard to say since they were not called as Mlechchas, Yavanas, Panchamas etc. in any of the Vaidik literature. Or were they really Indus Valley people as claimed in the Wikipedia article on Charvakas? At this point this claim is too preposterous considering the number of questions it would raise. Not least of them is the question of Dravidians.

Charvakism and the concept of Maya:
Ironically, whatever we know about Charvakas is because of their arch rivals’, Vaidik, Buddhist and Jain, literature. The philosophers belonging to these schools of thought had written about the works of Charvakas sometimes with a neutral angle or sometimes with an intention of refutation. So whatever might be their intention they never really overlooked that philosophy, especially Brahmins.

Brahmins, being dominant, were always at the receiving end of Charvakas’ arguments. However, they were never closed minded to whatever Charvakas said. I suspect they might have used at least one observation of Charvakas to complete and be comfortable with their theory of Maya (illusion)

Charvakas refused the role of inference and accepted only direct perception to prove the truth. This is more in line with modern Western philosophy of refuting ‘divine influence’. Whereas West went on to develop empiricism which gave a complete role for observation and experimentation in developing theories for the world’s mysteries, Charvakism failed to give a proper direction for its philosophy.

After refusing the role of inference, the later philosophers went on to reject the role of perception in finding the truth! In a sense, they said truth can’t be understood either by inference or by perception.

The Vaidik school of thought that had become stagnant because of its total devotion to its founding fathers’ words found a new proof in Charvakas’ philosophy to further their own theory of world(confusion about the world would be more appropriate). As claimed by Charvakas, if truth about the world can’t be found either by inference or perception then where was the proof that truth existed at all. It was only Maya (illusion). This theory became a dominant and salient feature of Brahmanical religion after Shankara’s time. I am sure the Charvaka philosopher who rejected the role of direct perception must be Shankara’s antecedent.


Charvakism is not a great loss:
Indian society could have been more civilized had it embraced at least few points of Charvakism,viz., No caste, Equality of sexes. However, considering it as a philosophy which would have heralded a scientific thinking in line with Greek philosophies which put the foundations for the modern Western philosophy would be far fetched. As I have discussed, they failed to give the right direction for their philosophy. However, they were the ones who came very close in achieving it.
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#8
Thanks for the information Azad. Perhaps you should invite the author of this article to join us here :-)

It looks like they could make some terrific contributions!

That said, I do think the author, while writing a very inciteful, interesting, and informative article on Carvaka, has missed the point of the importance of Carvaka and that is that a fairly comprehensive atheistic materialistic and secular philosophy even existed in those ancient times and one that appears to have been based on an early form of rationalism.

There could be many reasons for why it never established itself or developed further not the least being humanity's predisposition to superstition when other explanations are not forthcoming.

It's also possible that it did develop further but was so repressed that we have no knowledge of this available to us.

Or, that humanity simply wasn't ready to embrace such beliefs because our knowledge of our world in ancient times was so limited and our reasoning abilities more primitive.

Today there are far fewer gaps to fit gods into in order to explain our world and secular and atheistic approaches are being established.

I'm not an expert in world history but to my knowledge this would be the first time that these approaches have been established so extensively.

Maybe we're just ready for it now :-)

Appreciate the contribution!
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#9
(09-Apr-2010, 08:51 PM)trancegemini Wrote: Thanks for the information Azad. Perhaps you should invite the author of this article to join us here :-)

It looks like they could make some terrific contributions!

It looks like the author is not maintaining the blog anymore.

I wonder if the best way to collect material about Carvaka is to go to the source material. The problem is context. Even the best translation cannot provide sufficient context, and Sanskrit needs context.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#10
(20-Apr-2010, 07:46 AM)Ajita Kamal Wrote:
(09-Apr-2010, 08:51 PM)trancegemini Wrote: Thanks for the information Azad. Perhaps you should invite the author of this article to join us here :-)

It looks like they could make some terrific contributions!

It looks like the author is not maintaining the blog anymore.

I wonder if the best way to collect material about Carvaka is to go to the source material. The problem is context. Even the best translation cannot provide sufficient context, and Sanskrit needs context.

That is the best way to collect the material and I think Dr. Kamath is working on that project although I'm sure he'd appreciate some help if there are others who can also translate Sanskrit.

It would be nice to have a team working on this.
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#11
Meera Nanda, one of the contributors at Nirmukta, is fluent in Sanskrit. I'll contact her and see if she has some good sources.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#12
(21-Apr-2010, 06:24 AM)Ajita Kamal Wrote: Meera Nanda, one of the contributors at Nirmukta, is fluent in Sanskrit. I'll contact her and see if she has some good sources.

Great idea Ajita. Thanks!
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