ATHEISM IN ANCIENT INDIA
ATHEISM IN ANCIENT INDIA
Very few people even in India realize that there is a very rich materialistic tradition which dates back to a period much before the arrival of the Buddha. In fact this varied collection of atheistic and agnostic thinking is called the NASTIKA or HETERODOX school. While CARAVACA School is representative of the atheistic tradition, Buddhism is an excellent example of agnostic point of view.
This system of philosophy was expounded by CARAVACA a person about whom nothing much is known nor any of his written texts available. However there are plenty of references to him in works which were critical of his philosophy. CARAVACA adopted a skeptical outlook which was contradictory to the ASTIKA or Theistic school by negating the principles which were soon becoming mainstream thinking. In fact it was an extremist reaction against the MIMAMSA school of thought. CARAVACA rejected the existence of the supernatural, primacy of the VEDAS and the four elements which constitute nature. He believed that knowledge or PRAMANA can only be through direct perception or ANUBHAVA.
The mainstream orthodox schools held the view that the sources of knowledge was through perception, inference, and verbal testimony. CARAVACA however accepted only perception as the valid source of knowledge and rejected both inference and verbal testimony.
The best source of information on CARAVACA philosophy was from the 14TH century philosopher MADHAVACHARYAS’S work ‘SARVA-DARSHANA-SAMGRIHA’
Another valuable source is from the historian Abul Fazl’s Ain-i-Akbari, of Akbar’s court. He mentions in that of a symposium held in 1578 at Akbar's insistence were some Cārvāka thinkers are said to have participated along with scholars of other religions.
Though CARAVACA school of thought gradually disappeared, it has left behind a rich collection of secular thoughts some of which have an uncanny resemblance to the Greek Epicurean philosophy. Two sample stanzas given below from the works of CARAVACA and EPICURIUS bears testimony to this
While life is yours live joyously;
No one can avoid Death's searching eye:
When this body of ours is burnt,
How can it ever return again?
Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.
That the pleasure arising to man
from contact with sensible objects,
is to be relinquished because accompanied by pain—
such is the reasoning of fools.
The kernels of the paddy, rich with finest white grains,
What man, seeking his own true interest,
would fling them away
because of a covering of husk and dust?
It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly. And it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.