Saturday, 26 March 2011

Teachings of Pre-buddhist Materialist


Materialism is called BhautikavAda in Sanskrit and they are referred to as ücchedavAdins in Pāli sources and their main idea was that matter is primary. They held the view that the being and the world are completely made up of material phenomena, such as solidity (paThavi), liquidity (Apo), temperature (tejo) and motion (vAyo). It is a difficult task to trace the exact origin of materialism in Indian religio-philosophical thought, no doubt it came as a response to the authority of Veda and it has been called by several names. 

1.   LokAyatavAda – Theory of material world
2.  CArvAkavAda – Theory of Cārvāka
3.  VitaNDavAda – Theory of Sophist
4.  BrAhaspatyavAda – Theory of Brāhaspati

As shown by these names CArvAka and BrAhaspati were two philosophers of this trend. The literature related to BrAhaspati as his theory is called BrAhaspati sutra. It is not available at the present so we have to know about this philosophy from the record of other religion. The ßarvadarshanasaGgrahaya, a summery of all Indian philosophies present the theories of materialists and the followings are given as the views of CArvAka.

ña svargo nApavargo vA - naivAtmA pAralaukikaH,
naiva varNA sramAdīnaM - kriyArshva phaladayikA”.

=There is no heaven, no emancipation, No soul, no the other world,
No function or fruit of color or āsramas.

ågnihotraM trayo vedA - tridaNDaM bhasmaguNThanaM,
buddhi pauruSakInAnaM - jivikA dRti nirmitA.

=Fire offering, three Vedas, Three-fold restrains, applying ash,
Are made for the living of those, Who have no wisdom and knowledge.

YAvat jIvet sukhaM jIvet, - RnaM kRtvA gRtaM pivet,
bhasmI kRtasya dehasya - PunarAgamanaM kRtaH.

Live happy as long as you live, Enjoy gee on debt,
How there can be a return of the body (Once) become ash.

All these ideas try to say that the human life is something living from birth to death only, beyond that there is nothing. So they instruct to enjoy the life as much as one can. With reference to one drama named Prabodhacandodaya which represents materialist views. Dr. Radakrsnan outlines some basic characteristics of material thinking from this drama.

“This only knowledge is materialism (LokAyatavAda), it has only perceived truths. The fundamental elements of that knowledge and philosophy are earth, water, fire and air. The only aim of life is earning wealth and enjoying happiness. The matter cannot think, there is no other world. The end of everything is the death.”

For this philosophy believes only in this world in Sanskrit is called Lokāyatavāda, in which only they experienced concrete concepts and with the knowledge of concrete concept they claimed to believe only what they experienced. It is truth itself.

Some elements of materialist thinking are also seen in the üpaniSads, the Śvetaśvara Upanisad presents the basic theory of LokAyatavAda as follows:
KAlaH svabhAvo niyatir yadRcchA,
bhUtAni yoniH puruSa iti cintyaH.

What this quotation says is that everything with the human experiences is born from great elements (bhūtAni yoniú).

Again in the BRhadāranyaka üpaniSad, the philosopher named YajJavalkya doubts the rebirth of human beings in many ways. According to his view, if a tree is cut down again it grows from the roots but when the human beings die from which they reborn if a tree is up rooted there is no a regrowth in the same way when human dies it’s impossible to have a rebirth in the strict sense of the term.

These examples show many of the concepts arose within materialists from the fact that they are not convinced of the rebirth. When their experienced knowledge was not enough to establish the concept of rebirth which is to be known through inference or extra sensory perception they ended up themselves in materialistic philosophy of rejecting rebirth and the entire affiliated religio-philosophical concept. In the Buddha’s time there was a person named Pāyāsirājañña who was material teacher. According to the PAyAsirajAJJasutta of the DN he held the materialistic view that there is no next world, there are no spontaneous beings and there are no good and bad results of good and bad actions respectively.

Tena kho pana samayena PAyAsissa rAjAJJassa evarūpaM pApakaM diTThigataM uppannaM hoti, itipi nAtthi paro loko, natthi satta opapAtikA, natthi sukatadukkatAnaM kammAnaM phalaM vipAko.

He held these views for he did not personally perceive them, “ahametaM na passAmi, ahametaM na jAnAmi, tasma taM natthi.

In the same sutta Pāyāsirājāñña brings out many arguments in order to establish his view he gave one example like this ‘one day my people brought one man, he was ordered to put in a huge pot having closed the opening and covered it entirely with animal skins and mud was ordered to heat on the fire when the person was dead they opened the pot and while opening carefully examined whether the soul is leaving the body for they did not perceived such a thing, Pāyāsi said I don’t believe in kamma and rebirth.’ This explanation shows materialists accept only perceivable knowledge.

One good contribution was made by materialist thinking to the religious arena of ancient India that is they challenged the traditional authority of the Veda and encourage the people to think and express freely. They established the practice that nothing should be accepted on blind belief or fate; everything should be questioned and examined. This paved the way for freedom of thought inquiry and expression.

Buddhism rejects this philosophy for it considers the body itself is the soul (tam jivaM taM sarIraM), it does not lead to a meaningful religious life. Once when the Buddha was alive Cabbaggiya monks wanted to study LokAyatavAda, there the Buddha instructed not to do it for it does not help for the growth of dhamma or vinaya.

ña bhikkhave lokAyataM pariyApunitabbaM yo pariyApuneyya Apatti dukkatassa.

In the Buddha’s time there were some teachers who were materialists among them Ajitakesakambala pure materialist.

Additional note
There were two ideas on the life of human called Materialist (bhautikavAdiM) and Idealist (viJJAnavAdiM). While the idealist believes that things within us and around us are made of mind the materialist believes that the things (phenomena) within us and around us are made of matter.

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