left biblioblography: PROFILES IN ATHEISM - BRIHASPATI

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


For a deeply woven tapestry of religious belief, there are threads in the magic carpet we call India that are obscure, deeply buried.

One such was Brihaspati. Much of this history has been lost, so there's ample confusion in data mining the Internet for any sources. Alas, there isn't much.

We do know, that the materialistic viewpoint did indeed arise among the multiple facets of philosophy and religion in that strange, strange land.

[Note: I learned of this from a poster at Pharyngula.]

The link given above lists Brihaspati as:

"In Hindu mythology, Brihaspati is the guru of the Devas and the arch-nemesis of Shukracharya, the guru of the Danavas. He is also known Ganapati and Brahmanaspati. His name is written in Vedic Sanskrit as Bŗhaspati with two udātta accents, probably representing two words bŗhas pati, with the same meaning as his other name Brahmanas pati: "the lord of prayer"; bŗhas would be genitive of a noun stem bŗh-.

"Brihaspati is also the name of an ancient Indian philosopher who is considered as the founder of the atheistic system of thought Lokayata."

The history is rather garbled - obviously, since these two bear the same name are so obviously separate entities: one fictional, one (possibly) historical.

"Lokayata (also known as Carvaka) began around 600 BCE, and seems to have died out in 1400 CE. The only sources extant are Buddhist and Jainist.

"Madhavacharya, the 14th-century Vedantic philosopher from South India starts his famous work The Sarva-darsana-sangraha with a chapter on the Carvaka system with the intention of refuting it. After invoking, in the Prologue of the book, the Hindu gods Siva and Vishnu, ("by whom the earth and rest were produced"), Madhavacharya asks, in the first chapter:

...but how can we attribute to the Divine Being the giving of supreme felicity, when such a notion has been utterly abolished by Charvaka, the crest-gem of the atheistic school, the follower of the doctrine of Brihaspati? The efforts of Charvaka are indeed hard to be eradicated, for the majority of living beings hold by the current refrain:
While life is yours, live joyously;
None can escape Death's searching eye:
When once this frame of ours they burn,
How shall it e'er again return? "

"Some quotations (attributed to Carvaka) from Sarva-Darsana-Sangraha

"The Agnihotra, the three Vedas, the ascetic's three staves, and smearing oneself with ashes — Brihaspati says, these are but means of livelihood for those who have no manliness nor sense.
"In this school there are four elements, earth, water, fire and air;
and from these four elements alone is intelligence produced —
just like the intoxicating power from kinwa &c, mixed together;
since in "I am fat", "I am lean", these attributes abide in the same subject, and since fatness, &c, reside only in the body, it alone is the soul and no other, and such phrases as "my body" are only significant metaphorically.

"If a beast slain in the Jyothishtoma 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 why not give food down below to those who are standing on the house-top?

"If he who departs from the body goes to another world, how is it that he come 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, etc. and all the obscene rites for the queen commanded in Aswamedha, 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 night-prowling demons.

"Those parts which survive indicate a strong anti-clerical bias, accusing Brahmins of fostering religious beliefs only so they could obtain a livelihood. The proper aim of a Charvakan or Charvaka, according to these sources, was to live a prosperous, happy, and productive life in this world.

Systems of ancient Indian thought can be divided into two broad classes: the Carvaka and Vedanta philosophies. Buddhism and Jainism were originally major atheistic branches, though they later came to incorporate theistic concepts alien to them."

This is a long entry, but a fascinating one.

I leave you with these words, from the Wiki entry:
"Countering the argument that the Carvakas opposed all that was good in the Vedic tradition, Dale Riepe says, "It may be said from the available material that Carvakas hold truth, integrity, consistency, and freedom of thought in the highest esteem."

What an odd synchronicity, no?
Till the next post, then.

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say no to christ said...

Very interesting post. It reminds me of the early Native Americans. The Natives had no concept of the "great spirit" that we hear so many of them talk about now. It was introduced to them by the christians.

Zac Hunter said...

This is really interesting. I have never heard of this before. Its also interesting that it emerged about the same time as ancient empiricism in the west with Thales 624 BC–ca. to 546 BC and Democritus 460 bc and the other great Pre-Socratics.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Zac - it is possible that someone imported it. The Greeks used to send philosophers up to India to study in the bad old days.

say no to christ said...

Man, this is one of the most interesting posts you have posted and it sucks that I have been drugged up for the most part. Every time I try to read the links I start nodding off. I'm not giving up though. Little by little I am getting them read. Idnia is one of my favorite countries to learn about because it is the source of most religions.

Thanks for posting this.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Amy - don't fret it, the post ain't going anywhere anytime soon.