Query: Ancient Eastern materialism

Discussion in 'Eastern Religions and Philosophies' started by Operacast, Nov 23, 2004.

  1. Operacast

    Operacast Member

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    Even a few of the Buddha dialogues/sermons already make reference to a materialistic philosophy that preceded the time of the Tripitaka canon! Materialism is not new, and India is where the oldest known materialism can be found. Called the Carvaka or Lokayata philosophy, its founder is sometimes said to have actually been called Carvaka. But a bare majority of scholars now accept the testimony of a fourteenth-century compendium that nominates Brhaspati, or Brihaspati, as its founder, around 600 B.C.E.

    This can cause some confusion as there are apparently two figures in Indian lore named Brhaspati: one a prominent figure in the Hindu pantheon, the other this presumed founder of Charvaka philosophy.

    Something puzzles me, though, concerning the Carvaka founder.

    In Haribhadra's Saddarsardasamuccaya of the eighth century CE/AD, a very brief exposition is provided of the Lokayata/Charvaka viewpoint. In the first of eight verses, it simply states baldly (among other things) that "Merit (dharma) and demerit (adharma) . . . do not exist". Similarly, in Madhavacarya's Sarvadarsana-samgraha of the fourteenth century CE/AD, Brhaspati is quoted as saying "While life remains, let a man live happily, let him feed on ghee even though he runs in debt".

    From all this, some have extrapolated the conclusion that Brhaspati may be ultimately an amoral figure. Yet Dakshinaranjan Sastri in his 1930 "History of Indian Materialism" states:


    "Brhaspati, with lofty enthusiasm, flung away the fetters of religion that he might be righteous and noble. Some of the verses of the Vedic hymns ascribed to Brhaspati are very noble in thought. Whatever may be said of his followers, his own teachings were of an elevated character."


    Personally, I have only read a few sections of the Rig-Veda -- I imagine reading it all would take quite a few years(?). While I wouldn't be averse to reading the whole thing, I'd have to wonder, honestly, where I'd find all the time that's needed. Those sections I've already read I've only read when on the (_rare_) vacation, so when it comes to the whole thing...........?!

    My query concerns this: Since the only surviving texts that I personally know of that preserve some of Brhaspati's thoughts directly are the Saddarsardasamuccaya and the Sarvadarsana-samgraha, that means I've yet to stumble on any of these "Vedic hymns" in addition that are referred to by Sastri in his 1930 History. On the one hand, those references to a Brhaspati that I've actually seen for myself in the Rig-Veda appear to resonate better with the figure in the Hindu pantheon than with the Charvaka/Lokayata/Barhaspatya founder. On the other hand, since I've not yet managed to read the entire work myself(!), I may very well not know what I'm talking about!<G>

    Please, might someone here know if these "Vedic hymns" that Sastri refers to are indeed in the Rig-Veda at all? If so, might someone here be able to supply a few of the texts or at least give some rough idea of what these hymns say that is (apparently) so "noble in thought"? If these hymns are not in the actual Rig-Veda after all, might someone here still be able to give some rough idea of what they say anyway?

    If that looks like a tall order, is there any other resource(s) anyone here knows of that might help me track down these hymns for myself? I've already tried the Google search engine with scant success.

    (Possibly, Sastri is applying outdated Charvaka scholarship, meaning these hymns were simply traditionally ascribed to the deity figure, not the Charvaka founder, and are now understood as such.)

    I realize this kind of query may reflect an appalling degree of ignorance on my part! But I would be sincerely grateful if anyone could throw any light on any of this anyway.

    Much thanks,

    Operacast
     

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