Ancient Indian Materialism: Lokāyata, Cārvāka


India, in the West, mainly in German Indology, was and is since more than 200 years conceived as a culture based on religion, metaphysics and spirituality; Vedānta, Sāňkhya, and Yoga were greatly admired by German philosophers like Schelling, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. The ancient Indian traditions of Materialism, lokāyata, and Atheism, nir-īśvara-vāda, were rarely perceived and considered in the West, even though they are as old as Buddhism and Jainism, dating back to the 6th/5th centuries B.C; traits of atheism and scepticism can already be found in the Rigveda, were it is said that „the gods came afterwards“. In Indian tradition, these schools were considered na-astika, Nihilists (Nietzsche!), as, when asked about metaphysics, god(s) and meaning of life, they cynically used to answer: na asti, „There is nothing“, rejecting any form of supernaturalism or the existence of entities such as an immaterial, immortal soul or god, saňsāra, karma, or the after-life, and even ethical systems grounded in supernaturalistic ideas. The lecture wants to present the views of the Lokāyatas and Cārvākas, which are preserved only in the texts of their adverseries and opponents, mainly Buddhists and Jains. The ideas and concepts of the Nāstikas are not only very old, bold and astute, but amazing, timeless, and modern, and therefore, the Lokāyatas and Cārvākas should not be forgotten, but rather remembered, appreciated and revived, being one of the most radical philosophical systems not only of India, but of the world.



Hannah Arendt 1975