Definition - S. N. Sastri
As is well known, this is a purely atheistic
system. It is said to have been founded by bRRihaspati,
the guru of the gods, in order to mislead the
asura-s (demons or evil spirits).
sAyaNa mAdhavAcharya, who became a saMnyAsin
with the name svami vidyAraNya, composed a work
entitled 'sarva darshana saMgraha' in which he
has dealt with sixteen systems of philosophy.
The order in which the various systems are taken
up in this work is indicative of their distance
from advaita. chArvAka, Buddhism, and Jainism,
being the farthest from advaita, form the first
three chapters. sAMkhya and yoga which are closest
to advaita, come just before advaita which forms
the last chapter.
The chArvAka philosophy is also known as lokAyata,
loka, meaning 'world', and Ayata, meaning 'wide-spread'.
They claim that most people in the world live
according to this philosophy and it is what appeals
to people most.
It is interesting to note that, in spite of
the fact that this system condemns and ridicules
the veda-s and the priests in strong language,
it has been accepted as one of the systems of
philosophy and included in this work which deals
with all the schools of philosophy.
The chapter on chArvAka begins with a shloka,
the meaning of which is:---
As long as you live, live joyously
None can escape
Death's wide net;
When once this body has been burnt,
How can it ever
According to this school, the acquisition of
wealth and the fulfillment of desires is the
ultimate end of human life. They accept only
four elements: air, fire, water, and earth. When
these elements combine to form a body, consciousness
is produced in the body, just as betel, areca,
and lime chewed together have an exhilarating
property and acquire a red color, though these
properties are not present in the separate substances.
There is no consciousness separate from the body.
The only objective of human life is enjoyment
of sensual pleasures. One should not give up
enjoyments on the ground that they may be followed
by suffering. Men do not stop sowing rice because
animals may destroy them. People do not give
up cooking for fear of being pestered by beggars.
The agnihotra [a traditional sacrifice to the
Fire God] and other rituals laid down in the
veda-s are only the means of livelihood for some
persons. The veda-s are tainted by the faults
of untruth, self-contradiction and tautology.
The authority of the j~nAna kANDa is contradicted
by the karma kANDa and vice versa. The veda-s
are only the incoherent blabbering of knaves,
and to this effect runs the popular saying:
The agnihotra, the three veda-s, the ascetic's
three staves, and the smearing of the body with
ash, bRRihaspati says, these are but means of
livelihood for those who have no manliness or
It is only as a means of livelihood that Brahmanas
have established here all these ceremonies for
The authors of the three Vedas were buffoons,
knaves and demons. If dead ancestors are satisfied
by some person being fed here in a shraddhA,
then when a person goes on a journey what is
the need to give him packed food. His hunger
should be satisfied if you feed someone here.
If an animal slain in a sacrifice will go to
heaven, why does the sacrificer not sacrifice
his own father so that he can go to heaven?
In some other religions such ridiculing of sacred
texts would be considered as blasphemous, entailing
severe punishment such as excommunication. But
our ancestors have given even to the chArvAka
school the status of a system of philosophy like
all the other systems. The concept of blasphemy
is alien to the Vedic religion.
Return to the Contents page for the Terms and Definition.