Sūtras

Known as Cârvâka-sūtra, Bṛhaspati-sūtra, Lokâyata-sūtra, this text (now unavailable) is believed to be the definitive rendering of the Lokâyata position, authored either by Bṛhaspati or Cârvâka.

But did this text really exist?

  1. There is no evidence of anyone who has seen the text in full, no commentary exists on the text nor do we hear of a commentary – a stark difference from other schools.
  2. Contrary to popular opinion, it was not necessary for a doctrine to be defined in a set of sūtras. Sânkhya, for instance, never had sūtras until the 16th century CE. The major Sânkhya text is Ishvara Krishna’s Sânkhya Kârika which does not claim to be a commentary on sūtras, but instead is based on the now lost, Shashtitantra.
  3. There is no evidence that Lokâyata was a formal school (unlike other philosophies), as it did not have a paradigm of its own and therefore no teaching, scriptures, teachers or students. They were unconditional skeptics and Jayarâśi is a good example of a skeptic showing veneration and agreement with Bṛhaspati (another skeptic) – without claiming him as his Guru nor using his words as authority. As Buddhagosha sums it up – the only purpose of the Lokâyatika was to criticize without offering an alternative (they did not have one). For more details, check the doctrine section.
  4. The first clear mention of the sūtra is not until the 7th Century CE and comes from texts belonging to other doctrines. As described in the Tattvopaplavasimha section, these sūtras in their full form had probably already disappeared by Jayarâśi’s time (8th century CE) with only a few fragments floating around. Even among these fragments, the authenticity of some of most widely used sūtras such as pratyaksam eva pramânam and anumânam na prâmanam are questionable as explained in the epistemology section.

 

Based on the above observations, it may be argued that a sūtra text never existed. The fragments that were noted in polemic texts were either created by skeptics during debates in some cases or were created by early writers of other schools and attributed to a fictious Lokâyata opponent (pūrvapaksha). Such recorded statements were handily available for future writers to attribute to their fictious Lokâyata opponents, all the time believing they were referencing a lost text and continued to propogate. As Rhys David says (quoted in parts) –

Throughout the whole story, we have no evidence of anyone who called himself a Lokâyata or his own knowledge Lokâyata…there is a tone of unreality in all the statements we have. And of the real existence of a school of thought, or a system of philosophy that called itself by this name, there is no trace. In the last period, Lokâyata, Lokâyatika become mere hobby horses, pegs on which certain writers can hang the views they impute to their adversaries and give them in doing so, an odious name.

 

There have been attempts to recreate a Lokâyata sūtra text. F.W. Thomas published a Bârhaspatya sūtram, which is generally regarded to be a bogus text. Other modern writers like Dakshinaranjan Shastri, Mamory Namai and more recently Ramakrishna Bhattacharya have tried their hands at reconstructing a full or near-full-set of sūtras.

Some of the well known sūtras are –

  • athâtastattvam vyâkhyâsyâmah [The principles shall now be explained]
  • prithivyâpastejovâyuriti tattvâni [Earth, water, fire and air are the principles]
  • śarîrâd eva [The body is the source (of consciousness; not an imperceptible soul)]
  • pratyakşam eva pramânam [Perception is the only valid source of knowledge]
  • paralokinobhâvât paralokâbhâvah [As no other world entities are known, there is no other world (pitru-loka, after-life)]

http://www.lokayata.info

 

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