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In India there are six orthodox schools of philosophy which recognize the authority of the Vedas as divine revelation, and they generally function as pairs - Nyaya and Vaishesika, Mimamsa and Vedanta, and Samkhya and Yoga. Those who did not recognize this authority were the Jains, Buddhists, and materialists. Even in India where spiritual ideas dominate the culture there were some who were skeptical of those ideals and held to a materialist view of the world; they were called Carvaka, and their doctrine that this world is all that exists is called Lokayata.

The materialists did not believe in an afterlife and found sense perception to be the only source of knowledge, denying the validity of inference or general concepts. They focused on the senses and the four traditional elements of earth, water, fire, and air. Consciousness for the Carvaka is only a modification of these elements in the body. The soul is also identified with the body, and pleasure and pain are the central experiences of life, nature being indifferent to good and evil with virtue and vice being merely social conventions.

This worldly philosophy naturally ignored the goal of liberation (moksha) or simply believed that death as the end of life and consciousness was a liberation. However, they also tended to neglect the value of virtue or justice (dharma), placing all of their attention on the worldly aims of pleasure (kama) and wealth or power (artha).

Although Carvaka ideas are mentioned in some ancient writings, their own ancient writings were lost, and much of what we know of the early materialists is based on criticisms of other schools. However, a famous, ancient drama called The Rise of the Moon of Intellect (Prabodha-candrodaya) reveals some of the beliefs of this worldly movement. In this play Passion is personified and speaks to a materialist and one of his pupils.

Passion laughs at ignorant fools, who imagine that spirit is different from the body and reaps a reward in a future existence. This is like expecting trees to grow in air and produce fruit. Has anyone seen the soul separate from the body? Does not life come from the configuration of the body? Those who believe otherwise deceive themselves and others. Their ancient teacher Brihaspati affirmed the importance of the senses, maintaining that sustenance and love are the objects of human life.

For the materialists the Vedas are a cheat. If blessings are obtained through sacrifices and the victims ascend to heaven, why do not children sacrifice their parents? How can fasting, begging, penance, and exposure to the elements be compared to the ravishing embraces of women with large eyes and prominent breasts? The pleasures of life are no more to be avoided because they are mixed with pain than a prudent person would throw away unpeeled rice because it has a husk. Sacrifices, reciting the Vedas, and penance are merely ways that ignorant and weak men contrive to support themselves.

Yet upon analysis it was often found that the materialists' theory that no general inferences can be made contradicted their own views about the nature of the world. Nevertheless their hedonistic philosophy at times gave a humanistic criticism of the ethical contradictions of others. In the great epic Mahabharata a Carvaka is burned to death for preaching against the bloodshed of the great war and condemning Yudhishthira for killing thousands to regain his kingdom. They did criticize sacrifices and valued the arts as a means of pleasure. Hell they believed to be the pain experienced in this world, but all this ended in death. Like Epicureans they found that pleasure could be maximized and pain minimized by detachment (vairagya). Immortality was only found in the fame one leaves behind for noble deeds performed.

Nyaya and Vaishesika

The Nyaya and Vaishesika schools are primarily analytic and are therefore more concerned with logic and epistemology than ethics. The word nyaya means that by which the mind is led to a conclusion. The Nyaya school formed about the fourth century BC with the Nyaya Sutras by Gautama. The first sentence declares that supreme happiness is attained by knowledge of the sixteen categories which are right knowledge, objects of knowledge, doubt, purpose, example, tenets, inference, confutation, ascertainment, discussion, sophistry, cavil, fallacy, quibble, futile rejoinder, and losing arguments. Knowledge comes from perception, inference, comparison, and verbal testimony. Objects of knowledge are self, body, sense organs, sense objects, intellect, mind, activity, defects, rebirth, fruit, pain, and release.

The soul is distinct from the sense organs and the mind which it uses to make judgments with the aid of memory. Judgments and actions are transitory but produce karma, which causes the union of the soul with the body, the soul transmigrating from a dead body to another birth. Gautama recognized the soul as the cause of the body but also acknowledged parents and food as other causes as well.

Ethical concerns can be found in the discussion of the defects and the means of liberation. Gautama mentioned three categories of defects as attachment, aversion, and misconception. Vatsyayana, who wrote the first commentary on the Nyaya Sutras in the 4th century CE, explained that attachment can come from lust, jealousy, avarice, greed, and covetousness; aversion from anger, envy, malice, hatred, and resentment; and misconception from wrong apprehension, suspicion, pride, and negligence.

Gautama considered misconception the worst sin, because without it attachment and aversion do not occur. By fruit Gautama referred to what is produced by activity and defects. These results of action (karma) may occur immediately or after a long interval. Release is defined as the absolute deliverance from pain. Release does not occur though because of debts, afflictions, and activities. However, when knowledge is attained, wrong notions and defects disappear, removing pain and bringing about release. Since false concepts are the cause of the chain of events that leads to pain, correct knowledge is the solution.

Even hatred of pain and attachment to pleasure can bind one. The activities of mind, speech, and body must be good and not bad but must also be performed without attachment. Selfishness is associated with false concepts, and virtuous actions emphasize the soul rather than the body and its senses. True knowledge comes from meditation, which is prepared for by good deeds. Gautama recommended practicing yoga in forests, caves, and on riverbanks. To attain final release the soul may be embellished by the restraints and observances of the internal discipline learned from yoga. Study and friendly discussion with those learned in knowledge is also suggested.

The Vaishesika philosophy is considered the oldest of the six orthodox



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