Ethics in Indian Materialist Philosophy (In its Social Perspective)

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Item Code: NAH532
Author: Dr. Bijayananda Kar
Publisher: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla
Language: English
Edition: 2013
ISBN: 9788179860984
Pages: 200
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.7 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 380 gm
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Book Description
About The Book

The book is an analytical study of the major ethical and moral ideas in the history of Indian materialism and traces critically its trajectory through the early centuries to the modern age. Involving a detailed consideration of the primary sources, the book attempts to understand from the perspective of ethics and morality the ramifications of the major changes which have occurred, in India, in the thinking on materialism. The book engages with the ideas of thinkers such as Carvaka, the classical writers such as Jayarasi Bhatta, Krsna Misra, and modern thinkers including M N Roy and Jawaharlal Nehru. It is expected to be well received both by scholars and general readers.


About The Author

Dr. Bijayananda Kar (1940) was a Fellow at the IIAS during 2004-07. He was Professor of Philosophy in the Utkal University till 2000. Awarded with a number of Fellowships, he has lectured in many countries across Asia, Europe, North America and Australia. Dr. Kar was the General President of the Indian Philosophical Congress in 2007. He has so far published 16 books and around 200 papers/review articles/essays in reputed journals. His writings have been extensively reviewed and cited in India and abroad. Dr. Kar is associated with many national and regional academic bodies and institutions.



I submitted a proposal for undertaking a research project on Ethics in Indian Materialist Philosophy to the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS). Shimla in 2004 and, on the basis of being awarded a Fellowship by the HAS, 1 worked on the project, being stationed at Shimla for about three years.

The work of mine covers the rise and development of ethical and moral ideas in Indian Materialism (in its different major changes and ramifications) from the ancient time till the present-day. It is primarily an analytical exposition as well as a constructive appraisal of the available sources. It is notable that the major classical sources and thinkers which are referred to in this work do not present ethical implication of Indian materialism in detail. Despite that, attempt has been made to explore and expose the ethical ideas in such presentations.

For my research, I have been greatly benefitted by the library of IIAS which has an excellent collection of both books and journals (including the back numbers). I am thankful to the authorities of IIAS for providing me the opportunity to work at Shimla and also the office-staff for extending to me all co-operation and required facilities. I am grateful to the National Fellows, Fellows, Associate Fellows and the Visiting Scholars for a lively meaningful interaction by way of exchange of thought and ideas. Lastly, I am to record my sincere indebtedness to my wife (Namita) for extending her help and inspiration in completing the work. I also thank Shri Naresh Sharma for neatly typing the manuscript.



The materialist philosophical outlook has been prolonging in India since antiquity. There has been several forms of materialistic trends, often not precisely articulated. The relevant data relating to such forms are found to be, quite often. not clear and precise. Either the concerned data are not traced or whatever data are available are noticed in a deflected or diffused form. Further, on certain occasions, the materialist outlook is distorted and misrendered by the opponents. Their exposition of materialist point of view is very often shrouded with. pre-conceived bias or prejudice. Not only the classical materialist thinkers but also the modern materialist and like-minded thinkers like M.N. Roy, Periyar EV Ramasami and others have been almost ignored with contemptuous indifference and callousness in certain quarters where rigidity and orthodoxy have been given undue importance.

It is probably because of strong spiritual leanings found in both classical and modern trends of philosophical setup, serious studies on Indian materialist philosophy have not been usually taken up. Of course, there are some notable exception in this regard. There are some distinguished researchers like D.P. Chattopadhyaya (elder) and D.R. Shastri who have become pioneers in exposing Indian materialistic thought (in the classical sense). A brilliant scholar of Indian origin, but who was mostly engaged in research at the University of Harvard (USA) is responsible for bringing out a good and substantial work on Indian materialism, which he himself entitled as: Studies in Hindu Materialism in 1932. He is Dr. K.B. Krishna who passed away in i94R. much before his work came in printed form as a book in 1994. Rahul Sankrityayan is another important scholar who has worked out in detail about Indian materialist thought in Hindi language. All such works are definitely encouraging.

But a systematic study of Indian materialism, both in it ancient and modem perspective needs to be undertaken in greater detail and thoroughness. In this regard, I would like to take up a theme of lesser dimension, i.e. focusing attention to the ethical and moral implications of the materialistic thought as displayed in the major classical as well as modem writings. So far as the ancient trends of thought, in this connection, are taken into consideration, it may be well seen that in most cases the moral implications of the materialist point of view are not clearly spelt out. Those need to be explored and exposed, keeping in tune with the original materialistic philosophical background. both in its moral and epistemological framework. It is very often adversely remarked that materialist philosophical outlook gives rise to immorality, abuse of ethical norm and conduct at the social plane. It leads to irresponsible whimsicality so far as individual's dealing within a social setup is concerned. It gives rise to gross egoistic passionate pleasure, causing thereby social chaos and confusion. It has been held that materialist philosophical outlook can never make any room for sound social ethics. The individual, according to this trend of reasoning, is thoroughly self-centred, passionate and, in that way, anti-social and immoral.

An attempt has been made in this work to expose the general ethical format in several materialist tendencies found in the Indian tradition. Of course, while making such a move, critical appraisal of diver e materialistic formulation will also be taken up and those are to be exposed in terms of their strength and weakness as well. It is, however, true that due to the paucity of materialistic literature belonging to the ancient and classical phase, there has been, as already hinted, scope for misunderstanding and even misrendering. There has been, on account of this, room for certain amount of conjecture and surmise. This is quite natural. But whatever has been made available and is fairly conceded to be dependable source-material concerning the ancient materialist trends of thought, an effort seem, to be not futile to locate the moral implications of certain key-materialist expressions and statements which can be held as least dissatisfactory and reasonable.

It is , however, the case that in the strict sense of the term, no ethical theory has originated and developed in the detailed form with it technical ramifications, so far as classical Indian philosophical tradition is concerned. But there is definite preference of very many ethical and moral ideas in different sources (inclusive of the Lokayata sources). Such ideas need philosophical analysis so that its ethical importance can be duly exposed and the concerned ethical theorization can be brought into focus. In this sense, ethics in the classical Indian philosophy in general and materialist thought in particular seems to be quite reasonable.




1 Introduction 1
2 The Pre-Vedic and the Post-Vedic Period 9
  (A) Materialistic Trends in the Vedas and the Upanisads (with their ethical and moral implications) 13
  (B) Brhaspati and His Followers 31
  (C) Svabhavavada and Its Followers 33
3 The Post-Upanisadic Phase 43
  (A) Ajitakesa Kambalin 44
  (B) Sanjaya Belatthaputta 46
  (C) Pakudha Kaccayana 48
  (D) Purna Kasapa 49
  (E) Makkhali Gosala 50
  (F) Kambalasvatara 52
4 The Epics, the Smrtis and the Puranas 56
  (A) The Carvaka Drsti 56
  (B) The Ramayana 57
  (C) The Mahabharata 60
  (0) The Smrtis 62
  (E) The Puranas 65
5 Some Prominent Post-Epic Thinkers 68
  (A) Kautilya 68
  (B) Vatsyayana 71
  (C) Jayarasi 74
  (D) Purandara 78
6 Some Later Changes 82
  (A) Krsna Misra 82
  (B) Madhavacarya 85
  (C) The Kapalikas 87
  (D) The Tantricas 89
  (E) The Sahajias 91
  (F) Vemana 93
7 Major Trends in the Twentieth Century - I 97
  (A) Ambedkar as a Critic of Hinduism 97
  (B) The Indian Positivist Movement (in Bengal) 106
  (C) Devatma 113
8 Major Trends in the Twentieth Century - II 123
  (A) The Rationalist Movement in India (With special reference to Odisha) 123
  (B) M.N. Roy on Materialism (Its moral and ethical implications) 140
  (C) Nehru and Materialism 146
  Conclusion 152
  Bibliography 169
  Appendix 177
  Index 187

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