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Barhaspatya Sutra - Barhaspatya Tantra

Barhaspatya Sutra and Barhaspatya Tantra are the teachings or system of Brihaspati of the materialist school of Hindu philosophy. The materialist school of philosophy is also popularly known as the Charvaka school in Hinduism. The original meaning of the word Charavaka is shrouded in mystery.

Some scholars hold that it was the name of a sage who propounded materialism. Others hold that the name was give to him because he preached the doctrine of worldly comfort (eat, drink and be merry); carv to eat, chew), or because his words were pleasant and nice (charu – nice and vak – word). It is likely that he was an intelligent, rational being who was critical of the Vedic yajnas (sacrifices). Charvaka has been defined as one who indulges in popular polemics.

Sarvadarshansamgraha of Madhvacharya (13th century) regards Brihaspati as the founder of the school of materialism. This school of philosophy is also known as Lokayata (literally, that which is found among people in general) – one that does not consider Vedas as the sole source of authentic knowledge or any other text of Vedic repute. The school also denies the existence of atman (self) as a transcendental concept or object. The Lokayata do not believe in God, being, after life, rebirth, virtue or vice, fruit of actions, etc. Life is only for enjoyment and everything will end with death.

Maitri Upanishad (7.8) after describing several type so of heretics, states (7.9) that Brihaspati (teacher of the gods) became Shukra (the teacher of the Asuras or demons) and for the security of Indra, created avidya (ignorance) to destroy the Asuras. Avidya is false or delimited knowledge and aims at transitory pleasure.

The Mahabharata (12.194-99) and Manu directly refute the Charvaka doctrine that pratyaksha (perception) is the only valid means of knowledge and that inference is inadmissible as a means of valid cognition. Manu 912-196-8) says that the spot on the moon is not correctly ascertained as to whether it is shadow of earth or not, but it does not negate its real and ultimate character. Kautilya acknowledges Brihaspati as an authority on polity, but this Brihaspati could be someone other than the founder of the materialist school of thought.

The teachings of Barhaspatya Sutra or Barhaspatya Tantra, that a person is a body with consciousness and that fulfillment of desire is the only aim of life, are seen to be heretical and impious.

As per Barhaspatya Sutra or Barhaspatya Tantra, there are only four elements namely, earth, water, fire and air. Akasha (ether) was not an element but void in the absence of avarana (cover). Everything including the phenomenal world and the sense organs were the products of four perceptible elements. Barhaspatya Sutra believe that perception is the only source of knowledge.

Various source indicate that at one time the theory stood for vitanda (quibbling) in the Hindu logical system. Vitanda has a place in polemics. It denounces the opponents, but no system or logic can stand on its own without a positive theory to propound.

Skepticism is the beginning of philosophy. From the dawn of India’s recorded history certain rituals and hymns dominated the life of the people. These were institutionalized and ultimately became oppressive. Brihaspati and Charvaka had the moral courage to denounce the system openly. People became intellectually alert and alive after the period of blind conformity. Honest skepticism reorganized beliefs and Barhaspatya Sutra triumphed for some time.

Source – 
  • Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume II page 130-31 – IHRF
  • Lokayata – A Study In Ancient Indian Materialism (1959), Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya – People’s Publishing House – New Delhi