- Charvaka or Lokayata philosophy is an ancient materialist tradition that is known to us only through the texts of its myriad opponents. It dates from approximately 400 B.C.E. The Char-vaka motto can be approximately translated as “Eat, drink, and be merry.” In addition to being pure materialists, the Charvakas were strict empiricists who believed that the only valid source of knowledge is direct perception; they believed only what could be seen by the eyes directly. They rejected even inference as a method of investigation.Though none of their texts were preserved, the Charvaka viewpoint was condemned in many philosophical contexts over two millennia. The RAMAYANA and MAHABHARATA both contained argu-ments against it. Nearly every subsequent Indian philosophical system, including that of the Bud-dhists and Jains, formulated arguments to answer them. Modern Marxists in India have sought to make this ancient system better known.Further reading: Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya and Mri-nal K. Gangopadhyaya, eds., Carvaka/Lokayata: An Anthology of Source Materials and Some Recent Studies (New Delhi: Indian Council of Philosophical Research, 1990); S. N. Dasgupta, A History of Indian Philosophy, 5 vols. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975); Anil Kumar Sarkar, Dynamic Facets of Indian Thought (New Delhi: Manohar, 1988).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.