Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

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Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by clw_uk » Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:33 am

From what I have read one of the main source of contention between the materialist Carvaka school (which in part stemmed from Ajita Kesakambali) and Buddha is the issue of if sensual pleasures are worth pursuing or not.

To give a general idea this was the Carvakas view of sensual pleasure


"That the pleasure arising to man
from contact with sensible objects,
is to be relinquished because accompanied by pain—
such is the reasoning of fools.
The kernels of the paddy, rich with finest white grains,
What man, seeking his own true interest,
would fling them away
because of a covering of husk and dust?"



Which stems from their view of annihilationism

"While life is yours live joyously;
No one can avoid Death's searching eye:
When this body of ours is burnt,
How can it ever return again?"



http://www.humanistictexts.org/carvaka.htm

Any thoughts about their line of reasoning?
Last edited by clw_uk on Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by clw_uk » Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:43 am

A bit more elaboration on their doctrine



"Fire is hot, water cold,
refreshingly cool is the breeze of morning;
By whom came this variety?
They were born of their own nature.

This also has been said by Brhaspati:
There is no heaven, no final liberation,
nor any soul in another world,
Nor do the actions of the four castes,
orders, or priesthoods produce any real effect.

If a beast slain as an offering to the dead
will itself go to heaven,
why does the sacrificer not straightway offer his father?

If offerings to the dead produce gratification
to those who have reached the land of the dead,
why the need to set out provisions
for travelers starting on this journey?
If our offering sacrifices here gratify beings in heaven,
why not make food offerings down below
to gratify those standing on housetops?

While life remains, let a man live happily,
let him feed on butter though he runs in debt;
When once the body becomes ashes,
how can it ever return again?

If he who departs from the body goes to another world,
why does he not come back again,
restless for love of his kinfolk?
It is only as a means of livelihood
that brahmins have established here
abundant ceremonies for the dead—
there is no other fruit anywhere.

Hence for kindness to the mass of living beings
we must fly for refuge in the doctrine of Carvaka."


http://www.humanistictexts.org/carvaka.htm
Last edited by clw_uk on Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by retrofuturist » Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:44 am

Greetings,
clw_uk wrote:Any thoughts about their line of reasoning?
It ignores craving, which is essentially what the Buddha's Dhamma defined as the problem, and provided a solution for.

To focus on the grains themselves is to miss the point entirely and regard the Buddha's Dhamma as self-deprivation, when really, it's about liberation from craving, and in turn, liberation from suffering.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by clw_uk » Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:49 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,
clw_uk wrote:Any thoughts about their line of reasoning?
It ignores craving, which is essentially what the Buddha's Dhamma defined as the problem, and provided a solution for.

To focus on the grains themselves is to miss the point entirely and regard the Buddha's Dhamma as self-deprivation, when really, it's about liberation from craving, and in turn, liberation from suffering.

Metta,
Retro. :)


Thanks retro


I think their main argument though was that there is craving, and pain as a result of sensual pleasure, but that the benefit outweighs the negative (dukkha). That is a more subtle attack on Dhamma, since it would acknowledge that Buddha was correct in pairing craving and dukkha, but wrong in teaching that the dukkha outweighs the pleasure of sensual desire/satisfaction.
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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by clw_uk » Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:52 am

""That the pleasure arising to man
from contact with sensible objects,
is to be relinquished because accompanied by pain—
such is the reasoning of fools."


This seems to be similar to the line of argument used by the Cyrenaics (and maybe the epicureans) that sensual pleasure is accompanied by pain, but the cost is worth it.
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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by culaavuso » Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:14 am

clw_uk wrote:""That the pleasure arising to man
from contact with sensible objects,
is to be relinquished because accompanied by pain—
such is the reasoning of fools."


This seems to be similar to the line of argument used by the Cyrenaics (and maybe the epicureans) that sensual pleasure is accompanied by pain, but the cost is worth it.
This line of reasoning seems to lack awareness of the possibility of pleasure that does not depend upon sensuality.
MN 14: Cūḷa­dukkha­kkhandha Sutta wrote: "'Now, I — without moving my body, without uttering a word — can dwell sensitive to unalloyed pleasure for a day and a night... for two days & nights... for three... four... five... six... seven days & nights. So what do you think: That being the case, who dwells in greater pleasure: King Seniya Bimbisara of Magadha or me?'

"'That being the case, venerable Gotama dwells in greater pleasure than King Seniya Bimbisara of Magadha.'"

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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by clw_uk » Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:21 am

culaavuso wrote:
clw_uk wrote:""That the pleasure arising to man
from contact with sensible objects,
is to be relinquished because accompanied by pain—
such is the reasoning of fools."


This seems to be similar to the line of argument used by the Cyrenaics (and maybe the epicureans) that sensual pleasure is accompanied by pain, but the cost is worth it.
This line of reasoning seems to lack awareness of the possibility of pleasure that does not depend upon sensuality.
MN 14: Cūḷa­dukkha­kkhandha Sutta wrote: "'Now, I — without moving my body, without uttering a word — can dwell sensitive to unalloyed pleasure for a day and a night... for two days & nights... for three... four... five... six... seven days & nights. So what do you think: That being the case, who dwells in greater pleasure: King Seniya Bimbisara of Magadha or me?'

"'That being the case, venerable Gotama dwells in greater pleasure than King Seniya Bimbisara of Magadha.'"

That's very true


Although it has always struck me that the jhanas come across as just another form of hedonism, just more refined.
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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by culaavuso » Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:33 am

clw_uk wrote: Although it has always struck me that the jhanas come across as just another form of hedonism, just more refined.
Which may be related to the jhānas being suggested as a stepping stone to even greater pleasure rather than the end of the path. It seems to be recommended as a pleasure to use as a tool in abandoning less refined pleasures before itself being abandoned for even greater pleasure.
MN 66: Laṭukikopama Sutta wrote: Now, there is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana
...
This is called renunciation-pleasure, seclusion-pleasure, calm-pleasure, self-awakening-pleasure. And of this pleasure I say that it is to be cultivated, to be developed, to be pursued, that it is not to be feared.
...
That, I tell you, isn't enough. Abandon it, I tell you. Transcend it, I tell you.
...
"Thus, Udayin, I speak even of the abandoning of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. Do you see any fetter, large or small, of whose abandoning I don't speak?"

"No, lord."
SN 36.31: Nirāmisa Sutta wrote: And what is the pleasure more not-of-the-flesh than that not of the flesh? Whatever pleasure arises in a fermentation-ended monk as he is reflecting on his mind released from passion, reflecting on his mind released from aversion, reflecting on his mind released from delusion, that is called pleasure more not-of-the-flesh than that not of the flesh.

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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by SarathW » Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:35 am

"Develop concentration (Jhana), monks. A concentrated monk discerns things as they actually are present.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Alex123 » Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:45 pm

This is why teaching on rebirth is important. The biggest drawbacks of sensual pleasures can come in the next/later life.

Without factoring this kind of drawback, of course the math might show some benefit of sensual pleasures.
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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Dinsdale » Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:54 pm

clw_uk wrote:Although it has always struck me that the jhanas come across as just another form of hedonism, just more refined.
Have you experienced jhana?
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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Anagarika » Tue Aug 19, 2014 2:19 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
clw_uk wrote:Although it has always struck me that the jhanas come across as just another form of hedonism, just more refined.
Have you experienced jhana?
CLW, the teachings I'm familiar with about jhanas do not suggest that there is a hedonistic component to the practice, at all. Hedonism is a practice that centers on sensual pleasures as a solitary end goal. The jhanas are a path to insight. There is the "beautiful breath" that Ajahn Brahm describes. There is the piti / sukha that arises, but this is certainly not the goal of jhana practice. The Buddha taught, as I recall, that there is no wisdom without jhana, the idea being that it is through the jhanas that the cultivation of wisdom and insight is developed. I understand that anyone that practices mental absorptions for the purpose of developing body-based pleasure feelings is not practicing the jhanas that the Buddha taught. Fortunately, there are many good teachings on the jhanas, available on the internet, via Leigh Brasington, Ajahn Sujato videos etc., Ven. Gunaratana, and others.

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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Dinsdale » Tue Aug 19, 2014 2:25 pm

Anagarika wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:
clw_uk wrote:Although it has always struck me that the jhanas come across as just another form of hedonism, just more refined.
Have you experienced jhana?
CLW, the teachings I'm familiar with about jhanas do not suggest that there is a hedonistic component to the practice, at all. Hedonism is a practice that centers on sensual pleasures as a solitary end goal. The jhanas are a path to insight. There is the "beautiful breath" that Ajahn Brahm describes. There is the piti / sukha that arises, but this is certainly not the goal of jhana practice. The Buddha taught, as I recall, that there is no wisdom without jhana, the idea being that it is through the jhanas that the cultivation of wisdom and insight is developed. I understand that anyone that practices mental absorptions for the purpose of developing body-based pleasure feelings is not practicing the jhanas that the Buddha taught. Fortunately, there are many good teachings on the jhanas, available on the internet, via Leigh Brasington, Ajahn Sujato videos etc., Ven. Gunaratana, and others.
:goodpost:
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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Lazy_eye » Tue Aug 19, 2014 2:58 pm

I've gone through a period of rejecting Buddhism, during which time the Carvaka position seemed more reasonable to me. So I feel qualified to play "devil's advocate." :)

In a nutshell, I've argued (along the lines of what Alex suggests, above), that without rebirth the Buddhist goal of eradicating craving does not make sense. Managing or reducing craving, yes, but eradicating it altogether doesn't seem justified. Craving may produce dukkha, but it can also produce satisfaction. For example, I have a craving for pho noodles; I get in the car and drive to a Vietnamese restaurant and enjoy my pho. There is dukkha, in the sense that I'm aware of the impermanence of this satisfaction, but it's not sufficient to make me want to eradicate my desire for pho.

Traditional Buddhism answers this objection with reference to endless rebirth in samsasa, with most of that time spent in the lower realms. However (as others have kindly pointed out to me during various forum discussions), there are counterarguments that do not depend on the traditional cosmology.

One is that nibbana is worth seeking in and of itself. That is, such a state (not really a "state") is happier than any samsaric state, so those desiring the ultimate happiness have a motivation to seek it. Even if arahantship can't be attained, one may have temporary experiences (so-called temporary nibbana) that are qualitatively different (and superior to) samsaric joys.

Another is the agnostic position: we do not know for certain that life ends at death. Therefore the Carvaka point of view is based on a false premise (of certainty regarding the afterlife). This affects the "math" that Alex refers to above.
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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Alex123 » Tue Aug 19, 2014 3:04 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:I've gone through a period of rejecting Buddhism, during which time the Carvaka position seemed more reasonable to me. So I feel qualified to play "devil's advocate." :)
I had my periods to... I mean, what is wrong in reducing excessive desire for what you can't have, and enjoy what you can have? What is wrong in finding pleasure in simple, easily attainable (for you) things? Sometimes abstaining hurts more than indulging. Sometimes lust, for example, feels so bad that the simplest and quickest solution is to watch porn for few minutes and then masturbate. Sometimes trying to counter it feels worse than solving it other way. Of course if there is next life...

If there is only one life, then by taking it into consideration - some sensual pleasures are not as bad.


There is a counterpoint in achieving bliss of jhana. But, what are the chances for you to achieve them? What if for some people, one must be a bhikkhu for dozens of years prior to attaining Jhana? And what if the temperament of a person doesn't allow easy access to Jhana?

Part of the bliss of jhana (or higher state) is absence of sense experience, right? Well, what about deep sleep, or full anesthesia causing temporary unconsciousness?
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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Lazy_eye » Tue Aug 19, 2014 3:13 pm

Alex123 wrote:There is a counterpoint in achieving bliss of jhana. But, what are the chances for you to achieve them? What if for some people, one must be a bhikkhu for dozens of years prior to attaining Jhana?
Yes, agree that this is a key part of the question. The Buddhist path requires sacrifice, including abandonment of many things that bring temporary happiness. Is it worth it?

For example, say a young person decides to leave the household life and ordain. He or she spends a lifetime in the monastery and misses the chance to do something else that he/she might have enjoyed: become a musician, say, or play a sport, or get married and raise a family, or pursue some other meaningful worldly vocation. And say after all that time jhana doesn't occur. Then all there is to fall back on is the hypothetical possibility of rebirth, allowing for future progress. But all the evidence we have for that is in ancient texts dating from a time when people believed in a flat earth. Is it really a solid basis for making those kinds of life decisions?

Sorry if my question offends anyone -- I am just trying to articulate the issue in a straightforward way. In brief, is the Carvaka position -- or perhaps something in between Carvaka and the Buddha -- necessarily the more reasonable one if rebirth is not factored in?

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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Anagarika » Tue Aug 19, 2014 3:34 pm

I feel that a lot of this depends on the level of trust that you have in the Buddha's Dhamma. If you see this Dhamma as being subject to revision, dilution, or distrust its integrity, then, yes, you will perhaps go down other paths and take your chances on the outcome. There is a measure of faith in the idea that the Buddha "got it right," and that by following this prescription faithfully, we have an opportunity to eradicate the disease of dukkha and samsara, and the experience of endless rebirths.

The Buddha even mentioned to the Kalamas, who were not disciples of his, to test any path or teacher based on the result, and the wisdom and experience of the teacher.

"One's own preferences are not to be followed simply because they seem logical or resonate with one's feelings. Instead, any view or belief must be tested by the results it yields when put into practice; and — to guard against the possibility of any bias or limitations in one's understanding of those results — they must further be checked against the experience of people who are wise. The ability to question and test one's beliefs in an appropriate way is called appropriate attention. The ability to recognize and choose wise people as mentors is called having admirable friends. According to Iti 16-17, these are, respectively, the most important internal and external factors for attaining the goal of the practice. For further thoughts on how to test a belief in practice, see MN 61, MN 95, AN 7.79, and AN 8.53. For thoughts on how to judge whether another person is wise, see MN 110, AN 4.192, and AN 8.54." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, © 1994

Is the Carvaka argument the better path? That's for you to decide after following the advice of the Buddha's words to the Kalamas.

( This life = 100 baht). I know on whom I am placing my 100 baht bet.

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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Lazy_eye » Tue Aug 19, 2014 3:44 pm

Anagarika, did you already believe in rebirth before you began practicing Buddhism? Or did you acquire/accept this belief after you began your practice, because of your trust in the Buddha?

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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by Unrul3r » Tue Aug 19, 2014 3:47 pm

clw_uk wrote:Although it has always struck me that the jhanas come across as just another form of hedonism, just more refined.
Indeed. If "the jhānas come across as just another form of hedonism", one would have to agree. It's a 'non-sensual' hedonism, if it could be called that.
DN 29 wrote:[Description of the four Jhānas]
...
'These [Jhānas] are the four kinds of life devoted to pleasure which are entirely conducive to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to tranquillity, to realisation, to enlightenment, to Nibbana. So if wanderers from other sects should say that the followers of the Sakyan are addicted to these four forms of pleasure-seeking, they should be told: "Yes", for they would be speaking correctly about you, they would not be slandering you with false or untrue statements.'
...
[Benefits of Jhānas]
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Re: Carvaka arguments against Buddhism

Post by daverupa » Tue Aug 19, 2014 4:20 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:In brief, is the Carvaka position -- or perhaps something in between Carvaka and the Buddha -- necessarily the more reasonable one if rebirth is not factored in?
Whether factoring rebirth in or out, post-mortem certainty is going to be a problem for any argument. So if rebirth is not factored in, we ought to remove from consideration all speculative post-mortem assertions (including the assertion of a lack of meaningful continuity, and thus an ethical hedonism), and we're going to end up either looking at one or another sort of wager argument when that happens, else making dogmatic assertions.

Buddhism has a Wager, and its ability to build the Path from this agnostic place appears to me to be relatively unique. Does the Carvaka position have such a thing?
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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