Ancient Indian atheists - the Carvakas

Carvaka is probably not a school of thought you'll hear a lot about in yoga class: "Carvakas cultivated a philosophy wherein theology and what they called 'speculative metaphysics' were to be avoided. The Carvakas accepted direct perception as the surest method to prove the truth of anything."

They didn't believe in an afterlife, reincarnation or even "aether". They had a rather cynical belief that the brahmans created elborate funereal rituals merely to stay employed, and that the Hindu caste system itself was corrupt and 'unreal'. They also appear to support women's rights. To enjoy this life to the fullest is the right aim.

Unfortunately there are not many remaining records of this school of thought, as the wikipedia article suggests.

To me, the Carvakas are only stating what everyone already knows. But, at some point one realizes that "to live life to the fullest" requires the cessation of the creation of harm to those around you and to yourself. This requires a certain amount of vital self-control, combined with an overriding sense of love. These attributes of a well-lived life are conventionally called "spirituality".

I would almost call the Carvakas doctrine, as I understand it, a sort of subset of Buddhism that is a "holding pattern for the householder" who is, for the moment, flush with relative success.

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