Carvaka and Lokayata: India’s ancient tradition of skepticism and atheism

On July 2, 2022, the India-based YouTubechannel «Cārvāka Lokāyata» had a 1.5 hours conversation with the global historian of ideas Dag Herbjørnsrud on the more than 2700-year-old Indian tradition of atheism and skepticism, known as Lokayata or Carvaka. The session covered the period from the Harappa culture (ca. 2600-1800 BCE) via the Rigveda, the Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabaratha, the grammar scholar Panini, the scientist Aryabhata (ca. 500), the philosopher Jayarasai (ca. 800), Adi Shankara, Al-Biruni (11th century), Mahadavi (14th c.), the Mughal Emperor Akhbar and the conversations with the atheists at his court from 1578, to the influence on both China (from the 3rd century) and Europe (from the late 16th c.).

Link to «An Evening Session with Dag Herbjørnsrud»:

The conversation is based on two texts, by Herbjørnsrud, for the American Philosophical Association (APA).

Part I: «The untold history of India’s vital atheist philosophy«

INTRO: «Rationality, skepticism, and atheism have been central parts of Indian thinking for 2,700 years. Contrary to common belief, the hallmark of India’s philosophy is its critique of religions.

This is part I of Herbjørnsrud’s text on the Cārvāka/ Lokāyata philosophy of India. The second and last part will cover three other aspects when it comes to these non-religious Indian schools of thinking: first, the Mughal era, atheism, and the influence on Europe; second, the spread of Lokāyata ideas to China; and third, it’s impact on Indian science.»

Part II: «India’s atheist influence on Europe, China, and science»

INTRO: «The atheist Carvaka philosophers were present at the Muslim emperor Akbar’s court in the late 16th century, and beyond. How much did they influence modern Europe, and China from the 3rd century?

This is part II of Herbjørnsrud’s text on the Carvaka/Lokayata (Cārvāka/Lokāyata) philosophy of India. The first part explored India’s atheist philosophy by studying the history of rational, skeptical, and atheist thought in Hindu, Buddhist, and other texts.«