According to the play ‘Prabodhachandrodaya’, Krishna Misra introduced hedonism hi these words : “Lokayata is the only philosophy in which perception is the one source of knowledge, earth, fire, water and air the only elements, wealth and action the only purusharthas, consciousness springs from the elements and in which there is no other world and death is the liberation.”
Similarly, hi the first chapter of the Sarva Darshan sangrha, Caravaka philosophy is propounded thus -There is no heaven, on absolute moksha, and neither is there any supernatural self nor any real result of the organized action of the four Varnas.
Agnihotra, the three Vedas, the three stage of tapasvi and putting ashes on the body-are means devised by nature for people who lack knowledge and purushartha. If the animal sacrificed in the Jyotishtome yajna goes to heaven, then why not sacrifice one’s elders?
If rites performed for deceased persons satisfy them then people who travel should find superfluous the provisions they carry. As long as life lasts man should live in pleasure, going to the extent of borrowing ghee because whence does one return after the body has once turned to ashes.
The above description makes it abundantly clear that in all aspects of metaphysics and ethics, Caravaka philosophy is materialistic.
Perception is the only source of knowledge:
The four elements, according to the Caravakas are earth, water, air and fire known by perception. In this way perception is the only valid proof of knowledge, according to the Caravakas.
Looking upon perception as the only valid source of knowledge it becomes necessary to regard matter as the sole Reality god, self, heaven, another world, immortality of life etc., are invisible and consequently discarded by the Caravakas.
Conscious body is the self:
Being materialists, the Caravakas do not believe in any imperceptible, unchanging self existing separately from the body. According to them consciousness is a quality of the body, having no separate existence outside or away from the body.
Besides the conscious body, no other self can be perceived. Therefore the conscious body should be called the self. An organization of the five Bhutas has been given names like body, sense organs and object.
Consciousness results from the combination of these same five elements. Actually activities said to be characterizing the self are attributes of the body and our daily life proceeds upon an identification of self with the body.
“I am fat,” “I am lame”, and other sentences of a similar nature indicate that ordinary people believe the body to be the soul. The Caravakas claim that everyone should follow the path of the common people.
Qualities like knowledge, action, consciousness, memory, volition and feelings belong to the body and not the soul. Pleasure and pain are physical states.
Insult of religion:
According to Indian philosophers there are four purusharthas-Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. The Caravakas have bitterly antagonized against the Vedas. According to them, the Vedic ritualism is useless, heaven and hell the imaginings of priests, the next world an unproved conception.
Liberation is impossible:
According to the Caravakas, it is foolish to hope for liberation from pains. It is impossible for the self to gain liberation from bodily ties. Even during life there cannot be even the most remote probability for a complete escape from pains.
Pain is always an antecedent of the body. Liberation, be it from the body or from pain, can be attained completely only upon death.
Pleasure is the ultimate end of life:
Thus, pleasure is the ultimate end of life. Money is a means to action and consequently it is necessary to earn it. Pleasure cannot be rejected on account of its complicity with pain.
No intelligent person can forego wheat merely because it is mixed with chaff. One cannot give up a diet of fish because of the bones in it. Farming cannot he abandoned for fear of animals devouring the crops.
One cannot stop cooking merely because of the possibility of some beggar demanding a share in it. One should not reject the pleasures of this life upon he false hope of a future life. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.
A penny exceeds in value the gold of redoubtable nature. It is silly to give wealth to others. Thus maximum pleasure is the ultimate end. Any action rendering more pain than pleasure is wrong. In this way, Caravakas are hedonists in their ethical considerations.
The hedonism of the Caravaka opinion has been bitterly criticized.
Although the acceptance of the theory of pleasure as the ultimate end of life involves many difficulties, yet the importance of pleasure hi life cannot be denied. Actually, all the Caravakas principles contain some element of truth, the chief mistake laying hi their treatment of their principles as the most superior.
As it is, even upon the question of hedonism the Caravakas are divided in their opinions the unrefined hedonists support gross hedonism, but refined Caravakas like Vatsyayana established the refined and cultured hedonism, in which there is much evidence of profound thought.
The author of Kama Sutra, Vatsyayana, has described 64 arts and is a firm believer in God and the hereafter and the purusharthas, of which, hi his opinion, kama was the supreme.
The basis of action is satisfaction of the five elements. And for preservation of the body, the satisfaction of the organs as that of the sex, Vatsyayana also stressed the importance of celibacy, religion and good citizenship.
Mastery over the 64 arts can be attained only after celibacy, and study of the Vedas. Vatsyayana stressed the control of organs and transformation of passions to concur with religion and ethics. Proper enjoyment of pleasure can be achieved only by a scientific analysis of the states of and means to pleasure.