Why should we take notice of the modern day Charvaka and VAma mArgis?

Somwhere in Dravidanaadu, 800 AD

“Show him, where is he? That holier than thou prick who pretends to have figured out life itself “, the coarse voice mixed with smell of toddy was too inconspicuous.

A band of Charvakas from Southern India, boisterous and belligerent, demanded an audience with the teacher of Vedanta. But they were not lucky for the advaitins did not entertain inebriated debates. Infuriated by this, Charvakas started hurling abuses and loudly criticised the guru who was seated, an inaudible distance from the mob. Looking at the commotion from the distant, the Acharya could guess the unwelcome visitors to be Charvakas or vAma Margis. The usually poise Acharya, was taken aback by this unruly behaviour and asked the advaitins to permit the mob for an interview with the Acharya.

Having granted the permission, the ones who worship the body and lived by ideals of sense-gratification rushed toward the ochre-clad sanyasi. The loudest one, who went by the name of Shkagata spoke to the Acharya thus.

“Oh Brahmin Sanyasi, thank you for allowing us an interview with lesser mortals like us (Laughter from the mob). You, who have never tasted the pleasures of the senses sit on a high pedestal demanding to restrain oneself and turn towards god. Pray tell us where and when is your God going to impart bad karma to us”

The Acharya who usually listened compassionately to arguments and counter-arguments, was in no mood to entertain the mob of Charvakas. He assumed the tone of one who was angered beyond control and spoke to them thus.

” We (Acharya uses a collective term since he was realized) have granted audience not to debate or discuss with you, but to warn you not to cross your limits of debauchery. Too often, it is our experience that drunkards and adulterers who go by the philosophy of senses, are slaves to sense-gratification incapable of debating with impersonality and logic. Neither direct nor indirect knowledge could appeal to the Charvakas or vAma Margis. Know thus, the lord does not differentiate and give you bad karma due to debauchery. It is your own perversion and attachment to the senses which will eventually destroy your bodies and minds in the long-run. Therefore, there is not one good which arises from debating with base philosophers such as yourselves. It is better for the communities to not take notice of your “philosophy” whereby your poison can be prevented from reaching our households and our communities. Go away now, or incur the wrath of the people assembled here”

The unruly mob was stunned by this treatment from the holy seer. They had plans of unleashing their adultery to the common public through acts of love making for all to see. For they knew the power of the senses was hard to be overcome except by seasoned yogis. Shocked and afraid of an impending thrashing they quickly retraced their steps shouting slogans against the philosophy of advaita and against “the fanatic” Sanatana Dharmis.

Somewhere in Parasuramakshetra, 2014 AD

The protesters were all wearing white t-shirts and jeans. The t-shirts painted with a picture of red lips, above which were the words “Kiss of love”. Several men and women, married and unmarried had converged at a place in modern day Kerala to show their solidarity against “moral policing” by a public act of kissing. Several brusque policemen were standing guard as a precaution to prevent “goons and ruffians” from attacking the peaceful and non-violent protests. Ironically enough, these events were happening in Sankara’s birth place.

Charvaka philosophy in a “harmless” form, was showing up its head in Kerala, followed by Delhi, Chennai and many other places. The damage was already done, Charvakas had achieved what they couldn’t a thousand years back – painting themselves as liberators at the risk of being victims of aggression from Vedantis. Of-course that is not to say that Sanatana Dharma now is in the hands of Sankara on the other end of the spectrum. Rather it is much worse, in the hands of unsophisticated brutes who do more harm to modern day Sanatana Dharma than really any benefit. By beating and causing physical harm, these brutes cause “moral” outrage thereby confirming the version of modern day Charvakas. It is now given that Charvakas cannot be ignored, lets see how they can be defeated.


No! I will not fight!

Madhusudhana! How could I think of using my bow against honourable men like Bhishmapithamaha and Dronacharya, even if it were for a retaliation leave alone offense. These men, I hold in very high regard for each is a soul noble beyond compare. Can the lust for land drive me to do such a thing? In the event of victory, can I ever imagine to celebrate pleasures of a kingly life after killing righteous men? Wealth acquired through this war will be cursed by the blood of pure men who were killed for an unjust cause. This does not make any sense to me now, and I am at a loss to understand if wining this war is really good for us. Would it not be better to let the sons of Dhritarashtra to win over us? That way I would be saved from the sin of killing my brothers.

Save me from this torment of choices, for my thinking is clouded by fear of making the wrong one. Either ways I cannot fathom this situation, it is beyond me! I surrender myself to you Janardhana, kindly instruct me on what is to be done in this terrible situation. I am sure the wealth of this whole world and lordship over the Devas would not soothe my heart with peace and calm. 

While Arjuna poured out his tormented heart to Sri Krsna, he could notice that his whole being was tortured by a strange sense of anxiety and panic. He could feel his back hurt and a slight chill through his limbs. He knew the source of his pain was beyond his body.

Help me tide over this anxiety that is sucking the life out of my senses. Fighting this war will not make it any better. I will not fight!

While saying this, he couldn’t stop his tears which gushed out of the eyes red with hurt and pain. Arjuna controlled himself from sobbing on his friend, and now teacher Krsna’s shoulders.

The Kurukshetra was now filled with silence – one that characterises the interval between two consecutive waves of the ocean. Silent yet expansive. Then the Lord in the form of the cowherd-charioteer wore that familiar yet charming smile while standing between a few hundred thousand men ready to kill each other. Sri Krsna who chided Arjuna earlier for his unexpected behaviour, now looked at him with compassion.

Unmanliness is not compassion – Sri Krsna chides Arjuna

When did this illusion get to you Partha?

At this moment of crisis you speak like one who is unworthy of the glory of heavens. Such words are not uttered by honourable men and this thinking only leads to disrepute for the generations to come. How is it that a great warrior like you finds comfort in thinking along those lines? Enough is enough, give up this unmanliness. Overcome this slavish fear in your heart, get up and fight!

Of Battles and Panic Attacks – Arjuna’s woe

The Pancajanya’s roar thundered across the bright and blue sky, sending opposing signals to either side. It was reassuring and, even providing a sense of peace to the Pandavas whereas it was quite the opposite for the other – the Kauravas.

Despite this reassuring battle cry from Sri Krsna, Arjuna’s mind wandered to the other side. He who had slain his enemies with the ease of his thumb and forefinger, was now perturbed. Arjuna asked Sri Krsna to drive up their chariot to the middle ground in order to have a better view of his enemies and their formations. Sri Krsna swiftly steers their powerful yet light chariot in between the two opposing armies which had covered the whole of Kurukshetra just as the mighty sun is covered during an eclipse.

Seeing the enemy’s army consisiting of brothers, uncles, fathers-in-law, grand uncles and teachers – Arjuna’s mind was struck with anxiety. It would not be entirely charitable to Arjuna to attribute this anxiety to a fear of defeat. But burdened as he was, with the tremendous responsibility of boosting the army’s morale and leading the Pandavas from the front, it would not be wholly incorrect to assume that Arjuna was beginning to succumb to the moral responsibility of the war and its consequences.

One by one, Arjuna’s thoughts were building a cloud of a Tamasic flavor. He shuddered to think of the possibility of slaying his own relatives for a piece of the kingdom. The perfect Kshatriya that he was, he very well knew that it was his duty to fight. However, the emotional strain and moral consequences of fighting his own kinsmen made him fantasize about Sanyasa Dharma. After all, it was nobler to live as a soul who lives free from hurt – both ways. He let his thoughts assume a vocal tone and lamented about his situation to Sri Krsna.

“Why do I have to fight this unjust war? Unjust I call it – because it does not lead to any good for either side. There is no balance in this! One wrong done by the enemy cannot be made right through another wrong by us. I can see nothing but devastation of noble souls belonging to either side because of this war. And what do we achieve by this bloodshed Govinda? If I am to sit on a simhasana over the skulls and bones of my brothers and uncles, how would I be considered a sane person let alone a just one. Cant you see this folly Oh Madhusudhana?! Please do something and avert this disaster”

Men commit sin through ignorance, and it is knowledge alone which frees man from sin. This being the truth how can I kill my brothers with my own hands. If they acted through ignorance, why should I follow the same path? The very thought of battle suffocates me Oh Janardhana. My throat is parched, and my shoulders weak. I have difficulty maintaining my breath and my eyes are hazy. Please save me from this terrible ordeal. How do I escape this woeful situation? saying so Arjuna faltered in his footsteps trembling from the knees and letting his Gandiva slip out of his hands. Sri Krisna jumps onto the chariot careful enough to hide a faltering Arjuna from the view of the enemy, lest the enemy gain a moral victory from the sorry state of Arjuna.

Shaking him with both hands, as if to wake him up from a sorrowful dream. Sri Krsna speaks thus.

Eka Dantam – To New Beginings

एकदन्तम् महाकायम्
तप्त काञ्चन सन्निभम्।
लम्बोदरम् विशालाक्षम्
वन्देहम् गणनायकम्॥

The first blog is offered as a humble effort to Eka Danta also revered as Buddhipriya – one who is fond of the intellect(uals). This offering is very much in line with the Sanatana tradition of praying to Ganapathi – the care-taker of the people/tribes/communities.

Sanatana tradition is indeed an interesting thing. It has for long been given various definitions by Westerners, Indians, Left Wing academics, Right Wing Traditionalists, Saffron Agents, Reddish Commies , Amish Tripathis, Devdutt Patnaiks etc. Most of us who are aware of such definitions of Sanatana Dharma, would also know that Hinduism has quite a bit of symbolism associated with it. Now this word symbolism, funnily enough, brings pictures of irrelevant shapes or art forms mostly inspired by Indiana Jones or the Mummy Returns Series. The sad part in the whole issue is when such “Hindu” symbolism is represented by an “outsider” it appears more like randomly concocted non-sense when its actually the opposite. A symbol helps to connect – Connect so deeply that at one point, the mind instinctively grasps the deeper meaning by becoming one with it.

This is as rational as it can get. Why?

Because the wise folks back then knew the limitations of the mind in understanding the meaning of a philosophical / spiritual concept. So they tied it to a symbol which would eventually guide the mind towards the meaning. Here, the word “guide” is very important since it implies a higher level of intelligence pulling the mind towards it rather than the intellect chopping layers of information to arrive at the truth. While the latter is very important in gaining knowledge, it is all the more “rational” to acknowledge the importance of intuition which opens up a portal to new understanding.

Having utmost faith in this process, and praying to mother Saraswathi inwardly I try to understand what Ganesha implies.

Dissecting the word Ganapathi, we find that he is the people’s lord. One who is universally worshiped. Here universe denotes the set of all people falling under the various castes and creed. This denotes that he is not very sophisticated but neither is he without his share of grandeur. His simplicity is his grandeur. He has a big stomach for knowledge, a powerful memory and keenly observant eyes – all must-haves for an intellectual. He has elephant ears which are vigilant. One could safely assume, that such alertness is generally a desired trait for pursuing any of the four purushArthAs in human life. Although, there is quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to the number of hands. It could be 4 or 16 or even 32 depending on the sect worshiping him. The flexibility of Sanatana Dharma is to be admired and appreciated here. A VeeraGanapathy may appeal to a warrior sect where as a more sattvic form of Ganapathy may appeal to scholars. It is not one bit confusing but on the other hand it offers a customized sadhana for the worshipper, each according to her/his state.

I would like to end this blog post with the intuition “behind” the famous poorna modhakam offering to Lord Ganesha. Poornam in samskrutham means “wholeness” or “completeness” – one of the principal attributes of moksha, and modhakam implies a confectionery. Lord Ganesha doles out the sweetest completeness of moksha on a platter only if the devotee truly surrenders herself/himself.


“Sri Ganesha by TK Jagannathan”