Journal of Indian Philosophy

, Volume 40, Issue 6, pp 593–614 | Cite as

Svabhāvavāda and the Cārvāka/Lokāyata: A Historical Overview

  • Ramkrishna Bhattacharya


svabhāva (own being) and yadṛchhā (chance, accident) are named as two different claimants among others as the first cause (jagatkāraṇa) in the ŚvUp. But in later works, such as Aśvaghoṣa’s poems, svabhāva is synonymous with yadṛchhā and entails a passive attitude to life. Later still, svabhāva is said to be inhering in the Lokāyata materialist system, although in which sense—cosmic order or accident—is not always clearly mentioned. Svabhāva is also a part of the Sāṃkhya doctrine and is mentioned in the medical compilations. It is proposed that the idea of svabhāva as cosmic order became a part of Lokāyata between the sixth and the eighth century ce and got widely accepted by the tenth century, so much so that in the fourteenth century Sāyaṇa-Mādhava aka Vidyāraṇya could categorically declare that the Cārvāka/Lokāyata upheld causality, not chance. But the other meaning of svabhāva, identical with yadṛchhā, continued to circulate along with kāla, time, which was originally another claimant for the title of the first cause and similarly had acquired several significations in course of time. Both significations of svabhāva continued to be employed by later writers, and came to be used in another domain, that of daiva (fate) vis-à-vis puruṣakāra (manliness or human endeavour).


Cārvāka/Lokāyata first cause kāla Medical compilations Sāṃkhya svabhāva yadṛchhā 


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Thanks are due to Amitava Bhattacharya for reading the draft and offering valuable suggestions for improvement. The usual disclaimers apply.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pavlov InstituteKolkataIndia

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