Atheism (Sanskrit: nir-īśvara-vāda, lit. "statement of no Lord", "doctrine of godlessness") or disbelief in God or gods has been a historically propounded viewpoint in many of the ‘heterodox’ and astika (or orthodox) streams of Hindu philosophies.
The Sanskrit term Āstika ("pious, orthodox") is sometimes translated as "theist" and Nāstika as "atheist". Sanskrit asti means "there is", and Āstika per Panini 4.2.60 is derived from the verb, meaning "one who says 'asti', one who believes in the existence [of God, of another world, &c.]" When used as a technical term in Hindu philosophy the term Āstika refers to belief in the Vedas, not belief in the existence of God.
There are six schools of thought within Hinduism addressed as the Shat (Astik) Darshana (darshana meaning "viewpoint.") Within the Astika schools of Hindu philosophy, the Samkhya and the early Mimamsa school did not accept a God in their respective systems.
The atheistic viewpoint as present in the Samkhya and Mimamsa schools of Hindu philosophy takes the form of rejecting a creator-God. The Samkhya school believed in a dual existence of Prakriti ("nature") and Purusha ("spirit") and had no place for an Ishvara ("God") in its system. The early Mimamsakas believed in a adrishta ("unseen") that was the result of performing karmas ("works") and saw no need for an Ishvara in their system. Mimamsa, as a philosophy, deals exclusively with karma and thus is sometimes called Karma-Mimamsa. The karmas dealt with in Mimamsa concern the performance of Yajnas ("sacrifices to gods") enjoined in the Vedas.
In Indian philosophy, three schools of thought are commonly referred to as nastika: Jainism, Buddhism and Cārvāka for rejecting the doctrine of Vedas. In this usage, nastika refers to the non-belief of Vedas rather than non-belief of God. However, all these schools also rejected a notion of a creationist god and so the word nastika became strongly associated with them.
Cārvāka, an atheistic school of Indian philosophy, traces its origins to 600 BCE, while some claim earlier references to such positions. It was a hedonistic school of thought, advocating that there is no afterlife. Cārvāka philosophy appears to have died out some time after 1400 CE. Dharmakirti, a 7th-century philosopher deeply influenced by cārvāka philosophy, wrote in Pramanvartik:
वेद प्रामाण्यं कस्य चित् कर्तृवादः स्नाने धर्मेच्छा जातिवादाव लेपः|
संतापारंभः पापहानाय चेति ध्वस्तप्रज्ञानां पञ्च लिङगानि जाड्ये||
Believing that the Veda are standard (holy or divine), believing in a Creator for the world,
Bathing in holy waters for gaining punya, having pride (vanity) about one's caste,
Performing penance to absolve sins,
Are the five symptoms of having lost one's sanity.
Buddhism and Jainism have their origins in pre-historic sramana tradition and are not hedonistic. Also worth mentioning are the Ājīvikas (now an extinct religion), whose founder, Makkhali Gosala, was a contemporary of Mahavira and Gautama Buddha (the central figures of Jainism and Buddhism, respectively). Gosala and his followers also denied the existence of a creator god.
Hindu atheists in recent times
The Indian Nobel Prize-winner Amartya Sen, in an interview with Pranab Bardhan for the California Magazine published in the July-August 2006 edition by the University of California, Berkeley states:
|“||In some ways people had got used to the idea that India was spiritual and religion-oriented. That gave a leg up to the religious interpretation of India, despite the fact that Sanskrit had a larger atheistic literature than what exists in any other classical language. Even within the Hindu tradition, there are many people who were atheist. Madhava Acharya, the remarkable 14th century philosopher, wrote this rather great book called Sarvadarshansamgraha, which discussed all the religious schools of thought within the Hindu structure. The first chapter is "Atheism" - a very strong presentation of the argument in favor of atheism and materialism.||”|
- Amartya Sen, Economist and 1998 Nobel laureate.
- Veer Savarkar (Hindu Atheist), who was president of Hindu Mahasabha. He is credited for developing a Hindu nationalist political ideology he termed as Hindutva (Hinduness).
- Shreela Flather, Baroness Flather of Windsor and Maidenhead, the first Hindu woman in British politics. She described herself as a "Hindu atheist". Broadly, she is an atheist with affinity to secular aspects of Hindu culture such as dress and diet.
- Periyar - Founder of the Dravidian social activist
- The Speak Tree - The Atheistic Roots of Hindu Philosophy. The Times of India.
- Atheism in Hinduism[verification needed]
- Monier-Williams (1899)
- History and Doctrines of the Ājīvikas: A Vanished Indian Religion
- Athavale, Sadashiv. Charvak Itihas ani Tatvadynan (III ed ed.). p. 24.
- Balsham, B.L. (2003). History and Doctrines of the Ājīvikas: A Vanished Indian Religion. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. ISBN 8120812042. http://www.google.com/books?id=BiGQzc5lRGYC&.
- California Magazine
- Reported lecture facinghistory.org
- Self-proclaimed chowk.com
- World Bank worldbank.org
- Press meeting rediff.com
- Kumar, Pramod (1992). Towards Understanding Communalism. Chandigarh: Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development. p. 348. ISBN 9788185835174. OCLC 27810012. "VD Savarkar was publicly an atheist.Even when he was the Hindu Mahasabha leader he used to publicly announce and advertise lectures on atheism, on why god is not there and why all religions are false. That is why when defining Hindutva, he said, Hindutva is not defined by religion and tried to define it in a non-religious term: Punyabhoomi."
- Nandy, Ashis (2003). Time Warps: The Insistent Politics of Silent and Evasive Pasts. Delhi: Orient Longman. p. 71. ISBN 9788178240718. OCLC 49616949.
- BBC News