Interesting Question

The State is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of behavior; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently toward one another....We are the state, and we shall continue to be the state until we have created the institutions that form a real community and society of men.

- Gustav Landauer, Schwache Stattsmanner, Schwacheres Volk!, June, 1910

Selected Correspondence:

26 September 2006

Ajita Kesakambala (early Indian materialism)

The buddhist text Digha Nikaya (Samannaphala Sutta, the fruits of the contemplative life) has dialogs with six post Upanished radical thinkers who wandered North India around the time of the Buddha's birth (circa 500 BCE) provoking debate and attracting followers. Of them the most interesting and clearly the most radical is Ajita Kesakambala. Ajita was a contemporary of Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddah) with a rival materialistic school. Ajita's philosophy was atheistic and even denied transmigration. Ajitas acerbic vision probably flowered and was repressed for the same reason; it offered complete mental liberation to those to those enslaved by the kamma yolk of the Brahmin. Since the Digha Nikava is a buddhist text following a long oral tradition it is likely Ajita's position has been extremised to nihilism inorder to give Buddhism the middle. Indian Buddhism was a radical shift away from Hindu traditions and undermining of Brahmin power, but thanks to Ajita and other radicals still successfully pushed as The Middle Way.
"Another time I approached Ajita Kesakambala and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings and courtesies, I sat down to one side. As I was sitting there I asked him: 'Venerable Ajita, there are these common craftsmen...They live off the fruits of their crafts, visible in the here and now...Is it possible, venerable sir, to point out a similar fruit of the contemplative life, visible in there here and now?' "When this was said, Ajita Kesakambala said to me, 'Great king, there is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no priests or contemplatives who, faring rightly and practicing rightly, proclaim this world and the next after having directly known and realized it for themselves. A person is a composite of four primary elements. At death, the earth (in the body) returns to and merges with the (external) earth-substance. The fire returns to and merges with the external fire-substance. The liquid returns to and merges with the external liquid-substance. The wind returns to and merges with the external wind-substance. The sense-faculties scatter into space. Four men, with the bier as the fifth, carry the corpse. Its eulogies are sounded only as far as the charnel ground. The bones turn pigeon-colored. The offerings end in ashes. Generosity is taught by idiots. The words of those who speak of existence after death are false, empty chatter. With the break-up of the body, the wise and the foolish alike are annihilated, destroyed. They do not exist after death.' "Thus, when asked about a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, Ajita Kesakambala answered with annihilation. Just as if a person, when asked about a mango, were to answer with a breadfruit; or, when asked about a breadfruit, were to answer with a mango. In the same way, when asked about a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, Ajita Kesakambala answered with annihilation. The thought occurred to me: 'How can anyone like me think of disparaging a priest or contemplative living in his realm?' Yet I neither delighted in Ajita Kesakambala's words nor did I protest against them. Neither delighting nor protesting, I was dissatisfied. Without expressing dissatisfaction, without accepting his teaching, without adopting it, I got up from my seat and left.