Bṛhaspati and the Barhaspatyas

Ramkrishna Bhattacharya    Pavlov Institute, Calcutta, India    



The name of Bṛhaspati is associated with the materialist doctrine in India. He is supposed to be the preceptor of the gods. It was in order to help them in their battle against the demons that he created the materialist doctrine and thereby deluded the demons. This story, Puranic in origin, can be traced back to a late Upaniṣad, Maitrī. However, the story given in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa and other sources does not contain anything specifically materialistic; all the heretical doctrines preached by Māyāmoha appear to be pre-existing; the Jains and the Buddhists are particularly mentioned, not the Lokāyatikas or the Cārvākas. More interestingly, in some other later sources, Bṛhaspati does not seem to be a god or a demi-god; he is as much a human as Kapila, Gautama and other founders of philosophical systems are. This trend of treating Bṛhaspati as a human is found in Kṛṣṇamiśra’s play, the Prabodhacandrodaya. He belongs to the camp of Kali. Whatever be the identity of Bṛhaspati, his attribution to materialism is inappropriate and has got nothing to do with the development of materialism in India.

June 25, 2018
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