Atheism in Hinduism

the Six systems of Orthodox Hindu philosophy [1]

the Sankhya System

This important system of thought was in the first instance a reaction from the monism expressed in the Upanishads. It is almost as old as the first Upanishadic specualtions and finds expression itself in some of the later Upanishads. Its founder is said to have been one Kapila, born at Kapilavastu, a century before Gautama Buddha was born there. The Sankhya system derived from him profoundly influenced both Jainism and Buddhism. It is staunchly dualistic and atheistic, maintaining that there are two eternal categories of being:
(1) Matter or the phenomenal world (prakriti, nature) and
(2) Soul (purusha).

The latter is not an All-Soul, like the Brahman-Atman of the monists, but an infinite number of individual souls, each independent and eternal. The souls entangled in nature have fallen into misery and suffering through ignorance (avidya) of the distinction between soul and matter, an ignorance which has led directly to the fettering of the soul to bodily processes and to nature (prakriti), and this casues the soul to be reborn again and again. Salvation from the recurring cycle of existences comes, not through knowledge of identity with any All-Soul (declared non-existent), but through knowoledge of the soul's existential diversity from matter, followed by the final passage into a state of eternal but unconscious individuality, in the purity of the spirit. Here, too, salvation is sought by the Way of Knowledge. / p 243


Of late, Western humanism and new departures in ideology like Marxism have increased the process of religious dissolution. In some circles, especially where Communism has penetrated, a new attitude of defiant atheism has been voiced. However prepared one may be to hear it, one is nevertheless startled by the knowledge that young Hindus have written for publication: "Of all the people in the world it is we Indians that require more and more materialism. We have had too much religion." 37 / p 267

37 Charles S. Braden, Modern tendencies in world religions (Macmillan 1933) p 31

- in John B. Noss, Man's religions (Macmillan: NY 1956)

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created 1jun1996, revised 20mar98     |     comments on this site? tpkunesh@atheisms.info