Beliefs, Religion and Reason – A perspective of Hindu Atheist

November 24, 2008

The conscience of Hindu Atheist

Filed under: Philosophies — Aniket @ 10:50 pm
Tags: , , ,

What is Hindu Atheist? Is he Hindu or is he an Atheist?

Can he not be both? In more conventional way, no.

In its most conventionally practiced form, Hinduism is about multitudes of rigid rituals practiced for various reasons from obtaining god’s favor to reaching goal of eternal salvation. The rabid mob of devout Hindus who flock in massive scale to any kind of yatras (pilgrimages) and utsavs (religious festivals) is testimonial of the fact that today’s Hinduism is far departed from some of the ancient philosophies that professed heterodoxy.

Even the philosophy of advaita vedanta – the philosophy that rejects externality of god and professes non-duality (advaita in sanskrit) of god and human soul – is also mostly followed by some elite intellectuals. For masses, Hinduism is about going to temple and praying to god for their material well-being.

Hence, in most conventional way one can not be Hindu and Atheist at the same time.

But if one goes by loose definition of Hindu ethos as collection of ancient philosophies prevalent in vedic era, then Hinduism doesn’t remain a conventional religion any more. It becomes a diverse collection of fruitful and constructive arguments, debates, discussions among the intellectuals of the era. That form of Hinduism does not prescribe any particular medicine as the ultimate elixir of life. You can choose what you like and you can still call yourself Hindu as in descendant of that legacy if that gives you a sense of belongingness and if you are looking for the one.

In Atheistic perspective, there are three main philosophies that emerged out of vedic/Indus valley/Indian civilization – Jainism, Buddhism and Cārvāka (pronounced Chartered-vaa-make) teachings. The first two philosophies preached non-materialistic atheism and ultimately diverged into different religions altogether. The later philosophy, professed by Cārvāka in 600BC, was perhaps far too ahead of its time and did not survive the brunt of puritan religion.

Today, Cārvāka’s philosophy can be seen as the most objective form of ancient atheistic philosophy. Perhaps, Cārvāka is the ancient visionary who professed the form of atheism which is gaining momentum today – 2600 years after his lifetime.

The philosophies of Buddha and Cārvāka have always fascinated me. I am not really sure which school of atheism I belong to – Buddhist or Cārvākist.



  1. Aniket….I would like to correct you, Jainism and Buddhism are not part of Vedic religion. They are a continuation of Sramana tradition which was not only non-vedic but pre vedic…Anish

    Comment by Anish — November 26, 2008 @ 3:50 am | Reply

  2. Jainism and Buddhism both are post-vedic.
    Vedic Era = 2 millenia BCE to 6 century BCE
    Shramana movement= 6 century BCE onwards.

    But I agree that Jainisma and Buddhism are not part of Vedic religion. They just share the same cultural origin from anthropological perspective. In fact they staged the rebellion against the established rituals of vedic religion in 6 century BCE floating their own sects.

    Broadly one can say that with emergence of Shramana movement, vedic civilization split across Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.

    Comment by Aniket K — November 26, 2008 @ 12:12 pm | Reply

  3. Hi,
    Where can I find out more details and literature about Charvaka.

    Comment by Ashish Patil — January 1, 2009 @ 8:36 pm | Reply

  4. A Hindu can be atheist too for if someone views closely Hinduism is not merely a religion it is the name of the India thought and philosophy which allowed freedom to question faiths and thus Hinduism also incorporates the meditation for atheist to achieve self realization taking Hinduism merely as a religious thought is a huge mistake on your part for you said that it incorporates multitude of Gods while most of the people, may be all believe in just one god known through different names. As such Hinduism has been associated with Vedic thought which is a very big mistake on our part, the time now is to take Hindu thoughts under one umbrella and not just rejecting them because of our attempt to take “conventional way” to approach Hindu Philosophy. I am atheist but I do believe in Karmayoga for it makes me concentrate on work rather than results…!!!
    Also the thought of atheism is of Pre Vedic is also rejected by me as to not to believe in something there should be belief in something, it is as logical as it gets…!!

    Comment by Rahul Bagga — January 10, 2009 @ 9:46 am | Reply

    • In my opinion, like many other religious and spiritual ideas Karmayoga makes you lame. Nothing motivates better than the taste of success. You’ll never give more that 100% if you are not motivated to win.
      If we understand evolution and natural selection correctly, being competitive and greedy for results is the basis of human existence. It is therefore, any attempt to suppress human greed, although looked very humane and charitable in theory, failed miserably in practice. Failure of economic ideas of communism is the best example, so is the failure of Karmayoga.

      Comment by Aniket Kanade — January 11, 2009 @ 1:22 pm | Reply

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    Pingback by Beliefs, Religion and Reason – A perspective of Hindu Atheist « — June 9, 2010 @ 6:02 pm | Reply

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