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Chapter 22: A New Kind of Religiousness

Just think of a world where death does not exist, where nobody dies. The question, “What happens after death?” will be meaningless, the question of heaven and hell will be meaningless. And when you are eternal, what God can be more than you? Now he is eternal life, and you are a momentary phenomenon, a soap bubble; within a moment you will be gone - hence the fear. And the fear creates the search. You want to know what this death is, and you want to know whether something remains after it or not. Those who say that nothing remains after it are not religious. They don’t go to any temple, they don’t go to any church, they don’t have any holy scripture.

In India there existed a great movement, the Charvakas. That was the movement of atheists. Nothing parallel to it has happened anywhere in the world. Yes, there have been individual atheists like Epicurus, Diderot, Karl Marx, Lenin; but these are individual atheists. The Charvakas were a movement and the name of the man who founded the movement is Acharya Brihaspati.

India is, in many ways, rare. Even though Brihaspati founded the movement for atheism, still he is respected as a great acharya, a great master, even by those whom he was destroying at their very roots. This you cannot find happening anywhere else. India has a great respect for all kinds of seekers - even if a seeker says that there is nothing to seek; and that’s what the Charvakas were all about, the whole movement.

Brihaspati said, “There is nothing more than this life; eat, drink, and be merry. All religions are invented by the greedy priests to exploit you in the name of God, in the name of an afterlife.” And he describes the priests the best way they can be described. He describes them as dogs with hanging tongues, ready, wagging their tails, asking for food.

That’s why I say India is a rare country: even Brihaspati is accepted as an acharya. Whatsoever he says is debated, confuted, argued about, but that does not mean disrespect to the person. Of course he is a founder of a movement, and what he is saying needs to be argued about - but you need not kill him, or crucify him. He is challenging you: “All your religion is bogus; it is just because of the fear of death. And nobody has returned after death to say that he is still alive, so you don’t have any evidence at all. Death simply annihilates everything.”

Karl Marx said, after five thousand years, what the Charvakas had been saying in India for that long a time. Of course Marx uses a more scientific terminology. He says, “Man’s consciousness is an epiphenomenon - it is not a reality but only a by-product.”

Marx says that it is just like when a clock moves and has a certain life because it moves, but you know that there is no soul in it; you know that its movement is mechanical. It is arranged in such a way that it can be automatic, that while one part is unwinding, the other part is winding. So when one part is unwound, the other part is ready to run the clock because it is wound. And the same goes on: those two parts, one unwinding, the other winding. The whole function is just a mechanical phenomenon. That’s why he calls it an epiphenomenon: not a true phenomenon but only a by-product.

So it is with man’s consciousness, Marx says. It is just a combination of certain physical mechanisms, chemical combinations; and out of this whole bio-mechanical system, man speaks, man thinks, man tries to be somebody - even starts looking for truth, for God. But all these are just by-products.

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