• Ajivika School is one of the Nastika or heterodox schools of Indian Philosophy.
  • It was a a shramana movement and a major rival of Vedic religion, early Buddhism and Jainism.
  • Time period – 5th century BCE,
    • It was a school of thought that developed in India during the same time as Jainism and Buddhism.
  • It was founded by Goshala Maskariputra (also called Gosala Makkhaliputta), (He is considered to be friends with Mahavira)
  • Original Scriptures of Ajivikas philosophy may once have existed, but these are currently unavailable and probably lost, and their theories are extracted from mentions of Ajivikas in the secondary sources of ancient Indian Literature.
  • Doctrine – Ajivika school is known for its Niyati (Fate) doctrine of absolute determinism, the premise that there is no free will, that everything that has happened, is happening and will happen is entirely preordained and a function of cosmic principles.
  • Ājīvikas considered the karma doctrine as a fallacy.
  • Ajivika metaphysics included a theory of atoms which was later adapted in Vaisheshika school, where everything was composed of atoms, qualities emerged from aggregates of atoms, but the aggregation and nature of these atoms was predetermined by cosmic forces.
  • Ājīvika philosophy reached the height of its popularity during the rule of the Mauryan emperor Bindusara, around the 4th century BCE. This school of thought thereafter declined, but survived for nearly 2,000 years through the 14th century CE in the southern Indian states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
    • Ashoka himself, best known for his spreading of Buddhism all over India and Southeast Asia, was an Ajivik for most of his life.
  • Interestingly, the oldest rock-cut caves in India, the Barabar Caves in Bihar dating from the Mauryan Empire, were made for Ajiviks and Jains to retreat and meditate!
  • Asceticism
    • Like Jains, Ajiviks wore no clothes, and lived as ascetic monks in organised groups.
    • They were known to practice extremely severe austerities, such as lying on nails, going through fire, exposing themselves to extreme weather, and even spending time in large earthen pots for penance!
  • Open for all
    • There was no caste discrimination and people from all walks of life joined them.
  • The Ājīvika philosophy, along with the Cārvāka philosophy, appealed most to the warrior, industrial and mercantile classes of ancient Indian society.
  • Their reputation for such fearsome penance spread far and wide, and appeared in later Chinese and Japanese literature.
Ajivika School of Indian Philosophy

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