On Buddhist forums, I read reincarnationists accuse or demonize truthers as being "materialists", similar to Zionists accusing truthers of being "antisemitic" or Americans accusing traitors as being "communist".

In the Pali suttas, I have heard the word 'rupa' means 'material' or 'physical'.

Did the Lord Buddha ever refer to a doctrine literally called 'materialism' or accuse those of wrong views as being "materialists"?


I searched briefly on Access to Insight -- and the closest thing I found was this article which says,

All theistic religions teach that the ego survives after death in some way or other, and is not annihilated. The materialist's concept is that the ego is annihilated at death. The Buddhist view is that there is no ego, or anything substantial, or lasting, but all things conditioned are subject to change, and they change not remaining the same for two consecutive moments, and that there is a continuity but no identity.

... and:

Because of its acceptance of this law of universal impermanence, Buddhism stands in direct opposition to sassatavaada or eternalism, which usually goes hand in hand with aatmavaada, i.e., belief in some kind of immortal soul. The Brahmajaala Sutta of the Diighanikaaya alone refers to more than ten varieties of eternalism, only to refute them as misconceptions of the true nature of the empirical world. But this refutation of eternalism does not lead to the acceptance, on the part of Buddhism, of the other extreme, namely ucchedavaada or annihilationism, which usually goes hand in hand with materialism.

So perhaps "materialism" is used as a synonym of annihilationism, perhaps because it's understood as a doctrine that something is "annihilated" with/by the death of the "material" body.

  • Thanks Chris. But this quote appear to be Thanissaro's opinions rather than words from the Pali. Aug 14 '17 at 21:42
  • Why "but"? I was saying that "materialist" doesn't seem to appear in the suttas, as far as I know ... but that "annihilationism" (ucchedavaada) does ... and, that people who use the term "materialist" may be equating it with "annihilationist".
    – ChrisW
    Aug 14 '17 at 21:45
  • Sure. But this is the idea of people. It is not the idea of the Buddha. The Buddha never called anyone or any philosophy "materialism", based on my research & questions to others. Aug 14 '17 at 22:00
  • 1
    The 51st through 53rd of the false views listed in DN 1 (i.e. the first three of the seven false views associated with annihilationism) is that the self has material form.
    – ChrisW
    Aug 14 '17 at 22:11
  • 1
    Yes. The "self" has material form. The Buddha in many places defined "rupa" as "material form". The nihilist view is wrong because of its view of "self" rather than its view that materiality (rupa) exists. Aug 14 '17 at 22:15

Ajahn Buddhadasa said:

People language is used by the ordinary people who don't understand Dhamma very well and by those worldly people who are so dense that they are blind to everything but material things. Then, there is the language which is spoken by those who understand reality (Dhamma), especially those who know and understand reality in the ultimate sense. This is another kind of language.

No Religion

On this chatsite, no one could answer the same question, where it was answered:

I'm no pali scholar but I would bet there is no direct translation for the English word "materialism" in Pali.


Namo Tassa Bagavatto Arahanto Samma Sammbuddhassa! (Excuse my errors, I'm not fluent).

Did the Lord Buddha ever refer to a doctrine literally called 'materialism' or accuse those of wrong views as being "materialists"?

I will try to answer to the best of my ability! :)

The Buddha never referred to anything as being specifically "materialism," NOR did he say it was wrong because of this lack of mention (at least according to all current Pali translations I have read & know of), although, applying the Buddha's teachings to what many western Abrahamic religions call "materialism" works quite well.

The Buddha would sway away from materialism, due to its active use in the accumulation of sensual objects. This would only keep one on the path of greed. The Buddha preached to let go of all things in the end. This is when one becomes a monk or nun.

If in the lay lifestyle, then one can use the middle way with materialism, do not go overboard, but do not get rid of everything to the point that you will die.

Renunciation as a monk or nun is not extreme in accordance with the Middle Way due to them deciding to only have what is a necessity to live: robes, medicine, shelter, & alms. To get rid of all things or to actively pursue things are the extremes.

Anyhow, I hope I answered your question!

Metta to you!


The answer to your question would appear to be "No."

Interesting that a search of all four of the main volumes of the Buddha's talks as published by Wisdom, along with their Sutta Nipata, turn up no occurrences of the word "materialist" or "materialism".

The little English-Pali dictionary I have on my computer offers only lokāyatika as Pali for "materialist". A search in the Digital Pali Reader comes up with only three suttas in which it appears: SN 12.48, SN 12.50, AN 9.38 (as well as in a Jātaka and in Milinda). In notes on SN 12.48, where lokāyatika is translated as a "cosmologist" it's noted that the pejorative sense of the word as meaning "materialist" probably came along well after the Buddha's time. Some have suggested that in the Buddha's day it was a respectful reference to one who studied nature lore. Jayatilleke says since its use is always in association with loka (the world) or sabba (the all) it refers to cosmology. I'd expect that those two words refer to precursors of a modern Hindu belief in "the oneness of all", which is quite different from materialism.


5 kāma = Color, sound, smell, flavor, and touch stimuli.

Materialists are people who attaching 5 kāma.

So they are called kāmāvacaro, kāmapuggalo, kāmayogi, kāmo, etc.

  • i think this post is wrong because it has nothing to do with Buddhism. you are just manufacturing your own ideas. Aug 9 '17 at 3:05

The questioner has asked whether buddha has referred materialism. --First of all all the bad virtues such as greed, lust, selfishness, hatred,etc which buddha has termed as akushal kamma(bad deeds) , are the base of materialism. to assign it "ism" is degradation of the word "ism". Further the "rupa" termed in buddhism is for physical body and nam for mind. materialism is nothing but a rotten garbage cropped out of development of science enhancing comforts and pleasures of body.it is a tricky mind"s excuse to find authenticity by attaching it to some established isms meant for good purpose of liberation,salvation, moksha,etc etc.

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