Hedonism, as a philosophy, gives great importance to the pleasure of an individual. Nothing is more important than pleasure. The aim of life is to enjoy pleasure (and avoid pain completely as much as possible).
Thus, most hedonists are also great supporters of individual freedom. They will support the freedom of an individual to do whatever he/she wants unless it hurts another individual. Traditional morals/ethics do not matter to them.
Ancient India had a school of hedonistic atheism – lokAyata. One branch of it, the niilapat.a (aka niilAmbara) made hedonism the basis of their very existence. The famed tolerance of Hindus towards diverse philosophical traditional found its limit with the niilapat.a doctrine. Jayanta bhat.t.a ad RAjA Bhoja of Dhar made it a point to exterminate this sect. niilapat.as’ belief could be summarized as follows:
“Indulge in coitus with any woman/man you like. Give up social norms (let there be no barriers to pleasure). Drink wine as much as you want. In short, do whatever gives you pleasure.”
Jayanta understood that even faithful wives will be instigated to leave their households as all restraints are rejected by this cult. Family system will cease to exist and with it, the entire society will fall into abyss. The community will cease to exist in a few generations. That is the reason why Jayanta and Bhoja exterminated this cult.
This opposition to unadulterated hedonism is one major reason for the continued survival of Hinduism despite the various onslaughts throughout the centuries. Greek and Roman pagans became extinct as they had taken to hedonistic values. Various civilizations have met their end within a short span of taking to hedonism – the end result of which was undermining the family system (Sumeria, Greece, Rome, Persia). We will take a detailed look at these cultures and how hedonism undermined them in the next post.