Purva Mimamsa

Mīmāmsā (Sanskrit: मीमांसा), a word meaning “investigation” (compare Greek ἱστορία), is the name of an astika school of Hindu philosophy whose primary enquiry is into the nature of dharma based on close hermeneutics of the Vedas. The nature of dharma is not accessible to reason or observation, and must be inferred from the authority of the revelation contained in the Vedas, which are considered eternal, authorless (apaurusheyatva), and infallible.
The Sanskrit word ‘mimamsa means a ‘revered thought’. The word is originated from the root ‘man’ which refers to ‘thinking’ or ‘investigating’. The word ‘mimamsa’ suggests “probing and acquiring knowledge” or “critical review and investigation of the Vedas”. Each of the Vedas is considered to be composed of four parts: The Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the Upanishads. The first two parts are generally focused on the rituals and they form the Karma-kanda portion of the Vedas. The later two parts form the Jnana-kanda (concerned with knowledge) portion of the Vedas. Purva-Mimamsa is based on the earlier (Purva = earlier) parts of the Vedas. Uttar-Mimamsa is based on the later (Uttar = later) parts of the Vedas. Purva-Mimamsa is also known as Karma Mimamsa since it deals with the Karmic actions of rituals and sacrifices. Uttar-Mimamsa is also known as Brahman Mimamsa since it is concerned with the knowledge of Reality.
Mīmāmsā is also known as Pūrva Mīmāmsā (“prior” inquiry, also Karma-Mīmāmsā), in contrast to Uttara Mīmāmsā (“posterior” inquiry, also Brahma-Mīmāmsā), is the opposing school of Vedanta. This division is based on the notion of a dichotomy of the Vedic texts into a karmakānda, the department of the Veda treating of sacrificial rites (Samhitas and Brahmanas), and the jñānakānda dealing with the knowledge of Brahman (the Upanishads). Because Uttara Mīmāmsā is Vedanta, the term Mīmāmsā generally denotes Pūrva Mīmāmsā.
The school’s origins lie in the scholarly traditions of the final centuries BCE, when the priestly ritualism of Vedic sacrifice was being marginalized by Buddhism and Vedanta. To counteract this challenge, several groups emerged dedicated to demonstrating the validity of the Vedic texts by rigid formulation of rules for their interpretation. The school gathers momentum in the Gupta period with Śābara, and reaches its apex in the 7th to 8th centuries with Kumārila Bhatta and Prabhākara. The school for some time in the Early Middle Ages exerted near-dominant influence on learned Hindu thought, and is credited as a major force contributing to the decline of Buddhism in India, but it has fallen into decline in the High Middle Ages and today is all but eclipsed by Vedanta.
The foundational text for the Mīmāmsā school is the Purva Mīmāmsā Sutras of Jaimini (ca. 3rd to 1st century BCE). Jaimini is credited as the chief proponent of the Mimamsa system. His glorious work Mimamsa-Sutra is the largest of all the philosophical Sutras. Divided into 12 chapters, it is a collection of nearly 2500 aphorisms which are extremely difficult to comprehend. The Mīmāmsā Sūtra of Jaimini (c. 3rd century BCE) has summed up the general rules of nyāya for Vedic interpretation. The text has 12 chapters, of which the first chapter is of philosophical value. A major commentary was composed by Śābara in ca. the 5th or 6th century CE. The commentaries on the Mīmāmsā Sūtra by Bharthmitra, Bhavadāsa, Hari and Upavarsha are no more extant. Śabara (c. 1st century BCE) is the first commentator of the Mīmāmsā Sūtra, whose work is available to us. His bhāshya is the basis of all later works of Mīmāmsā . Kumārila Bhatta (7th century CE), the founder of the first school of the Mīmāmsā commented on both the Sūtra and its Śabara Bhāshya. His treatise consists of 3 parts, the Ślokavārttika, the Tantravārttika and the Ṭupṭīkā. Mandana Miśra (8th century CE) was a follower of Kumārila, who wrote Vidhiviveka and Mīmāmsānukramanī. There are several commentaries on the works of Kumārila. Sucarita Miśra wrote a Kāśikā (commentary) on the Ślokavārttika. Someśvara Bhatta wrote Nyāyasudhā, also known as Rāṇaka, a commentary on the Tantravārttika. Pārthasarathi Miśra wrote Nyāyaratnākara (1300 CE), another commentary on the Ślokavārttika. He also wrote Śāstradīpikā, an independent work on the Mīmāmsā and Tantraratna. Venkata Dīkshita’s Vārttikabharaṇya is a commentary on the Ṭupṭīkā. Prabhākara (8th century CE), the originator of the second school of the Mīmāmsā wrote his commentary Bṛhatī on the Śabara Bhāshya. Śālikanātha’s Ṛjuvimalā (9th century CE) is a commentary on the Bhatī. His Prakaranapañcikā is an independent work of this school and the Pariśishta is a brief explanation of the Śabara Bhāshya. Bhavanātha’s Nyāyaviveka deals with the views of this school in details. The founder of the third school of the Mīmāmsā was Murāri, whose works have not reached us. Āpadeva (17th century) wrote an elementary work on the Mīmāmsā, known as Mīmāmsānyāyaprakaśa or Āpadevī. Arthasangraha of Laugākṣi Bhāskara is based on the Āpadevī. Vedānta Deśika’s Śeśvara Mīmāmsā was an attempt to combine the views of the Mīmāmsā and the Vedānta schools.
The first major orthodox philosophical system to develop was Purva Mimamsa. The other one to follow was the Uttar Mimamsa. The orthodox systems accept the authority of the Vedas. The school reaches its height with Kumārila Bhatta and Prabhākara (fl. ca. 700 CE). Both Kumarila Bhatta and Prabhākara (along with Murāri, whose work is no more extant) have written extensive commentaries on Śābara’s Mīmamsāsūtrabhāshyam. Kumārila Bhatta, Mandana Miśra, Pārthasārathi Miśra, Sucarita Miśra, Ramakrishna Bhatta, Madhava Subhodini, Sankara Bhatta, Krsnayajvan, Anantadeva, Gaga Bhatta, Ragavendra Tirtha, VijayIndhra Tirtha, Appayya Dikshitar, Paruthiyur Krishna Sastri, Mahomahapadyaya Sri Ramsubba Sastri, Sri Venkatsubba Sastri, Sri A. Chinnaswami Sastri, Sengalipuram Vaidhyanatha Dikshitar were some of the Mimamsa Scholars.
The school of Mimamsa consists of both atheistic and theistic doctrines and is not deeply interested in the existence of God, but rather in the character of dharma. Mīmāmsā theorists decided that the evidence allegedly proving the existence of God was insufficient. They argue that there was no need to postulate a maker for the world, just as there was no need for an author to compose the Vedas or a God to validate the rituals. Mīmāmsā argues that the Gods named in the Vedas have no existence apart from the mantras that speak their names. To that regard, the power of the mantras is what is seen as the power of Gods.
Mīmāmsā is strongly concerned with textual exegesis, and consequently gave rise to the study of philology and the philosophy of language. Its notion of “speech” (Skt. śabda) as indivisible unity of sound and meaning (signifier and signified) is due to Bharthari (ca. 5th century CE).
The core tenets of Pūrva Mīmānsā are ritualism (orthopraxy), anti-asceticism and anti-mysticism. The central aim of the school is elucidation of the nature of dharma, understood as a set ritual obligations and prerogatives to be performed properly.
In the field of epistemology, later Mimāmsākas made some notable contributions. Unlike the Nyaya or the Vaisheshika systems, the Prābhākara school recognizes five means of valid knowledge (Skt. pramāna) and the Bhātta school recognizes six. In addition to the four means of valid knowledge accepted by the Nyaya school (pratyaksha, anumāna, upamāna and śabda), the Prābhākara school recognizes presumption (Skt. arthāpatti) and the Bhātta school recognizes both presumption and non-apprehension (anuapalabdhi) as additional valid means of knowledge. Another interesting feature of the Mimāmsā school of philosophy is its unique epistemological theory of the intrinsic validity of all cognition as such. It is held that all knowledge is ipso facto true (Skt. sata-prāmānyavāda). Thus, what is to be proven is not the truth of a cognition, but its falsity. The Mimāmsākas advocate the self-validity of knowledge both in respect of its origin (utpatti) and ascertainment (jñapti). Not only did the Mimāmsākas make the very great use of this theory to establish the unchallengeable validity of the Vedas, but later Vedantists also drew freely upon this particular Mimāmsā contribution.
Dharma as understood by Pūrva Mīmāmsā can be loosely translated into English as “virtue”, “morality” or “duty”. The Pūrva Mīmāmsā school traces the source of the knowledge of dharma neither to sense-experience nor inference, but to verbal cognition (i.e. knowledge of words and meanings) according to Vedas. In this respect it is related to the Nyāya school, the latter, however, accepts only four sources of knowledge (pramāna) as valid.
The Pūrva Mīmāsā school held dharma to be equivalent to following the prescriptions of the Samhitās and their Brāhmana commentaries relating the correct performance of Vedic rituals. Seen in this light, Pūrva Mīmāmsā is essentially ritualist (orthopraxy), placing great weight on the performance of karma or action as enjoined by the Vedas.
Emphasis of Yajnic Karmakāndas in Pūrva Mīmāmsā is erroneously interpreted by some to be an opposition to Jñānakānda of Vedānta and Upanishads. Pūrva Mīmāmsā does not discuss topics related to Jñānakānda, such as salvation (moksha), but it never speaks against moksha. Vedānta quotes Jaimini’s belief in Brahman as well as in mokṣa:

In Uttara-Mīmāmsā or Vedānta (4.4.5-7), Bādarāyana cites Jaimini as saying (ब्राह्मेण जैमिनिरूपन्यासादिभ्यः) “(The mukta Purusha is united with the Brahman) as if it were like the Brahman, because descriptions (in Śruti etc) prove so”. In Vedānta (1.2.28), Bādarāyana cites Jaimini as saying that “There is no contradiction in taking Vaishvānara as the supreme Brahman”. In 1.2.31, Jaimini is again quoted by Bādarāyana as saying that the nirguna (attribute-less) Brahman can manifest itself as having a form. In 4.3.12, Bādarāyana again cites Jaimini as saying that the mukta Purusha attains Brahman. In Pūrva Mīmāmsā too, Jaimini emphasises the importance of faith in and attachment to the Omnipotent Supreme Being Whom Jaimini calls “The Omnipotent Pradhaana” (The Main): Pūrva Mīmāmsā 6.3.1: “sarvaśaktau pravritti syāt tathābhūtopadeśāt” (सर्वशक्तौ प्रवृत्तिः स्यात् तथाभूतोपदेशात्). The term upadeśa here means instructions of the śāstras as taught. We should tend towards the omnipotent supreme being. In the context of Pūrva Mīmāmsā 6.3.1 shown above, next two sutras becomes significant, in which this Omnipotent Being is termed as “pradhāna”, and keeping away from Him is said to be a “dosha”, hence all beings are asked to get related (“abhisambandhāt” in tadakarmani ca doshas tasmāt tato viśeṣaḥ syāt pradhānenābhisambandhāt; Jaimini 6, 3.3) to the “Omnipotent Main Being” (api vāpy ekadeśe syāt pradhāne hy arthanirvṛttir guṇamātram itarat tadarthatvāt; Jaimini 6, 3.2).
Karma-Mīmāmsā supports the Vedas, and Rgveda says that one Truth is variously named by the sages. It is irrelevant whether we call Him as Pradhāna or Brahman or Vaishvānara or Shiva or God.
Jaimini, in his Mimamsa Sutra, presents material activity and its results as the whole of reality (vipanam rtam). He and later proponents of Karma-mimamsa philosophy teach that material existence is endless, that there is no liberation. For Mimamsas, the cycle of karma is perpetual, and the best one can aim for is higher birth among the Devas. Therefore, they hold that the whole purpose of the Vedas is to engage human beings in rituals for creating good karma, and consequently the mature soul’s prime responsibility is to ascertain the exact meaning of the Vedas’ sacrificial injunctions and to execute them.
“Codana-laksano ‘rtho dharmah: “Duty is that which is indicated by the injunctions of the Vedas.”(Mimamsa Sutra 1.1.2)”Earlier scholars wrote commentaries on Mimamsa-Sutra. Unfortunately they are lost with the passage of time. The earliest available commentary is Sabarasvamin’s Sabara-bhasya, which is still the authoritative basis of all subsequent works on Mimamsa. Renowned scholars Kumarila Bhatta and Prabhakara independently wrote their commentaries on Sabara-bhasya. Prabhakara was a student of Kumarila Bhatta. However, they differed, to some degree, on the interpretation of Sabara-bhasya and wrote separate commentaries. (Mandan Mishra, the erudite scholar, was a follower of Kumarila Bhatta. He also wrote a commentary, but at a later stage he changed his thinking and became a disciple of Shamkaracharya.)
This system out rightly accept the Vedas as the eternal source of ‘revealed truth.’ Thus though it differs from the earlier four philosophical systems (Vaisheshika, Nyaya, Samkhya, Yoga which neither accept nor reject the authority of the Vedas), a great chunk of Mimamsa philosophy is derived from the Vaisheshika-Nyaya duo. Mimamsa system attaches a lot of importance to the Verbal testimony which is essentially the Vedic testimony. Jaimini accepts the ‘Word” or the ‘Shabda’ as the only means of knowledge. The ‘word’ or the ‘Shabda’ is necessarily the Vedic word, according to Jaimini. This system strongly contends that the Vedas are not authored by an individual. Since they are ‘self-revealed’ or ‘apaurusheya’, they manifest their own validity. The system is a pluralistic realist. It endorses the reality of the world as well as that of the individual souls. The soul is accepted as an eternal and infinite substance. Consciousness is an accidental attribute of the soul. The soul is distinct from the body, the senses and the mind. Though Kumarila Bhatta and Prabhakara differ on issues like the self, the soul and it attribute. The earlier mimamsakas do not give much importance to the deities. Hence they do not endorse God as the creator of the universe. But later mimamsakas show a bent towards theism. This system has a profound faith in the Vedas. The system supports the law of karma. It believes in the Unseen Power or ‘apurva’. Apart from accepting the heaven and the hell, the system supports the theory of liberation.


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