Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Astika Darshanas –Part 4 – Poorva Mimamsa (Guest post by R.Ramanathan)

Astika Darshanas (Vedanta)  Part - 1
Astika Darshanas (Sankhya) Part - 2
Astika Darshanas (Yoga) Part - 3

Poorva Mimamsa

The poorva Mimamsa School was supposed to be pioneered by Jaimini.
The word “Poorva” means “Pre”, because this school mainly concerns in itself with the ritualistic portions of the Veda a.k.a Karma kanda.

This is an anti-monsatic school whose core principle lie’s in the proper interpretation of the Veda to perform Vedic rites and enjoy the fruits there-on. One important accomplishment by this school in a practical sense is the establishment of a rigorous frame work by this darshana to interpret and understand the Veda. This frame work was used for formulating laws by our countries early law makers like Dr  Ambedkar and so on. One more practical ramification is pioneering of a linguistic theory and philology. More details to follow later. Please note here I am not going to give any dates in AD or BC. Al that is mere speculation and it does not serve any purpose.

The word Mimamsa is derived from the Sanskrit verb root
Maan- To cogitate”.
The word San is added to it, to indicate that mental cogitation is extended to argumentation or debate and thus establishment of principles of interpretation or study of a topic.
The prefix “Mi indicates rigorousness or thoroughness.  The word occurs frequently in the Veda. For Example the Taittriyopanishad uses it in its study of Bliss or the “Ananda Mimamsa”.

Though Jaimini was the originator of this school, there are many schools within it like the Prabakhara School, the Bhatta schools and so on. More details on various schools to follow. The central aim of the school is to elucidate dharma which was understood to be a set of obligational rules and rites and the proper performance of them. They consider the testimony of the Veda to be infallible and they establish this with linguistic theories.

The original school is atheistic and they do not discuss about topics like liberation or Moksha. But they are not against it and have not condemned it. This can be seen in the Badarayana sutras (BS) were Badarayana quotes Jaimini and Jaimini in his Poorva mimamsa sootras (PMS) quotes Badarayana. An example is given below.

In BS 4.4.5-7 it is stated
ब्राह्मेण जैमिनिरूपन्यासादिभ्य
The soul attaining mukti is united with brahman, is the upanyasa of Jaimini”

Before going into the tenets of the school a small discursion on how the Mimamsakas consider Sound to be eternal and also on the philosophy of language. How does a person infer the meaning of a sentence formed of individual words? How real or unreal or logical or mathematical statements? There are 2 schools at present that answer this question

  1. One school called Formalism states that any equation or logical statement exists only in the mind of the person who thinks about it. They have no reality in the outside world.
  2. The other school called Platonism says there is a real existence of logical and mathematical statements outside the person who conceives them. Mimamsa belongs to this school of thought, whereas Buddhism belongs to the first one.

So if we somehow can prove that words are eternal and exist independent of the mind, then we can prove that the Veda is eternal and the only source for dharma. At the same time we need to be sure that this does not apply to other loukika texts.

Now with this background we come to the most important sutra of Poorva Mimamsa which is the pivotal one that establishes the core doctrine of PM. This is sutra no 1.1.5, whose extract I give from “The sacred books of the East Vol 27-Edited by Major Basu”

The translation is “The word and its meaning are eternal and is called upadesha. In super-sensuous matters it never errs. Badarayana says it is authoritative and it does not depend on anything else”

Following this sutra the Poorva Mimamsa Sootras (PMS) quote a series of sutras that are possible objections to this theory that words are eternal and start to refute them one by one and establish are eternal. I will quote the series of sutras that object to this view that words are eternal.

“There is an effort needed to produce that and the effort is transient and thus the word is transient”

“The word vanishes when it is pronounced”

“Since some effort is needed and something is made as indicated by the word karoti, anything made is not eternal.”

These are the objections raised to the theory that the word is eternal. Now Jaimini’s refutations follow.

This sutra is the refutation to the first sutra in the series. It says There is reason of equal force”. This means to say, yes sound production needed an effort. But the word had to exist before to bring it. Thus the first objection is refuted by an equally valid reason.

Continuing with the refutation for the 2nd objection, that the word vanishes after pronunciation, the below sutra refutes it

The sound was produced in ether and vanished into it and persists there. The senses are not attuned to hearing it”

As for the 3rd objection that the sound was “made” thus anything created is transient.

“The sound existed eternally in ether. But pronunciation just made it audible”.

There are still many objections raised and refuted but that will form a separate topic of its own.

History and Acharyas of Mimamsa and their texts

The PM school is based on the Poorva Mimamsa sutras (PMS) of Jaimini considered to be Badarayana’s shishya. He was handed over a Sama Veda Shaka by Vyaasa and today that Shaaka goes by the name Jaiminya Shaaka. The PMS is divided into 12 chapters. It is believed that any ancient commentaries on PMS were available to us but were lost to us in time. The most ancient surviving commentary on the PMS is Shabara's Bhashya.

The next greatest exponent of Mimamsa was Kumarila Bhatta  who was supposed to have come from Assam. He had a school of Mimamsa in his name called.

He had famous followers/disciples like Mandana Mishra, Prabhakara. Mandana Mishra later on losing a debate with Adi Shankara became Sureshvaracharya the first peetadhipati of Shringeri Mutt.

Prabhakara though a disciple of Bhatta differed significantly with Bhatta on how to interpret the meaning of a sentence. Thus there are 2 major schools in Mimamsa in their respective names. The 2 of them wrote separate Vaartikas on the Shabara Bhashya. A detailed comparison of both schools follows later.

The earlier acharyas where atheists and did not care for questions whether god created the word or not. They also did not consider the Devatas mentioned in the Veda to be realities, but only manifestations of the powers of a mantra.  Later Mimamsakas like Bhatta Bhaskara, Krishna Yajvaan etc, were theistic Mimamsakas.  The latter one wrote a book called “Mimamsa Paribhasha” a text that gives an introduction to the terms and concepts. One more famous atheistic Mimamsaka was Saayana, who wrote commentaries on the 4 Vedas from a Mimamsa point of view. He is also considered to be a minister of Krishna Deva Raya.

Tenets of Mimamsa

1.      Mimamsa is a school that concerns itself with the karma kanda of the Veda. Its chief aim is the correct understanding of dharma as enjoined in the Veda and correct performance of Vedic rites.

2.      It accepts all the 6 pramanas mentioned at the beginning of the article.

3.      It is the Kumarila Bhatta School from now on KBS that contributed the anupalabdhi pramana. In that way the PM has significantly contributed to epistemology.

4.      The Poorva Mimamsa School considers the soul to be eternal, omnipresent and spiritually active.

5.      It considers plural realities. The world of matter and the individual souls

6.      Consciousness is considered an accidental attribute of the soul.

7.      The self is considered distinct from the body and the senses.

8.      PM never interests itself with the examination of god or talks about Moksha or final release. Though later schools incorporated them,   the original Jaimini sutras never discussed it. But it did not oppose or say anything against it as shown in the beginning.

9.      But both Kumarila and Prabhakara discuss liberation or Moksha.

10.  They consider it to be negative in character as compared to the positive happiness of heaven or higher worlds.

11.  PM considers the Vedas to be eternal and the commands in them as sources of dharma. Since the Veda's are considered to be eternal, it did not care for a god.

12.  PM ignores the Upanishads and considers it subsidary.

13.  It considers only those statements in the Veda that originate an act in consonance with Dharma. Thus Brahmanas and Samhitas are the important to them.

14.  The gods in the Vedas are not considered to exist physically. They are not anyway involved in conferring of the desired results of a rite to the sacrificer. They exist only during the mantra kaala or the period of chanting the mantra. Thus Mimamsakas believe in the power of the Mantra directly.

15.  The performance of a Vedic rite like the Agnishtoma generates an unseen agency called “Apurva” that generates the fruits of an act.

16.  The principle of “Apurva” does a away with the necessity of an Ishvara to bestow the results of Karma.

17.  The core of the Mimamsa philosophy is based on Nyaya and Vaisheshika, with some differences.

These are the core traits of the school. Now we will go into some details over the view's held by both Prabhakara and Bhatta school of Mimamsa on various concepts.

Views of Prabhakara and Bhatta mimamsa schools on various tenets

We will take up only some common tenets and compare the views of both the schools.

Epistemology: Anupalabdhi pramana or non-apprehension

Prabhakara: Does not accept this pramana as according to him there is no involvement of the interaction of sense organs with an object. He also does not recognize non-existence as a separate ontological reality.

Kumarila: He accepts this pramana because other 5 pramanas fail to give knowledge in this case. He considers non-existence to be a separate ontological reality. According him non-existence is apprehended by non-apprehension.

Nature of the self

1.      Considers self as distinct from the body and eternal, ubiquitous. There are multiple selfs.

2.      It is unconscious since consciousness is considered as an attribute not the nature of the self.

3.      The self has nine special qualities, viz., cognition, pleasure, pain, desire, aversion, volition, merit, demerit, and impression, which are produced by its conjunction with manas, the internal organ.

4.      The soul is neither produced, nor destroyed, devoid of origin, immortal and eternal.

5.      The self can never be an object but is always the subject in cognition.

1.      It is the substrate of cognition, pleasure, pain, desire, aversion, volition, impression, merit and demerit, which are its modes. It undergoes modifications, and is yet eternal. Its modal change does not compromise its eternal nature.

2.      Most important this school holds the self as the object

3.      Rests of the views are almost the same.

Liberation (Moksa) And Its Means

This is one of the few points that both schools agree with each other. The nature of liberation is as follows
1.      Release is the absolute cessation of merits and demerits and thus the body, mind and the senses. Since consciousness is considered as an accidental attribute of the self through contact with mind and senses. Thus when all of them vanish there is no cognition of pleasure or pain. Thus release is thus a negative phenomenon characterized by the extreme absence of pain, not a positive state of bliss.

2.      Both schools considers the need of knowledge and action as necessary for liberation

3.      Abstention from all prescribed acts for the avoidance of sins, and the performance of obligatory duties together with rigid moral discipline are the means to release.

4.      But action alone is not sufficient for the attainment of release. It must be supplemented by the knowledge of the self, which stops further accumulation of merits and demerits, and completely destroys the body

Belief in a god

Here again both schools are in agreement each other. The following are the views of both schools on the presence of god.

 1.    The deities involved in sacrifices are not considered gods, but like only like officials to whom offerings are offered.

 2.    These deities do not give the fruits of the sacrifice.

 3.    In a way this is like polytheism as Mimamsa recognizes multiple deities but it is ineffective polytheism because the deities do not have a real existence apart from the mantra kala.

 4.    The performance of sacrifices generates an unseen potency (apurva) in the self, which generates their fruits without the intervention of gods.

 5.    It does not believe in the existence of God as creator, preserver, and destroyer of the world, or as the apportioner of rewards and punishment or the author or the Vedas.

 6.    Both schools believe that the world is composed of atoms.

 7.    Both schools recognize multiple realities, matter and the selves.

 8.    Their arguments against god are similar to the Sankhya view.

 9.    It is in the destruction of the world where the 2 schools differ. Prabhakara holds creation and destruction never happened in one moment, Prabhakara believes that some part of the world is destroyed by conjunction or disjunction of atoms and recreated by the same way. Kumarila accepts that the world gets destroyed like a pralaya and gets created again.

The original Mimamsa School is atheistic but later Bhatta Bhaskara and Vedanta Deshika, have written theistic versions too. But again as in Samkhya forcing a god into the original school results in loss of some pioneering ideas that characterize mimamsa uniquely.

Word versus sentence meaning

  1. Words do not directly designate any meanings in a sentence in isolation.

  1. Any meaning that arises is because it is connected with other words. This is called anvitābhidhāna, anvita = connected; abhidhā = denotation

  1. To understand the meanings of a sentence one does not need to grapple with individual words but based on the context to understand its meaning.

  1. Words are considered independent objects.

  1. To arrive at the meaning of a sentence one must know the meaning of each word.

  1. This is called abhihitānvaya

We will stop with these tenets alone as a discussion on all of them is a highly complex endeavor.

Practical applications of Mimamsa

We will see two areas of applications
  1. Vedic interpretation
  2. Legal

Before that certain concepts from the PMS and an overview of the theories of mimamsaic interpretation is in order. There are 6 axioms of interpretation as per mimamsa

Sartakyata axiom
No word in a sentence can be useless or redundant. If such a sentence is constructed a way has to be found to reconcile the redundancy or the useless word. This is used to interpret many sentences from the shruti. More examples will be given later.

The Laghava axiom
The meaning of a sentence which is simplest and shortest is preferred. This is a restatement of the principle of Occam's razor, which states, “The theory with the least number of assumptions is most likely to be correct”

The Artaikatva axiom
A double meaning should not be attached to a word or sentence re-occurring in one and the same place or context.

Gunapradhana axiom
If a word or a sentence or a subordinate clause expresses an idea that clashes with the main idea of a sentence, then these must be adjusted or reconciled to the main idea, or if not possible, dropped.

Samanjasya axiom
All attempts should be made at reconciling conflicting sentences on the same idea. This can be used to reconcile conflicting rules in various smriti's on the same topic. An example will be given later.

Vikalpa axiom
If there is an irreconcilable clash between two rules of equal force on a given issue, the law which is more in agreement with equity and social usage or if one rule is higher in legal status than the other then the other is used. For example in a sacrifice, if on a point, the shrauta sutra and the Shruti differ. The rule in the shruti will override the shrauta sutra. This rule is the last resort if all the mentioned rules above fail to yield any worthwhile reconciliation.

There are an additional 4 rules of interpretation.

  1. The Shruti Principle, or the literal rule

  1. The Linga principle or Lakshana artha or context based meaning.

  1. The Vakya principle or syntactic re-arrangement of sentences. This includes sub rules like Anushanga(supplying of missing sentences or expressions), upa and apakarsha(Transferring of clauses across a sentence).

  1. Prakarana rule, making a reference to some other text for comparsion.

Applications to legal situations

With this we will go into examples on legal applications. I take the examples from the smriti since I am more familiar with it than current legal texts. These examples are found at

As an illustration, using the Vakya principle of which the Anushanga or extension, it is interesting to see how Jimutavahana interpreted the text of Manu which states
"Of a woman married according to the Brahma, Daiva, Arsha, Gandharvaand Prajapatya form, the property shall go to her husband, if she dies without issue. But her wealth, given to her on her marriage in the form called Asura, Rakshas and Paisacha, on her death without issue shall become the property of her parents".

 Jimutavahana employing the anusanga principle interpreted this text to the effect that the words "wealth given to her on her marriage" should also be inserted in the first sentence after the words "the property".

i.e. "Of a woman married according to the Brahma, Daiva, Arsha, Gandharva and Prajapatya form, (wealth given to her on her marriage) the property shall go to her husband, if she dies without issue……”

As an illustration of the Samanjasya principle which is found the PMS 1.II.19.

This principle is illustrated in the Dayabhaga by Jimutavahana.
In the context of rule relating to succession on which there are inconsistent texts regarding the right of a son born after partition, Manu says
"A son, born after division, shall alone take the paternal wealth",
 and this is also the view of Narada and Gautam. 

However, Vishnu says
"Sons, with whom the father has made a partition, should give a share to the son born after the distribution".

This is also the view of Yajnavalkya. Jimutvahana reconciles (i.e. does a Samanjasa) these texts by applying samanjasya principle holding that the former text applies to the self-acquired property of the father, while the latter applies to property which is descended from the grand-father.

For more examples relating to present day cases please read the examples given in the following link

 There are a lot of great examples But I do not understand the law at all so whoever is interested please refer to the link.

Application to Vedic interpretation.

1.      We will see an illustration to the sartakya axiom. This states that all words in a sentence should have meanings, or such words should be tried to be reconciled with the sentence or dropped. In the case of the shruti we do not have the option of dropping it as it is apaurusheya. I give 2 cases here of how the shruti ingeniously uses some techniques that intrinsically preserve this principle.

a.       Word repetitions

In many cases we have words in the shruti repeating like

Ma(udatta)dhu(Anudatta)-Ma(udatta)dhu(Anudatta) Ma(udatta)dhu(Swarita)

and so on. Now apparently those 3 words are repitions and seems apparently useless. This occurs in the pravargya bhaga in the Taittriya Aranyaka 8 prashna in the Vaishnava paata and 6th prashna in the Andhra paata. Based on the context it can be reconcilled that the pravargya rite is supposed to spread sweetness everywhere, one madhu for adhibuta, one for adhidaivika and one for aadhyatmika. Think of  Om Shantishantishantihi as another example.

b.      Word modifications making original words seemingly corrupt and meaningless

Certain words in the shruti are modified due to the chandas, which forces certain aksharas or syllables to elongate or one akshara is added extra or one can be dropped. Apparently this makes the word corrupt and may sound like gibberish. For example consider the mantra

“Grinissuriya aadityaf prabhavatyaksharam”

This is used in the saavitra rite discussed by the Kaataka(1st  chapter) portion of the Taittriya. I have underlined the “I” in the mantra. The actual word is surya and not suriya. The addition of a vowel “ri” is for meeting the requirements of the chandas. Thus the shruti ensures that the Sartakya principle is maintained.

2.      The shruti rule

The shruti principle is used when a apparently multiple meanings can be resolved directly from the shruti’s specification. For example consider

“Aindra Garhapatyam upathishtate”

One performs upasthana of the grahaptya agni with a verse related to Indra. Now the possible meanings are

1.      One worships the garhapatya fire (Household fire) with a verse to Indra.
2.      One should worship both.
3.      Or one worship’s Indra in front of the Garhapatya.

Since this occurs in the Agnihotra part in the shruti. Thus (1) is right.

3.      The vakya rule

Certain Vedic statements will have certain words re-arranged due to chandas considerations. The meaning can be found only if the words are re-arranged. For example

“Aasatyana rajasa vartamaano niveshayan amritam martyam cha”

“From satya loka to the heavens, you repeatedly appear and sustain both the gods and men”.

There is no word “Aasatyana”. “Aa” is a guru akshara and the trishtup chandas, to which this mantra is set, enforces such a combination. Only the word satyana (Because of truth) exists. Usually prefixes like Aa, Abhi, prati, ava etc are used before verbs to indicate certain qualities of the action. For example Samgachadvam means may we go unitedly. Also prefixes like “Aa” is used indicate boundaries or time frames. For example “Aajanmat” (From birth), Aasamudrat (From the ocean) and so on.  Applying the rule here there is only one verb “vartamanaha”. Thus “Aa” should be “Vartamanaha”. Thus “Aavartamanah” means “always appearing unfailingly”. But this is a very difficult rule to apply with no knowledge of Sanskrit, especially with no knowledge of Vedic grammar.

I am going to stop here as further examples are very complicated and unless one has had some basic Veda adyayanam and some knowledge of sacrificial details, it would be difficult to understand them. My aim is not to be exhaustive but to introduce readers who have not been exposed to the complete set of Vedic tools and methodologies used and the science behind it, to an extent I know.

This brings us to the end of Mimamsa.

 (To be continued)