6 Schools | 5. Pūrva Mimāṁsa


The Pūrva Mimāṁsa


Adoration to Śrī Jaimini, the founder of the Pūrva Mimāṁsa system, the disciple of Śrī Vyāsa Bhagavan!

Pūrva Mimāṁsa or Karma-Mimāṁsa is an enquiry into the earlier portion of the Vedas, an enquiry into the ritual of the Vedas or that portion of the Vedas which is concerned with the Mantras and the Brāhmaṇas only.

The Pūrva Mimāṁsa is so called, because it is earlier (Pūrva) than the Uttara Mimāṁsa, not so much in the chronological sense as in the logical sense.

Mimāṁsa- A System of Vedic Interpretation

Mimāṁsa is not a branch of any philosophical system. It is rather a system of Vedic interpretation.

Its philosophical discussions amount to a kind of critical commentary on the Brāhmaṇa or ritual portion of the Veda. It interprets the Vedas in the literal sense.

The central problem of Pūrva Mimāṁsa is ritual:

Jaimini has systematized the rules of Mimāṁsa and established their validity in his work. The rules of Mimāṁsa are very important for the interpretation of the Hindu Law.

The Mimāṁsa Sutras of Jaimini give a detailed description of the different sacrifices and their purposes, the doctrine of Apūrva, and also some philosophical propositions. There are twelve chapters.

Śabara is the author of the chief commentary or Bhāshya on the work of Jaimini.

Kumārila, the Guru of Bhavabhuti, commented on the Sutra and the Bhāshya. He proved the eternal character of the Vedas and the efficiency of Vedic ceremonials.

Prabhākara was a pupil of Kumārila. He wrote a commentary on the Bhāshya of Śabara.

Jaimini accepts the three Pramāṇas of perception (Pratyakṣa), inference (Anumāna) and authoritative testimony (Śabda or Veda). Jaimini holds that there is a perpetual connection between a word and its sense and that sound is eternal.

The Eternal, Self-Existent Veda

Jaimini was an opponent of rationalism and theism. The Veda was practically the only God for him. The eternal Veda needs no other basis to rest on.

There is no divine revealer. The Veda itself is authoritative. It is the only source of our knowledge of Dharma. God was not necessary for him and his system. He said that Veda was itself the authority.

His first aphorism ‘Athāto Dharma-Jijñāsā’ states the whole aim and object of his system, viz., a desire to know Dharma or duty, which consists in the performance of the rites and sacrifices prescribed by the Veda.

Dharma itself bestows the rewards. The aim of Pūrva Mimāṁsa is to investigate into the nature of Dharma.

The Pūrva Mimāṁsa has a number of deities. The offerings may be made to them. The practice of Vedic Dharma is not in need of any Supreme Being or God.

Vedic religion does not require the assistance of God. The eternal self-existent Veda serves all the purposes of Jaimini and the Pūrva Mīmāṁsakas.

Jaimini does not so much deny God as ignore Him.

Practice of Vedic Dharma- The Key to Happiness

Dharma is enjoined by the Vedas. The Vedas are also called the Śruti.

[Note: Śruti means the revealed scriptures. The literal meaning of Śruti is ‘that which has been heard.’]

Its practice leads to happiness.

If the Smriti does not agree with the Śruti, the former is to be ignored.

[Note: Smriti = Auxiliary scripture that explains and elaborates the Śruti: Examples of Smṛiti are The Manu Smriti or the Laws of Manu, the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Purāṇas etc.

The Smṛiti constitute the body of traditional law, secular as well as religious, which guides the daily life of the Hindus:

They were delivered originally by Manu, Yājñyavalkya, and other inspired legislators, to their respective pupils, and committed later from memory to writing].

The practice by virtuous men or custom comes next to the Smriti.

A Hindu should lead his life in accordance with the rules of the Vedas.

A Hindu must perform Nitya Karmas like Sandhya etc., and Naimittika Karmas during proper occasions, to get salvation.

[Nitya Karma = daily obligatory rites.
Naimittika Karma = obligatory rites on special occasions, such as death anniversaries, eclipses etc.]

These are unconditional duties. If he fails to do these, he incurs the sin of omission to attain special ends. If he avoids prohibited actions (Nishiddha Karmas), he will avoid hell. If he performs the unconditional duties, he will attain salvation.

Some later Mīmāṁsakas maintain that all works ought to be performed as an offering to God or the Supreme Being. Then they become the cause or means of emancipation.

If works or sacrifices are done in a mechanical way without feeling, Śrāddha (faith) and devotion, they cannot help one to attain salvation.

One may perform any number of sacrifices; and yet, there may not be any change in the heart, if they are performed without the right spirit or right mental attitude and right will.

What is really wanted is not the ceremonial sacrifice, but the sacrifice of selfishness, egoism and Raga-Dveṣa (likes and dislikes).

The Doctrine of Apūrva

The fruits or rewards of sacrifice are not dispensed by any beneficent God:

Apūrva bestows the reward on the sacrificer:

Apūrva is the link or necessary connection between work and its fruit or result. Apūrva is Adriṣṭa. It is a positive, unseen force created by an act that leads to the attainment of the fruit of the action. This is the view of Jaimini.

Other thinkers severely criticized that. The critics maintained that the unconscious or non-intelligent Apūrva could not bestow the rewards.

The Mimāṁsa system could not satisfy the intelligent, thoughtful men. Hence, the later Mimāmsakas slowly introduced God:

They declared that if sacrifices were performed in honour of the Supreme Being, it would lead to the achievement of the Supreme Good. Apūrva cannot act, unless it is moved by God or the Supreme Being. He who makes the Apūrva function is God.

The Self and Its Characteristics

The Self is distinct from the body, the senses and the intellect:

The self is the experiencer or enjoyer.
The body is the abode of experiences.
The senses are the instruments of experience.

The self perceives when it is in union with the mind. It experiences internally pleasure and pain; and externally, objects such as trees, rivers, plants, etc.

The self is not the senses, because it persists even when the senses are injured or destroyed.

The body is made up of matter. The perceiver is distinct from the body. The self directs the body. The body is a servant of the self.

There is some being which synthesizes the various sense-data. That being or entity is the self. The self is all-pervading and imperishable. Selves are countless.

The real Self survives the annihilation of the body.
The performer of a sacrifice goes to heaven.

Jaimini does not believe in Moksha (liberation). He believes in the existence of Svarga (heaven) attainable through Karma or sacrifice. The Veda promises rewards to the sacrificer to be enjoyed in another world.

The Later Mimāmsakas

Prabhākara and Kumārila

Jaimini showed the way to attain happiness in Svarga or heaven, but he did not tell anything about the problem of the final emancipation.

The later writers like Prabhākara and Kumārila, however, could not avoid this problem of final salvation as it engaged the attention of the thinkers of other schools.

Prabhākara says that the absolute cessation of the body caused by the total disappearance of Dharma and Adharma, whose operation is the cause of rebirth, is ultimate release or liberation. Man abandons prohibited acts, and the deeds which lead to happiness in heaven.

He does the necessary expiations for exhausting the previously accumulated Karmas. He practises self-restraint and disciplines himself.

He develops virtuous qualities. He frees himself from rebirths by a true knowledge of the self. One cannot attain release by mere knowledge. Exhaustion of Karmas only can bring about release. Knowledge prevents further accumulation of virtue and vice.

Karma by itself cannot lead to the attainment of the final emancipation.

Raga-Dveṣa (likes and dislikes), which lead to the performance of actions, must be destroyed if one wants to attain Moksha (liberation).

Moksha is the cessation of pleasure and pain. It is not a state of bliss, as the attributeless soul cannot have even bliss. It is simply the natural form of the soul.

The view of Kumārila comes very near to the view of Advaita Vedāṅtins. Kumārila maintains that the Veda is composed by God and is Brahman in the form of sounds.

Moksha is a positive state for Kumārila. It is the realisation of the Ātman (self).

He is of the opinion that knowledge is not sufficient for salvation. He thinks that final emancipation can be attained through Karma (action) with Jñāna (knowledge).

Jaimini’s Philosophy in a Nutshell

According to Jaimini, performance of the actions that are enjoined in the Vedas is the Sādhana or means for attaining heaven. Karma-Kāṇda is the chief section of the Vedas.

[Karma Kāṇda = the section of the Vedas dwelling only on the rituals or mainly on the rituals. Karma Kāṇda is also known as the Saṁhitās and the Brāhmaṇas of the Vedas.]

The cause of bondage is the performance of Nishiddha Karmas or prohibited actions.

The self is Jada-Chetanā, a combination of insentiency and intelligence. Souls are countless. The soul is doer and enjoyer. It is all pervading.

Jaimini does not believe in the creation of the world. He believes in grades of happiness in heaven and in sadāchāra or right conduct, viz., Satyam Vāda (Speak the truth), Dharmam Chara (Perform duty).

Criticism of Jaimini’s Philosophy

The Pūrva Mimāṁsa system of philosophy is said to be unsatisfactory and incomplete, in as much as it does not deal with the problem of the Ultimate reality and its relation to soul and matter.

There is no philosophical view of the world. The central feature is the performance of the sacrifices. This is the most essential or fundamental thing.

‘Perform sacrifices and enjoy in Heaven”- this is the sum and substance of Jaimini’s teaching. This is his Moksha or the final goal. This cannot give satisfaction to the thinkers who know that the enjoyment in heaven is transitory, imperfect, sensual and worldly.