By Swami Harshananda
Concept of Mīmāṅsā Darśana
In Mīmāṅsā system the religious philosophy of the Book is more important than the Maker of the Book. It is also called as Purva-mīmāṅsā darśana. It primarily aims at giving a methodology of interpretations with the help of which complicated Vedic injunctions regarding rituals may be understood and given effect to. Vedic ritualism believes that:
- There is a soul which survives the death of the body and enjoys the fruits of the rituals in heaven.
- There is a śakti or power of potency which preserves the effects of the rituals performed.
- The Vedas are infallible.
- This world is real.
- Our life and actions performed here are real and not mere dreams.
Basic Works of Mīmāṅsā Darśana
- The Mimāṅsāsutras of Jaimini is the basic text of this system. It is a voluminous work comprising more than 2500 aphorisms divided into 12 chapters and 60 subsections in all.
- The Bhāsya of Śabara Svāmin gives the most authoritative interpretation of the sutras. Śabara’s Bhāsya has two commentaries. The first is the Brhatī of Prabhākara, still in the manuscript form. The second is by Kumārila Bhatta which is in three parts:
Other Works on Mīmāiṅsā Darśana
Prakaranapañcikā of Śālikanātha, a pupil of Prabhākara, Sāstradīpikā of Pārthasarathi, Nyāyamālāvistara of Mādhava Vidyāraṇya and Arthasañgraha of Laugākṣi Bhāskara are some of the other works of this system.
Theory of Knowledge
To justify the supreme authority of the Vedas, the Mīmāiṅsā Darśana has developed an elaborate epistemology which has been accepted by other schools also, especially the Vedānta Darśana.
Validity of Knowledge
Three conditions needed to be fulfilled for the knowledge to be complete are:
- It should yield some new information previously unknown.
- It should not be contradicted by any other knowledge.
- The conditions which generate that knowledge should be free from defects.
Kinds of Knowledge
The Mīmāṅsā admits of two kinds of knowledge:
- Pratyakṣa - immediate
- Parokṣa - mediate
Pratyakṣa means direct or immediate perception having two stages of development. As soon as the sense-organ comes into contact with the sense-object, there is a general awareness of it, as something is existing. This is called nirvikalpaka-pratyakṣa. In the next stage, all the details are noted in the light of past experience. This is savikalpaka-pratyakṣa.
Kinds of Parokṣa
Parokṣa is of five kinds:
- Anumāna - inference
- Upamāna - comparison
- Śabda - verbal testimony, also called ‘āptavākya’, words of a reliable person
- Arthāpatti - postulation
- Anupalabdhi - non-perception
Anumāna means inference. It gives us the knowledge of a thing indirectly, when we see some liñga or sign invariably connected with the original. For instance, by seeing smoke on a yonder hill, we can infer that there is fire there, even though we do not see it directly. It can be deduced thus since it is known from previous observations and experience that smoke is invariably associated with fire.
Upamāna means comparison. It is another source of knowledge. On seeing a rat, one recollects that it is like the mouse he had seen earlier. He then comes to know that the remembered mouse is like the perceived rat. This type of knowledge comes through upamāna.
Śabda means verbal testimony. It is the next source of knowledge. The Mīmāṅsā Darśana pays the greatest attention to this since it has to justify the undisputed authority of the Vedas. The words of a reliable person are believed to be true. This is called as āptavākya. Verbal testimony is of two types:
- Pauruṣeya - personal or āptavākya
- Apauruṣeya - impersonal
The apauruṣeya denotes the Vedas since they were not created by any human agency. The Vedas are supremely authoritative as they are the ‘Book of Commandments’ and also give us authentic knowledge of the unseen and the unknown truths. Their main purport and purpose lies in propagating sacrificial rites. The Vedas are eternal, not as the printed Book nor as the orally transmitted mantras but due to the eternal teachings contained in them. These teachings are conveyed through the ṛṣis or sages in every age.
Since the Vedas are mainly concerned with giving commands about the yāgas or sacrificial rites and other associated rituals, only those sentences containing such commands as expressed through the verbs couched in ‘vidhilin’ and other forms should be taken as authoritative and others like an aid to it. Such verbs have an innate power of urging the hearer to do the sacrifice. This is called ‘bhāvanā’. The urge contained in the Vedic words is known as ‘śābdībhāvanā’. On hearing it, the person who hears it, gets the urge to perform it.
The secondary urge is named ‘ārthībhāvanā’. All this depends upon the correct understanding and interpretation of the Vedic sentences. For this, the Mīmāṅsā gives six steps:
- Upakrama - beginning
- Upasanhāra - concluding
- Abhyāsa - repetition for the sake of emphasis
- Apurvatā - not being known earlier by any other means
- Phala - utility
- Arthavāda - eulogy
- Upapatti - logic and reasoning
Once the correct meaning is ascertained, the command can be implemented.
Arthāpatti means postulation or presumption. It is the necessary supposition of an unperceived fact which alone can explain an anomaly satisfactorily. For instance, if a person is noticed to be getting fat even though he does not eat during the day, it can be safely presumed that he is secretly eating at night. Knowledge obtained by arthāpatti is distinctive since it cannot be got by any other means.
Anupalabdhi means non-perception. It has been accepted as a source of knowledge since it gives the immediate cognition of the non-existence of an object. If it is found that a jar which was kept on a table earlier and is not perceived now, its non-existence is cognized.
Since the validity of knowledge that we get is an important aspect of our life giving rise to necessary activities, this has been discussed in detail by the writers of Mīmānsā works. Incidentally, they also discuss how errors creep in giving their own explanations and theories. This has led to two different views. These views can be perceived as:
- When a snake is perceived in a rope in dim light, though the rope seen now and the snake seen in the past are both real, a mixing up takes place due to a lapse of memory giving rise to a reaction of fear. This is called akhyātivāda.
- The second view is known as viparita-khyātivāda. The error consists in wrongly relating two really existing, but separate entities.
Unlike some other systems like Advaita Vedānta, the Mīmāṅsā believes in the reality of the world with all the myriad objects in it. According to this system, the world comprises the living bodies including the various indriyas or the sense-organs, wherein the souls reside temporarily to reap the effects of their karmas, good or bad. The various objects of the world serve as the fruits to be suffered or enjoyed.
There are infinite number of souls. They are eternal but undergo transmigration due to their karmas either good or bad performed when encased in real bodies in a real world. The soul has no consciousness of its own. Consciousness rises in it due to association with the mind, sense-organs and sense-objects, especially when the organs come into contact with their respective objects. This is proved by the absence of consciousness in the deep-sleep state.
When a person performs Vedic sacrifices like Jyotiṣṭoma to attain heaven, the potential effect of it in a subtle form resides in his soul and will give its fruit after death. This potential imperceptible power or śakti, is called ‘apurva’. Since the whole of the Vedas are meant to urge the human beings to perform karmas (Vedic rituals), every human being is bound to do his duty for duty’s sake. A ritual is to be done only because the Vedas command it and none has the choice not to do it or do it in a different way.
Such duties are classified into two broad groups:
- Nitya or daily obligatory duties
- Naimittika or occasional but obligatory duties
These rituals help in the purification of the soul through moral improvement.
Mokṣa or liberation
The highest good or niśśreyasa for a person is to get mokṣa or liberation. It is the total cessation of transmigratory existence. In this state the soul is permanently freed from all the pain and sufferings though there is no consciousness or bliss. The ultimate goal of life according to the earlier conception of the Mīmāmsā was attainment of unalloyed bliss in heaven. However, the available literature does not support it.
The important point is the means of attaining mokṣa. It can be attained by not performing kāmya-karmas or desire-motivated actions which causes rebirth. Sins committed unwillingly can be offset by the performance of the various prāyaścittas. Performance of nitya and naimittika karmas will bring about cittaśuddhi or purity of mind whereas their non-performance will result in pratyavāyadoṣa or the error of omission, proving to be an obstacle in the path of mokṣa.
Prārabdhakarma is the karma that has caused this birth. It is exhausted by the experiences of present life. So, when the body falls, there is no residual factor that can bring the soul back to this world once again. Consequently, liberation is attained automatically.
Īśvara or God
Another point discussed by the Mīmāṅsā system is about the existence of īśvara or God. Since all the materials that comprise the physical world are eternally existing and since the adṛṣṭas or the karmas of the souls impel these materials in the process of creation, there is no need to accept any God as the agent or author of the creation. Hence it discards the point.
It is rather strange that a system that champions the supremacy of the Vedas goes to the extent of enthroning the Book as God and ignore it's creator. Even the various deities like Indra, Mitra and Varuṇa who are invoked in the sacrificial rites to receive the offerings are treated more like the imaginary characters of a fictitious drama.
- ↑ He lived in 200 B. C.
- ↑ He lived in 57 B. C. or A. D. 200.
- ↑ He lived in A. D. 650.
- ↑ He lived in A. D. 700.
- ↑ He lived in A. D. 900.
- ↑ He lived in A. D. 1350.
- ↑ He lived in 17th cent. A. D.
- ↑ Vidhilin means imperative mood as in ‘svargakāmo yajeta’, ‘One desirous of attaining heaven should sacrifice!’
- ↑ Śabda means word.
- ↑ Artha means utility, useful activity.
- ↑ Akhyātivāda means denial of illusory perception.
- ↑ Prāyaścittas means expiatory rites.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore