Competitive Exams: Philosophy: Purva Mimamsa Introduction

The philosophy of two Mimamsas (Purva and Uttara) is an attempt to show that the revelations of sruti (Vedas) are in harmony with the conclusions of philosophy. The Purva Mimamsa being earlier of the two (in the logical sense at least) is ritualistic thematically, whereas the Uttara Mimamsa or Vedanta represents knowledge of the truth of things. In Vedanta the emphasis is on the Lord, and not on the Lordship. Purva Mimamsa is generally called the Mimamsa (meaning inquiry or interpretation), and in interpreting the Vedic text discusses the doctrine of the eternity of sound identified with Brahman. The entire Veda, excluding the Upanisads, is said to deal with dharma or acts of duty, of which the chief are sacrifices. Thus Purva Mimamsa is inquiry into or interpretation of the first or the Mantra portion of the Veda, and the Uttara Mimamsa is the inquiry into the later or the Upanisad portion. Note that the performance of sacred rites--with which Purva Mimamsa deals--is normally considered the prelude to the pursuit of wisdom leading to Moksa.

The aim of the Purva Mimamsa is to examine the nature of dharma. Its interest is more practical than speculative, and therefore the philosophical speculations found in it are subordinate to the ritualistic purpose. It affirms the reality of the soul and regards it as a permanent being possessing a body, to whom the results of acts accrue. The Veda enjoins the acts of duty, specifying at the same time the beneficial results which follow from their performance. The authority for the character of these acts as dharma and for their capacity to produce beneficial results is the eternal Veda, which needs no other basis to rest on. The most important work in the Purva Mimamsa is the Mimamsa Sutra attributed to Jaimini (fourth century B. C.).

Sources of Knowledge

Jaimini accepts the three pramanas (proofs) of perception, inference and sabda (testimony). Some later authors, e. g. Prabhakara admitting upmana (comparison) and arthapatti (implication), and Kumarila adding anupalabdhi (non-apprehension), extend these original three categories. Aitihya (rumor) and recollection (smrti) are excluded however as valid sources of knowledge, since the former cannot ensure certainty about the validity of the resulting cognition in the absence of definite information about the source of rumor (whether trustworthy or not), and the latter can tell only about the things previously perceived.

Perception (pratyaksa) is direct apprehension and it proceeds directly from sense-contact. Perception relates to object that exist, i.e.. Are perceptible by the senses. It cannot apprehend supersensuous objects. The Mimamsakas do not support the theory of Yogic intuition, by which the Yogis are said to apprehend objects which are in past and future, or imperceptible and distant. Thus all those objects in which there is no sensory-contact (e. g. Belonging in the past, future or distant) cannot produce cognition of them. Mental perception, by which there is the cognition of pleasure, pain, and the like, is admitted by the Mimamsa.

Inference depends on the knowledge of a certain fixed relation to subsist between two things. Thus if one of these things is perceived, by inference the idea about the other thing is cognized. Such a knowledge (cognition) is inferential. Inference is of two kinds: Pratyaksa-to-drsta, where the invariable relation holds between two objects which are perceptible, as smoke and fire; and samanya-to-drsta, where the relation is not apprehended by the senses, but known only in the abstract, as in the case of the sun's motion and its changing position in the sky. Note that the relation must be unfailing, true and permanent, such as that which subsists between the cause and its effect, whole and part, substance and quality, class and individuals.

Vedic Testimony is greatly emphasized according to the Mimamsa, the aim of which is to ascertain the nature of dharma. Dharma is not a physical existent, and so it cannot be apprehended through the senses. The other pramanas are of no use, since they all presuppose the work of perception. Perception, inference and such other sources of knowledge have nothing to say on the point that the performer of the Agnistoma sacrifice (or specific modes of action) will draw certain benefits. This knowledge is derived only from the Vedas. Though the pramana of the Veda is the only source of our knowledge of dharma, the others are considered, since it is necessary to show that they cannot give rise to a knowledge of dharma. They are also found useful in repudiating wrong views.

Verbal cognition is defined as the cognition of something not present to the senses, produced by the knowledge of words. These words may be uttered by men or may belong to the Vedas. The formers are valid if there is certainty that their authors are not untrustworthy; and the latter are valid in themselves. The Mimamsakas protest against the view, which regards the Vedas as the work of God. They believe instead that the Vedic hymns deal with the eternal phenomena of nature, and attempt to prove that every part of the sacred text refers to acts of duty. The broad division of the Veda is into the Mantras and the Brahmanas (specifics). The contents of the Veda are also classified into

  1. injunctions (vidhi)

  2. hymns (mantras)

  3. names (namadheya)

  4. prohibitions (nisedha)

  5. explanatory passages (arthavada).