Classical Indian Philosophy Purva-Mimamsa Epistemology: Sabd-Nityavada, Jati-Salti-Vada and Dharma

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Classical Indian Philosophy: Purva-Mimamsa Epistemology (Philosophy)

The Concept of Sabda-Nityavada

  • According to Jaimini, words are eternal, part-less and uncaused.

  • Sabdanitya-vada means the theory of eternality of words.

  • Words are not produced at any place or time because they transcend space and time.

  • Sabda (words) are not perceived sounds or dhvanis.

  • According to Jaimini, words are ever present, they are only spoken for the purpose of manifesting them to others.

  • They are beyond creation and destruction.

The Concept of Jati-Sakti-Vada

  • According to Jaimini, universals or jati are eternal.

  • Jati has the potency or sakti to manifest akritis or particulars. Hence, universals are different from particulars.

  • According to him, sabda refers to jati or universals, alone.

  • There is an eternal connection between the word and its meaning. Or, there is an eternal relation between sabda and the meaning of the sabda.

  • So, jati means universals which are eternal and sakti means potency give rise to particulars which are eternal too.

  • For example, word or sabda denotes a class or universal or jati for when we say bring a cow- this means not a specific cow or a particular cow.

  • Rather, an animal which possesses cow-ness.

The Concept of Dharma

  • The goal of the school of Purva-Mimamsa is to ascertain the nature of dharma.

  • Dharma is an injunction.

  • It compels us men to act or perform an action.

  • In other words, it is categorically imperative in nature (Kant’s categorical imperative - duty for duty’s sake).

  • Artha and Kama deal with ordinary common morality which is learnt by worldly intercourse.

  • On the other hand, dharma and moksha deal with true spirituality which is only revealed to us or which can only be learnt via the Vedas.

  • According to Jaimini, actions performed by the soul measure the dharma and a-dharma or happiness and pain, because they have an unseen potency or Apurva which accordingly bears fruits or results.

  • This Apurva or potency is the link between the action and the result.

  • According to Jaimini, there are three kinds of actions;

Obligatory actions

  • They need to be performed every day.

  • Their performance yields in no merit but the non-performance of such actions result in sin.

Optional Actions

  • They are dependent on one’s choice.

  • Their performance leads to merit and their non-performance leads to no sins.

Prohibited Actions

  • Those actions which are simply prohibited.

  • Their performance leads to sin and their non-performance lead to no-merit.

  • Earlier Purva-Mimamsa believed in only dharma. Not moksha. Their ideal was attainment of heaven (svarga) and not liberation.

  • Later Mimamsikas believe in moksha and the substitute the ideal of heaven by the ideal of liberation (apavarga).

  • Purva-Mimamsa accepts the authority of Vedas alone and the Vedic deities.

  • According to them Vedic deities are immortal entities, they are beyond space and time and are eternal. They are described in the Vedas alone.

  • In anxiety to maintain the supremacy of Vedas and Vedic deities, Mimamsa School relegates God to an ambitious position.

  • Jaimini accepts three pramanas or sources of knowledge, namely, Perception, Inference and Verbal testimony.


1. ______ actions when performed leads to sin and their non-performance lead to no-merit.

A. Obligatory

B. Optional

C. Prohibited

D. Both b and c

Answer: C

2. ____ is an injunction

A. Karma

B. Dharma

C. Both A and B

D. None of these

Answer: B

3. Earlier Purva-Mimamsa believes in

A. Moksha

B. Karma

C. Dharma

D. All of these

Answer: C

4. Jamini accepts ____ number of pramanas

A. Three

B. Four

C. Five

D. Six

Answer: A