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




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