Mimamsa Philosophy

The Philosophy of Vedic Dharma
Mimamsa = Investigation √man
of the correct understanding of the Vedas
Purva Mimamsa
Earlier Exegesis School
karma-kanda: ritual action section— three
Vedas shruti, Brahmanas
Uttara Mimamsa Later Exegesis School
jnana-kanda knowledge section, Upanishads
Ultraorthodox and conservative philosophical
defense of the Vedas as revealed truth, Vedic
ritualism and dharma,
i.e. varna-asrama-dharma and Hindu caste society.
Dharmashastra Brahmanical law
Robust and hardheaded realism in the service of
revelation. Like Thomas Reid’s Commonsense
Realism 18th cen.
To prove the self-validity and supersensuous
infallibility of the Vedas.
No transcendental creator God. Eternal universe.
The Gods like Agni, Indra, Surya, and Vishnu are just
names that appear in the Vedas with the power of
Sacramental atheism
Atheist fundamentalism
Vidhi: Vedic commandments
Nisheda: Vedic prohibitions
Arthavada: the non-obligatory parts of the Vedas, a
statement of praise or explanation. Most of the Vedas
proper consist of arthavadas as much of the Vedic
hymns are in praise of some god, and do not lay down
any injunction.
Main Texts and Authors
Jaimini Mimamsa Sutra (200 BCE-200 CE)
foundational text
Sabara Bhasya (3rd-4thth century CE)
first commentary on Jaimini
Kumarila 7th century CE
Slokavarttika commentary on Sabara
Prabhakara 7th century CE
Kumarila Bhatta
Topics in the first chapter of the Mimamsa Sutra
1. Now, the enquiry into dharma.
2. Dharma is that which is indicated by the Vedas as
conducive to the highest good.
3. Dharma is not accessible by such means of
cognition as sense perception and inference.
4. Dharma is something is yet to come and does not
exist at the time that it is known. Hence, sense
perception cannot be the means of knowing dharma.
5.Dharma is cognized by verbal injunctions (shruti).
6. The relation between the word and its meaning is
7.Eternality of words.
8.The Veda is not the work of any person
9.There is such a thing as apurva (transcendental
power of karma) shakti
How does karma work?
• Apurva: the power or shakti of karma.
• The invisible causal potency and efficacy in
performing ritual and following dharma that
connects the action with its future fruits.
• Nyaya accepts adrsti, the unseen, but rejects
the category of shakti.
Categories of Reality (padarthas)
Mimamsa pushed realism to a radical extreme,
accepting the categories of Nyaya-Vaisesika
and adding new, curious ones of its own:
• Substance dravya
e.g. darkness and sound
• Potency shakti
• Non-existence abhava (4 kinds in Kumarila)
Theory of Knowledge
• Svatah pramanyam: intrinsic validity, the self
authenticating nature of cognition.
• Validity arises from the very conditions of knowledge.
When the conditions have no defect, the cognition is
• Our perceptions and beliefs are pragmatically warranted
and trustworthy.
• A valid cognition can only be falsified by inference
from another cognition.
Since every cognition apprehends something real,
no error is possible. Rather there is insufficiency in the
conditions of the cognition.
Non-representational theory of perception
We see real things directly, not ideas or representations
of them. No skepticism about or distrust of consciousness is warranted.
Six Pramanas
Word or testimony sabda
Perception pratyaksa
Inference anumana
Analogy or comparison upamana
Presumption or implication arthapatti
Non-perception anupalabdhi
Theory of Language
• Sanskrit is the perfect paradigm of all languages,
the eternal and sacred expression of reality.
• It has no author, human or divine.
• Sanskrit words and their meanings are eternally
• They are universal forms or archetypes like
Platonic ideas.
• They are not the sound of the actual spoken
Sanskrit is the eternal, universal language
"May we attain that excellent glory of Savitr the god: So may
he stimulate our prayers.”
Gayatri Mantra from the Rg Veda
The individual Sanskrit phonemes are
also eternal.
• Later schools of Mimamsa accept moksa,
rebirth, and theism.
• But liberation from reincarnation is still only
attained by following Vedic dharma, not by
asceticism, renunciation, yoga, or worship of
the gods.
• For Kumarila, the soul after death is free from
suffering, but not blissful, just as it is in
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