IAST|Mīmāṃsā, a Sanskrit word meaning "investigation" (compare Greek ), is the name of an astika ("orthodox") school of Hindu philosophy whose primary enquiry is into the nature of dharma based on close hermeneutics of the Vedas. Its core tenets are ritualism (orthopraxy), anti-asceticism and anti-mysticism. The central aim of the school is elucidation of the nature of "dharma", understood as a set ritual obligations and prerogatives to be performed properly. The nature of dharma isn't accessible to reason or observation, and must be inferred from the authority of the revelation contained in the Vedas, which are considered eternal, authorless ("apaurusheyatva"), and infallible. [Encyclopedia Britannica (2007)]

Mimamsa strongly concerned with textual exegesis, and consequently gave rise to the study of philology and the philosophy of language. Its notion of shabda "speech" as indivisible unity of sound and meaning (signifier and signified) is due to Bhartrhari (7th century). [see also chapter 3.2 in Peter M. Scharf, "The Denotation of Generic Terms in Ancient Indian Philosophy" (1996)]


Mimamsa is also known as IAST|"Pūrva Mīmāṃsā" ("prior" inquiry, also IAST|"Karma-Mīmāṃsā"), in contrast to IAST|"Uttara Mīmāṃsā" ("posterior" inquiry, also IAST|"Brahma-Mīmāṃsā") is the opposing school of Vedanta. This division is based on the notion of a dichotomy of the Vedic texts into a "IAST|karma-kāṇḍa", the department of the Veda treating of sacrificial rites (Samhitas and Brahmanas), and the "IAST|jñāna-kāṇḍa" dealing with the knowledge of Brahman (the Upanishads).


The school's origins lie in the scholarly traditions of the final centuries BCE, when the priestly ritualism of Vedic sacrifice was being marginalized by Buddhism and Vedanta. To counteract this challenge, several groups emerged dedicated to demonstrating the validity of the Vedic texts by rigid formulation of rules for their interpretation. The school gathers momentum in the Gupta period with Śābara, and reaches its apex in the 7th to 8th centuries with Kumārila Bhaṭṭa and Prabhākara.

The school for some time in the Early Middle Ages exerted near-dominant influence on learned Hindu thought, and is credited as a major force contributing to the decline of Buddhism in India, but it has fallen into decline in the High Middle Ages and today is all but eclipsed by Vedanta. [Göhler (1995), p. 5f.]

Mimamsa texts

The foundational text for the Mimamsa school is the Purva Mimamsa Sutras of Jaimini (ca. 3rd to 1st century BCE). A major commentary was composed by Śābara in ca. the 5th or 6th century CE. The school reaches its height with IAST|Kumārila Bhaṭṭa and IAST|Prabhākara (fl. ca. 700 CE). Both Kumarila Bhatta and Prabhākara (along with IAST|Murāri, whose work is no more extant) have written extensive commentaries on Śābara's Mimamsasutrabhāshyam. Kumārila Bhatta, Mandana Misra, Parthasarathi Misra, Sucharita Misra, Ramakrishna Bhatta, Madhava Subhodini, Sankara Bhatta, Krsnayajvan, Anantadeva, Gaga Bhatta, Ragavendra Tirtha, VijayIndhra Tirtha, Appayya Dikshitar, Paruthiyur Krishna Sastri, Mahomahapadyaya Sri Ramsubba Sastri, Sri Venkatsubba Sastri, Sri A. Chinnaswami Sastri, Sengalipuram Vaidhyanatha Dikshitar were some of the Mimamsa Scholars. The "IAST |Mīmāṁsā Sūtra" of Jaimini (c. 3rd century BCE) has summed up the general rules of "IAST |nyāya" for Vedic interpretation. The text has 12 chapters, of which the first chapter is of philosophical value. The commentaries on the "IAST |Mīmāṁsā Sūtra" by IAST |Bhartṛmitra, IAST |Bhavadāsa, Hari and IAST|Upavarṣa are no more extant. IAST |Śabara (c. 1st century BCE) is the first commentator of the "IAST|Mīmāṁsā Sūtra", whose work is available to us. His "IAST |bhāṣya" is the basis of all later works of "IAST |Mīmāṁsā ". IAST |Kumārila Bhaṭṭa (7th century CE), the founder of the first school of the "IAST|Mīmāṁsā" commented on both the "IAST|Sūtra" and its "IAST |Śabara Bhāṣya". His treatise consists of 3 parts, the "IAST|Ślokavārttika", the "IAST |Tantravārttika" and the "IAST |Ṭupṭīkā". IAST|Manḍana Miśra (8th century CE) was a follower of IAST |Kumārila, who wrote "Vidhiviveka" and "IAST|Mīmāṁsānukramaṇī". There are several commentaries on the works of IAST|Kumārila. IAST|Sucarita Miśra wrote a "IAST|Kāśikā" (commentary) on the "IAST|Ślokavārttika". IAST|Someśvara Bhatta wrote "IAST|Nyāyasudhā", also known as "IAST|Rāṇaka", a commentary on the "IAST |Tantravārttika". IAST|Pārthasarathi Miśra wrote "IAST|Nyāyaratnākara" (1300 CE), another commentary on the "IAST|Ślokavārttika". He also wrote "IAST |Śāstradīpikā", an independent work on the "IAST|Mīmāṁsā" and "Tantraratna". IAST|Venkaṭa Dīkṣita’s "IAST|Vārttikabharaṇya" is a commentary on the "IAST |Ṭupṭīkā". IAST |Prabhākara (8th century CE), the originator of the second school of the "IAST|Mīmāṁsā" wrote his commentary "IAST|Bṛhatī" on the "IAST |Śabara Bhāṣya". IAST |Śālikanātha’s "IAST |Ṛjuvimalā" (9th century CE) is a commentary on the "IAST|Bṛhatī". His "IAST |Prakaraṇapañcikā" is an independent work of this school and the "IAST |Pariśiṣṭa" is a brief explanation of the "IAST |Śabara Bhāṣya". IAST |Bhavanātha’s "IAST|Nyāyaviveka" deals with the views of this school in details. The founder of the third school of the "IAST|Mīmāṁsā" was IAST|Murāri, whose works have not reached us.

IAST|Āpadeva (17th century CE) wrote an elementary work on the "IAST|Mīmāṁsā", known as "IAST|Mīmāṁsānyāyaprakaśa" or "IAST|Āpadevī". "IAST |Arthasaṁgraha" of IAST |Laugākṣi Bhāskara is based on the "IAST|Āpadevī". IAST|Vedānta Deśika’s "IAST |Śeśvara Mīmāṁsā" was an attempt to combine the views of the "IAST|Mīmāṁsā" and the "IAST|Vedānta" schools [Radhakrishnan, S. "Indian Philosophy", Vol. II, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2006, ISBN 0-19-563820-4, pp.376-78] .

"Dharma" and atheism

Dharma as understood by Mimamsa can be loosely translated into English as "virtue", "morality" or "duty". The Mimamsa school traces the source of the knowledge of dharma neither to sense-experience nor inference, but to verbal cognition (i.e. knowledge of words and meanings). In this respect it is related to the Nyaya school.Fact|date=September 2008

The Mimamsa school held dharma to be equivalent to following the prescriptions of the Samhitas and their Brahmana commentaries relating the correct performance of Vedic rituals. Seen in this light, Mimamsa is essentially ritualist (orthopraxy), placing great weight on the performance of Karma or action as enjoined by the Vedas. In this sense, it is a counter-movement to the mysticism of Vedanta, rejecting or de-emphasizing moksha or salvation. To a certain extent, Mimamsa is atheist, placing all importance in proper practice as opposed to belief, rejecting a creator God as well as any scriptures on dharma outside of the Vedic tradition, yet accepting svarga or heaven awaiting the person who has acted righteously in his or her life. In its rejection of belief in a God, it is related to the nastika Cārvāka school.Fact|date=September 2008



*Lars Göhler, "Wort und Text bei IAST|Kumārila Bhaṭṭa: Studie zur mittelalterlichen indischen Sprachphilophie und Hermeneutik", Europäische Hochschulschriften. Reihe 20, Philosophie ; vol. 468, Lang (1995), ISBN 3-631-48821-1.

Further reading

*cite book |series= |last=Chatterjee |first=Satischandra |authorlink= |coauthors=Datta, Dhirendramohan |title=An Introduction to Indian Philosophy |year=1984 |publisher=University of Calcutta |location=Calcutta |edition=Eighth Reprint Edition

*cite book | last = Müeller | first = Max | authorlink= Max Müller |year = 1899 | title = Six Systems of Indian Philosophy; Samkhya and Yoga, Naya and Vaiseshika| publisher = Susil Gupta (India) Ltd.| location = Calcutta | isbn=0-7661-4296-5 Reprint edition; Originally published under the title of "The Six Systems of Indian Philosophy".

*cite book |series= |last=Radhakrishnan |first=S. |authorlink=Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan |coauthors=Moore, CA |title=A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy |year=1967 |publisher=Princeton |location= |isbn=0-691-01958-4

*R.A. Ramaswami Shastri, "A Short History Of The Purva Mimamsa Shastra", Annamalai University Sanskrit Series No. 3 (1936).

*cite book |series= |last=Zimmer |first=Heinrich |authorlink=Heinrich Zimmer |coauthors=|title=Philosophies of India |year=1951 |publisher=Princeton University Press |location=New York, New York |isbn=0-691-01758-1 Bollingen Series XXVI; Edited by Joseph Campbell.

ee also

*Kalpa (ritual)

External links

* [http://www.mimamsa.org Purva Mimamsa Home Page]
* [http://www.sub.uni-goettingen.de/ebene_1/fiindolo/gretil/1_sanskr/6_sastra/3_phil/mimamsa/jaimsutu.htm Purva Mimamsa Sutras of Jaimini]
* [http://philtar.ucsm.ac.uk/encyclopedia/hindu/ascetic/mimamsa.html Overview of World Religions entry]

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