Mimamsa Darshana (मीमांसादर्शनम्)

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Maharshi Jaimini (जैमिनि) is considered as founder of Mimamsa (मीमांसा) (also known as Poorva Mimamsa (पूर्वमीमांसा)) Darshana (दर्शनम्). Mimamsa is an enquiry into the earlier portion of the Vedas, an enquiry into ritual section of the Vedas or that portion of the Vedas which are concerned with the Mantras and the Brahmanas. It is called Poorva Mimamsa, because it is earlier (hence, poorva) than the Uttara Mimamsa (उत्तरमीमांसा) (also known as the Vedanta Darshana (वेदान्तदर्शनम्)), not so much in the chronological as in the logical sense.[1] Mimamsa attaches great importance to Brahmanas (ब्राह्मणानि), more than the Samhitas (संहिताः) (the earlier portion) as well as the Upanishads (उपनिषदः) (the later portion).

Jaimini's first aphorism - अतः तो धर्म जिज्ञासा states the whole aim and object of his system, viz. a desire to know Dharma (Karma (कर्मः) in this context), which constitutes the practising of rites and sacrifices as prescribed by the Vedas. Dharma itself bestows the rewards. The aim of Purva Mimamsa is to investigate into the the nature of Dharma.[1]

Mimamsa: a system of Vedic interpretation

Mimamsa is a system of Vedic interpretation. Its philosophical discussions amount to a kind of critical commentary on the Brahmana or ritual portion of the Veda (वेदः). It interprets the Vedas in the literal sense. The central issue of Purva Mimamsa is ritual.[1]

Shri Hiriyanna differs from above conclusions. He maintains that Mimamsa is more than a critical commentary on Brahmanas. Mimamsa doctrine exhibits an important change viz. the subordination of the idea of sacrifice itself to that of the attainment of Moksha (मोक्षः). This important change might have been brought about by the later Mimasakas, to bring this philosophy in line with other systems of thoughts and not let it remain a mere liturgical discussion focusing only on rites.[2]

Shri Hiriyanna writes The spirit of the Brahmanas was to supersede the simple nature worship of the Samhitas, The spirit of the fully developed Mimamsa is to supersede ritualism as taught in Brahmanas and later systematized in Srouta Sutras (श्रौतसूत्राः). But the supersession in neither stage is complete and so Mimamsa is now known as as an admixture of the rational and dogmatic, the natural and the supernatural and the heterodox and the orthodox.[3]

Jaimini systematised the rules of Mimamsa and established their validity in his work. The rules of Mimamsa are very important for the interpretation of the Nyaya (न्यायः). The Mimamsa Sutras of Jaimini give a detailed description of the different sacrifices and their purposes, the doctrine of Apurva, and also some philosophical propositions. There are twelve chapters in total.[1]

Sabara (शबरस्वामिन्) is the author of the chief commentary or Bhashya (भाष्यम्) on the work of Jaimini. Kumarila Bhattu (कुमारिलभट्टु), the Guru of Bhavabhuti (भवभूति), commented on the Sutra (सूत्रः) and the Bhashya. He proved the eternal character of the Vedas and the efficiency of Vedic ceremonials. Prabhakara (प्रभाकरः) was a pupil of Kumarila who wrote a commentary on the Bhashya of Sabara.[1]

Jaimini accepts the three Pramanas of Pratyaksha (प्रत्यक्षः, perception), Anumana (अनुमानः, inference) and Sabda (शब्दः) or Veda (वेदः) (authoritative testimony). Jaimini holds that there is a perpetual connection between a word and its sense and that sound is eternal.[1]

Importance in Semantics

One of the primary aims of Mimamsa, as a branch of learning, is to resolve the relation of speech with thought. The Mimamsa in this respect serves as a necessary complement to Vyakarana (व्याकरणम्) or grammar. Mimamsa involves a great deal of discussion relating to social or folk psychology. This psychological inquiry contains much that is valuable for the modern science of semantics (branch of knowledge dealing with meaning in relation to linguistic forms).[2]

Importance in interpretation of Dharmasatras

The laws of interpretation formulated by Jaimini and his succesors are quite general and they are applicable as much to works outside the Vedas as to that ancient text. They are widely used for arriving at the right interpretation of all old texts, particularly Dharmasastras (धर्मशास्त्राः, legal treatises), though they were formulated to help interpret religious acts mentioned in the Vedas.[2][4]

Many of the examples in Jaimini's text are based on Karmakanda (कर्मकाण्डः, religious rituals) that existed in his time. The later generations hence found difficulty in understanding the original text. Sabara Bhashya which is considered an authoritative commentary helps overcome this impediment.

In the ancient Nyaya Vyavastha (न्यायव्यवस्था, legal system), knowledge of Mimamsa was prescribed as an essential for a judge. Further, a post for Mimamsa scholar was recognised in the ten member legislative council proposed by Manu Smrti (मनुस्मृतिः). Jaimini's method of interpretation is based on three debts that every human owes.[4]

  1. Devaruna (देवऋुणम्). This literally translates to debt due to god and is satisfied by performing sacrifice. The word sacrifice must not be misinterpreted. At every stage of life, a human must perform certain sacrifice to move forth spiritually (e.g. a Bramhachari (ब्रम्हचारिः) must sacrifice worldly pleasures).
  2. Rshiruna (ऋषिऋुणम्). The debt due to Rshis (hindi) is paid by acquiring knowledge. Every person must acquire knowledge pertaining to his/her work.
  3. Pitruruna (पितृऋुणम्). The debt due to forefathers is to be satisfied by maintaining a family and cherishing the family name.

Jaimini believed that all provisions in the Vedas and Dharmasastras must be interpreted such that the three debts are satisfied. The procedure proposed was to consider an interpretation, account for supportive and opposing arguments, and then conclude by accepting or rejecting the interpretation based on conformity to the three debts.

Jaimini's Mimamsa Sutra and its Bhasyas

The main source of authority in regard to Mimamsa is Jaimini's Mimamsa-Sutra. It may be mentioned that though Jaimini's work is considered to be the earliest compiled work, the Mimamsa system is much older. References to Mimamsa system are found in Dharma-Sutras as well as in the Mahabhasya of Patanjali.[3]

The Sutras are considerably over 2500 in number and are divided into twelve chapters with sixty sub-sections in all. There are about a thousand topics discussed so this work by Jaimini is by far the biggest of the philosophical Sutras. The Sutras are quite dense and hence can only be understood with the aid of Bhasyas. The first Bhasya was written by Sabarasvamin, who write it probably in 400 AD. There was an earlier commentary by Upavarsa, but that has now been lost, and only a extract of that commentary is in Bhasya of Sabara. The Bhasya of Sabara has been in turn explained by Prabhakara (650 CE) and Kumarila Bhatta (700 CE). The two interpretations differ from each other in some aspects.In later years Kumaril Bhatta's work superseded Prabhakara's work. Kumarila Bhatta's work is called the Sloka Vartika. There are two others: Tantra Vartika and Tup-Tika. Mandana Misra, a pupil of Kumarila also wrote further commentaries called Vidhi-Viveka and Bhavna-Viveka. There are several other works of this school.[5]

Main Doctrines of Mimamsa

According to Jaimini, performance of the actions that are enjoined in the Vedas is the Sadhana or means for attaining heaven. The cause of bondage is the performance of Nishiddha Karmas or prohibited actions. The self is Jada-Chetana, a combination of insentiency and intelligence. Souls are countless. The soul is doer and enjoyer. It is all-pervading. Jaimini does not believe in the creation of the world. He believes in grades of happiness in heaven and in Sadachara or right conduct, viz., Satyam Vada (Speak the truth), Dharmam Chara (Perform duty).[1]

The Eternal Self-Existent Veda

The Mimamsa system starts by postulating the Svatah-Pramanya or the self-validity of knowledge, both in respect of its origin (utpattu) and ascertainment (Jnaptau). The validity of knowledge is known when the knowledge itself is known. All knowledge is presumably valid and an explanation is called for only where any particular knowledge fails to do do. The cause of invalidity is some defect in the means or source of knowledge (Karana-Dosa). Thus a person may see a object and conclude it is silver piece while it may only be a shell. This erroneous conclusion arises because his eyesight was defective. Wrong knowledge is identified because of its incompatibility with subsequent experience (badhaka-Pratyaya).[6]

An important bearing of such a point is to decide on the authority of Vedas. In case of Vedas, neither the circumstance that renders knowledge is invalid, nor that which leads to its discovery is invalid. There can be no flaw (Karana Dosa) at the source; for source in case of verbal testimony is the speaker or writer and the Veda according to Mimasakas has no author at all (Apauruseya). There can be no question of the teachings of Vedas coming into conflict with perceptual or other forms of common experience , for what it teaches refers only to matters beyond this life and is therefore empirically unverifiable. Thus The Vedas are considered to be Self-Existent - Svatah-Pramanya. [7]

Mimamsaka maintains that Vedas have been preserved intact through a beginning-less period by being handed down from teacher to pupil with scrupulous care. This belief is based on the circumstances that tradition has throughout been silent regarding authorship of the Vedas, while in case of every other ancient work, a mention is made of some author or the other. [8]

Jaimini was an opponent of rationalism and theism. The Purva Mimamsa has a number of deities. The offerings may be made to them. The practice of Vedic Dharma is not in need of any Supreme Being or God. The Veda was practically the only God for him. The eternal Veda needs no other basis to rest on. The Veda itself is authoritative. It is the only source of our knowledge of Dharma. There is no divine revealer.[1]

The eternal self-existent Veda serves all the purposes of Jaimini and the Purva Mimamsakas. Jaimini does not so much deny God as ignore Him.

Pramanas in Mimamsa[9]

The Mimasakas of the (Kumarila) Bhatta School recognize six Pramanas, while of the other accept only five of them. These are:

  1. Perception (Pratyaksa)
  2. Inference (Anumana)
  3. Verbal Testimony (Sabda Pramana)
  4. Comparison (Upaman)
  5. Presumption (Arthapatti): An example for this is as follows. A person who is not eating during day continues to healthy and strong. This leads to a conclusion that he should be eating during night hours. Nyaya classifies this under Anumana.
  6. Non-apprehension (Anuplabdhi)

Dravyas in Mimamsa[10]

The Bhatt School of Mimamsa accepts all the nine dravyas known to Nyaya-Vaisesika and adds two more to them. Tamas or darkness and Sabda or sound. The Prabhakara school of Mimamsa considers Tamas as absence light (which is also the view of the Nyaya-Vaisesika)

Insistence on observing Practices[1]

The Mimamsa philosophy believes that Dharma is enjoined by the Vedas, known as the Sruti. Its practice leads to happiness. If the Smriti does not agree with the Sruti, the former is to be ignored. The practice by virtuous men or custom comes next to the Smriti.  

The Mimamsa philosophy recommends that a Hindu should lead his life in accordance with the rules of the Vedas. A Hindu has to perform Nitya Karmas like Sandhya, etc., and Naimittika Karmas during proper occasions to get salvation. These are unconditional duties. If one fails to do these, one incurs the papa (पापम्) of omission (Pratyavaya Dosha). One performs Kamya Karma to attain special ends. If one avoids prohibited actions (Nishiddha Karrnas), one will avoid hell. If one performs the unconditional duties, one will attain salvation. If works or sacrifices are done in a mechanical way, without feeling, Sraddha (Faith) and devotion; they cannot help one to attain salvation.  

Jaimini does not believe in Moksha. He believes in the existence of Svarga (heaven) attainable through Karma or sacrifice. The Veda promises rewards to the sacrificer to be enjoyed in another world.  

Some later Mitmansakas maintain that all works ought to be performed as an offering to God or the Supreme Being.  

The Doctrine of Apurva[1]

Apurva is the link or necessary connection between work and its fruit or result. Apurva is Adrishta. It is a positive, unseen force created by an act, which leads to the attainment of the fruit of the action.

This aspect has been criticized severely. The refutation is that the unconscious or non-intelligent Apurva could not bestow the rewards. The Mimamsa system could not satisfy the thoughtful men. Hence, the later Milnamsakas slowly introduced God. They declared that if sacrifices were performed in honour of the Supreme Being, it would lead to the achievement of the Supreme. Apurva cannot act, unless it is moved by God or the Supreme Being. He who makes the Apurva function is God.

The Self and Its Characteristic[1]

The self is distinct from the body, the senses and the intellect. The self is the experiencer or enjoyer. The body is the abode of experiences. The senses are the instruments of experience. The self perceives when it is in union with the mind. It experiences internally pleasure and pain; and externally, objects such as rivers, plants, etc.  

The self is not the senses, because it persists even when the senses are injured or destroyed. The body is made up of matter. The perceiver is distinct from body. The self directs the body. There is some being which synthesises various sense-data. That being or entity is the self. The self is all-pervading and imperishable. Selves are countless.

The real self survives the annihilation of the body.  

View on Tri Varga[11]

In one important aspect the aim of the Mimamsa school differs from other schools. Human life should pursue not Moksa but Dharma, whether as a means to an end or as an end itself. This at least was the view of the early Mimaskas. In that early period, only Dharma, Artha and Kama (Tri-Varga) were accepted as human values and the Moksa was not included. It was this idea that gave prominence to many of the rites in Mimamsa philosophy. As doctrine of Moksa entered Mimamsa, many rites and rituals were virtually abandoned.

The Later Mimasakas[1]

Jaimini showed the way to attain happiness in Svarga or heaven, but he did not tell anything about the problem of the final emancipation. The later writers like Prabhakara and Kumarila, however could not avoid this as it engaged the attention of the thinkers of other schools.

Prabhakara says that the absolute cessation of the body caused by the total disappearance of Dharma and Adharma, is ultimate release or liberation. A person abandons prohibited acts as well as the deeds that lead to happiness in heaven. He does the necessary expiations for exhausting the previously accumulated Karmas. He practises self-restraint and disciplines himself. One major thought of this school is that one cannot attain Moksha by knowledge alone. Exhaustion of Karmas only can bring about release. KNowledge prevents further accumulation of virtue and vice. Moksha is the cessation of pleasure and pain. It is not a state of blis, as the attributeless soul cannot have even bliss. It is simply the natural form of the soul.  

The view of Kumarila comes very near to the view of Advaita Vedantins. Kumarila maintains that the Veda is composed by God and is Brahman in the form of sounds. Moksha is a positive state for him. It is the realisation of the Atman. He is of opinion that knowledge is not sufficient for salvation. He thinks that final emancipation can be attained through Karma combined with Jnana (knowledge).

Criticism of Jaimini's Philosophy[1]

Swami Sivananda says: "The Purva Mimamsa system of philosophy is said to be unsatisfactory and incomplete, in as much as it does not deal with the problems of the Ultimate Reality and its relation to soul and matter. There is no philosophical view of the world. The central feature is the performance of the sacrifices. This is the most essential or fundamental thing. "Perform sacrifices and enjoy in heaven" - this is the sum and substance of Jaimini's teaching. This is his Moksha or the final goal. This cannot give satisfaction to the thinkers who know that the enjoyment in heaven is transitory, imperfect, sensual and worldly".


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 Swami Sivananda, All About Hinduism, Page 225-230
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Hiriyanna, M., Outlines of Indian Philosophy, Page 298
  3. 3.0 3.1 Hiriyanna, M., Outlines of Indian Philosophy, Page 300
  4. 4.0 4.1 Justice M. Rama Jois, Legal and Constitutional History of India (2016), Part 6, Chapter 1, Pages 434-436
  5. Hiriyanna, M., Outlines of Indian Philosophy, Page 301
  6. Hiriyanna, M., Outlines of Indian Philosophy, Page 308
  7. Hiriyanna, M., Outlines of Indian Philosophy, Page 309
  8. Hiriyanna, M., Outlines of Indian Philosophy, Page 312
  9. Hiriyanna, M., Outlines of Indian Philosophy, Page 318-322
  10. Hiriyanna, M., Outlines of Indian Philosophy, Page 324-325
  11. Hiriyanna, M., Outlines of Indian Philosophy, Page 332-335