Written by Sri Swami Chandrashekarendra
Of the fourteen branches of learning (caturdasa-vidya), after the four
Vedas and the Sadanga, we have the four Upangas of the vedas
remaining. "Upa+anga"="Upanga. "The prefix "upa" is added to suggest
what is auxiliary to a subject.”Sabhanayaka" means speaker; "upasabhanayaka"
means deputy speaker. In the same way we have, after the
six Angas (Sadanga), the four Upangas. These are Mimamsa, Nyaya, the
Puranas and Dharmasastra.
"Mam" is the root of the word "Mimamsa"; "san" is the pratyaya.
"Mimamsa" means "esteemed or sacred inquiry", an exposition. What is
esteemed or worthy of worship? The Vedas. Mimamsa is an exegesis of
the Vedas. Nirukta explains the meaning of the words of the Vedas, also
their etymology in the fashion of the dictionary. Mimamsa goes further,
to find out the significance of the mantras, their intent. It also gives
decisions on these points.
We have already discussed the karmakanda and the jnanakanda of the
Vedas. Karmakanda is called the purva-bhaga,the first or early part of
each Vedic recension, and the second or concluding part is the
Mimamsa too is divided in this way into Purvamimamsa and
Uttaramimamsa. The first holds that sacrifices and other rites of the
karmakanda form the most important part of the Vedas, while the second
maintains that the realisation of the self taught in the jnanakanda is
true goal. I spoke about the Uttaramimamsa when I dealt with the
Upanishads and the Brahmasutra.
Uttaramimamsa, that is the Brahmasutra as well as the Upanishads,
constitutes"Brahmavidya" or Vedanta here. It is the foundation of the
three important philosophic systems - Advaita (non-dualism or monism),
Visistadvaita (qualified non-dualism or qualified monism) and Dvaita
Our present subject is Purvamimamsa. As a matter of fact the term
"Mimamsa" itself usually denotes "Purvamimamsa". But mention of it
brings to mind Uttaramimamasa also.
Every system has, as we have seen its sutras, bhasya, and vartika. The
Purvamimamsa-sutra is by Jamini Maharsi, its bhasya by Sabarasvamin
and its vartika by Kumarilabhatta. Kumarilabhatta's Bhattadipika remains
the most important Purvamimamsa work. Kumarila was an incarnation of
Kumarasvamin or Subrahmanya. Prabhakara has written a commentary
or Purvamimamsa in which he expresses views which, on some points,
are divergent from Kumarlibhatta's. So, two different schools are
identified in Mimamsa-"Bhatta-mata" and "Prabhakara-mata". Let us
consider Mimamsa in general terms, ignoring the difference between the
two schools. "Bhattamata", it is obvious, gets its name from the fact
it represents the views of Kumarilabhatta.
Jaimini's Purvamimamsa-sutra is a voluminous work and has twelve
chapters, each having a number of "padas" and each pada having a
number of "adhikaranas". In all, there are 1000 adhikaranas.
The Vedas constitute the law of Isvara. Since they are eternal and
the law is also eternal. All of us are the subject of the monarch called
Isvara. He has engaged many officials, authorities, like Indra, Vayu,
Varuna, Agni, Yama, Isana, Kubera, Nirrti and so onto take care of this
world. They need a law to protect the creatures of all the fourteen
worlds. How should we, the subjects of Isvara, conduct ourselves
according to this law, how are the officials appointed by Isvara to rule
over his domain? We may find out the answer to these by examining the
Vedas. There are judges who deliberate on the laws of this world and
resolve doubts concerning them with the help of lawyers. If the Vedas
the law that determines how dharma is to be practised, it is jaimini who
interprets the meaning of this law. His interpretation is Mimamsa.
When there is legal dispute, a verdict is given, say, according to the
decision of the Allahabad or Bombay high court based on similar cases.
The decision given by one court with regard to one case may be applied
to a similar case that comes up before another court. In Jamini's
Mimamsa a thousand issues (or points) are examined, taking into account
the views opposed to those of the author of the sutras, and the meaning
of the Vedic passage determined with cogent reasoning. To explain:
a Vedic statement is taken up; second, questions are raised about its
meaning ("samasya"); third, the opposing school's point of view is
presented ("purvpaksa"); fourth, that point of view is refuted
("uttarpaksa"); and, fifth, a conclusion is arrived at ("nirnaya"). The
process of arriving at the meaning of each issue or point constitutes an
The sutras of Jaimini are very terse. Sabara's commentary on them is
called Sabaram. The word "sabari" usually means a hunter. "Sabari" of
the Ramayana, they say, was originally a huntress. Sabara, the Mimamsa
commentator, had an aspect of Isvara in him. It is believed that Isvara
composed the commentary (Sabaram) when we appeared as a hunter to
grant the Pasupata weapon to Arjuna.
Since it has one thousand adhikaranas, Purvamimamsa is called
"Sahasradhikarani". One must add here that in this work the meaning of
the Vedic texts are determined by countering many a captious argument
While Purvamimamsa concerns itself with the meaning of the
karmakanda of the Vedas, Uttaramimamsa deals with the meaning of the
jnanakanda that is the Upanisads. The Upanisads speak primarily of the
Paramatman and our inseparable union with him. Vyasa, in his
Brahmasutra, determines the meaning of the divine law constituted by
the Upanisads. Ironically enough, the sage who composed the sutras for
Uttaramimamsa, Vyasa, was the guru of Jaimini who composed the sutras
Suresvaracarya wrote a commentary on the Taittiriya and Brhadaranyaka
Upanisads from the non-dualistic point of view. It is not worthy that he
had earlier been and adherent of Purvamimamsa. He made the transition
from the path of works to the path of jnana, on becoming a disciple of
Sankara and wrote a commentary on his guru's bhasya. Before becoming
a disciple of our Acarya and a sannyasin he was called Mandanamisra.
The story goes that Sankara approached Mandanamisra for a
philosophical disputation during a sraddha performed by the latter.
and Jaimini were the two Brahmins to take part in the ceremony.