pUrva mImAMsA question

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Fri Sep 11 03:15:06 CDT 1998

I must thank Sri Anand Hudli for pointing me in the right direction on
this question. As it turns out, the arguments offered by Sankara and
sureSvara are quite subtle on this issue.

>  So the mImAMsaka might argue that to meditate on the Self, etc,
>  is a niyama vidhi. The Self is already established. The niyama
>  vidhi only supplies information on how to attain the Self.

As far as I can make out, part of the reason why the strict pUrva
mImAmsakas held the upanishads to be only arthavAda is that they thought
the Self was already established, and therefore required no enjoining
whatsoever. However, the very opening argument at bRhadAraNyaka upanishad
bhAshya (BUBh) 1. 4. 7 is that the opponent supposes the niyama vidhi to
meditate on the Self to itself be the knowledge of the Self. This opponent
also does not accept that the Self is already established, and thinks that
meditation on the Self is enjoined, until the Self is experienced
(prasaMkhyAnam ataH kAryam yAvad AtmA anubhUyate - upadeSasAhasrI,
metrical part, chapter 18). So it is clear that the opponent in BUBh 1. 4.
7 is not really a pUrva mImAmsaka following kumArila, but someone who
wrongly applies pUrva mImAMsA principles to vedAnta.

>  In return Sureshvara might argue ( I am second guessing at this
>  point) that for any niyama vidhi there is a related apUrva, something
>  that has been newly established. (Even in the example of thrashing
>  rice, there has to be a related rite which in turn must have an
>  apUrva as a result.) So it does not make sense to say that a
>  niyama vidhi  exists by itself independent of an apUrva. If the
>  sentence that enjoins meditation on the Self were to be a niyama
>  vidhi there would have to be the apUrvatA of the Self. But it is
>  known that the Self is not something that is established by an
>  injunction. (Everyone agrees with this without a doubt.)

It seems that some pre-Sankaran thinkers did not, as pointed out earlier.
The pUrvapaksha clearly is from somebody who thought that the Self needed
to be established through upAsanA, so that there must be an injunction
for upAsanA.

>  Therefore, the sentence that asks us to meditate on the Self is not
>  a niyama vidhi in the sense that the mImAMsaka uses it. The case for
>  parisaMkhyA is similar. So there can be no parisaMkhyA vidhi either.

I'm afraid the situation is slightly more complicated. After rejecting the
argument that there is any injunction involved, SankarAcArya does conclude
that a steady recollection of Self-knowledge (Atma-vijnAna-smRti-saMtati)
is necessary (niyantavyA) even after the rise of proper Self-knowledge
(samyag-jnAna-prAptAv api), in order to counteract the effects of
prArabdha karma. The use of the word niyantavyA causes one to think that
he does after all concede the niyama vidhi position, but sets it free of a
dependence on any supposed apUrva vidhi. The mImAmsaka could now say that
there can be no niyama vidhi without an implied apUrva vidhi, but clearly,
this is not accepted by Sankara. Suresvara develops this argument further
in the vArttika, and offers the alternative explanation that it could be a
parisaMkhyA vidhi, which exclusively specifies meditation on the Self, so
that meditation on the not-Self should not be done. It seems that the
vArttika would be a gold-mine of information about early debates between
pUrva mImAmsakas, advaita vedAntins and those who tried to bridge the two
through a jnAna-karma samuccaya vAda or a prasaMkhyAna vAda.

>  But even if the adhikArin is not made explicit there is an implicit
>  qualification in any vidhi. A common implicit qualification is
>  that the adhikArin must have studied the Vedas.
>  So even in the sentence AtmA vA are draShTavyaH shrotavyo ..,
>  of the Br. Up., there is an implicit adhikArin, namely one who has
>  studied the Vedas or in advaita terms, has the four fold qualifi-
>  cations.

Well, the question of adhikAra arises only if the above sentence is in
fact a vidhi, a position that has already been rejected. It seems to me
that Suresvara's argument is that only apUrva vidhis can be related to
adhikArins, and not so with vidhis that are only niyama or parisaMkhyA. In
the stock example of threshed rice, I suppose it is not specified that
only such-and-such a person may thresh the rice. Conceivably, anybody may
do the job. Note that nowhere does Sankara use the word adhikArin with
respect to the one who has the four-fold qualifications.

It also seems to me that by paying attention to the strict mImAMsA
requirements regarding the niyama and parisaMkhyA vidhis, and offering
their reinterpretations consistent with Advaita Vedanta, Sankara and
Suresvara have caught the pseudo-mImAmsaka where it hurts the most - in
the fallacy of his assumptions regarding action and non-action.


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