[Advaita-l] A Brief Introduction to pUrva mImAmsA - 1 (a FAQ)

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 2 12:50:13 CST 2004

I searched the list archives and could find no postings introducing
pUrva mImAmsA to the layperson, so I thought of starting a series on
the subject at the beginner's level, mostly to clarify my own
understanding. Since my knowledge is only from a few books on the
subject, list-members' comments and corrections would be greatly
appreciated. In this first posting, I will simply provide a FAQ:

FAQ on pUrva mImAmsA (PM)

1. What is pUrva mImAmsA (PM)? 

"pUrva" means "antecedent", and "mImAmsA" means examination. So "pUrva
mImAmsA" means "Examination of the antecedent (portions of the Veda)".
The Veda consists of four parts: saMhita, brAhmaNa, AraNyaka,
upanishhad. PM studies the first three parts which are commonly known
as "karma kANDa". The last part, the upanishhad, is known as "GYAna
kANDa", and is studied as "uttara mImAmsA" or VedAnta. 

2. What is the fundamental enquiry of PM?

Questions such as: 'Is there a right or wrong way to act?', 'What are
the means of knowing right action from wrong action?', 'What is good
and evil?', etc. are studied by a branch of philosophy called 'Ethics'.
PM can be best construed of as "Vedic Ethics". Thus PM is essentially
an enquiry into the nature of dharma (Duty/Morality/Virtue), and
answers ethical and moral questions from the Vedic viewpoint.

3. Why study PM?

There are at least two motivating factors to the study of PM on this
(1) The chief pUrvapaksha (objection) to Shankaran VedAnta is PM. It is
reasonable that without understanding the pUrvapaksha, it would be
impossible to properly understand the siddhAnta (conclusion). 
(2) Non-sannyAsins are not really qualified to study VedAnta, and can
(and ought to) only study PM, which is considered a stepping stone to
studying VedAnta. 

4. How does PM fit into the practical aspect of advaita VedAnta?

The goal of the Vedas is Self-realization. This can be achieved only by
a study of VedAnta, which demands pre-requisites of the student, which
are: viveka  (discrimination - between the permanent and transient),
vairAgya (dispassion - to objects that are transient), shhaT-sampat
(six virtues, which are - shama (calmness), dama (Self-restraint),
uparati (Self-withdrawal), titikshA (forbearance), shraddhA (Conviction
- in the way), samAdhAna (self-settledness)), and mumukshutva (Yearning
for Liberation). If one does not possess the pre-requisites, then one
is ineligible to study VedAnta (such study will not lead to
Self-realization), and ought to practise dharma in order to develop the
aforesaid qualities. The practise of dharma is aided by a thorough
study of dharma, which forms the subject matter of PM. 

5. What are the texts, and who are the proponents of PM? 

The primary text of PM is Jaimini's "pUrva mImAmsA sUtra" (JPMS). Along
with BAdarAyaNa's "Brahma sUtra", the two books constitute the first
exegeses of the Vedas - of the karma kANDa and GYAna kANDa portions
respectively. Jaimini and BAdarAyaNa were undoubtedly contemporaries,
as revealed by the fact that JPMS 1.1.5 refers to BAdarAyaNa while
Brahma sUtra 1.3.31 refers to Jaimini. Tradition believes that Jaimini
was a disciple of BAdarAyaNa.

The authoritative commentary on JPMS is by ShabarasvAmin, on which two
sub-commentaries exist by PrabhAkara and KumArila BhaTTa. 

The school branches out in this manner:

Jaimini (founder)
      |-->KumArila BhaTTa (key proponent)
          |-->Sucharita Mishra
          |-->PArthasArathi Mishra
          |-->Someshvara BhaTTa

The most important and key proponent of PM is traditionally considered
to be KumArila BhaTTa, whose vArttika consists of three parts:
(1) shlokavArttika (1.1 of Jaimini), which gives the fundamentals of
dharma - what it is and how it can be known, what the differences are
between PM and the other schools, various PM theories on Self, world,
etc. I will be using this extensively. 
(2) tantravArttika (1.2 - 3.8 of Jaimini) deals heavily with arguments
against the Buddhists in defense of the Vedas, questioning modes of
conduct such as wine-drinking, when and where to perform a Vedic rite,
etc. I will only make peripheral use of this text. 
(3) tuptikA (remaining chapters 4-12 of Jaimini), which is "very
advanced" vaidika dharma, such as the relationship between
mantra-deity-yaGYa, how a particular Vedic rite (such as the ashvamedha
yaGYa) should be performed, etc. I will not be using this text at all. 


I will be totally relying on the following translations on the subject,
all by the famous and distinguished scholar Sir Ganganath Jha:

(A) "The Purva mimamsa sutras of Jaimini": chapters I-III Translated
with an original commentary by Ganganath Jha. Allahabad, Panini Office,
1916. (New York, AMS Press, 1974). ISBN: 0404578101.

(B) "Slokavartika" (of Kumarila Bhatta) / translated from the original
Sanskrit, with extracts from the commentaries "Kasika" of Sucarita
Misra and "Nyayaratnakara" of Partha Sarthi Misra (by) Ganga Nath Jha.
Delhi, India : Sri Satguru Publications : distributed by Indian Books
Centre, 1983. ISBN: 8170300150.

(C) "Tantravarttika" : a commentary on Sabara's Bhasya on the
Purvamimamsa sutras of Jaimini / translated into English by Ganganatha
Jha. Reprint ed. Delhi, Pilgrims Book Pvt. Ltd. 1998. ISBN: 8176240265.

The above books shall henceforth be referred to as Book A, Book B, and
Book C respectively.

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