[Advaita-l] Purva Mimamsa from the Vedantic perspective

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Tue Feb 17 21:14:51 CST 2004

Kartiks' series on Purva Mimamsa touched on several similiarities and
differences between Advaita Vedanta and Purva Mimamsa.  He mentioned that
Badarayana (or Veda Vyasa) the author of the Brahma or Vedanta sutras is
mentioned in the PM sutras, and Jaimini the author of the PM sutras is
mentioned in the Brahmasutras.  This shows the affinity between the two
darshans.  Usually the style of the sutras is that a foreign view is
introduced by "some say" or a similiar euphemism.  Whereas the name is
mentioned if the view is from someone within the Vedic tradition.  This
doesn't mean there is 100% agreement as we shall see.

1.2.24-32 discusses whether names of Brahman should be be taken literally.
For instance Vaishvanara means digestion (or Agni the god of fire).
Pradeshmatra means the size of a handspan.  Does that mean Brahman actually
*is* digestion or as small as a handspan? after some arguments that
the names should be taken symbolically, Jaimini notes that even if they
are taken literally it doesn't imply any contradictions.  A representative
thing can be employed just for the purposes of meditation.  for example,
you can point out a location on a map and say "this is India"  But it
doesn't mean India is literally the size of that portion of map.  The map
is just a drawing that represents the real country.  So too, digestion or
the size of a handspan can for various reasons be used to represent

In 1.3.26-33 the question is are the Gods allowed to study the Vedas (and
hence Vedanta?)  Jaimini says no.  Take for instance the Madhuvidya.  This
is part of the Brhadaranyakopanishad that teaches meditation on the Sun as
honey.  How could Surya Bhagavan learn this upasana?  Would he meditate on
Himself?  Badarayana acknowledges there is a point there but does not
consider it a showstopper.  Just as various types of human have differing
rights to study various shastras but all are capable of moksha on account
of being conscious beings, the inability of a particular God to do a
particular upasana does not mean a blanket inability.  As with humans, it
is the ability to achieve jnana which is the key.

In 1.4.16-19 quotes from Shruti that suggest that other forces than
Brahman are responsible for creation are considered.  Jaiminis' views on
the interpretation of Kaushitakyopanishad 4.19 are quoted approvingly.

In 3.2.38-42 the question is what is the cause of the fruit of actions?
Jaimini thinks the ritual act itself produces the result and therefore
there is no need to to postulate some entity to provide that result.
Thus we see that despite there zealous orthodoxy in Vedic ritual, the
Mimamsakas are actually atheistic!  Badarayana objects and establishes the
siddhanta that Ishvara is the phala data.

3.3.33 deals with the various negative descriptions of Brahman in the
shastras.  Unlike positive descriptions, how can we know if they are
referring to the same things?  The purvapaksha view is that as they occur
in different places they must be referring to different things.  But the
siddhanta is that the purport of all the Vedantic texts is the same.
Purva Mimamsa gives the example of the offerings called upasada.  The
mantras for this are only found in the Samaveda.  But the followers of
other shakhas have to do them so they have to take them from the Samaveda.
They can do that because all the mentions of the upasada accross the Vedas
have the same purport.

3.3.43 asks whether the upasanas on Vayu (wind) and Prana (breath) should
be considered seperate or combined because ordinarily both words are
considered to refer to the same thing.  The siddhanta is they are seperate
because they have two seperate functions.  The Mimamsa sutras give the example
of a sacrifice where three offerings are made to Indra as raja, adhiraja, and
samraja.  Even though the God Indra is one, He is being invoked in three
seperate capacities so three offerings are made.  Similiarly although Vayu
and Prana are essentially the same thing, they are invoked in two seperate

This and the previous passage show that though Purva Mimamsa is ostensibly
narrowly focused on Vedic sacrifices alone, the principles developed
therein can be applied to a far greater range of subjects.

3.3.44-52 deals with the portion of Brhadaranyakopanishad called
Agnirahasya which seems to be describing a particular yajna.  So despites
its physical location in an upanishad, should it be counted as part of the
karmakanda or jnanakanda?  The answer is jnanakanda and again Mimamsaka
reasoning is used.  A command (vidhi) is indicated by verbs in the
optative tense (in Paninian grammar, ling)  Despite the context being a
yajna, an analysis of ling indicates that upasana is meant not karma.

3.4.1-20 is an extended discussion of Mimamsaka views on the jnanakanda.
Jaimini says the purpose of the upanishads is to know the Self which is
defined as the agent that that performs activity.  Sannyasa of the
Advaitic type in which all karma is given up is only for the old, poor,
feeble etc. who are unable to perform actions.  This is all refuted by

4.3.7-14 discusses whether the path of the Gods leads to saguna or nirguna
Brahman.  In the Gita and other shastras it says that the karmayogis
(those who act solely out of duty not for a reward) attain Brahman through
the "path of the Gods" (Devayana)  Jaimini characteristically says that
this path leads to the Highest.  A Vedantic teacher called Badari (not the
same as Badarayana) says that this refers only to saguna Brahman.  However
at the pralaya those who were in Devaloka or Suryaloka along with the
saguna Brahman in the form of the deities who rule their are merged back
into nirguna Brahman.  This is called krama mukti.

4.4.5-7 discusses whether the liberated atma attains saguna or nirguna
Brahman,  Jaimini thinks the former.  For him liberation means immortality
with a perfect body in heaven.  Needless to say this is not the highest
goal in Advaita Vedanta.  In fact it is considered something of a trap
because once the fruit of good karma has run out, the soul falls to earth

4.4.8-14 is related.  The question is whether the souls in higher realms
have bodies or not.  Jaimini says they do because they need them to
acheive their desires which are the result of action.  The siddhanta is
they can move in or out of bodies at will and desires can be fulfilled
without a material body as in e.g. dreams.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/

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