[Advaita-l] A Brief Introduction to pUrva mImAmsA - 7 (In Defense of the smR^itis)

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Mon Nov 14 15:42:28 CST 2005

Besides the Veda that is said to be the primary source of knowledge of
dharma, there is another set of shAstras accepted by pUrva mImAmsA (PM)
as authoritative on dharma - the smR^itis. It has already been shown
that the only source of dharma can be the Veda since it is unauthored.
Is it not then possible to reject the smR^itis as not teaching dharma
as they have a human source?

The mImAmsaka argues that the smR^itis are not human compositions at
all - rather, they were compiled from the Vedas by smR^itikAras. The
mImAmsA position on smR^itis is:

"Every smR^iti injunction has a corresponding (identical) Vedic

In other words, what is contained in the smR^itis is a subset of what
is contained in the Vedas. Therefore, it is still maintained that the
Vedas are the only source of knowledge of dharma.

But would this not render the smR^itis redundant, since there is no use
of the smR^itis when the Vedas alone would suffice for knowledge of

In order to defend the authority of the smR^itis as being the same as
the Vedas on account of smR^iti injunctions being identical to Vedic
injunctions, and yet hold that the smR^itis cannot be considered
redundant, the mImAmsaka claims that the portions of the Vedas from
which the smR^itikAras (like Manu) compiled the smR^iti may not be
extant today. Hence some smR^iti injunctions may not be found in our
present-day knowledge of the Vedas. Therefore, the mImAmsaka position
on the smR^itis is:

"The smR^iti injunctions are the same as Vedic injunctions that have
been lost, but are "remembered as having been compiled from the Vedas"
by sages like Manu, Apastamba, Gautama, etc."

The case of a contradiction between the Vedas and smR^itis is
interesting, as different mImAmsakas hold different opinions on this

Most mImAmsakas, including PrabhAkara, teach that:

"The smR^iti injunction is rejected in case of its contradiction with a
Vedic injunction."

This however is not KumArila's opinion, who claims that a smR^iti can
never really contradict the Vedas, since such a contradiction would
imply the existence of a contradiction within the Vedas, as it has
already been claimed that the smR^iti injunction is contained in a
Vedic injunction. It is only the "more favorable option in practice" to
accept the Vedic injunction in preference to a smR^iti injunction in
case of a "perceived contradiction" between the two.

Therefore, in KumArila's opinion, which is different from main-stream
mImAmsA opinion:

"The Vedic injunction takes precedence as being "more desirable in
practice" although the smR^iti injunction is never rejected."


(Now begins the next chapter, concerning the role of the smR^itis on
knowledge of dharma)

Third pAda

JPMS 1.3.1

dharmasya shabdamUlatvAt.h ashabdaM anapekshaM syAt.h .
"Dharma having the Veda for its sole basis, that which is not Veda
should be disregarded."

The Veda has been found to be the sole authority on dharma. Is the
smR^iti to be regarded as an authority on dharma as well? For example,
ashhTakA shrAddhas, which the Vedas are silent about, are laid down in
smR^iti injunctions. Is the performance of such shrAddhas considered

pUrvapaksha: Actions laid down in works other than the Veda cannot be
regarded as dharma as per JPMS 1.1.2. Therefore, the smR^iti
injunctions are useless concerning knowledge of dharma.

JPMS 1.3.2

api vA kartusAmAnyAt.h pramaaNaM anumAnaM syAt.h .
"But on account of the agent being the same, inference would be the

siddhAnta: Whatever is laid down in the smR^iti has its foundation in a
direct Vedic injunction. In case of the absence of a Vedic injunction
that the smR^iti injunction is based upon, the existence of the Vedic
injunction has to be inferred. In other words, most of the injunctions
in Manu smR^iti are found in the Vedas, therefore the remaining too
must have existed in the Vedas. The reason it is not available to us as
a Vedic injunction is due to the fact that the particilar portion of
the Vedas which contained the injunction has been lost.


KumArila actually considers two possibilities in the acceptance of the

(1) Injunctions found in the smR^itis are the same as Vedic injunctions
that were "compiled" by sages like Manu, etc. but have been lost to
humanity due to various reasons (like negligence of the Vedic

(2) smR^itis are based upon Vedic injunctions that are still extant and
available to us today, but one does not know exactly where they are
located due to the Vedic injunctions lying scattered about.

The first possibility appears more valid and is given as the
traditional mImAmsA teaching by Ganganath Jha, as there probably exist
smR^iti injunctions (many examples in Manu smR^iti) that do not have an
exact corresponding injunction in the Vedas as extant today. This would
also protect the smR^itis from being considered redundant when the
Vedas (as extant today) alone would suffice.

KumArila writes [1]:

"...it must be admitted that...it is far more reasonable to assume a
direct Vedic Injunction (upon which the assertions of Manu are based).
In this case, we have to assume only one unseen fact (the existence of
such an Injunction in the Veda); and it is only with this assumption
that all other facts of the acceptance of the Smritis by the great and
the learned become reconciled.
"...it would be far more reasonable to assume the smritis to have their
source in the Injunctions contained in such portions of the Veda as
have been lost; nor is such disappearance of the Veda impossible, as
even now we find the Veda losing much of itself, either through the
negligence or laziness of the students, or through the gradual
disappearance of people versed in it...
"Or, we may hold that the smritis are based upon texts contained in the
very portions of the Veda that are available now-a-days. If it be
questioned - how is it that they are not found? - we make the following
reply: (1) Because of the various branches of the Veda being scattered;
(2) Because of the negligence of the people learning it; and (3)
Because of the texts being contained in diverse sections of the Veda; -
we fail to actually lay our hands upon these texts that form the basis
of the smR^itis."

JPMS 1.3.3

virodhe tvanapekshaM syAt.h asati hi anumAnam.h .
"In case of a contradiction between smR^iti and the Veda, the smR^iti
should be disregarded; because it is only when there is no
contradiction that there is presumption [of Vedic texts in support of

PrabhAkara's Commentary (KumArila's commentary on sUtras 3 and 4 will
be considered later):

The exception to the authority of the smR^iti is when it contradicts
the Veda. It is here declared that the presumption that there exists a
Vedic injunction in support of a smR^iti injunction can be made only
when the smR^iti injunction does not contradict the Veda. When such a
contradiction does occur, the smR^iti injunction is rejected in favor
of the Vedic injunction. This is because a smR^iti injunction is
accepted as having its basis in the authority of the Veda, but a Vedic
injunction is self-sufficient in authority.

JPMS 1.3.4
hetu darshanaat.h  cha .
"Also because we find causes."

PrabhAkara's Commentary:

Another reason for rejecting the authority of the smR^itis when they
contradict the Vedas is that some smR^iti assertions are attributed to
greed, etc. For example, there exists a Vedic injunction that a priest
must touch the sacrificial pillar during a certain yaGYa. The smR^iti
injunction asserts that the whole pillar should be covered by cloth,
implying that the priest can never touch the pillar. This is explained
by saying that the smR^iti text that asks for the whole pillar to be
covered is based on greed of the priest and not the Veda. Therefore,
the smR^iti injunction is rejected in favor of the Vedic injunction.

Note by Ganganath Jha regarding KumArila's opinion on the smR^itis in
JPMS 1.3 [2]:-

A note on sUtras 3 and 4 ...

KumArila does not accept the above interpretation of sUtras 3 and 4,
whereby certain smR^iti texts are shown to be absolutely devoid of
authority. His point is that, in adhikaraNa (1) it has been proved that
all that is contained in the smR^iti is contained in the Veda; and
hence for every smR^iti text, there is a corresponding Vedic text. Such
being the principle once laid down, even when we find a certain smR^iti
text contradicting the Veda, we must regard this as a case of
contradiction between two Vedic texts; because by the law laid down in
the preceding adhikaraNa, there must be a Vedic text as the basis of
this smR^iti text; hence the contradiction in all such cases lies
between two Vedic texts; and consequently we must take sUtra 3 as
declaring that, whereever a smR^iti text is found to lay down a course
of action which is found to be contrary to what is laid down in a Vedic
text, and thus there being a contradiction between the two, it is
desirable that in practice, we should adopt the course laid down in the
Vedic text; just as in the case of two optional alternatives laid down
in the Veda, we may, for certain reasons, adopt one in preference to
the other; and this does not mean that no authority belongs to the
smR^iti; because in the case of the optional alternative laid down in
the Veda, if we give preference to one over the other, it does not mean
that the text laying down the alternative, is not authoritative. In
practice, we can adopt only one; and if we adopt one, and not the
other, that does not make the other text absolutely devoid of

According to this view, the translation of sUtra 3 should run as

"When there is a contradiction between the ideas expressed by the Vedic
text and the smR^iti, that which is independent of all else (i.e., the
Vedic text) should be accepted as authoritative."


In the postings so far, we have covered most of the fundamentals on
which PM rests - why dharma can be known only through the Vedas (and
related scriptures), the various classes of Vedic statements and how
they concern knowledge of dharma. The next posting will wind up the
series after discussing some miscellaneous topics.



[1] Book C, pages 112-113.

[2] Book A, page 61. Also in page 66: "...KumArila's view of the
smritis, which, according to him, can never be contradictory to the
Veda; as there is no instance in which what is laid down in the smriti
can be rightly taken as contrary to what is laid down in the Veda."

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