Mimamsa is a Sanskrit word meaning "investigation, inquiry, discussion." The term was applied to one of the six Hindu philosophical darsanas, viewpoints. In this context Mimamsa would have fully meant "the investigation of the proper interpretation of the Vedic texts." The Mimamsa school is better known as the Purva Mimamsa school, meaning the Prior School of Investigation, because it is concerned with the earlier or prior section of the Vedas. Vedanta is alternatively called Uttara Mimamsa as it studies the later (uttara) part of the Vedas. Purva and Uttara are not only chronological terms but can be applied in a theological way with Purva as religiously basic and Uttara as religiously superior. Purva Mimamsa is sometimes called Dharma Mimamsa as it is an investigation into the dharma established by the Vedas. Another name is Karma Mimamsa because it is primarily concerned with sacrifice (karman).
Dharma is a key word in Mimamsa doctrine, being used in the sense of sacred and moral duties. It also means the virtue obtained by following actions in accord with the dharma. Mimamsa claims that the scriptures are the only way of knowing about dharma, and only by following the scriptures can we attain dharma as the good.
The main text is the Mimamsa Sutra of Jaimini, an ancient sage. Mimamsa deals at length with the ritual commands in the Vedas and ignores the hymns and much else. The Mimamsa Sutra describes the different sacrifices and what they are for, and elaborates the theory of apurva, which is the mysterious, transcendent power produced by a correctly performed sacrificial ritual, not through the action of gods. The results of the sacrifice often come after the death of the person performing the ritual. The Vedas are eternal and uncreated, thus precluding their divine origin. They are the expression in sacred words of the eternal, ritual, and moral order of the world. As the world is eternal, the idea of God as the ultimate cause is superfluous. Jaimini also rejects a deity as the creator of the relation between word and meaning, saying that this relationship is innate.
To establish the truth of Vedic injunctions, Mimamsa tries to prove that words and their meanings and the relationship between the two are eternal. Because of this philosophy of language and linguistics, Mimamsa is also called vakya-sastra, theory of speech. The sacred word (sabda) was divided into three headings according to the performance of the yagna, sacrifice. These are mantra, sacred utterances of the ritual, vidhi, directives to act or not to act, and arthavada, statements explaining the ritual or the hidden reality underlying it.
The Mimamsa school divided into two subschools, named the Bhatta school and the Prabhakara school after their main exponents, Kumarila Bhatta and Prabhakara. There are many minor differences between the schools.
Mimamsa originated not as a school but as a successor to the ritual Sutra literature, whose purpose was to correctly interpret the Vedas. The focus was on ritual traditions found in the Vedas and also the Brahmanas. In using these texts for the sacrifices priests had met with numerous difficulties. The texts contain an imperfect and obscure description of the rituals and are interspersed continually with speculations on the mystical meaning of the separate ritual acts and the implements used. It was the function of the Mimamsa school to solve these problems by providing principles from their investigation which would give guidance in the interpretation of Vedic texts for performing the sacrificial rituals.
The earliest Mimamsa text is also the most important, the Mimamsa Sutra of Jaimini, composed between 300 and 100 BCE. The first surviving commentary on Jaimini is by Sabara in the fifth or sixth century CE, who developed Jaimini's arguments and also defined dharma more exactly.
The Vedic orientation of Mimamsa meant that as bhakti, devotional worship, developed it was rejected.
The Mimamsa school divided into the subschools of the Prabhakaras and the Bhattas. The Prabhakaras followed their most important exponent, Prabhakara, who lived around the fifth to sixth centuries CE, while the Bhattas followed their main exponent, Kumarila Bhatta, who lived in the eighth century CE. Kumarila was influenced by the study of Buddhist logic developed by Dignaga (c. 480-540) and Dharmakirti (c. 600-670).
Mimamsa was to provide the basis for Tantric linguistic or metalinguistic speculations.
Only Mimamsa and Vedanta of the six Hindu philosophical schools have ongoing continuity into the present.
|Symbols||Symbol in Mimamsa is mainly expressed in the sacrificial ritual. In the Brahmanas the ritual microcosmos is related to the macrocosmos and to the life of the individual. This is through the identification of ritual acts, objects, and implements with the elements of the macrocosmos and with parts of the sacrificer's body. In the Vedas there is more treatment of the associative ramifications of symbolic connections.|
|Adherents||Mimamsa persists today in the two subschools of the Prabhakaras and the Bhattas, but only in small numbers among brahman ritualists. As Mimamsa does not teach asceticism, it has never had ascetics associated with it. Mimamsa is a guide to householders of the twice-born castes.|
|The Mimamsa brahmans are spread at temples all over India.|