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Mimamsa Philosophy

mimamsa philosophy

The Mimamsa is called the Purva-Mimamsa while Vedanta is called the Uttra-Mimamsa. Jaimini’s sutra in twelve elaborate chapters, laid the foundation of Purva Mimansa. Sabarswami wrote the major commentary or Bhashya on this work.

The two most important mimansak are Kumarila Bhatta and Prabhakara, who founded the two schools of Mimansa.

Mimamsa was the darshana tied most closely to the Vedas.  The purpose of the philosophy was to provide a method of interpretation that could harmonize and make sense of all the complicated rituals that were added to the Vedas during the many centuries of its composition, and also to provide a philosophical justification for these rituals. The chief doctrines Mimamsa tried to justify were:

  • The personal soul survives death and enjoys the consequences of the rituals performed on Earth.
  • A certain force carries the effects of these rituals on Earth and into the afterlife.
  • The Vedas are infallible.
  • Earth is real and not a mere illusion.

Mimamsa: Epistemology

Mimamsa acknowledged two kinds of knowledge: direct and indirect.

Direct knowledge is when one of the senses perceives something, and the sense organ is functioning correctly. However, this tells us only that the object is, not what it is. To know what the object is, we must interpret this direct knowledge. For this, we draw on experience and logical inference to determine what classes the object belongs to, what qualities it has, and so on. Thus in the first stage we have knowledge of, say, redness with a particular shape. In the second stage, we process this perception through experience and logical inference and, if our senses are working correctly and our inferences are sound, we correctly interpret the red shape as an apple.

But in addition to perception, Mimamsa admitted five other sources of knowledge: inference, comparison (noticing that two things have similarities), testimony, postulation, and (for some) “non-perception.”

Testimony was the most important after perception, for it was used to justify the infallibility of the Vedas.

For Mimamsa, written or spoken claims gave us knowledge except when made by a known liar. And since, Mimamsa claimed, the Vedas are not known to lie, they may be taken as knowledge.

But Mimamsa usually revered the Vedas only for their commands about how to perform rituals, and thus they tried to ignore Vedic sentences that spoke of other things, such as what exists.

The Vedas were not held to be reliable because they were the words of God or of reliable prophets.

According to Mimamsa, the Vedas were never written at all. They were an eternal part of the universe, and carry their own impersonal authority.


Postulation (arthapatti)- As mentioned earlier, another source of knowledge for the Mimamsa was postulation.   It mean that we gain knowledge when some phenomenon can only be explained by postulating a certain explanatory hypothesis.

Postulation, then, is an argument to the best explanation, except that an arthapatti was held to be the only possible explanation for some phenomenon, not merely the “best.”

Non-perception (anupalabdhi) – Finally, we come to non-perception (anupalabdhi). This explained how we know that something does not exist before us.

When I know that there is no cat sitting before me, it is not because of perception. It is not because I “perceive a non-cat.” It is because the cat is not perceived. Thus, non-perception is an independent source of knowledge.

According to Mimamsa, truth was self-evident, for it carried with it assurance about its own truth. Only when we are alerted to certain defective conditions for truth, or to contrary knowledge, can we infer the falsity of what at first seemed true. Belief should be default; doubt is unusual.

Against a Nyaya view that all knowledge ultimately comes by inference, Mimamsa replied that this leads to an infinite regress. If a perception provides knowledge only by inference, then that inference itself must be verified by another inference, and so on. To end this regress we must see that truth comes with its own warrant, given the proper conditions.

Mimamsa:Concept of Soul

The soul is an eternal, infinite substance, which is related to a real body in a real world and it survives death to be able to reap the consequences of its action performed here. Consciousness is not the essence of the soul, but an adventitious quality which arises when some conditions are present. There are as many souls as there are individuals.

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