Pūrva Mīmāṁsa – Pre-study
Author: , Priest, Dharma teacher, counselor, Gov. Advisor (1998-present)
March 27th, 2020
Since the Vedānta is based on Sacred Texts it is imperative that we learn how we should interpret those texts. Now that all the Sacred texts of Hinduism are freely available there is huge confusion about what they mean, how to resolve the glaring contradictions and how to make sense of all the legendry and mythological matter contained in them. So, therefore, a knowledge of Mīmāṁsa is essential.
Origin of Mimāmsa
In the Vedic period 3000- 6000 years ago, the yajña or sacrifice was the central motif of the Vedic religious experience, this being so, two major issues arose:—
- The Vedas are considered to be the utterances of individual perfected sages (Rishis), they are not at all narrative or systematic, so there are many apparently conflicting statements in them. In relation to the sacrificial injunctions, many controversies arose among the theologians as to the correct method of celebrating the yajñas.
- The need arose for the systematic arrangement of the entire sacrificial paradigm and the allocation of specific functions to the various priests and other individuals involved.
These two forces gave rise to the creation of the body of literature known as the ‘Brāhmaṇas’ which aimed at systematizing the ritual and interpreting it in a cogent manner.
When the sacrificial paradigm had degenerated and the circumstances of time and place had changed further — people had become more urban and societies had become more complex, the need arose for a clearer and more comprehensive explanation of the Vedic texts and the ritual and also the need to contemporize it in order to give it relevance. The focus shifted from Yajña to Dharma. This gave rise to the compilation of the ‘Smṛti’ literature — with all its rules and regulations regarding the daily life of the people — including social and criminal laws. This brought about the necessity also of regular study of these matters as bearing upon ‘Dharma’ or the duty of the people. It was at this junction that the Mīmāṃsa literature appeared with it’s 1000 odd rules of Hermeneutics for the interpretation and correct understanding of what is stated in the Vedas as regards Dharma.
These rules were first formulated in a systematic manner by the sage Jaimini, in what is known as the Jaimini Sūtras (Mimāṃsa Sūtras). Jaimini did not invent the teachings, but for the first time reduced to writing the traditional interpretations that had for centuries been handed down orally through disciplic successions. Very little is known of his life aside from the tradition that he was a pupil of Bādarāyaṇa, founder of the Vedanta System. His actual date is quite unknown; however, the style of his writings assigns him to the Sūtra period which extended from 600-200 CE.
Once the Vedic yajñas had fallen into disuse and had become increasingly irrelevant in the lives of the people, the Vedas gave way to the study of the Tantras. But the principles of exegesis evolved by the Mīmāṃsa continued to influence all of the vast body of Tantric literature. Whenever any dispute arose regarding the interpretation of a certain text, the Mīmāṃsa principles were always applied.
In this introduction I will be introducing some concepts from the other 6 systems in order to enrich your philosophical comprehension.
STARTING THE JOURNEY.
Before you begin the philosophical journey you will need to have three assets:–
- Doubt/ inquisitiveness — doubt (saṁśaya) is the doorway to learning.
- Open mind – dropping all preconditions and indoctrination – give up all the baggage you have accumulated culturally and socially and reboot your minds.
- Willingness to listen to opposing views unpassionately. Accept that there are always differences of opinions and one must be prepared to listen to views which differ from yours and avoid taking anything personally.
Most of the confusion about Hinduism and its complexity and its contradictions can be cleared and explained by understanding the profile of humanity. The typology which you are about to learn comes from Tantra but is appropriate. So please take some time to study this chart and to assimilate the principles.
The vast majority of people are of the PAŚU category. Paśu is derived from pāśa which means “a noose”.
These folks are the commoners that are bound by misconceptions, lack of education, superstitions, customs and traditions, social relations etc. etc.
The next group up the ladder are the VĪRAS or “heroes” who are a much smaller group and they are the revolutionaries, the explorers, the inquisitive ones who want to know, the scientists, the pathfinders and the fired-up spiritual seekers who want answers and not platitudes.
The highest up group are the SIDDHAS or the great thinkers, philosophers, the enlightened, the sages.
So not all the teachings in Hinduism apply to everyone – they need to be curated to suit the particular target group.