Contribution of Vachaspati-Mishra to Samkhya System

by Sasikumar. B | 2017 | 35,637 words

This page relates ‘Vacaspati Mishra—Works on Mimamsa’ of the research on the Sankhya [Samkhya] school of Indian philosophy with special reference to the contribution of Vachaspati-Mishra. The study includes concepts such as Epistemology (validity and worth of knowledge), Ontology (theory of being or reality), Psychology (science of behavior and mind), Phenomenology (the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness) and Ethics (the removal of errors), all forming an essential part of Samkhya philosophy.

Chapter 2.2 - Vācaspati Miśra—Works on Mīmāṃsā

The term ‘Mīmāṃsā’ occurs in the sense of desire to understand, inquire into or discussed in the ancient Vedic texts. But, there are no traces of Mīmāṃsā as a separate discipline in the early Vedic literature. Similarly, the words ‘Mīmāṃseta’ and ‘Mīmāṃsā’ are found used in the ancient Dharmaśāstras such as those of Boudhāyana and Vasiṣṭha. The parallel references among Gautamadharmasūtra, Āpastambha dharmasūtra and Jaimini’s Pūrvamīmāṃsā sūtras show that even at early time’s rules for the interpretation of the Vedic texts were formulated and generally accepted. It is clear from Mahābhāṣya of Patañjali that the Mīmāṃsā doctrines were well developed and embodied in aphoristic literature.

The references in Āpastambha’s Dharmasūtra to ‘Nyāyavitsmaya’ and ‘Nyāyavid’ show that, Mīmāṃsā as a system must have emerged and elaborated before the time of Āpastambha. Further, the fact that Jaimini refers to a number of Acāryas in his sūtras leads one to think that Mīmāṃsā as a discipline must have existed long before the time of Jaimini.[1] With this background, a brief account of the Mīmāṃsā literature from Jaimini’s Sūtras, the first extant work on Mīmāṃsā śāstra up to the time of Vācaspati Miśra is given as the foreground.


Tattvabindu is an independent treatise on vākyārtha.[2] It is a short treatise dealing with the important question as to what actually constitute the ‘kāraṇa’ internal in verbal cognition. Vācaspati Miśra wrote his Tattvabindu for the purpose of elucidating abhihitānvayavāda after meeting the challenges against it from the point of view of other theories such as sphoṭa and especially from the point of view of anvitābhidhānavāda of Prābhākara.[3]

Thus, Vācaspati Miśra establishes abhihitānvayavāda as explaining properly the efficient cause of śābdabodha. He has analyzed each of the objections raised by the anvitābhidhānavādins and answered it from the point of view of abhihitānvayavāda. As shown by him, the basic stand of the anvitābhidhānavādins is that the words convey their meanings as well as their mutual relation through abhidhāna.[4] The basic stand is rejected on the ground that one will have to assume two abhidhānaśakti’s for the words, one to convey their meanings and another to convey their mutual relation. This is an undesirable position in as much as it assumes more that what one śakti can give rise to.[5] Therefore the abhidhanavādin as clarified by Vācaspati Miśra, has accepted abhidhāna in the case of anvitārtha (vākyārtha), on the basis of the conditions of ākāṅkṣa etc. The words in the sentence first convey their meaning and then through the conditions of expectancy etc., the anvaya is established and through that anvaya, the viśiṣṭārtha of the words is conveyed by lakṣaṇā.

The contribution of Vācaspati Miśra lies in the analysis of the objections and the formulation of the answers. The objections are from the point of view of anvitābhidhānavādins and the answers are from the point of view of abhihitānvayavādins. Finally, abhihitānvayavāda has been established as the most satisfactory theory among the theories that are advanced by the different schools of thought in respect of the efficient cause for śābdabodha.


Nyāyakaṇikā[6] is a learned commentary on the Vidhiviveka of Maṇḍana Miśra. Vidhiviveka is an exposition of one of the aspects of Mīmāṃsā School pertaining to the nature of vidhi. It is a learned exposition of vidhivāda in a concise śāstra style. The work by itself is difficult to follow unless one is well-grounded in the history of vidhivāda delving into the discussion about it in the bhāṣya of Śabara and the commentaries of Kumārila and Prabhākara. This necessity is fulfilled by Vācsapati Miśra in his commentary Nyāyakaṇikā. Vācaspati Miśra brings in his versatile knowledge of not only the above mentioned works on Mīmāṃsā but also of the works belonging to other Darśanas, orthodox as well the heterodox. The commentary is a detailed elucidation of the different points made in the Vidhiviveka.

In the course of this elucidation, he contributes his points in support of the main thesis of Maṇḍana Miśra on the significance of Vidhi. It is divided into two parts as Pūrvakaṇikā and Uttarakaṇikā. The first one is the Pūrvapakṣa section of Vidhiviveka and the second one pertains to its siddhānta section.

In Vidhiviveka, Maṇḍana Miśra raises the question as to what is vidhi.

Three alternatives are first examined in this connection.

  1. A unique type of śabda is vidhi.
  2. A special function of the śabda is vidhi.
  3. A unique type of sense is vidhi.[7]

Vācaspati Miśra contributes the following points by way of elucidation and additional information. When śābdabheda is said to be vidhi, he explains that liṅ, loṭ etc., differ from other śabdas (laṭ, laṅ, etc.). Hence, śabdabheda is proposed to be vidhi.[8] It is to be noted that liṅ, loṭ etc., prompt a sentient being in action through the inborn special quality just as the magnet creates movement in an iron piece through its inborn special quality.

The contribution of Vācaspati Miśra is particularly notable in the context of discussing and refuting the pratipattividhivāda of the Prābhākaras as regards the Upaniṣadic statements. As a Vedāntin, he supports another Vedāntin i.e., Maṇḍana Miśra who has contributed like himself to the Mīmāṃsā School.

Footnotes and references:


Contribution of Vācaspati Miśra to Indian Philosophy, p.79


Vācaspati Miśra’s Contribution to Advaita Vedānta, Introduction


Contribution of Vācaspati Miśra to IndianPhilosophy, p.82


sakalapadāntarapūrtāvitarapadārthaiḥ samanvitaṃ svārtham|
sarvapadāni vadantītyanyeṣāmanvitābhidhānamatam||
   Nārāyaṇabhaṭṭa: Mānameyodaya, p.97


padārthasvarūpābhidhānapūrvake tu tadvadanvitārthābhidhāne dvirabhidhānaṃ aprāmāṇikaṃ anupapadyamānāṃ āpadyete||
Tattvabindu, pp. 20-21


Bhāmatī, PP. 325, 541, 730 and 893


sa khalu śabdabhedo vā tadvyāpārātiśayo vā arthabhedo vā|
Mahaprabhulal Goswami: Vidhiviveka with Nyāyakaṇikā, p.2


liṅgādiḥ śabdāntarādbhidyate iti bhedaḥ| tasya khalu bhedaḥ linādeḥ ayaskāntamaṇeriva vastusvabhāvajo atiśayo yena lohamiva cetanaṃ pravartayati|
Ibid, P. 4

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