Mimamsa interpretation of Vedic Injunctions (Vidhi)

by Shreebas Debnath | 2018 | 68,763 words

This page relates ‘Introduction’ of the study on the Mimamsa theory of interpretation of Vedic Injunctions (vidhi). The Mimamsakas (such as Jaimini, Shabara, etc.) and the Mimamsa philosophy emphasizes on the Karmakanda (the ritualistic aspect of the Veda). Accordingly to Mimamsa, a careful study of the Veda is necessary in order to properly understand dharma (religious and spiritual achievement—the ideal of human life).

Chapter 1 - Introduction

The fundamental basis of all philosophical speculations emerged on the soil of India is rooted in the Vedas. The vedic tradition had two aspects—speculative and ritualistic (jñāna and karman). The speculative part represents the theory and the ritualistic part is based on practice. Theory and practice of that theory make a subject complete. Actually, application of any theory gives validity to the theory and thus the theory gets acceptability. But Veda is a vast subject handed down in ancient Sanskrit Language. In linguistic approach this language is called the Old Indo-Ariyan Language. Because of its grammatical and syntactic complexities and peculiarities of expression, even a great Sanskrit scholar is often stumbled in realisation of the purport of a vedic word and a sentence. It is also true that without proper understanding of the vedic knowledge, it can not be applied in our life both spiritual and material. Great perseverance and patience are necessary for that purpose. With this mental preparation vedic wisdom should be acquired.

Different branches of methodology have been invented to understand the Veda. The process of construction of a vedic word or term is logically established by the grammarians. The meaning of a word or term of Veda has been revealed mainly by the Niruktakāras. But to know the real meaning of a vedic sentence, we must depend on the Mīmāṃsā philosophy. So the Mīmāṃsā is called the vākyārtha-śāstra or the vedic semantics. There are so many vedic sentences the meanings of which are self-contradictory. Some of the hymns denote some unreal entities. In some cases, our perceptual knowledge or experience is violated. But in all of these cases, the meaning of every sentence has been logically established and the Veda has been given the highest authority by Mīmāṃsakas. The Mīmāṃsakas had invented some technicalities and rules of interpretation for the easy understanding of vedic sentences. With the proper application of the methodology of interpretation of the Mīmāṃsakas, all kinds of complexities and ambiguities enshrined in the Veda have reached to a right solution. But the help of these rules, the amelioration in acquiring vedic knowledge especially related to sacrificial ceremony and rituals, would be impossible. Mīmāṃsā principles and maxims have been utilized even by some reputed modern judges like justice Markandey Katju, justice Oldfield, justice Kumaraswami Sastriyar, Sir John Wallis etc. in some judgements in judicial system.

The derivative meaning of the word mīmāṃsā shows its close relation to the Veda. The root mān in curādigaṇa means to worship. In the Dhātupāṭha it is said māna pūjāyām. The root mān takes san[1], a[2] and tāp[3] suffixes gradually to form the word mīmāṃsā. Here the ‘san’ suffix has not been used in the desiderative sense, but it has been used after mān to express its own meaning. The Mīmāṃsā philosophy worships the Veda by discussing it. As the Veda is considered as the most adored or honoured religious text by the Aryans, so the word mīmāṃsā means ‘pūjita-vicāra’, the discussion on the most revered Veda. The great Indian scholar Vācaspatimiśra says in his Bhāmatī commentary on Brahmasūtrapujita-vicāra-vacano mīmāṃsā-śabdaḥ’. According to the Mīmāṃsakasdharma’ or duty laid down by the Veda is the ideal of our human life. For the knowledge of duty of Veda, a careful study of Veda is necessary. After learning Veda from the teachers, the meaning must be known with the help of the Mīmāṃsā philosophy. Having thoroughly discussed the meaning of Veda, a student could have the ceremonial bath and return his home. Śabarasvāmin says in his commentary of Jaiminisūtra, ‘vedam adhītya tvaritena na snātavyam anantaraṃ dharmo jijñāsitavya ityathaśabda-syārthaḥ.’[4]Devadatta snātvā bhuṅkte” (Devadatta eats after bathing) here this sentence does not mean that there will be no gap between ‘bathing’ and ‘eating’. It only informs that ‘bathing’ is previous and ‘eating’ is latter. Devadatta may worship after taking bath and then he may eat his rice. So also is the case of the injunction ‘vedam adhītya snāyāt’. Here the Samāvartana ceremony indicated by the word ‘snāyāt’ may not be or should not be observed just immediately after reading the Vedas, but it should be followed by the proper discussion of the Vedic knowledge by the students with his teachers. So, ‘svādhyāyodhyetavyaḥ’ in this niyamavidhi the study of Veda entails the understanding the meaning of it. The author of ‘Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha’ Mādhavācārya says in the chapter ‘Jaiminidarśanam’—

“vivakṣite ca vedārtha yatra yatra puruṣaya sandehaḥ sa sarvo’pi vicāraśāstrasya viṣao bhaviṣyati. tannirṇayaśca prayojanam. tasmādadhyāpana-vidhiprayuktenādhyayanenāvagamyamānasyārthasya vicārārhatvād vicāraśā-strasya vaidhatvena vicāraśāstram ārambhanīyam iti rāddhāntasaṃgrahaḥ”.

So the Mīmāṃsā philosophy emphasizes on the karmakāṇḍa of the Veda and unfolds a philosophy to justify and to help the continuation of the vedic rites and rituals. But it should be mentioned that in the sūtra period the methodology of performing a sacrifice was more highlighted and the deities slowly receded and faded into mere grammatical datives. The word ‘kalpa’ has been formed from the root ‘kḷp’ which means ‘to make a form’. The kalpasūtra makes the forms of the sacrificial rites and the works related to a house-holder; so it is called kalpasūtra. The applications of sacrifices are supported and discussed in this kalpasūtra. Sāyaṇācārya says in his Ṛgvedabhāṣyabhūmikā—“kalpyate samarthyate yāgaprayoga’treti vyutpatteḥ.” As we do our works with the help of our hands, so the vedic hymns were applied in the sacrifice with the help of kalpasūtra. Though the Brāmaṇa literature laid down some rules, yet there are other discussions also like eulogical, grammatical or philosophical explanations. But in kalpasūtra we get only the discussion related to the works of a priest. Some additional rules which had not been laid down in the Brahmaṇa, were also mentioned with illustration in the kalpasūtra. But yet the Mīmāṃsā method is also indispensable for the proper understanding of the meaning of a vedic sentence.

Footnotes and references:


mānbadhadānśānbhyo dīrghaścābhyāsasya (Aṣṭādhyāyī-3/1/6).


a pratyayāt (Aṣṭādhyāyī-3/3/102).


ajādyataṣṭāp (Aṣṭādhyāyī-4/1/4).


Śābara-bhāṣya on Jaiminisūtra-1.1.1 (Athāto dharmajijñāsā.)

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