Mimamsa interpretation of Vedic Injunctions (Vidhi)

by Shreebas Debnath | 2018 | 68,763 words

This page relates ‘Purport of Injunction’ 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 2.3 - Purport of Injunction

The main subject matter of the Mīmāṃsā philosophy is injunction. It emphasizes on the discussion of injunction. The liṅ suffix expresses the injunction.

Rāmānuja says in his ‘Tantrarahasya’—

“tat ca (= śāstraprameyaṃ ca) apūrvarūpaṃ kāryaṃ liṅādipratyaya-vācyam | tad eva ca vidhitattvam | kritsnam api śāstraṃ tatparam eva.”

Broadly Veda is divided into two groups i.e. ‘Mantra’ and ‘Brāhmaṇa.’

So, the ‘Āpastambīya Śrautasūtra’ says,

mantra-brāhmaṇayor vedanāmadheyam’.

The portions of Veda which are applied to the substances, deities etc. used in a sacrifice are called ‘mantra’. According to Kumarilabhaṭṭa ‘mantra’ generally ends with ‘ami’ or ‘tvā’ and the subject-matters of mantra are praying, appraisal, number, lamentation, unmeaning loquacity (prating) etc.

Kumārila says in his ‘Tantravārtika’—

“vrittau lakṣaṇam eteṣām amyanta-tvānta-rūpata |
āśiṣaḥ stuti-saṃkhye ca pralaptaṃ paridevitam ||
praiṣānveṣaṇapṛṣṭākhyānānuṣaṅgaprayogataḥ |
sāmarthyam ceti mantrāṇāṃ vistaraḥ prāyiko mataḥ ||”

The portion other than the ‘mantra’ is called the ‘brāhmaṇa’. Jaimini’s definitions of ‘mantra’ and ‘brāhmaṇa’ are ‘taccodakeṣu mantrākhyā’ and ‘śeṣe brāhmaṇa-ṣabdaḥ’.[1] Hetu (cause), nirvacana (etymology), nindā (slander), praśaṃsā (appraisal), saṃśaya (doubt), vidhi (injunction), parakriyā (a story or fact about one person), purākalpa (a story or fact about more than one person), vyavadhāraṇakalpanā (changing the apparent meaning in accordance with the context like ‘pratigrāhayet’ in ‘yāvataḥ aśvān pratigṛhṇīyāt’) and upamāna (analogy)—these ten matters are included in ‘brāhmaṇa’. Śabarasvāmin, after reckoning these in verses, made this opinion that all are generally called vidhi. Here the word vidhi indicates ‘brāhmaṇa’.

The commentator says,

“hetur nirvacanaṃ nindā praśaṃsā saṃśayo vidhiḥ |
parakriyā purākalpo vyavadhāraṇa-kalpanā ||
upamānaṃ daśaite tu viṣayo brāhmaṇasya tu |
etat syāt sarvavedeṣu niyataṃ vidhilakṣaṇam||”[2]

Now the examples of ten kinds of brahmaṇa sentences can be produced for clarification.

(i) Hetu: ‘sūrpeṇa juhoti, tena hi annaṃ kriyate’.[3] (He should perform homa with the help of a winnowing basket because rice-grains are made by it.)

(ii) Nirvacana : ‘tad dadhno dadhitvam.’[4] (That is the curdness of curd).

(iii) Nindā: (a) ‘upavītā vā etasyāgnayaḥ.’ (His three kinds of fire are thin like the sacrificial thread.) (b) ‘amedhyā vai māṣāḥ.’ (The māṣa pulses are impure.)

(iv) Praśaṃsā: (a) ‘vāyur vai kṣepiṣṭhā devatā, vāyum eva svena bhāgadheyena upadhāvati, sa evainaṃ bhūtiṃ gamayati.’[5] (The wind is indeed a very swift diety; if a person apporaches [i.e., worships] him only with the special offering of the deity, the wind certainly makes him attain prosperity.) (b) ‘śobhatesya mukhaṃ ya evaṃ veda.[6](He who knows thus has a shining face.)

(v) Saṃśaya: ‘hotavyaṃ gārhapatye na hotavyam.’ (Oblation should be made to the gārhapatya fire [literary meaning the fire related to the gṛhapati or householder]; it should not be made to that fire.)

(vi) Vidhi: ‘yajamānena samitā audumbarī bhavati.’ (The stick made of the udumbara tree would be equal in height to the sacrificer.)

(vii) Parakṛti: ‘māṣān me pracate’. (He cooks my māṣa pulses.)

(viii) Purākalpa: ‘ulmukair ha sma sam " jagmuḥ.’ (They indeed came with the burning fuel.)

(ix) Vyavadhāraṇakalpanā: Mentioned above.

(x) Upamāna: ‘śyenena abhicaran yajeta.’[7] (He who wants to kill [his enemy] should sacrifice through the Śyena.) Just as a hawk swoops on and seizes (its prey), so does this man swoop on and seize his spiteful enemy—whom he desires to kill through the Śyena (sacrifice). As a hawk swoops on and seizes another bird, so does this particular rite called Śyena swoop on and seize one’s enemy—this kind of analogy is understood from the vedic sentence. The purport of this sentence is ‘He who desires to kill his enemy, should effect the killing through the sacrifice called Śyena.’

Now some philosophical speculations regarding the real purport of injunctions are being presented.

Footnotes and references:


Mīmāṃsā Sūtra—2.1.32 and 2.1.33.


Śābarabhāṣya on Jaiminisūtra—2.1.33.










Ṣaḍviṃśati-brāhmaṇa [=Ṣaḍviṃśa-brāhmaṇa?].—3.8.2

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