Page 268

Indian carving

Chapter 25 – Purva Mimamsa and Vedanta

we now come to the last two systems of the philosophy of the Hindus, the Purva Mimamsa of Jaimini and the Uttara Mimamsa of Badarayana Vyasa. To the historian of India they are of the utmost importance and value, for the Mimamsa schools represent the conservative phase of the Hindu mind at a time when philosophers and laymen were alike drifting towards agnostic and heterodox opinions. Sankhya philosophy led hosts of thinking men away from the teachings of the Upanishads on the Universal Soul; and the Buddhist religion was embraced by many of the lower classes as a relief from caste inequalities and elaborate Vedic rites. Against this general movement of the day the Mimamsa schools made a stand. The Purva Mimamsa insisted on those Vedic rites and practices which later philosophers had come to regard as useless or even as unholy; and the Uttara Mimamsa proclaimed the doctrine of the Universal Soul which the Upanishads

Page 269

had taught before, and which continues to be the cardinal doctrine of Hinduism to this day.

The controversy, or rather the division in opinion, went on for centuries, but orthodoxy prevailed in India in the end. The great Karnalila Bhatta, who lived in the seventh century after Christ, wrote his celebrated Vartika, or commentary on the Purva Mimamsa Sutras, and was the most redoubted champion of Hinduism, as well as the most uncompromising opponent of Buddhism. He not only vindicated the ancient rites of the Vedas, and inveighed against the heterodox opinions of the Buddhists, but he denied them any consideration, even when they happened to agree with the Veda.

The Uttara Alimamsa also had its champion, a man greater than Kumarila, the celebrated Sankaracharya, who wrote in the first half of the ninth century.

The Sutras of the Purva Mimamsa are ascribed to Jaimini, and are divided into twelve lectures and subdivided into sixty chapters. The first lecture treats of the authority of enjoined duty; the varieties of duty, supplemental duties, and the purpose of the performance of duties are treated in the second, third, and fourth lectures. The order of their performance is considered in the fifth, and the qualification for their performance is treated in the sixth. The subject of indirect precept is treated in chapters seven and eight. Inferable changes are discussed in the ninth, and exceptions in the tenth chapter. Efficacy is considered in the eleventh chapter, and the work closes with a discussion of co-ordinate effect in the twelfth chapter.

Page 270

The Purva Mimamsa philosophy was, however, merely a philosophy of Vedic rites, and a supplementary system of philosophy was therefore required, this want being supplied by the Uttara Mimamsa or Vedanta. It is the Vedanta which tells us of the Supreme Being, the Universal Soul, the Pervading Breath, as the Purva Mimamsa speaks of rites and sacrifices. The Vedanta is the direct outcome of the Upanishads, as the Purva Mimamsa is the outcome of the Brahmanas, and the two schools of Mimamsa taken together represent orthodox Vedic Hinduism, both in its rites and observances, and in its belief. The two schools taken together were an answer to Buddhist heretics who ignored Vedic rites and denied a Supreme Being, as well as to the agnostic Sankhya system of philosophy, and to other systems which proclaimed the eternity of matter, and thus, when combined, they form the basis of true Hinduism. The great text-book of the Vedanta is the Sariraka Mimamsa Sutra, or Brahma Sutra, which is attributed to Badarayana Vyasa, and which cannot have been compiled very long before the Christian Era.

The Vedanta adopts the syllogism of the Nyaya system, with the obvious improvement of reducing its five members to three, as in the syllogism of Aristotle.

Badarayana’s Brahma Sutra is divided into four lectures, and each lecture is subdivided into four chapters. It opens precisely as the Purva Mimamsa, announcing its purport in the very same terms, except that it substitutes Brahma, or God, for Dharma, or

Page 271

Duty. The author then confutes the Sankhya doctrine that Nature is the material cause of the universe, and declares that a sentient rational Being is the material as well as the efficient First Cause of the universe.

The second lecture continues the confutation of Kapila’s Sankhya philosophy, as well as of Patanjali’s Yoga system and Kanada’s atomic theory. All the universe is rigidly assigned to Brahma, who is the Cause and the Effect.

The soul is active, not passive as the Sankhyas maintain, although its activity is merely adventitious, and it is in reality a portion of the Supreme Ruler, while the corporeal organs and the vital actions are all modifications of Brahma.

The third lecture treats of transmigration of souls, of the attainment of knowledge, of final emancipation, and of the attributes of the Supreme Being. The soul transmigrates, invested with a subtle body, from one state to another. Departing from one body, it experiences the recompense of its works, and returns to occupy a new body with the resulting influence of its former deeds,

The Supreme Being is impassable, unaffected by worldly modifications, as the clear crystal, seemingly coloured by the hibiscus flower, is really pellucid. He is pure Sense, Intellect, Thought.

The reader will perceive that the Vedanta philosophy is a direct and legitimate result of the Upanishads, and the idea of unity is carried to its extreme limit in the Vedanta as in the Upanishads.

Page 272

Carved Temple at Ramesvara.

The second half of this lecture relates to devout exercises and pious meditation, which are necessary for the reception of divine knowledge.

The fourth and last lecture relates to the fruit of pious meditations properly conducted, and the attainment of divine knowledge. So soon as that knowledge is attained, past sins are annulled and future sins are precluded. In like manner the effects of merit and virtue are also annulled. And “having annulled by fruition other works which had begun to have effect, having enjoyed the recompense and suffered the pains of good and bad actions, the possessor of divine knowledge, on the demise of the body, proceeds to a re-union with Brahma.” This, as we know, is the final beatitude taught by the Upanishads.

There are two other less perfect forms of emancipation. One of them qualifies the soul for reception at Brahma’s abode, but not for immediate re-union and identity with his being. The other is still less perfect, and is called Jivanmukti, which can be acquired in the present life by Yogis, and enables them to perform supernatural acts, such as evoking the shades of forefathers, assuming different bodies, and going immediately to any place at pleasure.

The attributes of God, according to the Vedanta philosophy, have thus been recapitulated by Colebrooke in his “Philosophy of the Hindus”: “God is the omniscient and omnipotent cause of the existence, continuance, and dissolution of the universe. Creation is an act of His will. He is both efficient and material cause

Page 273

of the world, creator and nature, framer and frame, doer and deed. At the consummation of all things, all are resolved into Him. The Supreme Being is one, sole existent, secondless, entire, without parts, sempiternal, infinite, ineffable, invariable, ruler of all, universal soul, truth, wisdom, intelligence, happiness.”

Such are the six systems of philosophy which were developed in India in the Philosophic Period; such are the answers which Hindu philosophers have given to the questions which were started in the Upanishads, to questions which rise in the mind of every reflective man, but which it is not given to him to answer completely – What is God, and what is man?

Summed up as a whole, this rationalistic period of philosophy and laws was rich in results of which every Hindu may be proud. Besides producing the first recorded systems of mental philosophy and logic, and codifying a body of civil and criminal law, it developed the infant sciences of geometry and grammar. The administration of government was perfected in the latter part of this period and the whole of Northern India was brought under a single great ruler. And, lastly, it was in this period that the great reformer Gautama Buddha proclaimed that religion of equality and brotherhood of man which is at the present day the living faith of one-third of the human race. To the story of that great revolution we now turn.

This collection transcribed by Chris Gage
hosted by ibiblio Support Wikipedia