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Mimamsa: Laying Down the Rules of Vedic Interpretation

Mimamsa is also known as Purva Mimamsa which means First Investigation.

Four of the six traditional schools of Indian Philosophy - Nyaya, Vaisesika, Samkhya, and Yoga are traditional in name only, for they are neither dependent upon the Veda, nor profess to interpret the Veda, nor look to the Veda for justification of their doctrines. But Mimamsa, like Vedanta is an emphatic Vedic tradition. Its basic assumption is that the scriptural texts are authoritative and faultless and have to be interpreted to explain away any apparent absurdities or contradictions. It is a devout system centered around investigating the nature of Vedic injunctions (vidhi-nishedh). It was this investigation which led to the development of principles of scriptural interpretation and to theories of meaning. It is Mimamsa which proved that the Vedas are not a human creation (Apaurusheya).

Jaimini, who composed the Purvamimamsa-sutra, propounded that Vedic injunctions not only prescribe actions but also that these actions are the means to the attainment of desirable goals, including heaven. The earliest extant commentary upon Jaimini’s work is the Purvamimamsasutrabhasya of Shabara. His commentary was interpreted by two great scholars, Prabhakara (700 CE) and Kumarila Bhatta (700 CE). Since there are differences between the two interpretations, two subschools arose named after the two scholars: the Prabhakara and the Bhatta.