Narach Philosophy

PURVA MIMAMSA


We have examined the basic character of the five great systems of Hindu Philosophy, associated with the five great corresponding energies of life, and now only the Purva Mimamsa remains. As we have pointed out, it means literally an "Introduction to Philosophy". It is also called Karma Mimamsa or the Philosophy of Action, for it deals, for the most part with Sacrifice which, as we have explained, means creative action, performed without selfishness, and for the benefit of all.

It is commonly believed that the Purva Mimamsa is specially connected with Vedanta, and is an introduction to that system alone; but, as we have explained it is a connecting link between all systems of thought except the pure Sankhya, and so partakes of the character of all. It finds its culmination in Vedanta, for the latter holds that God is the sole creator of the universe, and so, by ascribing all action to him, it believes in unending action performed as a sacrifice as the goal of life. The subject matter of the Purva Mimamsa is also action conceived as a sacrifice, and action is a common characteristic of the different systems of thought. Indeed, as we shall presently see. the Purva Mimamsa differs as much as it agrees with Vedanta on some of the most fundamental ideas of God, Nature, Soul, and the final end of life; and many of its theories are common to the other systems as well. That is because it is a connecting link between them all.

Sacrifice, Action and God-Consciousness: We have pointed out that the idea of the necessity of human action is closely connected with the idea of God as a creator, and the more we believe that it is he who creates the universe, the more must we hold that it is necessary for man to perform actions of all kinds, but without selfish motive and for the benefit of all. Again, the idea of Good cannot be dissociated from that of God. It is unnecessary to discuss the basis of Ethics here. But whatever our conception of Goodness, whether it consist in action in conformity with a moral order of the universe, or else the progress and wellbeing of the race, it will ultimately be found to centre round the idea of God. Goodness, according to Aristotle, is the realization of the powers of the human soul or the perfecting of man; while Plato was led through it to the Absolute Good or the idea of God, which is the source of all truth, all goodness, and all beauty, and to assert that God and not man is the measure of all things. The Hebrew prophets held that the energy of goodness lies in the will behind which is the immutable character of God. The idea of Christianity is the same. Nor is modern European thought different. "What gives the moral life its Divine sanction is the discovery that your gleaming ideal is the everlasting real, no transient brush of a fancied angel's wing, but the abiding presence and persuasion of the Soul of souls". Thus says Martineau.

Thus the idea of Sacrifice, in its original significance, implies God-consciousness as well as creative and selfless action performed for the good of all; and it is for this reason that we are told in the Bhagavad Gita that all actions, except those performed as a sacrifice, make for bondage; and so are enjoined again and again to perform actions as a sacrifice in the name of God. The great Prajapati is said to have created the world by means of sacrifice; life is multiplied by sacrifice, and cherished by sacrifice; all sacrifice is born of action, and action is absolutely necessary if life is to be carried on. This is the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita as well as of all ancient Sacred Books of the Hindus; and it is this Action conceived as a Sacrifice, and characterised by God consciousness, that is the special subject-matter of Purva Mimamsa, bringing together all that is common to all systems of thought, except the pure Sankhya.

Purva Mimamsa and Other Systems: We have explained how all systems of thought, except the pure Sankhya, recognize the necessity of performing actions in more or less degree; and this is the one common link between them. Action, conceived as a sacrifice, is also the subject matter of the Purva Mimamsa, and so it may be said to be associated with all of them according to the degree of their connection with action. Hence its ideas of God, Nature individual soul, as well as of knowledge and action as the goals of life, should partake of what belongs to the different systems of thought and not confined to any one of them in particular. We shall see how far this is really so.

The Vedic Origin of Purva Mimamsa: The Purva Mimamsa like all other systems of Hindu Philosophy is founded on the Vedas. We have that celebrated hymn in the Rig Veda where the Supreme Purusha or God, the lord of immortality, pervading the earth, is offered as a sacrifice, from which the whole universe comes into being; and it is this that is the basic idea of Sacrifice in the Purva Mimamsa.

Then in the Vedas we have a number of hymns addressed to Visvedevas or "All gods", in which almost all the principal deities of the Hindu pantheon are invoked. It is these that would be specially associated with the Purva Mimamsa.

Purva Mimamsa in the Sutras: We have now to see how far the Purva Mimamsa, as explained in the Sutras and by its early commentators, actually conforms to the theory as we have outlined.

Vedic Authority for the System: We have explained the Vedic origin of this system, and so we are told that, "the beginnings of the (Purva) Mimamsa may be traced to the Veda itself. ... The Veda is acknowledged as authoritative ... The ethics of the Purva Mimamsa is founded on revelation. The Vedic injunctions lay down the details of dharma (duty) Good action, according to the Mimamsaka, is what is prescribed by the Veda".

Action as a Sacrifice: We have pointed out that the Purva Mimamsa relates to action conceived as a sacrifice. Hence we are told that, "Good action ... is what is prescribed by the Veda ... When we find that the Smrtis are laid down with a selfish interest, they must be thrown out. . . . If we perform any acts in response to natural instincts, we are not virtuous ... To gain salvation we have to observe nitya (necessary, obligatory) actions and naimittika (occasional) actions when the proper occasion arises. These are unconditional obligations. If we do not fulfil them, we incur sin. To gain special ends, we perform kamya actions (done from desire of benefit or selfish motive). We need not perform them if we do not care for the ends. By avoiding forbidden courses of conduct, we avoid hell and if we keep clear of kamya actions, we will free ourselves from selfish ends, and if we keep up the unconditional duties we attain salvation".

From this it is clear that, if we want to attain salvation, we must perform necessary and good actions, without any selfish interest; and this is the idea of Sacrifice or creative action as we have explained.

Again, "the theistic views which declare that all work should be performed as a sacrifice to God are in conformity with the spirit of the Veda. Some later Mimamsakas hold this view. Laugaksi Bhaskara tells us that when duty is performed in a spirit of dedication to God it becomes the cause of emancipation". We see that this is exactly the idea of Sacrifice as we have explained.