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pUrva mImAmsa - Earliest reflection on vedas..

pUrva-mImAmsa - The earliest reflection on Vedas

As bramacharin and gRhastas investigated samhitas and brAhmaNAs, a school of thought that emerged was the pUrva mImAmsa.

According to it, everything is true, unless it is proved false. So one has to negate something and then negation has to be negated to prove it. This means that there is no 'faith' element. Every idea can be questioned and negated. If one is able to negate the negation, then idea sustains.

mI is the root word for words with meaning of reducing, lessening, perishing, destroying, moving away etc etc. ma means not or negation. So mIma-aMsa system could very well mean the system whose aMsa (characteristic) is removing (mI) negation (ma).

mImA-aMsa is a method or doctrine of logical analysis that could be used for any subject matter. It's a very useful tool for modern debates and discussion too. It does not prohibit any thought however critical or negative it may be. It does not resort to a 'faith' element or hide behind a 'faith' element in our logical analysis.

This was used to justify or reason out the ritualistic vedic methods.

For eg., Jaimini mImAMsa sutras are a dialogue/discussion between objector to the vedic rituals and author who justifies it. One hears both sides, the pUrva pakSa that negates it and Uttara-pakSa that negates the negation.

Objector says the sound itself rises and vanishes, have different information in different circumstances and hence cannot be said eternal. Hence relying on vedic sruti does not make sense. The author Jaimini says it's true that sound rises and falls, but unless there is a pre-existence of word, its meaning cannot be comprehended. Through interaction of environment with our senses, we develop specific meanings and knowledge and hence vedic sruti can convey specific knowledge.

Objector says, we comprehend vedic verses are for rituals, then verses not recited in rituals are not needed, not eternal. Also if vedic rituals are for fulfilling certain wishes then they are focussed on transient things not higher goals. If vedic verses are simply about praising some name and form, then vedas are about beings and not about beyond existence. If vedic verses are only the truth, then anything non-vedic cannot be truth at all. Jaimini says vedic passages cannot be taken partly. Those that are vidhi (injunctions) and sAmpradAyikam (objects of praise/other hymns) are equal as they are interconnected and part of the same text. Vedic texts are not about praise, but about gunas or characteristics of divinities. For eg. mind is called a thief or tongue a liar are qualities and not their 'form'. Further there is no certainty that a specific result is obtained in a particular ritual. In fact fruits of accomplishment of vedic rituals is proportionate to act done, but result may be invisible. And yes non-vedic truths can be there for sure through methods like pratyakSa, anumAna etc..

Objector continues, there are mantras without meaning. Mantras have to be learnt by rote without knowing their meaning and what is the purpose of it..? Jaimini says, mantras have meaning and can be understood. In fact the repetition in the mantras themselves indicate there is an explanation. It is also right that understanding the meaning of mantra along with sacrificial acts is not needed, as we learn from the ritual itself. Always there is ignorance beyond existence and hence one may not understand the meaning of all mantras.

This set of negation - anti-negation continues through the Jaimini sutras. Will summarize it sometime.

Jaimini Sutras used this doctrine of pUrva-mImAmsa system. Though rituals focused on individual divinities were prescribed, I think the idea of the rituals as propounded in these sutras was to invoke the characteristics/gunas of the divinities and learn from them. Essentially every divinity had certain characteristics. By invoking that divinity, those characteristics were invoked in us or learnt by us either from the mantras or from the rituals.

Another way of looking at it is, one truth seen by many seers in different ways and hence unless it is proved false, it could be true. So everything has to be logically negated and that negation of negation leads us to the truth in our logical constructs.

In Sanatana dharma, even today this serves as the 'innate' foundation of several beliefs in our culture, contributing also to its diversity and unity in diversity. It also had an impact on later day vedanta with principles such as 'na iti, na iti' (not this not this).

This negation and anti-negation has to continue forever with new learnings and changes in our environment. It should never stop. Unfortunately it stopped.

Over a period, the realisation and learning from rituals, as propounded in these sutras lost steam. Neither were these discussions happening. The ritualistic procedures were seen as devoid of logic and were simply used to fool people to gain power over them in newer political environments.

pUrva mImA-aMsa was such an unparralleled doctrine of analysis in those times, that is pretty much needed even now.

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Classification of Vedic texts (