Transcript: 22. Elisa Freschi on Mimamsa

Mīmāṃsā expert Elisa Freschi speaks to Peter about philosophical issues arising from the interpretation of the Veda.
Podcast series

Note: this transcription was produced by automatic voice recognition software. It has been corrected by hand, but may still contain errors. We are very grateful to Tim Wittenborg for his production of the automated transcripts and for the efforts of a team of volunteer listeners who corrected the texts. 


PA: We're going to be focusing on philosophical ideas in Mīmāṁsā, which is a school that's associated with the exegesis of the sacred Vedic literature. Can you just remind the listener who these guys are and what the distinctive characteristics are of the Mīmāṁsā tradition?

EF: Well, as you already said, the main characteristics originated out of a school of exegesis of the Vedas. And as your listeners already know, I hope so at least, the Vedas are a collection of texts which contains a lot of different genres, ranging from the hymns of the Rigveda Samhita till the Upanishads, about which we've heard a lot. But the parts the Mīmāṁsā scholars are more interested in are the Brahmanas, which are the parts of the Vedas which contain sacrificial injunctions. So basically, they're not interested in the mythical parts, in the mystical religious parts. They're just interested in the parts which say things like, if you want rain, sacrifice with the Hariri sacrifice. 

PA: That's actually the part of the Vedas we discussed least. Yes. Or almost not at all, in fact. And why is that philosophical in any sense? What's the philosophy that arises? 

EF: There's nothing philosophical in this part of the Vedas. Well, of course, you can always find philosophy everywhere, just like you can find physics everywhere. But it's not philosophical in itself. What is philosophically relevant is the way Mīmāṁsā thinkers approached it. So, there is another school which just deals with the exegesis of these texts. It's called the Śrautasūtra tradition. And they just want to make a ritual out of the ritual prescriptions they find. So, they just want to understand how many spoons of butter you have to use, et cetera, et cetera. And there's nothing philosophical about it. What is interesting about Mīmāṁsā is that they try to think systematically about these prescriptions and it’s led them, it has forced them to undertake issues such as how it is that the Veda is valid, how it is the Veda yields valid cognition, and how sure we are about it. Who are the people who are eligible to perform sacrifices, so it has led to investigations about the concept of subject, as we will see perhaps later, native of Vedic language, so that this led them to undertake investigations about language, form of action as it is discussed in the Veda, et cetera, et cetera. 

PA: And they're conscious of this? Do they present themselves as raising abstract issues that arise from the interpretation of these texts, or did they just sort of get on with it as if they were led to do it, even though what they really wanted to do was just be offering exegesis of the texts? 

EF: Well, that's a big difference between Mīmāṁsā and Śrautasūtra in this sense. On a whole, the Śrautasūtras are just systematizing Vedic texts in order to make sacrifices possible. So, it's just a technical thing. In the case of Mīmāṁsā, the Mīmāṁsā describes itself as an itikartavyatā  of the Veda, a procedure of the Veda, so it's sort of a reflective element about it, about which Mīmāṁsā thinkers were self-aware. And this level of self-awareness increases from Jaimini, Śabara, until Kumārila. 

PA: Okay. That actually leads on to the next thing I was going to ask you. The Mīmāṁsā school, like most of the schools we're looking at in this period, is not a monolithic tradition. It subdivides and has a historical development. And I guess the full story of that would be quite complicated. But could you just give us a quick outline of how Mīmāṁsā splits into different sub-traditions? 

EF: Yeah. The oldest text we have, the oldest text which is extant, which doesn't mean that it is the oldest at all, but the oldest text which is extant and which is recognized as the fundamental text by all later authors, is called the Pūrva-Mīmāṁsā Sūtra, and it is attributed to Jaimini. But within the Pūrva-Mīmāṁsā Sūtra, several other authors are mentioned, along with Jaimini himself. So, from time to time in the Pūrva Mīmāṁsā Sūtra, you'll find statements such as “this thinks Jaimini,” as well as “Bādarāyaṇa says,” or “Bādari says,” so that Jaimini seems just one of the many authorities mentioned within the sūtras. And one of these other other authorities we mentioned is Bādarāyaṇa, who’s credited with the uthorship of the Brahma Sūtra. So, you’ll see that in one of the next episodes. This PūrvaMīmāṁsā Sūtra, attributed to Jaimini, has some consistency. So, it's not just a collection of sūtras, of aphorisms by previous authors with no inner logic. It has a strong consistency, as it has been shown by Francis Clooney, among others. You can make a big argument about the fact that there was a unitary project about it. Then, after Jaimini, the next level we have is Śabara , who wrote a Bhāṣya on it. 

PA: A commentary. 

EF: A commentary, right. But Śabara refers constantly to early commentators, whose work is lost. So we don't know what happened between Jaimini and Śabara, but we know that there was a major development. Śabara has a lot more to say, which resembles what we expect to be philosophically relevant. 

PA: Okay, so effectively we have an initial level, which is the Sūtra level, and that already looks like it's some kind of intelligent compilation of the ideas of lots of different people. And then we have a second layer, which is the Bhāṣya, or commentary level, which is, again, an intelligent bringing together of comments by a lot of people on the Sūtra. Is that right? 

EF: Not just a lot of people. I mean, Śabara has a pet opponent he always refers to, the Vṛttikāra, the orders of the Vṛtti, but the Vṛtti is unfortunately lost, who is very much into epistemological issues, such as the nature of the instruments of knowledge, which ones are reliable, which not, and he constantly refers to him. So that's not really a mass of people who are interesting for Śabara. This one is really the...

PA: It's a specific dialectical context. 

EF: Yeah. 

PA: Okay. And then we have a later split into two schools of Mīmāṁsā, and this comes after the layer of the Bhāṣya. Is that right? 

EF: Yes and no, because Kumārila and Prabhākara, who are the main... I mean, they are credited with the foundations of these two sub-schools of Mīmāṁsā. The Bhaṭṭa Mīmāṁsā is the one which has been founded by Kumārila Bhaṭṭa, and the Prabhākara school is the one which has been founded by Prabhākara Mishra. So, at a certain point, it looks like both of them commented on the ŚabaraBhāṣya, and both of them recognise the authority of both the Bhaṭṭa Mīmāṁsā Sūtra and the Śabara Bhāṣya, but their interpretations of the Śabara Bhāṣya and at times also the Jamimi Sūtra is very different. So, they are quite apart from each other, and from time to time, you can guess that there was a tradition, a divergent tradition even before them. Okay. So that Kumārila, for instance, refers to someone who cannot be Prabhākara, because they might have... Prabhākara must have been slightly earlier than Kumārila. This is an ongoing debate, but I'm convinced by the arguments from Kiyotaka Yoshimizu about the fact that Prabhākara was an earlier contemporary, a younger contemporary of Kumārila. So Kumārila cannot be referring to Prabhākara, but he refers to ideas which are later to be found in Prabhākara school. So, it means that before the split, we had at least two distinct traditions of Mīmāṁsā.

PA: Okay. Actually, that's interesting, because that means that, as it were, at all three levels, the original Sūtra, then the Bhāṣya, then the split into two schools of Mīmāṁsā, at every stage, you have some lost texts in the background, which are then represented in these earliest texts that we have and are extant today, which is actually quite typical for this whole period. So, it was a kind of good warning. Okay. So, now delving into why this is also philosophically interesting, let's just take a specific example of an injunction that you might read in the Vedas. And in things I've read about Mīmāṁsā, a lot of which was by you, there's a standard example which comes up, which is “the one who desires heaven should sacrifice” or should perform a certain kind of sacrifice. Maybe you can tell us how it goes. 

EF: . “darśapūrṇamāsābhyāṃ svargakāmo yajeta”, which means “the one who desires heaven should sacrifice with the Darśa and Pūrṇamāsa”, sacrifices which are the sacrifices of the full moon and new moon. 

PA: Okay. I think it's good that you said that and not me. Now what philosophical issues arise from their analysis of a sentence like that? 

EF: Well, a lot. Let us start from the very beginning. This sentence as such, this prescription as such is not found in the Vedas. So, it might be somewhere in a lost part of the Veda. What is more typical is that it is an abstraction made by Mīmāṁsā authors, which is typical of their way of proceeding. We sort of imagine the Brahmanas, the texts they were analyzing as if they were ordered texts telling you what to do within a certain ritual from the first act till the last one. It is not like that. They are full of mythical digressions and other stuff. And the Mīmāṁsā authors really sort of rationalized that into main prescription auxiliaries, et cetera. So, for instance, they created a sort of a big amount of exegetical rules out of which you can decide whether a textual passage makes a unitary passage or not. These exegetical rules have then been used throughout Indian philosophy in the rhetorics, Dharmaśāstra so the sort of law text of Indian philosophy, et cetera, et cetera, and in the Vedānta, of course, because they make sense, because they are sort of rational rules of understanding how to connect sentences, how to understand what is still related with, et cetera, et cetera. So, they were the first ones who decided how we can define what a sentence is, for instance. So, we have one part which is strictly exegetical, perhaps linguistic and exegetical. Then we have a part which regards what is really being done by a prescription, so by a Vedic prescription. And, at this point, it's perhaps relevant to say that according to Mīmāṁsā authors, the Veda is authorless. So they cannot say that darśapūrṇamāsābhyāṃ svargakāmo yajeta  is telling you God's will, which would be our normal sort of Christian or Christian-influenced answer about what a prescription in the Bible is doing. They cannot do that. So, they will start asking questions such as, is there an inner force in the prescription itself or not? And how is it communicated? Is it communicated through the fact that you understand the prescription? Is it communicated by the force of the injunctive suffix, et cetera, et cetera? 

PA: This idea that these statements in the Vedas are authorless, what does that even mean? I mean, where do they come from if they have no author? 

EF: Well, this is related with another point about which makes Mīmāṁsā so much different than our sort of Christian-influenced worldview is that they do not believe in the fact that the world had an origin. The world is anādi, beginningless, and unless and until you can prove me the opposite, so unless and until you have a photo of the Big Bang or something like that, we will not believe you. So, the point is, there is no point in assuming that the world has ever been different than the way it is now. So, the Vedas are part of our landscape, intellectual landscape now, and they've always been there. 

PA: They've always been there. I see. 

EF: We do not have to look for an origin for that. 

PA: I see. 

EF: And looking for an origin, is sort of getting out of the picture, and it's something… it is an unwarranted move. 

PA: So a Vedic prescription would be almost something more like a moral prescription. It doesn't come from anywhere. It's just a rule that you have to obey. 

EF: Well, for instance, Purushottama Bilimoria makes an argument which quite resembles what you said, that is, he says there are sort of eternal moral truths. 

PA: Okay. Now, one thing that's striking about the particular injunction we are talking about here, if you desire heaven and you should perform such and such a sacrifice, is that it's contingent on desiring heaven. So, if I don't desire heaven, then I don't have to do this? Is that the idea? 

EF: Well, that's a good point. The sixth chapter of the Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā Sūtra explains that everyone desires heaven because heaven is happiness, and everyone desires happiness. And you're right that one might imagine that desire is not something everyone shares. According to Kumārila, who as we said is one of the major figures of the Mīmāṁsā school and who is the one who really brought Mīmāṃsā into the philosophical arena, desire is everywhere. No one undertakes an action unless he desires its result. 

PA: I see. And so, this is a general claim about actions? Is it not only about the Vedic injunctions? It's actually a universal claim about every time anybody does anything, it's because they're acting on a desire? 

EF: Here we have to go back to the point about the different schools within Mīmāṁsā. In the case of Kumārila, yes, it's a universal claim about human actions. In the case of Prabhākara, not so much because Prabhākara is very much keener to discuss about the Veda, and he's talking about the normal world as if it were an exception to the Vedic world, whereas Kumārila is much more focusing on the normal world and discussing the Veda on top of that. So Prabhākara's focus is much more on the Veda and in this sense he will speak of desire as the identifier of the one who is eligible to perform a sacrifice. And in this sense, please notice the fact that there's no guarantee that you'll get the result of the sacrifice. The desire is only important to identify you as the one who has to perform a given sacrifice, even if you might not get it at the end. 

PA: So, there’s a way in which I enter into this obligation because I’m the right kind of person, i.e., the person who desires heaven, even if actually it turns out that everybody desires heaven? 

EF: Yeah, In the case of the Darśapurṇamāsa sacrifices, yes, everyone has to perform them because everyone desires heaven, but there are other more specific sacrifices such as if you desire a son, if you desire rain, if you desire to conquer a village, or many things which I do not desire for which there would be a sacrifice. 

PA: Yeah, I mean, if I'm living in a period where there's too much rain, obviously the injunction when you desire rain, do such and such doesn't apply to me. In fact, I'd rather the rain stopped. And, also a lot of these injunctions will only apply to people of the Brahmanic class, is that right? 

EF: That's an interesting point. The sixth chapter, the one which discusses the issue of desire of the Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā Sūtra and its commentaries upon it, are very sort of open-minded, I would say, from our point of view, from our contemporary point of view, because they speak about the omnipresence of desire throughout human beings and even animals. And, of course, they say that women can desire things, so in this sense, they would be entitled to perform sacrifices as well, and even people of the lower classes. So, they put limitations on that, but there are sort of contingent limitations such as the fact that women, for instance, would be endowed to perform sacrifices, but they do not own property. So, they cannot perform a sacrifice because they do not have cows to offer to the priests. But that's something different than saying they are a priori non-rational or excluded, etc., etc. 

PA: I see. They have the desire, but they don't have the instrument or the requirements that they would need. 

EF: Exactly. Just like dumb people, they cannot perform sacrifices because they cannot utter sacrificial mantras, but it's not that they are not rational. 

PA: Okay, right. Now, in a sense, what you've been describing sounds kind of uncontroversial. So, I want to achieve something, the sacrificial rule tells me how to sacrifice in order to achieve it. But of course, in the Indian context, this isn't uncontroversial at all, because there are other schools, the Buddhists leap to mind, who tell us that when we perform actions, if we perform actions, we shouldn't do so on the basis of desire. And you don't have to go all the way to Buddhism. I mean, in the Bhagavad Gita, you have this idea of unattached action. So, even within a broadly speaking Vedic context, you also have the idea that desire could be eliminated or perhaps just ignored, and that one could perform actions anyway. Do they actually have good arguments for the centrality of desire in action? 

EF: Well, Kumārila is quite rude against Buddhists in this sense, because he sort of mocks them for the idea of claiming that it would be possible to perform an action without desire. For instance, he says, well, if your Buddha really achieved nirvana and he’s desireless, then why did he start teaching? Because, in order to teach, you do need to want to communicate something to other people. And unless you want to communicate, you do not even utter words. But once you have achieved nirvana, allegedly, you shouldn't have any desire at all. So, either you have achieved nirvana and then you do not teach, or you are teaching, which means you haven't achieved nirvana and you're just a fake. And of course, there is an opponent within Kumārila's text who replies, well, the Buddha doesn't really utter words, but the words are just coming out of him naturally without him meaning it. But of course, Kumārila is like, you are just a blind believer and how can you think about it? Which is sort of fun because we are used, whenever we Westerners read Mīmāṁsā texts, we are like, oh, these blind believers, how could they believe in the Veda? But in fact, Mīmāṁsā saw themselves as quite rational empiricists and down-to-earth people and they've made fun of the Buddhists as blind believers. 

PA: They are the ones who are following common sense while the Buddhists have these bizarre ideas about desireless action? 

EF: Yeah. 

PA: That actually sounds fairly plausible. I mean, for example, with Kumārila 's example, if I'm going to say something, then presumably I have the desire to convey some kind of meaning to the person I'm talking to. But what about this idea of unattached action so that I might do it because it's the right thing to do for me? Take the case from the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna is supposed to engage in war, but he's supposed to do it in an unattached way. What that means is that he fights without any particular attachment to the outcome of his fighting and maybe he does it because he's dedicating his action to God. It does seem to me to be a reasonable position that I could have reasons for acting while also being open to the possibility that the action won't achieve its obvious intended result or apparently intended result, for example, winning the war. 

EF: Yes. Well, going back to the split between Kumārila and Prabhākara, Kumārila would just say if you are acting in this way, you're acting for the desire to comply to a moral law you believe in or to please God or whatever else, to be a good man or whatever, but still there is desire. Otherwise, you wouldn’t even start undertaking an action. 

PA: I see. So, the desire would be devotion to God rather than to win on the battlefield. 

EF: Yes.

PA: Okay. That's a pretty good answer. What's the other possible answer? 

EF: Well, as I said, for Prabhākara, the result is just identifying the one who’s acting. It just takes you out of the realm of all possible individuals. It sort of picks you out of it so that you can understand you are the one who has to undertake the action, but then there’s no guarantee you will get the result. So, the fact of having a desire, of conceiving the desire, doesn't mean that you have to be attached in getting the result. You know you would like to win the battle, but you can enter, and that's where you enter the battlefield, but you do not have to know that you will get result and without it, there would be no point in undertaking an action. In fact, in one part of your podcast, which you will not cover in the next years, I'm afraid, that is the later development of Mīmāṁsā within a Vedānta setting. Some theist authors who are already Vedāntins, did reuse Prabhākara arguments about unattachment to the result within a theistic setting to justify exactly these kinds of claims. 

PA: I see. It goes along with his point that you should sacrifice, but bear in mind that it might not work, right? 

EF: Well, it will work because the Ved is truthful, but you shouldn’t just sacrifice because of the result. You should sacrifice according to Prabhākara because the Veda tells you to sacrifice. 

PA: Okay, I see. Another thing that seems to be lurking behind this theory of action, again, almost too obvious to say except that in fact, it's controversial in this historical setting is that there is in fact an agent, or we might say a self, who is the one performing the action. So, this is the one who has the desire and the one who's going to perform an action. And again, although that seems quite commonsensical, it is being denied within other philosophical traditions. What does Mīmāṁsā have to say in order to persuade us that there is really a self or an agent that is responsible for both forming the desire and then acting on the desire?

EF: Yeah, as usual, the Mīmāṁsā answer starts with common sensical assumptions such as the fact that without an agent, you wouldn't be able to ensure that, for instance, the karma you have been accumulating accrues to you and not to someone else and vice versa, that you do not get results of someone else's karma. So, basically the whole idea of karma, which is one of these ideas which are shared by almost everyone in Indian philosophy, wouldn't work unless there were an agent. And we know that Buddhist philosophers had a lot of problems in trying to justify their karma theory without recurring to an enduring self. The other opponent, the Mīmāṁsā authors had in mind, are sort of Nayaika, Samkhya and Vedānta kind of people who said there is a self, but it is changeless. And it is sort of out of the realm of actual actions, actual act of cognition, et cetera, et cetera, so that it's not really helping us so much whenever it comes to everyday actions. And Kumārila argues against that, saying that this sort of changeless self doesn't really help us. It's very much akin to the Buddhist self in so far as it is of no use for explaining the way the world works. And, within the Ātmavāda portion, so the portion about the debate about the atman and the self in his Ślokavārtika, which is one of his main philosophical works, he's even ready to admit that the self is denied nityatva, so eternality, permanence over time, if it means that it can change. So, he's even willing to give up the permanence of the self through time so that the self would still be permanent, but it would no longer be changeless because his self needs to be a person. It needs to be a person who engages in actions and is not at all non-controversial because most Indian philosophical schools would speak either of no self, like the Buddhist, or of a self which is devoid of actions, like Nyāya, Sāṅkhya and Vedānta, all of which think that the self is aloof of action and it's not really concerned with actions which are undertaken by lower faculties, which are not essential to the self, they're just accidental to it. According to Kumārila, by contrast, the self is intrinsically an agent. It is intrinsically able to cognize. It is intrinsically able to undertake changes because if it is intrinsically able to cognize, it is also intrinsically able to acquire new cognitions and, in this sense, it is able to change. His example in this sense is the one about a baby who turns into a child, who turns into an adult, etc., etc., while remaining the same. In the same way the self can change, it can acquire new cognitions, etc., etc., while remaining the same. So, he's very much convinced that the self doesn't need to remain stable in order to be the same person. 

PA: To what extent is all of this just an attempt to make these actual sentences come out true? Because we started with the idea that this is an exegetical tradition. It actually might be surprising to some listeners that this highly religious exegetical project is the one that winds up sort of defending the deliverances of common sense. Yes, I do have a self which is involved in action and knowing things and so on. So that's kind of a nice irony. But I'm still wondering to what extent this really is all based on an analysis of certain bits of language because if you think about the grammatical tradition going back to Pāṇini, there is the idea that there's the thing that's in the nominative case and this is the thing performing the action and then there's the action that's being performed and then there are different ways of grammatically marking the instrument and the outcome and so on. Is this basically just an attempt to say, yeah, the grammar of the situation, the grammar of these Vedic sentences does actually correspond to the way the world is structured? 

EF: Well, there are sort of so many things mixed in this question. Let me clear the ground by saying that I'm not sure you can call the Mīmāṁsā school a religious school. First of all, because it's very difficult to define what religion is. And secondly, because at least in the Christian-influenced Western world, we think of religion as connected to God and we must remember that the Mīmāṁsā is basically an atheist school. So, if you utter the word “religious,” then listeners might think of things which are not associated with Mīmāṁsā in fact. As far as the validity of the Mīmāṁsā conclusions outside of the Veda, as I said, it depends a lot on whether you side with Prabhākara or with Kumārila. Kumārila is really a philosopher. He's really someone who's within the philosophical arena, within the philosophical debate. He wants to discuss and, if possible, demolish the thesis of the Buddhist epistemological school and the Nyāya views. So, I'm quite convinced, and I think it's fairly uncontroversial to say that his ideas should be applied outside the precinct of validity of the Veda. In the case of Prabhākara 's set, he's much more focused on the Veda and he tends to think of normal language as an exception to the Veda. So, he would say things which sound very controversial to us, and not at all commonsensical, such as the fact that language is inherently prescriptive, which means that whenever we utter a sentence, in fact, it is either meaningless or it has a meaning only in so far as it is a subsidiary to a prescription. My standard example whenever I'm trying to describe it, to explain it to students, is that, suppose you're telling your young boy, it's nine o'clock, then you're probably not really saying just it's nine o'clock because it's interesting to know about it, you are meaning “you have to go to bed, clean your teeth and brush your teeth” or whatever. So, basically, it only makes sense as an addition to a prescription, but it would be quite hard for us to imagine that all language works like that. So that whatever I'm telling you now, which sounds like a description of something is in fact only part of the overarching prescription, believe what I'm telling you. 

PA: Okay. So, basically what you're saying is that the answer to my question depends on which branch of Mīmāṁsā we're in. The one is associating a theory of action with language generally and the other with a very specific use of language. Is that right? 

EF: Yes and no. For Prabhākara, the Vedic language is really the paradigmatic case of language. So, it's not the case that it is a specific kind of language. It looks like that for us, but he was convinced that you can understand language better if you start with the Vedic language and then generalize. Of course, if we come from the other point of view and look at the Mīmāṁsā, then it looks like the Prabhākara school of Mīmāṁsā, it looks like they're focusing on just a specific case, but they would say, no, we are focusing on the main thing.

PA: The paradigm case.

EF: Yes, exactly. 

PA: Okay. Another problem that they'd run into is the possibility of contradictions within the Vedic texts, because it's a very big corpus of texts. And, so, for example, it might tell you to do one thing in one place and tell you to do another thing in another place. And, that should be troubling to them, given that they, I mean, whichever branch of Mīmāṁsā we're in, they obviously take these injunctions very seriously. Do they worry about this? 

EF: Yes, of course. This is one of the main points of the hot topics of debate within Mīmāṁsā. And, the standard example is the one of the contradiction between the injunction not to perform any violence, which is “māhiṁsyāt sarva-bhūtāni ”, “you should not harm any living being”, and the injunction to perform the Shyena sacrifice, which tells you that if you want to harm your enemy, you should sacrifice with the Shyena. And if you sacrifice with the Shyena, at the end you'll kill your enemy. And all Mīmāṁsā authors agree about the fact that you ought not to sacrifice with the Shyena, but they disagree about what is the reason for that. Because of course, on the one hand, it sounds sort of immoral to say that you should kill someone. On the other hand, if you say that it is immoral and that's why you should not perform this action, then you're putting an authority over the Veda, which is something a Mīmāṁsā author is not willing to accept. So, they had to figure out a different solution. A possible solution would be to say that there is a hierarchy of prescriptions, such as the fact that, basically, some prescriptions would apply more generally than others, typically prohibitions such as the prohibition to perform violence. And in the case of the Shyena, there's another solution which is quite nice, and which tells you that in fact the Veda just tells you everything. And you're just identified by your desire, and it is just your desire which identifies whether you have to perform it or not. So, the point is, if you want to harm your enemy, in fact you should perform the Shyena sacrifice, but the point is you shouldn’t have come so far. You’re already going wrong if you want to harm your enemy because you’re already violating the prescription not to harm any living being, which includes the fact of not harming with your thoughts. 

PA: So, again, it's an application of that idea that the desire tells you when you fall under the scope of a certain injunction. 

EF: Yes, and it also regards the fact that action, which is something I forgot to say, but might be relevant: Action is understood by Mīmāṁsā authors, unlike in the case of Vaiśeṣika, as the undertaking of the action, so the effort towards the action, not as the physical realization of the action.

PA: I see. So, it's like forming the intention and then commanding your limbs to move. That's the action. It's not the actual moving of the limbs, let's say. One last question, you said just a minute ago that there's a very strong sense in which this might be considered not a religious tradition. So, you even said it's atheist. And, in fact, it does sound like they’re so focused on just following these rules and figuring out what the rules mean, that a lot of what we might have associated with even Vedic tradition has kind of gone missing. So, you haven’t said anything, for example, about the afterlife or rebirth, or God. I know that later in Mīmāṁsā, they have a more theistic conception of the whole context and meaning of Vedic texts. But why is that all missing from Mīmāṁsā? Or is it not missing? 

EF: Well, that’s an interesting question, and there are several possible answers to it. One answer is the one which has been attempted by Asko Parpola in two essays which have been commented upon again and again in the history of the study of Indian philosophy. And, Parpola claims that the Mīmāṁsā Sūtra and the Brahma Sūtra, so the foundational text of the Vedānta school, were originally a single text. And in fact, this makes some sense because both texts refer again and again to the same authors, as I said at the beginning, Jaimini, Bādarāyaṇa, et cetera., and they are structured in similar way. So, that we could think of the Pūrva-Mīmāṁsā Sūtra, the foundational text of the Mīmāṁsā school, as just one part of a whole text, the latter part of which would have focused on issues such as the self, God, immortality, et cetera, et cetera. This claim is, however, although it sounds so nice and it sounds so explicative, might be wrong. In fact, it might be that the Brahma Sūtra is just an imitation of the style of the Pūrva-Mīmāṁsā Sūtra. A later imitation is the thesis of Johannes Bronkhorst. So, I cannot really subscribe to Asko Parpola's interpretation, although it sounds so nice. 

PA: But either way, it sounds like the two things might be intended to complement each other, the Mīmāṁsā analysis of the rules and Vedānta supplying the context about salvation and so on? 

EF: his is surely what happened in history. So, it's surely the case that after a certain point in history, Vedantic authors started to use Mīmāṁsā as a preliminary part of their own school. This happened throughout these schools of Vedānta, but more clearly in theistic Vedānta. So, the Advaita Vedānta of Shankara, which is probably the only Vedānta you'll be able to cover in this part of the podcast, is much more against Mīmāṁsā because it is anti-realistic and it is anti-common-sensical. It defines the idea of a self as changeless, etc. So, Shankara is much less ready to accept Kumārila as preliminary to his own school. But in the rest of the theistic Vedānta traditions, Mīmāṁsā is seen as the first step within one's continuous development. 



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