Mimamsa (inquiry) is one of the six traditional orthodox schools of Indian philosophy. The Mimamsa SUTRAS of Jaimini (c. third century C.E.) is the first extant text of the tradition.
   Mimamsa in its earliest form (Purva [early] Mimamsa) preserves a strict Vedic tradition; it sees the Vedas as eternal, divine texts that should guide all life and action. According to early Mimamsa one must do one’s ritual duties and worldly duties precisely according to the Vedas. The Mimamsa texts, therefore, aim to clarify the precise meaning of each Vedic injunction, so that devotees can reach the heavenly realm after death. The Mimamsakas argue very strongly that even the UPANISHADS, valued by so many for their phi-losophy, should be read only to learn any require-ments for action that they may contain.
   Mimamsa cannot be said to be theistic or ori-ented toward gods in a true sense; the gods are at the beck and call of humans thanks to the power of the Vedic MANTRAS. Gods exist, but the Vedas supersede all. The soul or self is understood to exist in Mimamsa, as in all six orthodox Brah-minical systems.
   Early Mimamsa preserved the ancient Vedic understanding of the afterlife: after death, a person went to a heavenly realm somewhat like the earthly one, where one remained in a happy state, being fed by one’s family. There is no overt mention of reincarnation in the Vedic mantras themselves, with the exception of the late ISHA UPANISHAD, which is appended to the mantras of the YAJUR VEDA. Salvation itself in Mimamsa put the soul in an inert state, liberated from the bonds of earthly existence through proper per-formance of Vedic duty. As Mimamsa developed and changed around the seventh century with the commentary of Shabaraswamin, it accepted the notion of karma and rebirth. In this respect it converged, as did YOGA, with the other VEDANTIC schools.
   Two lines of teachers, drawing upon Prabha-kara and Kumarila (eighth and ninth centuries), refined the doctrine further, using careful philo-sophical analysis of perception, causation, and the like, for the purposes of this school. This precise investigation was replicated in the commentary on the Upanishads that developed into VEDANTA. Because it was seen as an extension of the earlier Mimamsic investigative method, Vedanta is often called Uttara Mimamsa, or “later Mimamsa.”
   Further reading: Francis X. Clooney, Thinking Ritually: Rediscovering the Purva Mimamsa of Jaimini (Vienna: Institut für Indologie, 1990); S. N. Dasgupta, A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. 1 (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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