As I discuss in this question, by far the most popular school of Hindu philosophy is the Vedanta school, which bases its tenets on the doctrines laid out in the Brahma Sutras, a work by the sage Vyasa that summarizes and systematizes the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads. (You can read the Brahma Sutras here.) But the Vedanta school didn't always have the dominant position in Hindu philosophy; before the time of Adi Shankaracharya the dominant school of Hindu philosophy was the Purva Mimamsa school, which I discuss here. In contrast to the Vedanta school which is devoted to analyzing the Jnana Kanda of the Vedas, i.e. the Upanishads, Purva Mimamsa focuses on analyzing the Karma Kanda of the Vedas, i.e. the Samhitas and Brahmanas.

Now as I discuss in this answer, the Purva Mimamsa school was often borderline agnostic/atheist. But some Purva Mimamsakas, particularly the Purva Mimamsa Acharya Kumarila Bhatta and his followers, believed in the existence of Ishwara or a supreme being, although they did not believe that the Ishwara was responsible for creating the Universe. (They thought the Universe was uncreated and eternal.) But it seems that at least some followers of Kumarila Bhatta believed that Ishwara had a role to play in the attainment of Moksha. Let me explain.

There are two elementary textbooks on Purva Mimamsa which are very similar to each other, Laugakshi Bhaskara's Arthasangraha and Apadeva's Mimamsa Nyaya Prakasha. People have different opinions about which work was written first, but everyone agrees that one of the works was based on the other one. In any case, here is how Laugakshi Bhaskara ends his Artha Sangraha:

Thus we have established that the entire veda which consists of sentences like "he whe is desirous of paradise is to sacrifice etc." immediately or mediately effects duty (dharma) consisting in sacrifices etc. Such (acts of) duty if done with a view to that (result) with a view to which they are enjoined are the cause of that particular result; if done with the intention of making of them an offer ing to God (ishvara) they aro the cause of the highest beatitude. Nor can it be said that there is no authority for performing such acts with the intention of making of them an offering to God; for the following passage of the Bhagavadgita furnishes the required authority "whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you sacrifice, whatever you give, whatever you do in way of penance, Kaunntaya, do it all as an offering to me." And the authoritativeness of Smriti is established in the pada treating of Smriti (I. 3.) by the argument of its boing based on Shruti.

And here is how Apadeva ends his Mimamsa Nyaya Prakasha:

And this duty, when it is performed with a view to that with a view to which it is enjoined, produces that (promist fruit). But performed with the intention to offer it to the Exalted Govinda, it produces supreme beatitude. And there is no lack of authority for performing it with the intention of offering it to Him. Because there is the traditional statement: "Whatever tho doest, whatever thou eatest, whatever thou offerest as oblation or givest in gifts, whatever penance thou doest, Son of Kuntï, that do as an offering to Me." And because this (statement) is valid authority, like the smriti-prescription of the Eighth-lunar-day-rite etc. This is set forth in full elsewhere.

Now both Laugakshi Bhaskara and Apadeva were both followers of Kumarila Bhatta. So it seems that at least some followers of Kumarila Bhatta believed that Moksha can be obtained through Nishkama Karma, aka Karma Yoga, where one performs Dharmic actions like Yagnas not for the sake of a material fruit but for the sake of Ishwara. But my question is, did Kumarila Bhatta himself believe that Nishkama Karma is a valid path to Moksha?

Now Kumarila Bhatta wrote three commentaries on the Purva Mimamsa Sutras: the Shloka Vartika, the Tantra Vartika, and the Tuptika. So far I've only found one statement by Kumarila Bhatta concerning methods of getting Moksha, in this excerpt from his Tantra Vartika:

As for the knowledge of Self; both by Conjunction and Disjunction it is found to help the sacrifice ns wel as the Person; because utiliess are knows his self (to be sonnething other than the body that perishes) he would never underfake the sacrifices whose results are said to accrue to the man in another birth. And then again, such passages as-' the Self free from all evil...is to be song.ht after, &c.,” “one should worship the Self" -lay down the knowledge of Self as accomplished by a process accornpanied by due reflection, &c.; and then from such knowledge, we find that there accrues to the agents both kinds of result-Happiness as well as final Deliverance, as is shown by the following passages:-"He obtains all worlds and all desires, passes beyond all sorrow, &c, &c.,"-which speaks of all the eight perfections of Yoga accruing to the person knowing the self; and the passage-“passing his life thus he, after death, reaches the regions of Braima, and from there he never returns'--which points to the attainment of the Supreme Self (Final Deliverance) also as following from a due knowledge of the Seif.

So apparently Kumarila Bhatta believed that Jnana Yoga, i.e. pursuing knowledge of the Atma, is a valid means to Moksha. But does anyone know how he felt about Karma Yoga as a means to Moksha?

3 Answers 3


Kumarila Bhatta believes that Karma Yoga is the only path to Moksha. Contrary to what I thought, Kumarila Bhatta did not believe that Atmajnana directly granted Moksha. Unlike Adi Shankaracharya, who believed that you can destroy your stock of Sanchita Karma through the fire of Jnana, or Ramanujacharya, who believed that you could destroy your Sanchita Karma through Sharanagati, Kumarila Bhatta believed that you can only get rid of your Karmas by experiencing all of them. He thought the only way that Atmajnana can help a person attain Moksha is by leading them to pursue Karma Yoga, which stops you from accumulating new Karmas and thus allows you to experience all your existing Karma. Here is what Kumarila Bhatta says in this excerpt from his Shloka Vartika:

The fact (as to the manner of Deliverance) is that for those that have come to know of the real character of Self,—all their past actions having been exhausted by fruition, and there being no subsequent residue (of actions),—the body is never again produced (and this is what is meant by Deliverance). It is only for the purpose of enjoying the results of our past actions that our body is produced; consequently, when there are no actions (left to bring about their results), there is no cause left for such productions (of the body). One desiring Deliverance, therefore, would not engage in (i.e., perform) such actions as are either prohibited or are enjoined with a view to the attainment of certain (material) results. But he would continue to perform those that are enjoined as necessary (and to be performed daily), and those that are enjoined as to be performed on certain specific occasions (such as eclipses and the like),—in order to avoid the sin (accruing from | the non-performance of such actions). The effects (of the necessary sacrifices f.i.) are known to result only when they are desired by the agent ; and as such they could not accrue to one who does not desire them. And as this (aversion to results) exists in one who knows one's real self, it is in this that such knowledge comes to be of indirect use (to the attainment of Deliverance).

So my earlier statement about Kumarila Bhatta believing in Jnana Yoga is not quite accurate. In any case, interestingly while Kumarila Bhatta speaks of Nishkama Karma, he does not speak of doing actions for the sake of Ishwara. So it's still unclear how he felt about that, even though Laugakshi Bhaskara and Apadeva both endorsed it.


Mostly Yes.
This can be validated with 2 proofs, already present in your question.

[1] Some followers of Kumarila Bhatta believed that Moksha can be obtained through Nishkama Karma

When a Guru believes in certain philosophy, it's passed on to his students. If Kumarila believed in NiskAma Karma, then it's likely that his students will also believe in the same. Moreover, from his wikipedia article, it seems that he was well-aware of the concept of the renunciation of fruits:

Sankara challenged Bhaṭṭa to a debate on his deathbed. Kumārila Bhaṭṭa could not debate Sankara and instead directed him to argue with his student Mandana Misra in Mahiṣmati. He said:
"You will find a home at whose gates there are a number of caged parrots discussing abstract topics like — 'Do the Vedas have self-validity or do they depend on some external authority for their validity? Are karmas capable of yielding their fruits directly, or do they require the intervention of God to do so? Is the world eternal, or is it a mere appearance?' Where you find the caged parrots discussing such abstruse philosophical problems, you will know that you have reached Maṇḍana's place."

[2] Kumarila Bhatta believed that Jnana Yoga, i.e. pursuing knowledge of the Atma, is a valid means to Moksha

Like how every mathematician equivocally agrees on rules of maths, all physicians on rules of science, similarly all the sensible philosophers will be agreeing to the fact, that the path of knowledge & the path of renouncing the reactions(fruits of action), would lead to the same destination, i.e. Moksha.

SAmkhya philosophy is strongly related to perceiving the knowledge of Atman. Now resultwise, this philosophy is considered similar to [Karma] Yoga. Hence if Kumarila believed in anyone of them, then the question of believing in other becomes moot.
Gambhirananda's trasnlation:

BG 5.4 - The fools, not the learned ones, speak of Sankhya (the path of Knowledge) and (Karma-) yoga as different. Any one who properly resorts to even one (of them) gets the result of both.

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    First of all, thank you for at least attempting to answer my question, because most people don't even bother reading my questions on obscure topics. But I don't think your answer is right at all. The fact that two followers of Kumarila Bhatta believed something doesn't mean Kumarila Bhatta himself believed it. Note that when I say "followers" I don't mean direct disciples. Laugakshi Bhaskara and Apadeva lived many centuries after Kumarila Bhatta, they were just followers of Kumarila Bhatta in the same sense that Advaitins can be called followers of Adi Shankaracharya. Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 6:13
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    @KeshavSrinivasan, thanks. But if you read my answer fully, you may see that I have covered all the topics rationally. Agreement & disagreements can happen, which is OK. Following post inspired me to answer, even though I am aware that you don't ask questions for answers :-): Consider answering unanswered questions. Even if someone upvotes this answer by sensing the logic in it. It will reduce the unanswered questions count. If you keep asking unanswerable questions, then the site statistics will be poor & possibly we may not graduate soon.
    – iammilind
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 6:22
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    And just because you follow someone that the person you follow believed everything you believe. Advaitins are followers of Adi Shankaracharya, and yet the Bhamati and Vivarana sub-schools of Advaita disagree on many things. Similarly Sri Vaishnavas are followers of Ramanujacharya and yet the Thenkalai and Vadakalai sub-sects of Sri Vaishnavism have many disagreements as I discuss here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/2835/36 Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 6:29
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    Now as to the Wikipedia quote, Kumarila Bhatta is not speaking of the renunciation of fruits, he's talking about the question of whether the fruit of a Karma occurs like a law of nature, or whether the fruits of Karmas are administered by Brahman. And Kumarila Bhatta resolutely believed the first one, as he makes clear in his Shloka Vartika. But I do agree with your statement "it seems that he was well-aware of the concept of the renunciation of fruits"; Kumarila Bhatta was intimately familiar with the Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures. Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 6:39
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    Now as to your statement "similarly all the sensible philosophers will be agreeing to the fact, that the path of knowledge & the path of renouncing the reactions(fruits of action), would lead to the same destination, i.e. Moksha", if that is your standard of sensible, you would find a great many philosophers who aren't sensible. Now I agree that such philosophers are contradicting the Bhagavad Gita, but Kumarila Bhatta would not have cared about that; the Purva Mimamsa school believed that only injunctive statements in scripture are authoritative, not declarative statements. Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 6:45

Technically speaking a jnana yogi would eventually become a karma yogi or is automatically a karma yogi , since dispassion , vairagya , viveka etc are all traits of a real jnana yogi , and if a person has all these then that means he isnt doing anything to fulfill his own desires and only doing things which are his duty , or has taken sannyasa and resided in a secluded place and meditates / contemplates on brahman most of his time. If a person who has read the upanishads does not do all this , then he isnt actually a jnana yogi he is just a person who has read about brahman or obtained knowledge of the true self but does not practice it and that is not jnana yoga that is just plain jnana.

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