The term "Shaivite" is overused nowadays. For instance, Iyer Brahmins are often called Shaivites, but they're actually followers of Adi Shankaracharya's Smartha sect (which I discuss here and here), and simply adopt Shiva as their Ishta Devata. True philosophical Shaivism is relatively rare nowadays (in contrast to philosophical Vaishnavism which is pretty common). I discussed one genuine Shaivite sect, the Lingayat sect of Basava, in my answer here. But my question is related to a more famous sect of Shaivism, known as Shaiva Siddhanta, which is based on the Shaiva Agamas and the poems of the Nayanars just as the Sri Vaishnava sect (of which I'm a member) is based on the Pancharatra Agamas and the poems of the Alwars.

In any case, one of the defining works of the Shaiva Siddhanta sect is Meykandar's Shiva Jnana Bodham, a commentary on twelve important verses from a Shaiva Agama called the Raurava Agamas. Now Meykandar's shishya Arulnandi Shivacharya wrote a work called the Shivajnana Siddhiyar, which is a commentary on Meykandar's work but also tries to refute rival schools of philosophy. In this excerpt from the Shiva Jnana Siddhiyar, Arulnandi Shivacharya refutes the view that souls are always reborn into the same species:

You say that of living beings, both moveable, and immovable, each of them will only change its body at its rebirth, according to its respective karma, but not its form. But answer me first, whether when humans enter Svarga and partake of the bliss therein, whether they do so there as human beings or as celestials? If they enjoy heaven as mere human beings, then this heaven ceases to be such. If as celestials they enjoy, your theory that they do not change their forms falls to the ground. After enjoying as celestials, when they are reborn on earth, they will only be reborn as human beings and not as celestials.

Some worms become beetles and some worms become wasps. Similarly beings change their forms according to their Karma. Most of the schools are also agreed on this point, and why should you alone have doubts about it? The accounts of Agalya becoming a stone, of Mahavishnu incarnating in several forms, of a spider being born in the Solar Race of far famed kings, and a rat having become Mahabali, also demonstrate our point.

I discuss the spider part in my question here. But now I'm interested in who Arulnandi Shivacharya. is refuting. The translator says it's the Purva Mimamsa philosopher Kumarila Bhatta:

The Bhattacharya's theory is that grass, herb or bird or animal or man will be reborn as grass, herb, etc., respectively and not one into the other.

My question is, where in his works does Kumarila Bhatta say that souls are always reborn into the same species?

Now Kumarila Bhatta wrote three commentaries on the Purva Mimamsa Sutras: the Shloka Vartika, the Tantra Vartika, and the Tuptika. You can read the Sloka Vartika here and the Tantra Vartika here and here. The Tuptika has never been translated into English, but here it is in Sanskrit.

Does anyone know whether in any of these works Kumarila Bhatta addresses the forms that souls are reborn into? Also, is this a view unique to Kumarila Bhatta and his followers or is it shared by all members of the Purva Mimamsa school?

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    If it is his view then it's astounding that Kumarila Bhatta would propose such a purposeless worldview. Like how will the world move forth if you are reborn as the same species forever?
    – Surya
    Jan 14, 2017 at 12:09
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    What do you mean "how will the world move forth"? Do you mean how will Jivas spiritually advance? I should mention that Kumarila Bhatta did believe in the concept of Moksha, and he thought it could be achieved through Nishkama Karma as I discuss here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/16045/36 But obviously animals wouldn't be able to do that, so perhaps he believed that animals would never be able to attain Moksha. Jan 14, 2017 at 15:59
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    Exactly so one class of Jivas never attains Moksha which means for all those jivas, forever, Atthai Thinru Ange Kidakkum.
    – Surya
    Jan 14, 2017 at 16:22
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    @Surya Haha, good Nammalwar reference. In any case, Kumarila Bhatta may not have viewed that as much of a problem. As a Mimamsaka he saw the law of Karma as just a mindless force that happens to exist in the Universe, not something designed to help Jivas advance spiritually or anything like that. (He did believe in Ishwara or a supreme being, but he didn't think Ishwara played much of a role.) Jan 14, 2017 at 16:26
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    @Surya By the way, Madhvacharya also believed that there were some Jivas who were designed to never attain Moksha. He thought that if a Jiva commited enough sins, the weight of those sins would drag them down to Andha-Tamas, a place of eternal punishment, similar to Chrstianity. Jan 14, 2017 at 16:29

1 Answer 1


I think Kumarila Bhatta did not actually believe that souls are always reborn into the same species. Because in this excerpt from his Tantra Vartika, in the course of refuting the Jain theory that the soul is the same size as the body, Kumarila Bhatta says this:

How too, is it possible for the particles of the same Soul to expand or contract within the limits of the Body of an elephant or an insect (which the Soul inhabits during different lives on the Earth)?

He's saying that Jains would have to explain how the soul changes size as it's reborn in different species, whereas the Purva Mimamsa theory of multiple omnipresent souls requires no such explanation. So he clearly seems to be acknowledging the notion of rebirth into different species.

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