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 Mimamsakas, particularly the Purva Mimamsa Acharya Kumarila Bhatta and his followers, believed in the existence of a supreme being, although they did not believe that this being was responsible for creating the Universe. (They thought the Universe was uncreated and eternal.) But I just found an interesting statement in this excerpt from Kumarila Bhatta's Tantra Vartika which sheds light on one role that he did envision Brahman as playing.

The context is a discussion of a statement in the Vedas which says that "the vessel must be washed" in a Jyotishtoma Yagna. Now the question arises whether the intention of the sentence is that you should only wash one vessel, since it says "the vessel", or whether you should wash all the vessels. But then an objection is raised: how can we even speak of the intention of a Vedic sentence? When we're dealing with a humanly composed work, we can speak about the intentions of the author. But the Vedas are authorless and eternal, so how can we speak about intentions? Kumarila Bhatta responds that we can speak of the intentions of the soul which is present inside the Vedas:

Or again, the "Intention" or "Non-intention" spoken of might refer to the Intelligences ensouling the various Vedic collections, Rigveda and the rest[.]... And the Veda also, which is spoken of the "Sabda-Brahma", is ensouled by a single Great Soul; and hence the Rigveda etc., which are spoken of separately, all belong to the soul, and are endowed with conscious intelligence.... In this manner, it is quite possible to attribute, on the strength of the potency of the injunctive, the said "Intention" and "Non-intention" to the soul of "Sabda-Brahma", which pervades all the Vedas; and there is nothing incongruous in speaking of "Intention" and "Non-intention", even in the direct sense of these words, with reference to the Veda, which is beginningless and endless.

I find the statement in bold interesting for two reasons. First, because Kumarila Bhatta is embracing the theory of Sabda Brahman, which is usually associated with the Sphotavada school of Bhatrihari and the Kashmiri Shaivite sect. And more importantly, because Kumarila Bhatta is declaring Brahman to be the soul of the Vedas/Sabda Brahman; here is the the bold statement in Sanskrit

shabdabrahmeti yac cedaṃ shastraṃ ved khyam ucyate |
tad apy adhiṣṭhitaṃ sarvam ekena paramatmana ||

So Kumarila Bhatta is clearly referring to Paramatma, aka Brahman. This is interesting because the Purva Mimamsa school is adamant that if Brahman even exists, Brahman is not the author of the Vedas, and doesn't even have the knowledge required to compose the Vedas! So my question is, which other Purva Mimamsa philosophers think that Brahman is the soul of the Vedas?

Do any followers of Kumarila Bhatta discuss this subject in their works?

  • 1
    This concept is similar to VA philosophy Ghataka Shruti (which we follow) ;).
    – Yogi
    May 17, 2017 at 17:09


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