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. But 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 almost all members of the Vedanta school other than Advaitins believe that the Jivas or individual souls are atomic in size, in contrast to Brahman who is omnipresent; see Adhyaya 2 Pada 3 of the Brahma Sutras. But as I discuss in this answer, the Purva Mimamsa school believed in a theory of multiple omnipresent souls. In this excerpt from his Tantra Vartika, the Purva Mimamsa philosopher Kumarila Bhatta presents three main arguments for the multiple omnipresent souls theory and against the Vedanta school's atomic-sized souls theory:

  1. He argues that there's no way for the soul to move along with the body, because the soul is immaterial and the body is material, so they can't interact with each other:

    The Soul being itself immaterial, it can never be mixed up with material elements, and being untouched by these elements, it cannot be taken from one place to another. That is to say, even in the case of extremely subtle particles of matter, - such as the light emanating from the Sun or the Moon, - we find that they ale not milxed up with grosser materials, like lumps of Earth, etc., or are carried about along with these, how then can such mixture ol movement be postulated with regard to the Soul, which is in its very nature purely immaterial, or a mere series of Ideas (as held by the Bauddha)? ... Thus then, the Soul being something different from the Body, and not in material contact with it, - it cannot, on account of this absence of contact, be carried along with it, and hence when the Body would be moving from one place to another, the Soul (if an entity limited In space) would be left behind, exactly like the portion of space vacated by the moving Body, specially as the Soul cannot be wafted along eithel by Air or by Earth, etc., and as such it is absolutely incapable of being carried about, either by itself or by anything else.

  2. He argues that if the soul were atomic in size, then it could not experience pleasures and pains at other parts of the body except for the part of the body it happens to be located in:

    And the Soul being eternal, and located within the Body, if it were extremely small, then it could not extend over the whole Body, and in that case, it would be absolutely impossible for us to have any experiences of pleasure or pain, throughout the Body. That is to say, if the Soul is extremely small, then it would be possible to have experiences of pleasure and pain of only that part of the Body, where the Soul would be located, and hence it would not be possible, at one and the same tıme, to have an experience of pain in the head and in the foot. If it be urged that, “being extremely mobile, the Soul would swiftly move from one part of the Body to the other, and would thereby make such varied experiences possible,"- then, all that we can say is that there are no grounds for believing in such mobility of the Soul, specially as we are not cognisant of any difference in the point of time of the pain. In the head and that in the foot, and further, if the Soul would be constantly moving, there would be no point of time at which we could afford to have any sensation, and hence there would be no sensation an any part of the Body. Consequently we cannot but reject the offered explanation.

  3. He argues that it's the soul that strengthens the limbs of the body, and that if the soul was atomic in size then all the parts of the body where the soul is not located would wither away:

    And again, the various limbs of the Body are strengthened, and do not wither away, simply because of their being pervaded over by the Soul, because at death we find that they wither away quickly. Hence, if the Soul were something very small, that poınt of the Body, wherefrom it would be absent, would be liable to instant decay.

He also presents arguments against the Jain theory that the soul is the same size as the body, but they need not concern us here as the Vedanta school anyway rejects this Jain theory (as you can see in my answer here). My question is, what refutations has the Vedanta school given of Kumarila Bhatta's arguments for the Purva Mimamsa school theory of multiple omnipresent souls?

  • You need to rewrite your question using vedic terms; otherwise it can't make sense. When you say 'soul' do you mean the subtle body or the atman??? Your question clearly confuses the two terms. In one place soul is referring to atman, in another it is referring to the subtle body, and in other different kosas. Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 11:10
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    @SwamiVishwananda I am throughout referring to the Jivatma. The Purva Mimamsa school believed in the existence of multiple omnipresent Jivatmas. Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 16:17

1 Answer 1


At least argument 2 has been refuted. Vyasa discusses the size of the Jivatma in Adhyaya 2 Pada 3 of the Brahma Sutras (which you can read here)

Topic-13: Soul’s Dimensions

  1. (The individual soul must be atomic in dimension owing to the mention in the Vedas) of its departure from the body, going (to the next world by following a course) and coming back (from there).
  2. (The soul’s atomicity stands confirmed) owing to the relation of one’s own soul with the latter two facts (viz., following of a course and coming back).
  3. If it be objected that the soul is not atomic because its size is heard of as not being so, we reply, no, since that context relates to the other (i.e., the supreme Self).
  4. And the individual soul is atomic because of the direct Upanishadic use of the word as well as mention of infinitesimality.
  5. (The soul’s atomicity and its feeling over the whole body involve) no contradiction, just as in the case (of a drop) of sandal paste.
  6. If it be objected that (the argument holds good in the case of sandal paste) owing to its peculiarity of position, (but that is not evident in the case of the soul), then we say, no, (a peculiar location) for the soul is admitted in the Upanishads, for it exists in the heart.
  7. Or on the analogy of what is seen in the world, (the soul may pervade the whole body) through its attribute (of sentience).
  8. (The quality of sentience can have) separate existence like smell.
  9. And the Upanishad also show this.
  10. (The soul and its intelligence are separate), since they are taught separately (in the Upanishads).
  11. But the soul comes to have such appellations because of the dominance of the modes of that intellect; this is just as in the case of the supreme Self.
  12. And because the contact between the soul and the intellect persists so long as the worldly state of the soul continues, there can be no defect, for this is what is met with in the scriptures.
  13. Rather because that contact (with the intellect etc.,) which remains latent (in sleep and dissolution) can become manifest (during waking and creation) like manhood etc., (from boyhood etc.,).
  14. Else (if the existence of the internal organ be not admitted) there will be the possibility of either constant perception or non-perception or it will have to be admitted that either of the powers (of the soul or of the organs) becomes (suddenly) debarred (or delimited or lost).

This translation is written from the viewpoint of the Advaita philosopher Adi Shankaracharya, who interpreted these verse as saying that the Jivatma is the same as Brahman, who (everyone agrees) is omnipresent. But most other commentators interpreting these verses as saying that the Jivatma is atomic in size. And specifically, Sutras 23-25 refute Kumarila Bhatta's argument 2, i.e. the notion that the atomicity of the soul contradicts the ability to perceive sensations in all parts of the body. I could quote almost commentary on the Brahma Sutras and the content would be more or less the same, but let me quote Ramanujacharya's Sri Bhashya (starting from this section) as a good representative:

But this conflicts with the fact that sensation extends over the whole body. - This objection the next Sûtra refutes by means of an analogous instance.

  1. There is no contradiction, as in the case of sandal-ointment.

As a drop of sandal-ointment, although applied to one spot of the body only, yet produces a refreshing sensation extending over the whole body; thus the Self also, although dwelling in one part of the body only, is conscious of sensations taking place in any part of the body.

  1. Should it be said (that this is not so) on account of specialisation of abode; we say no, on account of the acknowledgment (of a place of the Self), viz. in the heart.

There is a difference. The drop of ointment can produce its effect as at any rate it is in contact with a definite part of the body. But we know of no such part in the case of the soul!--Not so, we reply. Scripture informs us that the Self abides in a definite part of the body, viz. the heart. 'For that Self is in the heart, there are a hundred and one veins.' And in reply to the question 'What is that Self?' the text has 'He who is within the heart, surrounded by the Prânas, the Person of light, consisting of knowledge' (Bri. Up. IV, 3, 7).--The parallel case of the sandal-ointment is referred to in order to point out that the Self abides in some particular part of the body; while the ointment is not bound to any special place.--In the next Sûtra the Sûtrakâra proceeds to state how, according to his own view, the Self, although abiding in one spot only, gives rise to effects extending over the whole body.

  1. Or on account of its quality as light.

The 'or' is meant to set aside the view previously stated. The Self extends through the whole body by means of its quality, viz. knowledge or consciousness. 'As light.' As the light of things abiding in one place--such as gems, the sun, and so on--is seen to extend to many places, so the consciousness of the Self dwelling in the heart pervades the entire body. That the knowledge of the knowing subject may extend beyond its substrate, as the light of a luminous body does, we have already explained under the first Sûtra.

Note that there are slight differences in Sutra numbering in different commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, which is how Sutras 23-25 became Sutras 24-26. In any case, this refutes Kumarila Bhatta's argument 2, but I'm not sure if the Vedanta school has also produced refutations against arguments 1 and 3 as well. If I find any I can update my answer.


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