Mimansa is the collective name of two of the six divisions of Hindu Philosophy. They are the Purva and the Uttara Mimansa. The terms Uttara and Purva, meaning latter and former, do not apply to the relative ages of the Mimansas but to the sacred books which are indicated by them. Purva Mimansa treats of the Hindu ritual and Karmakand as promulgated in the Brahmanas, whilst the Uttara Mimansa treats of the nature of God and of the soul as taught in the Upanishads. And the two Mimansas are so-called because the Upanishads were composed later than the Brahmanas.
The Purva Mimansa gives in full detail the Karma we have to perform. The Yagyas, Agnihotras, gifts, etc. are all treated elaborately and minutely. The author, the venerable Jaimini, after discussing the nature of the dharma and adharma, says that dharma consists in
1 See also “ The Court and Camp of Ranjit Singh.”
following the teachings of the Vedas. Dharma is essentially necessary to gain happiness.
The Uttara Mimansa is the work of the celebrated Vyasa, and is one of the most important of the six Darsanas. The school of philosophy of which the Uttara Mimansa is the best exposition is called Vedanta. The word Vedanta means “the end or the ultimate aim of the Vedas,” and the Vedanta system discusses the nature of the Brahma and the soul. The Uttara Mimansa is one of the grandest feats of the grand Hindu genius. The Brahmsutra of Vyasa begins with a refutation of atheism and a vindication of theism. It then lays down that the only way to salvation or mukti is atmagyana, or a true knowledge of the soul.
Professor Max Muller says: “Much that was most dear, that had seemed for a time their very self, had to be surrendered before they could find the self of selves, the old man, the looker-on, a subject independent of all personality, and existence independent of all life. When that point had been reached then the highest knowledge began to draw, the self within (the Pratyagatman) was drawn towards the highest self (the Paramatman), it found its true self in the highest self, and the oneness of the subjective with the objective self was recognised as underlying all reality, as the dim dream of religion—as the pure light of philosophy.”
“This fundamental idea is worked out with systematic completeness in the Vedanta philosophy, and no one who can appreciate the lessons contained in Berkeley’s Philosophy will read the Upanishads and the Brahma Siltras without feeling a richer and a wiser man.”3
‘India; What can it teach us? p. 2;53.
There is difference of opinion as regards the Vedantic view of the nature of the soul and of God. Ramanuja Swami held that the relation between God and soul was that of a master and servant—that they were separate entities, and that there were innumerable souls. The great Shankeracharya believed that the Vedanta taught that there was only one Brahma and all else was maya or illusion.
Swami Dayanand Saraswati, however, has again reverted to the view originally held of Vedanta, and said that the Brahma Sutras or the real Vedanta Sutra never taught the unity of God and soul. Popular belief, however, is swayed by the views of Shanker Swami, and the system is held to be an all-absorbing Pantheism. Anyway, it is the most sublime system of philosophy ever propounded by man.
Of Sankara’s commentary upon the Vedanta, Sir W. Jones says that “it is not possible to speak with too much applause of so excellent a work; and I am confident in asserting that, until an accurate translation of it shall appear in some European language, the general history of philosophy must remain incomplete.
Sir W. Jones says of Vedanta “The fundamental tenet of the Vedantic school consisted not in denying the existence of matter, that is, of solidity, impenetrability, and extended figure (to deny which would be lunacy), but in correcting the popular notion of it, and in contending that it has no essence independent of mental perception, that existence and perceptibility are convertible terms, that external appearances and sensations are illusory and would vanish into nothing if the divine energy, which alone sustains them, were suspended but for a moment: an opinion which Epicharmus and Plato seem to have adopted, and which has been maintained in the present century with great elegance, but with little applause, partly because it has been misunderstood, and partly because it has been misapplied by the false reasoning of some popular writers, who are said to have disbelieved in the moral attributes of God, whose omnipresence, wisdom and goodness are the basis of the Indian philosophy.” He adds: “The system is built on the purest devotion.” 1 Sir James Mackintosh, an English philosophe, “calls the theory (propounded by Vedanta) refined, abstruse, ingenious and beautiful.”
The Mimansa method of Purva Paksha. (reason contra), Uttara Paksha (reason pro), and Siddhant (conclusion) of the Shastras excite Professor Max Muller’s admiration, who says: “It is indeed one of the most curious kinds of literary composition that the human mind ever conceived. It is wonderful that the Indians
1 Sir W; Jones’ Works, Vol. I, p. 165. “ We might be able,” says Count Bjornstjern a, “ to resign ourselves with patient submission to the comfortless doctrine of Pantheism, if it only concerned ourselves, but together with the hope of our own continued existence, to lose at the same time that of seeing again those whom we have most loved upon. earth, to break them for ever is a reflection that bruises the heart. What! shall we first be bereaved of these beloved ones, retain nothing of them but memory’s faint shadow, and then when we are called to follow them, shall even this shadow fly away from ile? No; such can never he the intention of the all-bountiful Creator: He has not deposited in our hearts the tender feelings of. love and of friendship in order at life’s goal to rend asunder for ever the band that has been tied by them! They are of a spiritual nature, they follow the spirit beyond the boundary of life, where we shall find again those whom we have loved.”— Theogorty of the Hindus, p, 79. What a misunderstanding of Pantheism!
should have invented and mastered this difficult form so as to have made it the vehicle of expression for every kind of learning.”5
The six Darsanas are rarely read and understood by Europeans, owing partly to the extreme difficulty of the language and a peculiar and difficult philosophic technique difficult to acquire, and partly to the want on their part of that mental equipment which is the result of the highest intellectual training and great spiritual development.
As is well known, the Upanishads are the fountain head of all Hindu philosophy. They are said to be 52 in number. The Upanishads are disquisitions on philosophical subjects, and breathe an air of sublimity and spirituality which is nowhere else to be found. The profound philosophy they teach, the deep wisdom they contain, the infallible truths they establish, and the true principles they set forth are the standing marvels of Indian intellect and monuments of human genius.
In his Philosophy of the Upanishads, recently translated by Rev. A. S. Geden, M.A., Prof. Deussen claims for its fundamental thought “an inestimable value for the whole race of mankind.” It is in “marvellous agreement with the philosophy founded by Kant, and adopted and perfected by his great successor, Schopenhaucr,” differing from it, where it does differ, only to excel. For, whereas the philosophy of Schopenhauer only “represents Christianity in its present form,” we must have recourse to the Upanishads “if we are willing to put the finishing touch to the Christian consciousness, and to make it on all sides consistent and complete.” “Professor Deussen, it is true, is kind enough to Christianity to bracket the New Testament and the Upanishads as “the two noblest products of the religious consciousness of mankind,” but leaves his readers in no doubt as to which he considers the nobler of the two.”
The great German philosopher, Schopenhauer, says: “Oh how thoroughly is the mind here washed clean of all early engrafted Jewish superstitions and of all philosophy that cringes before those superstitions. In the whole world there is no study, except that of the originals, so beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishads. It has been the solace of my life, it will be the solace of my death.”
Mr. Elphinstone, in comparing the ancient Greeks with the ancient Hindus, says: “Their (Hindus) general learning was more considerable; and in the knowledge of the being and nature of God, they were already in possession of a light which was but faintly perceived even by the loftiest intellects in the best days of Athens.”6