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Thinking Ritually: Rediscovering the Purva Mimamsa of Jaimini.

Francis X. Clooney has written an important and insightful monograph on the Indian exegetical "philosophy" called Purva Mimamsa. In it he argues persuasively that the Purva Mimamsa Sutra of Jaimini (ca. 200 B.C.E.) has not been explained, or probably understood, in its original spirit by either native Sanskrit commentators (except largely by Prabhakara) or modern scholars. He demonstrates the ways in which the tradition of Mimamsa, beginning with Sabara, updated Jaimini ("misrepresented" is probably too harsh an assessment), and how the modern scholarly tradition, with little inclination to delve deeply into the jungle of ritual details which largely constitute the sutra text, has taken the first adhyaya and the first pada of the second adhyaya as representing the sum of Jaimini's achievement. Thus, as Clooney forcefully shows, in most methodologies the text as a whole remains unexploited. As an example, he notes that the debate on sabdapramana "has been prematurely and disproportionately thorough, since the arguments have not been put in the perspective of the rest of the text." With regard to previous scholarship, he says, "Lack of clarity about the purpose of the Sutras and a failure to discriminate among the systems of Jaimini, Sabara, and Kumarila, have resulted in very limited success in determining the context of various Mimamsa discussions." He thus advocates, and makes as his project, "a return to the Sutras themselves as distinguishable from the Bhasya." While recognizing the indispensability of Sabara's bhasya, Clooney also feels that it is not infallible. "My intention is to 'fix the sense of the Mimamsa Sutras as a whole' by an intensive and internal study of the text itself, working from a knowledge of parts of the text to a sense of the whole." One extremely noteworthy inclusion in this chapter is an explanation of Jaimini's use of the particles va, na, tu, iti cet, etc.

After stating his goals in the first chapter, Clooney discusses in chapter II the style and purpose of Jaimini's sutra text, which structurally and temporally he places midway between the srauta sutras that preceded it and the philosophical sutras that followed it. "Jaimini's text is more speculative than the srauta sutras, because it contains reflection on the nature of the Veda, the performer, the Vedic schools, etc.; but this speculation still presumes that the sacrifice is the primary 'intelligible'. However sophisticated Mimamsa reasoning becomes, it still seeks to explain things and actions by placing them in the correct matrix of relationship, according to what they resemble, etc. Appeals are made to perception, the principle of non-contradiction, grammatical structures, etc., but these remain subservient to the more basic 'truth' of the sacrificial performance." Clooney appends to this chapter an interesting section on Mimamsa and modern legal reasoning.

In chapter III, entitled "Jaimini's Regular Vocabulary and the Event of Sacrifice," several topics are examined: derivation or modification (prakrti, vikrti, vikara); subordination of one sacrificial element to another (pradhana, mukhya, guna, sesa, anga); relationship (anantarya, samnidhana, samyoga, sambandha), which "indicate stages of gradation in the connection of" actions, things, people, and texts; motivation (prayojana); origination (utpatti, nispatti, pratipatti); actualization (pravrtti, nivrtti, nirvrtti); being and making (sat, bhava, kriya); the event of sacrifice (prayoga); and the manner in which Jaimini organizes the Veda. It is in these topics that important but little-noted differences between Jaimini and Sahara are traced. Regarding Sabara's treatment of Jaimini's ritual vocabulary, Clooney concludes: "In general we may say that Jaimini's analysis of language is a harmonious part of his comprehensive analysis of action and other kinds of experience. It is the contribution of Sabara to articulate a definitively exegetical vocabulary, in the process shifting the emphasis toward the text as an independent source of knowledge."

Chapter IV, entitled "The Dharma of the Sacrifice," concludes that the full meaning of artha is dharma itself (cf. 1.1.2, codanalaksano 'rtho dharmah). "Throughout the text dharma indicates the functional description of a sacrificial element ... The properties of a thing are known through perception; its dharma is known through a Vedic text." "|T~he sacrifice itself is the fullness of dharma; when the sacrifice is known dharma is known." In this chapter Clooney begins to discuss the subject of transcendence in Jaimini, a subject that will occupy most of the remainder of the book. Transcendence in Mimamsa "'occurs' when the performer finds himself in a world which accounts for his viewpoint without making him the center of the world ... He himself is transcended, because the event of the sacrifice is primary...." "|H~e learns to play his part without worrying about ridding himself of the desires which integrate him into the larger whole. This is surely a curious kind of transcendence, since it functions without the supernatural, without gods and heaven, without self-purification and liberation."

In chapter V, entitled "Jaimini's 'Decentering' of the Human," the "non-anthropocentric nature of Jaimini's system" is discussed. This chapter focuses on three "human" issues: rsis, sakhas, and adhikara. In each case (the latter reduced to caste and gender distinction) the human person is "simply one element in a much broader network of values and connections." Underlying all of this is a unity of word, purpose, and action that renders the human performers merely functional cogs of a system, with no greater importance than, for example, mantras or ritual actions such as pounding rice grain. This discussion is necessary for the author as a prelude for later (ch. VII) showing how Sabara and his successors elevate the performer to the center.

In chapter VI, "Jaimini's Mimamsa in the Context of the Brahmanas and Buddhism," the author shows that Buddhism stands closer to the brahmanas and Mimamsa than to the upanisads. He employs the arguments on transcendence as discontinuity of P. Mus, Barabadur, and L. Silburn, Instant et Cause. He states, in essence, that Buddhism, the brahmanas, and Mimamsa, through the negation of a mystically achieved divine state, assert the importance of action. For the brahmanas and Mimamsa it was ritual action, for Buddhism it was moral action. "The Mimamsa replicates the Brahmanas' position on transcendence, by refusing to locate the sacred in what is esoteric or otherworldly ... the performer recognizes his own dharma and achieves self-transcendence not in an Upanisadic devaluation of the world of action, but in the discovery that he is part of a sacrificial whole not focused on himself." The desired end of activity in Buddhism is nirvana, in Mimamsa it is nirvrtti. "In both cases it is a cessation of action, but we lack sufficient evidence to identify the two." Clooney's suggestion that Jaimini and Buddhism were part of a contemporary debate and dialogue is tempting indeed. Nevertheless, as he admits, all the evidence of their direct engagement is circumstantial. Thus, "Mimamsa's thorough relational analysis of the sacrifice effectively meets the primary Buddhist objections to the sacrifice."

Chapter VII is entitled "Apurva and the Development of Mimamsa after Jaimini." Clooney contends that "the growing importance of apurva," the unseen link between the sacrifice and its results, "in Sabara-Kumarila Mimamsa testifies to a devaluation of the action of the sacrifice and a new grounding of the significance of sacrifice on a more permanent basis, a transcendent reality surviving the sacrificial ashes." This reality is "implanted in the eternal atman of the performer of the sacrifice. This reorganization of the sacrificial plan focuses meaning in the human performer and separates it from the detailed performance of action. A permanent split is effected between the sacrifice as performed and a more or less firmly attached spirituality." Jaimini did not use the word apurva in this sense "because he did not need it; the integrity and efficacy of frail actions was not implausible to him or something in need of explanation." Prabhakara employs the term niyoga instead of apurva, which "suggests his agreement with Jaimini, the return to a focus on the Vedic word and its power." For Prabhakara, "Apurva has to do with the connection between word and action, not the connection between action and results ... Prabhakara ably reflects Jaimini's general viewpoint. That the sacrifice is ephemeral is well-known; that this is a relevant problem, however, is not evident."

Clooney concludes that "overshadowing Sabara's system of the Mimamsa is the 'nearby' presence of Upanisadic thought, perhaps even Vedantic thought in some (early) form. The development of apurva reflects the intrusion of a sense of the transiency of action, and a renewed (anxious) search for an escape from it, through reliance on notions like apurva and atman." Finally, he notes that while the later Mimamsakas refined Jaimini's method, "they did so without Jaimini's conviction that meaning is in action, explanation is in organization, and that the human person is simply one part of the system he describes. Apart from the exploration of the ritual itself there had to be a Mimamsa 'philosophy' pertaining to atman and apurva, etc., whereby the significance of the sacrifice could be explained without too much reliance on the earlier self-evident intrinsic meaningfulness of the sacrifice" (ibid.).

The book closes with a brief "Epilogue: Toward an Intellectual History of the Two Mimamsas," in which the author states, "It is my hope that the materials and viewpoint offered here will make it ever more difficult to offer simply as 'descriptive of the early Mimamsa position' any study which relies only on the First Adhyaya and a few selected Sutras from throughout the rest of the text, all of these accepted according to Sabara's interpretation and without hesitation or critical analysis."

In reviewing this challenging and stimulating book I could do hardly better than to draw extensively from the author's own statements. His style is straightforward and generally well written, though the denseness of some of the material, especially in chapter II, provides the reader with a clear idea of why most scholars of Mimamsa resist dealing with the plethora of ritual details presented in most of the sutra text. The translations are careful and generally avoid the temptation of translators of sutra texts to create an impenetrable technical vocabulary in English in an attempt to translate literally. Nevertheless, a few translated words remain inadequately explained, notably tantra, "centralization," and avapa, "decentralization."
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Author:Smith, Frederick M.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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