The role of the prescription to learn the Veda

Why should one study Mīmāṃsā? In order to understand the meaning of the Veda, say Bhāṭṭa Mīmāṃsā authors. But why should one learn the Veda? According to Bhāṭṭa Mīmāṃsā, because a Vedic prescription itself tells you to do so. The prescription at stake is svādhyāyo ‘dhyetavyaḥ “One should study one’s portion of the Veda”, called adhyayanavidhi. This, however, leads to several problems.

  • 1. Each prescription needs an independently desirable purpose and it is not clear what could be the purpose here (I discussed this topic in a previous post, here)
  • 2. Did you understand the adhyayanavidhi while reading it? If not, you really need to study Mīmāṃsā, but you will not get there, since you will not even start learning by heart the Vedas, given that you never came to know that you should have learnt them. Did you understand the adhyayanavidhi? Great! But this means that you don’t need to study Mīmāṃsā, since you already understand the meaning of Vedic prescriptions, isn’t it?

Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā authors can solve the problem by saying that one does not have an independent duty to learn the Veda, but one does it nonetheless because teachers have the duty to teach and there cannot be teaching without learning. In other words, they can in this way make sense of the fact that at the time you undertake the learning, you are not mature enough to decide rationally on the basis of a means-goals calculation.

Rāmānuja and Veṅkaṭanātha are overtly against Prabhākara for other reasons. Hence, they need to offer a different solution. Accordingly, Rāmānuja suggests that the prescription to learn does indeed reach until the meaning, but that the meaning it reaches is not a fully satisfactory one. It leads one to an āpātapratīti of it. Veṅkaṭanātha elaborates further the implications of this assumption: Through the prescription to learn, one is led up to a first impression of the meaning of the Veda. Then, out of interest, one continues studying Mīmāṃsā in order to solve one’s doubts and achieve proficiency in the Vedic texts.

(cross-posted on my personal blog, elisafreschi.com)

About elisa freschi

My long-term program is to make "Indian Philosophy" part of "Philosophy". You can follow me also on my personal blog: elisafreschi.com, on Academia, on Amazon, etc.

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