Mīmāṁsā (Sanskrit: मीमांसा) is a Sanskrit word that means “reflection” or “critical investigation” and thus refers to a tradition of contemplation which reflected on the meanings of certain Vedic texts

This tradition is also known as Pūrva-Mīmāṁsā because of its focus on the earlier (pūrva) Vedic texts dealing with ritual actions, and similarly as Karma-Mīmāṁsā due to its focus on ritual action (karma)

It is one of six Vedic “affirming” (āstika) schools of Hinduism

This particular school is known for its philosophical theories on the nature of dharma, based on hermeneutics of the Vedas, especially the Brāḥmanas and Saṃhitas

The Mīmāṃsā school was foundational and influential for the vedāntic schools, which were also known as Uttara-Mīmāṁsā for their focus on the “later” (uttara) portions of the Vedas, the Upaniṣads

While both “earlier” and “later” Mīmāṃsā investigate the aim of human action, they do so with different attitudes towards the necessity of ritual praxis

Mīmāṁsā has several sub-schools, each defined by its epistemology

The Prābhākara sub-school, which takes its name from the seventh-century philosopher Prabhākara, described the five epistemically reliable means to gaining knowledge: pratyakṣa or perception; anumāna or inference; upamāṇa, by comparison and analogy; arthāpatti, the use of postulation and derivation from circumstances; and śabda, the word or testimony of past or present reliable experts

The Bhāṭṭa sub-school, from philosopher Kumārila Bhaṭṭa, added a sixth means to its canon; anupalabdhi meant non-perception, or proof by the absence of cognition (e


, the lack of gunpowder on a suspect’s hand)The school of Mīmāṃsā consists of both atheistic and theistic doctrines, but the school showed little interest in systematic examination of the existence of Gods

Rather, it held that the soul is an eternal, omnipresent, inherently active spiritual essence, and focused on the epistemology and metaphysics of dharma

For the Mīmāṃsā school, dharma meant rituals and social duties, not devas, or gods, because gods existed only in name

The Mīmāṃsakas also held that Vedas are “eternal, author-less, [and] infallible”, that Vedic vidhi, or injunctions and mantras in rituals are prescriptive kārya or actions, and the rituals are of primary importance and merit

They considered the Upaniṣads and other texts related to self-knowledge and spirituality as subsidiary, a philosophical view that Vedānta disagreed with

While their deep analysis of language and linguistics influenced other schools of Hinduism, their views were not shared by others

Mīmāṃsakas considered the purpose and power of language was to clearly prescribe the proper, correct and right

In contrast, Vedāntins extended the scope and value of language as a tool to also describe, develop and derive

Mīmāṁsakās considered orderly, law driven, procedural life as central purpose and noblest necessity of dharma and society, and divine (theistic) sustenance means to that end

The Mīmāṁsā school is a form of philosophical realism

A key text of the Mīmāṁsā school is the Mīmāṁsā Sūtra of Jaimini