Mimansa (from the Sanscrit man, to investigate; hence, literally, investigation) is the collective name of two of the six divisions of orthodox Hindu philosophy. SEE HINDUISM. These two divisions are respectively distinguished as Purva-mimansa and Uttara-mimansa; the latter being more commonly called Veddata (q.v.), while the former is briefly styled Mimansa. Native writers rank the Mimansa with the five other philosophical systems; but the term philosophy — as understood in a European sense — can scarcely be applied to it, as it is neither concerned with the nature of the absolute or of the human mind, nor with the various categories of existence in general — topics which are dealt with more or less by the other five philosophies. The object of the Mimansa is in reality simply to lay down a correct interpretation of such Vedic passages as refer to the Brahminic ritual, to solve doubts wherever they may exist on matters concerning sacrificial acts. and to reconcile discrepancies — according to the Mimansa always apparent only — of Vedic texts.
The foundation of this system is therefore preceded by a codification of the three principal Vedas [the fourth Veda, the "Atharvan," never attained in India the high consideration paid to the others, and is not universally accepted as a Veda (q.v.)] — the Rik, Black-Yajus, and Smaan — and by the existence of schools and theories which, by their different interpretations of the Vedic rites, had begun to endanger, or, in reality, had endangered a correct, or at least authoritative understanding of the Vedic texts. It is the method, however, adopted by the Mimansa which imparted to it a higher character than that of a mere commentary, and allowed it to be looked upon as a philosophy; for, in the first place, the topics explained do not follow the order in which they occur in the Vedic writings, especially in the Brahminic portion of the Vedas (q.v.); they are arranged according to certain categories, such as authoritativeness, indirect precept, concurrent efficacy, coordinate effect, etc.; and, secondly, each topic or case is discussed according to a regular scheme, which comprises the proposition of the subject-matter, the doubt or question arising upon it, the prima facie or wrong argument applied to it, the correct argument in refutation of the latter, and the conclusion devolving from it. Some subjects treated of in the Mimansa, incidentally, as it were, and merely for the sake of argument, belong likewise rather to the sphere of philosophic thought than to that of commentatorial criticism such, for instance, as the association of articulate sound with sense, the similarity of words in different languages, the inspiration or eternity of the Veda, the invisible or spiritual operation of pious acts, etc.
The reputed founder of this system is Jaimini — of unknown date — who taught it in twelve books, each subdivided into four chapters, except the third, sixth, and tenth books, which contain eight chapters each; the chapters, again, are divided into sections, generally comprising several Sutras or aphorisms, but sometimes only one. The extant commentary on this obscure work is the Bhashya of Sabara-swamin, which was critically annotated by the great Mimanas authority, Ku-marila-swamin. Out of these works, which, in their turn, quote several others, apparently lost, has arisen a great number of other writings, explaining and elucidating their predecessors. The best compendium, among these modern works, is the Jaiminiya-nyaya-mala-vistura, by the celebrated Madhavachairva (q.v.).
See Mullens, The Religious Aspects of Hindu Philosophy (Lond. 1860); the Reverend K.M. Banerjew, Dialogues on the Hindu Philosophy (Lond. 1861); Chunder Dutt, Essay on the Vedanta (Calcutta, 1854); Duncker, Gesch. des Alterthums, 1;205; Clarke, Ten Great Religion, page 116 sq.