12 Pages

Imperatives and Religion in India

There is no doubt that the notion of release - that is to say, the assumptions concerning the existence of nirv~ and the possibility of attaining it - is the most fundamental notion of the majority of the philosophical and religious schools of India. However. among the six main philosophical schools that form what is commonly defined as 'Hindu philosophy', Jaimini, the founder of the Mimamsa school. was the only thinker in whose writings nirviiIJa is not even mentioned. Indeed. one searches Jaimini's writings in vain for any attempt at preaching an ultimate release from everyday existence. Returning to the parable quoted above, it thus seems to me that it is not coincidental that the only detail kept in Indian tradition about the life of J aimini is his unfortunate death, as a result of a savage attack by a wild elephant. Within a cultural tradition that regarded nirvil7J(l to be the highest value for man, the Mimamsa school is therefore quite exceptional. It is for this reason that it has aroused little interest among scholars and researchers of Indian philosophy and religion. A substantial number of books and articles d~voted to Hinduism as a religion and a way of life do not even mention the Mimim· p.. And among historical studies of Indian Philosophy there are instances of outright scorn and contempt directed towards it. 2

My firm conviction is that such attitude towards the Mhniupsa school cannot be justified. _Moreover. I believe that one can find in the religious position of ancient Mim1Jpsi some promising possibilities for a new appreciation of the religious phenomenon as well as some sophisticated arguments which are relevant to current studies in the philosophy of religion. Within the framework of the present paper I will deal primarily with one aspect of ancient MimitpSi - its standpoint concerning the status of religious language. The position of the M'lDliJpsi on this issue may be familiar to anyone who is acquainted with certain contemporary philosophies of religion. However, my method in the present paper will not be explicitly comparative. Rather, I will confine myself to the examination of the primary sources of ancient Mimilpsl, and even when using some Western terms, I will try my best not to distort or misinterpret the ideas conveyed in these ancient Indian

60 Religious Traditions