It is considered to be the oldest philosophical schools in India. Many saints, philosophers and scholars have studied it and then gone on to interpret it. The pioneer of Dwaitha system and one of India’s finest philosopher-logician, Madhwacharya (1238-1307), was an expert in it. Jayatheertha (1365-1388), another outstanding Madhwa saint-philosopher studied this system deeply. Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha (1460-1539) was also renown for his studies and interpretation of this school of thought.
Though Madhwa scholars and saints studied this school, they owed allegiance to another school of the same name. Both these schools are known as Mimamsa and the Madhwa school is known as Vedanta or Purva Mimamsa. But here, we are limiting ourselves to Purva Mimamsa or the philosophical tenets of Jaimini and the expertise of one of the foremost Madhwa saints-Raghavendra Swamy (1595-1671) in this.
Essentially a Dwaitha scholar-philosopher-theologician-logician and thinker-critic, Raghavendra Swamy excelled in shedding light on other systems of philosophy and he has done so in interpreting Purva Mimamsa in his work, Bhatta Sangraha.
The Bhatta Sangraha is exclusively devoted to the interpretation of Purva Mimamsa as elucidated first in the 3rd century BC by Jaimini, the disciple of Veda Vyasa or Narayana or Badarayana.
It should be remembered that Mimamsa first emerged on the horizons of India when the sage Jaimini wrote extensively and elaborately on it. His work on Mimamsa, called Mimamsa Sutras or Purva Mimamsa soon displaced other philosophies and dominated the thought and knowledge of ancient and early mediaeval periods in the country (This is different from the Mimamsa propagated by Badarayana which is called as Vedanta).
The Purva Mimamsa, since then, has been a subject of study, scrutiny, discussion and interpretation. Many Madhwa saints, philosophers and scholars such as Jayatheertha or Teekacharya, Vyasa Theertha or Vyasa Raja, Vijendra Theertha (1517-1614) have lavished attention on it and they have gone on to write about it. One of the best books on this subject is by Raghavendra Swamy or Rayaru,
Rayaru has written a comprehensive book on the Purva Mimamsa system. Though Jayatheertha, several centuries ago, had written about Purva Mimamsa, he has been dismissive of its tenets. He takes the Mimamsa philosophers, Kumarila Bhatta and Prabhakara, who followed Jaimini, to task and demolishes their arguments. He trashes the Purva Mimamsa and upholds the logic of Madhwa and the Vedanta or Uttara Mimamsa first advocated by Badarayana.
Incidentally, Mimamsa is one of the nine different philosophical schools of thought in India and of them, six- Nyaya, Vaisesika, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva mimamsa and Vedanta are categorised as orthodox and three-Jain, Buddhist and Carvaka are called as heterodox. The oldest among them all is Mimamsa, which in Sanskrit means “investigation”. This is also called astika school of Hindu philosophy as it seeks to look into the nature of dharma in relation to the Vedas. Mimamsa gives both rules according to which the commandments of the Veda are to be interpreted, and a philosophical justification for Vedic ritualism, Thus Mimamsa considers the Vedas to be eternal, authorless (apaurusheyatva), and absolutely infallible.
Dharma as understood by Mimamsa can roughly be translated into English as Knowledge, virtue, morality and or duty. Mimamsa scholars averred that the ritual obligations and prerogatives detailed in these texts, if properly performed, would not only appropriate the Gods but also lead to all-round bliss, peace and tranquility.
The Mimamsa stresses on the importance of the Vedas. Both Shankara (788-820), the founder of Adwaitha, and Madhwacharya, the pioneer of Dwaitha system, lay great store on the Mimamsa and consequently the Vedas. For Madhwacharya, Vedas was “Pramanam veda evaikaha. Tatpramanyam cha sadhitam, ” meaning Vedas are the true source of knowledge. Other philosophers such as Ramanajucharya (1017-1137), Vallabhacharya (1479-1531), Nimbaraka (13th century) and Chaitanya (1486-1534) also came to be influenced by the Mimamsa school.
This we see that Mimamsa largely influenced and moulded Hindu thought and religion in the early and middle ages and it effectively combated Buddhism and in no insignificant manner contributed to its decline. The school first traces its written word to Jaimini whose sutras are dated to the third century BC and they interpret the Vedas in twelve chapters. The first chapter is of immense philosophical value as Jaimini touches upon several aspects such as tradition or smriti, injunction or vidhi, mantra or hymn and explanatory passage or arthavada. If the second chapter deals with various rites, the third talks of sruti or that which is heard, context or vakya, pratipatti-karmdni and the fourth touches upon rites, including Rajasuya sacrifice.
The other chapters deal with sacrifice, ceremonies, hymns, tantra and prasana.
The first to write a commentary on the Purva Mīmāṃsā Sutras is Śābara and his Sabara Bhashya, a fifth century text, is a classic on the subject.
However, the school gained wide recognition during the time of three philosophers-Kumārila Bhaṭṭa (He was a Brahmin from Assam and wrote the treatise on Mimamsa called Mimamsaslokavarttika) and Prabhākara who wrote Brihati and Ladhvi. Bhatta’s Slokavarttika, along with Tantravartika and Tuptika gives us complete explanation of Sahara’s Bhasya on the Jaimini’s Mimansa – Sutra. The third philosopher who lent a strong shoulder to this school was Murāri Mishra. After them came a long list of eminent philosophers, thinkers and saints who went on to popularise the school and its tenets.
One of the first Madhwa saints and philosophers in the 16th century to study Mimamsa and write a commentary is Vijendra Theertha, the paramaguru of Raghavendra Swamy. His adhikarana mala is a classic. Others like Appaya Dixit (1520-1593), Mandana Misra-the first head of the Sringeri Shankaracharya matha and one of the four main disciples of Shankara (788-820) have written on the Mimamsa. The Nyayaratnakara of Pārthasārathi Miśra is worth mentioning. Another work is Kasika of Sucarita Miśra, who is believed to have lived sometime in the 12th century. Someshvara Bhatta in his Nyayasudha (The Nectar of Logic), has touched upon several aspects of Mimamsa.
However, what sets Rayaru’s work aside is that it gives us a detailed explanation of all the mantas and even obscure and complex words and passages are explained. A complete commentary on Jaimini Sutras, the work of Rayaru is categorised into Sangathi or context, Vishaya or subject, Sanshaya or doubt, purvapaksha or view and Siddantha or thought. Rayaru then goes on to interpret Mimamsa from both Purvapaksha and Siddantha points of view. It is here that Rayaru excels all other commentators of Mimasa. He gives word by word meaning of the stotras and mantras.
All the twelve chapters of Jaimini Sutras are explained. All the 2700 Sutras are beautifully interpreted in the Sangraha.
Vadindra Theertha, the great grandson of Rayaru, has mentioned in Gurugunavasthana that a scholar from Tanjore, Neelakanta Dixit, an Adwaitha pandit, was astounded on seeing the work and honoured Rayaru and his work with a victory procession on an elephant.