Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda ► Anekānta And The Problem Of Meaning ► Mīmāṁsā System

Posted: 09.04.2012

The Mīmāṁsā divides Veda into two parts: vidhi and arthavāda. Vidhi refers to the supra-mundane affairs and has to be interpreted literally, that is, in the primary sense while the arthavāda portion roughly refers to the matters of ordinary experience. It has no logical significance. It merely reiterates facts otherwise already known. Its purpose is to flatter a man into doing good actions or to frighten him out of evil ones. Taken independently the arthavāda has no use. It ought to be taken as a corroborative statement of vidhi or action or injunction. Hence, the arthavāda portion is to be interpreted liberally, that is, in a secondary, metaphorical or figurative sense. Thus, the Mīmāṁsā lays down canons of interpretation in connection with determining what portion falls under these two heads, namely, vidhi and arthavāda, the primary and secondary meanings respectively. It holds that only vidhis or injunctions are directly authoritative, for they teach us what to do and what not to do. Sentences which merely state something are of no use, for nobody gains thereby anything. Hence, all the arthavādas are authoritative only in so far as they form a unitary passage with command-sentences. For example, the arthavāda, 'vāyu is a swift deity' forms a unitary passage with the injunction, 'one who wants prosperity should touch a goat relating to vāyu', because taken independently the arthavāda has no use, while taken as a corroborative statement of the injunction, it praises the god Vāyu and suggests that a rite in connection with god is highly praiseworthy.[1]

Thus, according to the Mīmāṁsakas, action is the guiding principle of interpreting a particular word or a sentence and ascribing to it a primary or a secondary meaning. In this respect they attach importance to the contextual factors as well as to the purport. Even they maintain that an action consists of parts; and words conveying it may also be divided into parts, if necessary, to express its idea. Consequently, it follows that not only the meaning but even the form of a word may also be indeterminate in nature. For example, the word 'svāhā' may be divided into sva, ā and meaning the soul (sva), leading to or associated with (ā), an exclamation of satisfaction (). Hence, the word 'svāhā' expresses the satisfaction of the soul with action, with the result that it can continue to act. Similarly, if we divide the word dāna into parts - , ā and na, the meaning would be sacrifice () associated with (ā) the senses of knowledge; it would signify 'the sacrifice or proper function of the senses of knowledge', and the idea becomes different from that of a gift.[2] These examples illustrate one of the Mīmāṁsā methods of interpretation which ascribes a special meaning to a common word by dividing it according to the context, purpose and purport. This evinces the anekāntic or indeterminate aspect of the Mīmāṁsā concept of meaning. The canons of interpretation laid down by the Mīmāṁsakas are of a great value not only to those who want to understand the Veda aright but to all who are engaged on the work of finding out the exact import of fixed texts like legal code.[3]

Share this page on:



Published by:
Jain Vishwa Bharati Institute
Ladnun - 341 306 (Rajasthan)

General Editor:
Sreechand Rampuria

Edited by:
Rai Ashwini Kumar
T.M. Dak
Anil Dutta Mishra

First Edition:1996
© by the Authors

Printed by:
Pawan Printers
J-9, Naveen Shahdara, Delhi-110032

Get this book at