Karma Mimamsa

Karma Mimamsa

Traditional Indian philosophy has 6 branches or approaches, known as the upangas or darshanas. Often they’re seen as competing philosophical systems when if fact they largely each describe the reality of a different stage of development.

I’ve talked some about several of them, including:
Vaisheshika and Samkhya


Vedanta or end of the Veda (Brahma Sutra, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads)

Nyaya is the system of logic that informs the others.

One I’ve only touched on is Karma Mimamsa, also known as Purva Mimamsa. Karma Mimamsa means an investigation or reflection on the field of action aka creation. Purva means before. This is a reference to it relative to Uttara (after) Mimamsa, another name for Vedanta.

Karma Mimamsa was written by Jaimini, also known for his text on Jyotish, the science of light aka Vedic astrology. KM is the largest core text of the 6 systems (the table of contents is 44 pages). It is also probably the oldest and least understood.

Today, it is seen as a “forgotten” text. Scholars say it’s missing context but suggest it discusses ritual and duty (dharma).

When Buddha arose, ritual had devolved into behaviors without connection to source. He rejected the rituals, bringing understanding back to the core principles. Approaches like the Karma Mimamsa fell out of favour and faded.

Today, the Karma Mimamsa is understood to suggest that material life is infinite and eternal and cannot be escaped (no liberation) so we may as well make the best of it. I can probably dismiss this was the intention of Jaimini.

While I’m certainly no expert, the text makes more sense if it’s seen in relationship to the other systems. Yoga is fundamentally about liberation – awakening. Vedanta is about Unity. Prior to Vedanta is Purva Mimamsa. We can thus see that the Karma Mimamsa deals with the refinement stage and unfolding awareness of the full range of material life.

We have the physical world and pure consciousness – what about all the layers in between? How do we work with those layers and the beings that live in them?

This is the arena of Karma Mimamsa although you wouldn’t know it from reading one of the very rare and old translations. The opening sukta seems to be making the point that just because something is invisible doesn’t mean it’s not in the field of action. Essentially, it is pointing to name and form. (sound or vibration becomes form)

Like the Brahma Sutra, there are no translations I can recommend. In fact, most of the books on the topic on Amazon are reprints of an old post-copyright book about the sutra (by AB Keith), not the sutra themselves. One is the sutra in Sanskrit only.

I look forward to the day when decent translations become available. There is what should be an excellent translation of the Brahma Sutra that will eventually be published. It was translated during the late 60’s to early 70’s, as described in the 2 volume series Conversations with Maharishi. I know of no such work on the Karma Mimamsa though. I won’t hold my breath.

Last Updated on January 26, 2017 by Davidya

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  1. Jim

    Hi David – Funny that such a precious work would be interpreted as some sort of dreary disciplinarian manual. 🙂 On the other hand, such an interpretation serves to keep the knowledge safe and undisturbed – hidden from view.

    Yes, along with the mastery of consciousness, the field of action/creation comes to be seen clearly, but it also protects itself from ordinary sight. Because without a sense of ownership and attachment, it is near impossible to describe it, and be understood.

    What I mean is that Brahman itself is a such a state (absent of ownership or attachment), and therefore the mechanics [of action/creation] are so very different from how they are seen in what might be deemed incomplete life, that they can only come across as grandiose, or even delusional. It doesn’t prevent the work from being done, but explaining it in everyday terms is quite impossible. 🙂

    Gaining the favor of the saints, angels, gods, goddesses, and nature spirits, is a natural function of Brahman. Such interactions are then carried out in a natural way, with discrimination, focus, timing, objectives, and project scope taken into account. Nothing odd or unusual about any of it, yet poorly understood, outside the realms of mysticism and fantasy.

    Many of us get into this spiritual biz to sort ourselves out, and help the world in the process. The Karma Mimamsa is such a key on the specific mechanics of how to do so, once the mastery of consciousness has been attained. Yet another virtual workbook on a completely normal and natural process, of discovering ourselves fully, and to the benefit of all.

    Thanks for bringing this up!

    1. Hi Jim
      Yes – each stage brings with it a new sense of self and reality. Describing that reality to someone who has not had the experience is difficult. This issue increases as we move into later stages as the distinctions get more removed from prior experience.

      When you also drop some of the veils created by that attachment, it massively expands what is here and becomes normal. Unimagined vistas…

    1. Hi George
      I’m yet to find a decent translation. While Shankara’s commentary is an argument for it’s validity, the text itself is not intellectual arguments but rather realizations of the nature of Brahman and Self. Virtually all translations are the second.

      Essentially, the sutra describe a progressive series of recognitions that form an “aggregate.”

      To give you an idea of how off they are, we can compare two versions of the 3rd and 4th verses.

      From Shivananda (your link):
      The scripture being the source of right knowledge.

      But that (Brahman is to be known only from the Scriptures and not independently by any other means is established), because it is the main purpose (of all Vedantic texts).

      Clearly, not a person who’s known Brahman directly.

      From Maharishi (from Conversations mentioned in the post’s closing paragraph):
      Because it is the womb of scripture.
      But that is through its unifying nature.

      One is saying it can only be known by scripture (but how did it then get recorded?), the other saying it is the source of scripture. If you take that and multiply it across the verses, you can see how misleading it can be.

      Because it is post-consciousness, Brahman cannot be known through experience. But it can be known by being it. I talk more about this on a number of articles like:

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