Of the fourteen branches of learning(caturdasa-vidya), after the four Vedas and the Sadanga, we have the four Upangas of the vedas remaining. "Upa+anga"="Upanga. "The prefix "upa" is added to suggest what is auxiliary to a subject. "Sabhanayaka" means speaker; "upa-sabhanayaka" means deputy speaker. In the same way we have, after the six Angas(Sadanga), the four Upangas. These are Mimamsa, Nyaya, the Puranas and Dharmasastra.
"Mam" is the root of the word "Mimamsa"; "san" is the pratyaya. "Mimamsa" means "esteemed or sacred inquiry", an exposition. What is esteemed or worthy of worship? The Vedas. Mimamsa is an exegesis of the Vedas. Nirukta explains the meaning of the words of the Vedas, also their etymology in the fashion of the dictionary. Mimamsa goes further, to find out the significance of the mantras, their intent. It also gives its decisions on these points.
We have already discussed the karmakanda and the jnanakanda of the Vedas. Karmakanda is called the purva-bhaga,the first or early part of each Vedic recension, and the second or concluding part is the uttara-bhaga. Mimamsa too is divided in this way into Purvamimamsa and Uttaramimamsa. The first holds that sacrifices and other rites of the karmakanda form the most important part of the Vedas, while the second maintains that the realisation of the self taught in the jnanakanda is their true goal. I spoke about the Uttaramimamsa when I dealt with the Upanishads and the Brahmasutra.
Uttaramimamsa, that is the Brahmasutra as well as the Upanishads, constitutes"Brahmavidya" or vedanta here. It is the foundation of the three important philosophic systems - Advaita (non-dualism or monism), Visistadvaita (qualified non-dualism or qualified monism) and Dvaita (dualism).
Our present subject is Purvamimamsa. As a matter of fact the term "Mimamsa" itself usually denotes "Purvamimamsa". But mention of it brings to mind Uttaramimamasa also.
Every system has, as we have seen its sutras, bhasya, and vartika. The Purvamimamsa-sutra is by Jamini Maharsi, its bhasya by Sabarasvamin and its vartika by Kumarilabhatta. Kumarilabhatta's Bhattadipika remains the most important Purvamimamsa work. Kumarila was an incarnation of Kumarasvamin or Subrahmanya. Prabhakara has written a commentary or Purvamimamsa in which he expresses views which, on some points, are divergent from Kumarlibhatta's. So two different schools are identified in Mimamsa-"Bhatta-mata" and "Prabhakara-mata". Let us consider Mimamsa in general terms, ignoring the difference between the two schools. "Bhattamata", it is obvious, gets its name from the fact that it represents the views of Kumarilabhatta.
Jaimini's Purvamimamsa-sutra is a voluminous work and has twelve chapters,each having a number of "padas" and each pada having a number of "adhikaranas". In all, there are 1000 adhikaranas.
The Vedas constitute the law of Isvara. Since they are eternal and endless the law is also eternal. All of us are the subject of the monarch called Isvara. He has engaged many officials, authorities, like Indra, Vayu, Varuna, Agni, Yama, Isana, Kubera, Nirrti and so onto take care of this world. They need a law to protect the creatures of all the fourteen worlds. How should we, the subjects of Isvara, conduct ourselves according to this law, how are the officials appointed by Isvara to rule over his domain? We may find out the answer to these by examining the Vedas. There are judges who deliberate on the laws of this world and resolve doubts concerning them with the help of lawyers. If the Vedas are the law that determines how dharma is to be practised, it is jaimini who interprets the meaning of this law. His interpretation is Mimamsa.
When there is legal dispute, a verdict is given, say, according to the decision of the Allahabad or Bombay high court based on similar cases. The decision given by one court with regard to one case may be applied to a similar case that comes up before another court. In Jamini's Mimamsa a thousand issues (or points) are examined, taking into account the views opposed to those of the author of the sutras, and the meaning of the Vedic passage determined with cogent reasoning. To explain: first, a Vedic statement is taken up; second, questions are raised about its meaning ("samasya"); third, the opposing school's point of view is presented ("purvpaksa"); fourth, that point of view is refuted ("uttarpaksa"); and, fifth, a conclusion is arrived at ("nirnaya"). The process of arriving at the meaning of each issue or point constitutes an adhikarana.
The sutras of Jaimini are very terse. Sabara's commentary on them is called Sabaram. The word "sabari" usually means a hunter. "Sabari" of the Ramayana, they say, was originally a huntress. Sabara, the Mimamsa commentator, had an aspect of Isvara in him. It is believed that Isvara composed the commentary (Sabaram) when we appeared as a hunter to grant the Pasupata weapon to Arjuna.
Since it has one thousand adhikaranas, Purvamimamsa is called "Sahasradhikarani". One must add here that in this work the meaning of the Vedic texts are determined by countering many a captious argument ("kuyukti").
While Purvamimamsa concerns itself with the meaning of the karmakanda of the Vedas, Uttaramimamsa deals with the meaning of the jnanakanda, that is the Upanisads. The Upanisads speak primarily of the Paramatman and our inseparable union with him. Vyasa, in his Brahmasutra, determines the meaning of the divine law constituted by the Upanisads. Ironically enough, the sage who composed the sutras for Uttaramimamsa, Vyasa, was the guru of Jaimini who composed the sutras of Purvamimamsa.
Suresvaracarya wrote a commentary on the Taittiriya and Brhadaranyaka Upanisads from the non-dualistic point of view. It is not worthy that he had earlier been and adherent of Purvamimamsa. He made the transition from the path of works to the path of jnana, on becoming a disciple of Sankara and wrote a commentary on his guru's bhasya. Before becoming a disciple of our Acarya and a sannyasin he was called Mandanamisra. The story goes that Sankara approached Mandanamisra for a philosophical disputation during a sraddha performed by the latter. Vyasa and Jaimini were the two Brahmins to take part in the ceremony.
For a general background, please see here