Purva mimamsa is one of the six orthodox systems of Hindu philosophy, founded by Jaimini. He was a pupil of Badarayana and was also said to have helped Vyasa to arrange the veda, and to have founded an upanishadic school.
The term Mimamsa is applied to the investigation of the vedic texts, and in philosophy to a system of vedic interpretation, especially of the Brahmanas and Mantras, with the object of correctly performing the vedic rituals and ceremonies.
Mimamsa accepts the philosophical tenets of the other orthodox schools, but holds that knowledge alone cannot give salvation, for the soul must fulfil itself through action or religious ritual. Ceremonial, rather than philosophy, is emphasized. Belief in the existence of god was not incumbent on the mimamsaka or follower of the Mimamsa system. Without right action, or dharma, knowledge is fruitless and true happiness unaltainable. Right action confers merit and yields benefits by generating an 'invisible effect', for it is the means of planting the seeds that fructify in the next life. A sacrificial act of apparently only ceremonial value brings forth rewards that are manifested in the future.
There is an elaborate epistemology in Mimamsa. Jaimini believed in the self-inherent authority of the Vedas which he regarded as being above and independent of any authority; independent even of divine revelation. Verbal testimony or Shabda was regarded as the only means by which knowledge could be obtained. For this reason it became necessary to perfect a system of scriptural interpretation, and Mimamsa therefore lays down rules for resolving and explaining the obscure or doubtful passages and discrepancies in the vedic texts, and ways of discussing and refuting wrong views, and presents a clear cut method of interpretation. The contents of the Vedas are exhaustively classified, elaborated and interpreted as injunctions (vidhi), prohibitions (nishedha), and son on. The grammatical rules and literary devices employed in Vedic ritual are examined, analysed and likewise interpreted. Correct performance, correct enunciation, stress on accents, are all emphasized in Mimamsa.
The oldest commentary in existence on the Mimamsa sutras is the bhashya of Shabrasvamin which in its turn was commented on about 700 A.D. by the great
Mimamist Kumarila in his Tantra-Varttika and in his shloka varttika, the latter a metrical paraphrase of Shabra's exposition of the first aphorism of patanjali. Among the later commentaries on the Mimamsa sutras the most important is the jaiminiya nyayamala vistara of Madhava.
The Mimamsa system of philosophy is also known as the purva-mimamsa (early mimamsa) to distinguish it from the uttara-mimamsa (latter mimamsa) or the Vedanta system. It is also known as karma-mimamsa since it stresses action or ritual, and vakyashastra or the study of words.