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Motilal Banarsidas Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
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The book gives for the first time a penetrating and full-length study of epistemology in the
neglected, but important, school of Bhatta Mimamsa. To it goes the credit of making the first
scholarly and comprehensive attempt at rescuing Kumarila Bhatta's epistemology from oblivion. The
work is based on an intensive and critical study of the Sanskrit texts which have not been
utilized by any other Oriental scholar so far. It is very much different from other books on the
subject because it not only discusses historically the epistemology of the Bhatta School but also
discusses many really philosophical problems connected with epistemology in general and Indian
epistemology in particular. One of the most valuable features of the work is the comparative
references which it makes to standard epistemologists of Western philosophy. The book reaches the
highest watermark in its line. It compares and contrasts the Bhatta position on various issues
with not only other Indian schools but also with some of the European philosophers like Russell,
Moore, Reid, Hume, Mill and Kant. In a sense it is an exercise in comparative philosophy. This is
inevitable, as otherwise, the position of the Bhatta School cannot be clarified and brought out in
About the Author
Dr. Govardhan P. Bhatt, now settled in Delhi, comes from a family of priest-physicians of the Himalayan district of Garhwal.
He was educated in a number of places and has had a consistently brilliant academic career.
Besides teaching for a number of years Dr. Bhatt has played a major role in the evolution and finalization of the terminology in Hindi in the subjects of Philosophy and Psychology under a larger Government of India project of national importance for helping the Universities in the medium change-over from English to Hindi.
He has contributed a number of articles to various journals and, to make a special mention, as
many as 29, originally in English, to the prestigious 3-volume Marathi publication. The Marathi
Encyclopaedia of philosophy (MEP), covering many areas such as Purva Mimamsa, Renaissance
Philosophy and Philosophers, modern German Idealism and contemporary Logical Positivism and
Analytical Philosophy, and also a summary of Jnanananda's Yoga-sutra-bhasya for the forthcoming
volume on Yoga Philosophy in the series of Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies by Messrs. Mothilal
The Basic Ways of Knowing
Extracts from Opinions / Reviews
the next day I almost wholly spent in devouring, like a hungry and voracious eater, the
contents of your very valuable book indeed. Your book reaches the highest watermark in its line,
giving probably for the first time, a full-length, methodical, substantial, sympathetic yet
critical study of the philosophical work of Kumarila and his followers. Your treatment does not
suffer from prolixity or dilution and is yet lucid and intelligible. It is authenticated by
relevant documentation and is characterized by a sympathetic understanding of the Bhatta
standpoint and is yet impartial and critical. One of the most valuable features of it is the
comparative references which it makes to standard epistemologists of Western Philosophy. I am sure
your work will rate with the highest in the field of Indian Philosophy, and, together with
Chatterji's Nyana Theory of Knowledge and Datta's Six Ways of Knowing, will complete the topmost
trio of treatises in Indian Epistemology
Congratulations, the best and the warmest, on your
Prof. D.D. Vadekar (Personal Communication)
"We wholeheartedly welcome this book as an outstanding work which gives us for the first time a penetrating and full-length study (based on original sources) of epistemology in the neglected, but important, school of Bhatta Mimamsa. The author has shown singular ability in reviewing the different theories of other schools also from the standpoint of Mimamsa. In a word, it is a sound and competent exposition of ancient Indian Epistemology."
K. Krishnamurthy (The Aryan Path)
"To the highly talented and painstaking research scholar, Dr. G. P. Bhatt, goes the credit of making the first scholarly and comprehensive attempt at rescuing Kumarila Bhatta's Epistemology from oblivion. He has literally dug up a gold mine."
Prof. B.G. Tiwari(Darshan International)
The contribution of Kumarila Bhatta and his School to Indian philosophical thought is not in any way inferior to that of Dignaga, Sankara or Bhartrhari. In fact, the entire Advaita Vedanta epistemology is based on the Bhatta School (vyavahare bhattanayah); its theory of language and mode of interpretation of scriptural texts are closely modelled on that of the Mimamsa. Kumarila’s magnum opus, the Sloka-Varttika, is a landmark in the development of Indian thought. Kumarila, as a realist and empiricist belonging to the atmavada-tradition, develops his characteristic standpoint by a sustained and deep criticism, all along the line, of the Buddhistic doctines of anatmavada, of momentariness, denial of the Universal (samanya), and advocacy of apohavada (Negative Theory of Meaning), of the Idealistic denial of the external object (niralambanavdda) etc. The Slaok- Varttika is a lucid and penetrating critical work presented in delightful language.
In contrast to Sankara who does not evince any deep or first- hand acquaintance with the Buddhist schools, Kumarila’s knowledge of Buddhist thought is direct, authentic, comprehensive and profound. Santaraksita and Kamalasila quote profusely (about 150 slokas) from the Sloka- Varttika which refutes the Buddhistic contention of Personal Omniscience (sarvajna). So do the Jaina philosophers.
Kumarila’s stand is that of an eminently reasonable advocacy of a realistic and empirical philosophy: in some respects, it is much superior to that of the Nyaya-Vaisesika. It steers clear of the Buddhist Devil who denies the reality of Substance (permanent underlying locus of qualities and action), of the Whole (avayavi), of the Universal ( jati, samanya) on the one hand, and the Deep Sea of the Advaita Vedanta which denies the ultimate reality of the dharma (qualities etc.) and the Parts and the Particular. Kumarila accepts the reality of both the Permanent and the Momentary, of Substance and its Predicates (Qualities and Action), of the Whole as well as its Parts, and of the Universal and the Particular; he is committed to a middle standpoint close to commonsense and ordinary language. Dr. Bhatt makes a brief reference to this characteristic stand especially on page 387 of his book. We should be deeply thankful to Dr. Bhatt for giving us Epistemology of the Bhatta School of Purva Mimamsa* based on a deep and comprehensive study of Kumarila and his School.
Primarily concerned in interpreting the Vedic texts, as inculcating ritual religion, the Mimamsa is led on to questions of Reality and Knowledge in support of its contentions. It formulated the doctrine of the Self-validity (Svatach-pramanya) of all knowledge, including the Verbal Testimony of the Scriptures, [because any other position is not plausible, and is even unreasonable. The factors which engender knowledge are the only necessary and sufficient conditions which also constitute its validity. No extra or external considerations such as correspondence, coherence or successful activity are required. Each knowledge is also known as valid the moment the knowledge occurs (jnaptau pra- manyam svatah). Invalidity (apr5n1dnya) is caused by the presence of alien factors, alien to knowledge, and is detected later (apramanyam paratah). This view and the untenability of other views is demonstrated by detailed and subtle analysis by the author in Chapters III and IV of the book.
The Mimamsa goes on to consider modes of knowledge other than Sabda (Verbal Testimony), because it is interested in pointing out that Perception, Inference etc. cannot give us knowledge of the Super—sensuous Dharma, the performance of ritualistic and ceremonial acts (yajna) leading to svarga (the heaven) and other UN SEEN or adrsta results; by their very nature they are precluded from leading us to these results.
Its realistic attitude is also the consequence of its conception of Dharma. The Mimamsa finds that
the investigation of Dharma involves metaphysical and epistemological issues about the nature of
the Self, nature of Karma and its result. It is committed to a form of Realism. As Kumarila says
in the Sloka- Varttika (Niralambanavada, 3-4):
Karmabhyah phalasambandhah paralaukyaihalaukikah /
Sarvam ityady ayuktam syad artha-sunyasu buddhisu //
Tasmad dharmarthibhih pitrvam pramanair lokasammataih /
Arthasya sadasadbhave yatnah karyah kriyam prati //
The Kasika thereon says clearly that the entire business of the Mimamsa is based on the assumption of the existence of external objects (sarvo hy ayam mimamsa-prapanco bahyarthasraya eva). It is thus opposed to the Advaita Vedanta stand of relegating the performance of ritualistic ceremonies (yaja) to vyavahara, a lower order of reality. The Mimamsa does not therefore favour two levels of reality, paramartha and vyavahara. Thus the Mimamsa is led either to deny illusion and the illusory object entirely (the Prabhakara position of Viveka-akhyati, the Non- apprehension of Difference between two Knowledge’s and their respective objects), or the more reasonable stand of Kumarila that only the relation between two real separate objects is false and non-existent (Viparitakhyati). The Mimamsa cannot countenance the Advaita theory of Anirvacaniyakhyati which means the acceptance of an apparent (illusory) content, with the experience of such content also being unique and illusory. All these topics are admirably well-treated by Dr. Bhatt in his work under consideration.
The most significant contribution of the Mimamsa, especially of the Bhatta School, is with regard to its conception of Language and Verbal Knowledge. There was never a time when Language and linguistic activities were absent; they are beginning less and eternal (Sabda-nityatva-vdda). The Impersonality of Scripture (Vedapauruseyavada) is also the necessary consequence of this doctrine. That the Semantical Rules of Syntax and Interpretation also do not need any person, is also to be accepted. That Action or the Verb is the Principal Meaning of the Sentence is also a special Mimamsa doctrine.
As indicated before, the Mimamsa schools undertake a consideration of the Pramanas (Sources of Valid Knowledge) to show that Knowledge of Dharma (Ritual Religion) cannot be got from sources other than Scripture (Sabda). This does not mean that its investigation of Perception (Pratyaksa), Anumana (Inference), Upamana (Analogy), Sabda, Arthapatti (Presumption) and Anupalabdhi (Conscious Non-apprehension) is scrappy or in- adequate. The Bhatta School holds that all human knowledge falls under one of the six kinds enumerated above, neither more nor less. It therefore comes into clash not only with the Buddhists who accept two mutually exclusive and exhaustive knowledge’s (Perception and Inference) based on two disparate objects (the Svalaksana and the Samanya-laksana)—manadvaividhyam meyadvaividhyat, but also with the Samkhya who accepts only three sources (Pratyaksa, Anumana and Sabda) and the Nyaya which accepts four along with Upamana and the Prabhakara who accepts Arthapatti (Presumption) but does not accept Anupalabdhi. The burden is to show that there is no knowledge or object which could not be brought under any one of the six kinds; nor could we do with less, without reasonable propriety.
The justification for accepting the above stated six kinds of knowledge and objective content is that we are led to them by distinct (although not absolutely exclusive) modes of apprehending them. The Buddhistic (Dignagian) conception of Pratyaksa as the apprehension of the Unique Particular (Svalaksana) and the Svalaksana as given only in Pratyaksa is actually an extreme type of Nirvikalpa Pratyaksa: and rules out the Savikalpa as Pratyaksa, because the Savikalpa involves mental construction and is therefore not confined to the strictly given (na sannihita- matra-visayam). For the Bhatta and other realists, the Savikalpa is the principal type of Pratyaksa; they choose to ignore or slur over the priori functioning of the mind and its samskaras at work in forming the savikalpa. The Realists consider Substance and its Predicates, the Whole and the Parts and the Universal and the Particular as equally and directly given and perceived.
The Buddhist is equally perverse in denying Verbal Testimony as giving fresh and unknown access to entities; it is only an index or outward expression of Vikalpas, our internal thought. He denies that the Word can reveal anything not known before; of course it is incapable of revealing to us the transcendent reality. The Buddhist doctrine is akin to Logical Positivism and the Linguistic Philosophers of the Wittgensteinian School. It also therefore advocates a Negative Theory of Meaning (Apohavada). This is clearly wrong, because for most of our information we depend upon hearsay or verbal communication from others, not on our own thoughts. For the Mimamsa and the Vedanta there is an added reason that with regard to the Super sensuous or the Transcendent Dharma or Brahman, Sabda is the only Source of Knowledge.
The Nyaya is rather naive in reducing Arthapatti to a kind of Inference (the Kevala-vyatireki
type); because in arthapatti we do not start with a ready made major premise (vyapti), but we
frame one to explain an apparently odd situation. In fact, most of our scientific and
philosophical generalisations are nothing but arthapatti. Nor is his attempt to subsume
Anupalabdhi (Conscious Non-apprehension) under Pratyaksa more convincing. For, we have to remember
the thing absent and try to perceive and know it by other means and as this does not lead to any
apprehension, we conclude that the thing in question does not exist or is absent. For instance, a
person who denies the existence of God does not make the assertion only on the non- availability
of perception, but necessarily of all other modes of knowledge open to human beings:
Pramanapahcakam yatra vasturupe na jayate/
Vastusattavabodhartham tatrabhavapramanata //
[Sloka Varttika, Abhavapramanyavada]
The non-availability of all the five sources of positive knowledge itself serves as a means to negative conclusions. There is no other way to make negative assertions. Therefore, any knowledge of absence or negation involves a well—defined process; there cannot be a direct perception of absence, as the Nyaya wrongly holds.
The topic of Pramana and Prameya (the whole extent of Theory of Knowledge) is a fascinating enquiry, and there are many, many sophisticated issues involved. I invite the reader to go through the main body of the excellent work of Dr. Bhatt and enjoy the way he has treated every detail and has brought out its subtle implications. This is a commendable performance.
If I have any criticism to offer it is that his treatment of Sabda is not comprehensive, or even adequate. Dr. Bhatt should have brought out the full implications of the Beginninglessness (Nityatva) of the Word and the Impersonality of the Scripture and even of Language. He should have refuted the Convention-Theory of Language (Sanketa theory) advocated by the Nyaya School. That language is underived and that the word is a form and is thus distinct from its material embodiment, sound (dhvani), are established by the Mimamsa theory of the Eternality of the Word (sabda-nityatva—vada). Words and their relation with meaning are eternal, underived and impersonal (autpattikastu sabdasyar- thena sambandhah tasya jnanam upadeso’ vyatirekascarthe’ nupalabdhe tat pramanam Badarayanasyanapeksatvat—Mimamsa Sutra I.l.5). It may be thought that we give names to persons and thus initiate new conventions, and that the same logic should be applied to other words also. They too were the result of convention (sanketa), and where human convention is not available, recourse may be had to divine convention. Against this view, the Mimamsa argues rightly that the relation between the word and the meaning is not an arbitrary convention, established hymen or even by God either now or in the past.
We do not have record of any such convention. Convention itself pre- supposes language, which is sought to be derived from convention. To make convention, words have to be used and under- stood by persons participating in the convention. This is to use language. And language itself is sought to be derived from language. This is clearly circular. Invoking God does not help either. Flow could God make known his intentions, his conventions between words and their meanings, to persons who did not use language already? And if` they had already been using language, God’s convention does not obviously initiate language. However far back we may push the beginning of convention, we would still find language preceding it. An absolute beginning of language is untenable. Linguistic usage is continuous. This is a doctrine which the Mimamsa shares with the School of Grammar (Vaiyakarana). But it is unlike the Grammar School which takes Language as a Whole Impetrate Sentence primarily (Akhanda- Vakya-Sphota), while the breaking of it into individual words and syllables is only a convenient abstraction. This is a device meant for pedagogical purposes. The Mimamsa, as a realist and empiricist, is committed to a kind of atomism and pluralism in language (varna eva sabdah); it considers the sentence as a real combination of letters and words, under the guidance of some syntactic rules.
The Mimamsa conception of the Impersonality of Vedic Texts (Apauruseya-vada) and their interpretation as not involving any reference to the intention of the speaker or writer (Tatparya=Vaktur iccha) in construing a sentence are also to be emphasized. The Mimamsa also takes the Verb or Action as the principal and substantive part of the sentence, a doctrine which it shares with the Grammar School.
These points deserve to be stressed in any consideration of Sabda (Verbal Knowledge). Even in elementary text—books of Nyaya, like the Bhasa-Pariccheda or Tarka-Samgraha, mention is usually made that Asatti, Yogyata, Akanksa and Tatparya—jnana are the necessary factors in construing a sentence. The Nyaya is also insistent upon taking the Noun (Nominative) as the principal part of the sentence.
Dr. Bhatt’s treatment of the subject is not at all uncritical. As an instance of this, I may draw attention of the reader to his consideration of the peculiar Bhatta conception of JNATATA (Cognizedness) of Knowledge. "Kumarila’s keen intellect rightly grasped the root idea from which Idealism grew. The Idealist assumed that cognition must be known before an object is known. He took it as a self-evident truth. Kumarila proved the untenability of this notion. He went further ahead and proved that cognitionis never known directly, because it is a formless and fleeting entity. Cognition is not even self-aware. Its existence is rather presumed to explain the fact of object-manifestation. In this connection Kumarila put forward a unique theory of cognizedness." (p. 413) "...knowledge must presuppose some kind of activity belonging to the subject, which consists in attending and actively responding to the influences’ produced on the subject by the objects in the environment. But an activity is generally conceived as producing some perceptible and tangible results on objects, while in the case of cognition no such results are observed. The mistake of the Bhattas consists in placing cognition on the same footing as other voluntary activities.
They thought that cognition produced cognizedness in objects exactly as cooking produced cookedness in rice. But while cookedness is a visible and tangible result, cognizedness is not. And there is no ground to suppose that cognizedness is a very subtle and invisible result, because in that case the cognizer himself could not perceive it. Of course, when a man has already known an object, he happens to experience a feeling of familiarity when he is face to face with it on a second occasion. But this feeling does not reside in the object; it resides in the knowing subject." (p. 65). "Cognizedness is said to be directly cognized while cognition is said to be inferred. But in that case a new cognizedness will be generated in the first cognizedness and so on leading to infinite regress." (p. 69). "Knowledge is a unique phenomenon and cannot be brought under any of the usual categories of substance, quality, relation and action. Knowledge may be knowledge of a substance, of a quality, of a relation, or of an action; but it is neither a substance, nor a quality, nor a relation, nor an action." (p. 67). There are some other places where this doctrine is criticized.
Dr. Bhatt’s eminent work amply proves that there is no neutral or completely objective, disinterested epistemology. Every system of philosophy is committed to an ultimate metaphysics or a conception of Self, Object, Reality, Relation, Knowledge and Causation etc., whether this is consciously expressed or is merely pre-supposed. The theory of knowledge of any system is merely the overt drawing out of the implications of its metaphysics with regard to knowledge. This is evident from the way the Buddhist radically differs in his theory of knowledge from that of others- And also it is proved by the fact that the Bhattas differ from the Nyaya, Prabhakara, and the Advaita Vedanta.
In dealing with the Bhatta epistemology, Dr. Bhatt compares and contrasts this position on various issues with not only other Indian schools but also with some of the European Philosophers like Reid, Hume and Kant. In a sense it is an exercise in Comparative Philosophy. This is inevitable; as otherwise, the position of the Bhatta School cannot be clarified and brought out in depth.
Epistemology of the Bhatta School of Purva Mimamsa is based on a close study of the original Sanskrit works down the ages, from Kumarila’s Sloka- Varttika, its Commentaries and sub- commentaries, as well as the works of Prabhakara and the Nyaya Schools. Dr. Bhatt has also consulted the modern literature on the subject, especially Dr. Ganganath Jha’s works. In the result, he has given us a well-constructed, lucidly presented, definitive work on the subject. This is a noteworthy contribution to Indian philosophical thought.