I felt personally addressed by an intriguing post by Vidya (here) which asks how could one with little or no knowledge of rituals be able to understand Mīmāṃsā texts.
The post is highly recommendable and raises many interesting points.
Personally, although I have been reading Mīmāṃsā texts for …(too many) years now, not only I lack a lot of the knowledge I should have, but also I am not in the position to acquire it, being a mleccha woman.
Let me first be apologetic: the same problem does not only apply to tantric āgamas (as admitted by Vidya), but also to texts dealing with Medicine, Yoga, Architecture. meditation techniques and any other technical subject (one is reminded of endless discussions about whether a non-Buddhist might understand Buddhist texts). Further, I would say that sharing the authors' worldview (which seems to be Vidya's main point) is fundamental also for philosophical texts. One cannot think of editing or translating Kumārila or Jayanta just through a bunch of manuscripts and one's acquaintance with Sanskrit. One should (I believe) be ready to engage in a philosophical dialogue with them.
This leads me to a further point: Mīmāṃsā authors are not yajñikas (as established by Daya Krishna in his well-known The Mīmāṃsaka and the Yajñika). They do not (or not merely) aim at performing ritual in a correct way, they aim at conceiving the ritual in a correct way. This is evident in thousands of cases where the end-result does not change and yet authors argue at length about which principle should be applied (e.g. MS 12.1.10-11). To disregard this fundamental difference, I believe, is to do violence to the deep philosophical significance of Mīmāṃsā.
Last, a word of caution: Vidya seems to imply that a contemporary yajñika might be in a better position to understand a Mīmāṃsā text. This might be true. Among my favourite Mīmāṃsā scholars are several Indian paṇḍits, such as G. Jhā, P.K. Sen and K. Pandurangi, whom I immensly admire. But knowing how something is done today does not automatically entail knowing how it was made at the time of Śabara. I dedicated several posts in the last months to the history of the terms tantra and prasaṅga and hope to have been able to show how their meaning changed throughout centuries. In short: being aware of philosophy and of philosophy in history seems to me the fundamental precondition for understanding Mīmāṃsā philosophical texts.
Yet, Vidya is right. I argued elsewhere that it is ironic that examples, meant to be clarifications, are often the hardest part of a Mīmāṃsā passage. What should one do? First, work in a team with people who are more acquainted with rituals or with ritual manuals (paddhati). Second, think along the Mīmāṃsā way. "Think ritually", as F.X. Clooney would put it. This implies some revolutions, for instance, thinking in a spatial way rather than in a temporal one.
What is the readers experience in fields where they are outsiders?
On team-work, see here. On thinking spatially, see here (in Śrautasūtras), here (in Śrautasūtras and early Mīmāṃsā), here (in general) and here (on absence as a spatial and not temporal category). On the use of history, see here. With God's help, I will be speaking about how to critically editing a philosophical text during the next WSC.
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