Tuesday, August 4, 2009

History of classifications of prescriptions within Mīmāṃsā

It is difficult to settle when did the various classifications of prescriptions originate, since hints at them are present in the first texts of Mīmāṃsā literature, although their systematic arrangement occurs only much later. Better, in Mīmāṃsāsūtra and Śābarabhāṣya the prescriptions seem to be presupposed. Śabara mentions for instance the utpattividhi as if it were a self-evident hermeneutic device. So, one would expect them to be part of the Vedic or late Vedic repertoire, including the Śrautasūtras, or of the terminology of the paddhatis (ritual manuals). Instead, through Vedic dictionaries and concordances I could not find but vague references at viniyoga and prayoga. References at adhikāra entail only its meaning of “subject to be dealt with” and utpatti lacks altogether, just like niyama and parisāṁkhyā (and none of these terms is found in compounds with -vidhi). Same with the paddhatis I am aware of, and with the late yajñika work edited in Frederick Smith's The Vedic Sacrifice in Transition. My working hypothesis at the moment is that these terms were common in the Mīmāṃsā (not yajñika) prehistory. They have been implemented by Mīmāṃsā authors for centuries, before they felt the need to systematically deal with them. At that point, one had several classifications born out of different contexts and due to different exegetic needs. Some authors , like in the Mīmāṃsābālaprakāśa, just listed them all, others tried to make sense of them. Some lists hardly ever left the context where they had been devised. For instance, the apūrva-, niyama-, parisāṅkhyāvidhi classification is usually discussed within a narrower context (meaning of mantras, explanation of a particular passage).

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