Uttara-mimamsa (उत्तर-मीमांसा, Uttara-mīmāṁsā):
Uttara-mimamsa (1) or more popularly Vedanta (वेदान्त, Vedānta) is one of the six principal schools of Indian Philosophy. Vedanta means the last portion of the Vedas which consists of Upanishads. The Uttara-mimamsa is based on the Upanishads and hence it is called the Vedanta Darshanam (2) (दर्शनम्, Darśana) (3). The Uttara-mimamsa is also known by the names - Brahma-mimamsa (ब्रह्म-मीमांसा, Brahma-mīmāṁsā) and Sariraka-mimamsa (शारीरक-मीमांसा, Śārīraka-mīmāṁsā) as it deals with the Inquiries concerning the ultimate reality or Brahman (ब्रह्मन्, Brahman) or the embodied soul (4).
Origin, divisions and Literature:
The manifold Upanishadic passages at some places emphasise the identity between the individual soul with the supreme being or the ultimate reality while at some other places indicate the difference between the individual soul, the supreme being and matter. Badarayana (बादरायण, Bādarāyana), also called Vyasa (व्यास, Vyāsa), inorder to clear the apparent contradictions and bring out the true import of the Upanishads, wrote the Brahma-sutra-s (ब्रह्म-सूत्र, Brahma-sūtra). The Brahma-sutra-s are also called the Vedanta-sutra-s and were composed before the 6th century B.C (5).
The Vedanta-sutra-s were commented by different eminent scholars holding different views and thus there came in to existence many schools within Vedanta. Among the many schools, three became quite prominent and are being followed by many people ardently to this day. They are:
1. The Non-dualism or Advaita (अद्वैत, Advaita) propounded by Sankara (शङ्कर, Śaṅkara),
2. The Qualified non-dualism or Visista-advaita (विशिष्ट-अद्वैत, Viśiṣṭa-advaita) propounded by Ramanuja (रामानुज, Rāmānuja) and
3. The Dualism or Dvaita (द्वैत, Dvaita) propounded by Madhva (मध्व, Madhva).
The greatest Advaita Philosopher Sankara of the 8th century A.D., expounded the Vedanta-sutra-s in his commentary called as Sariraka-bhashyam (शारीरक-भाष्यम्, Śārīraka-Bhāṣyam). The greatest Visistadvaita Philosopher Ramanuja of the 11th century A.D, commented upon the Vedanta-sutra-s in his Sri-bhashya (श्री-भाष्य, Śrī-bhāṣya) and the greatest Dvaita Philosopher Madhva too commented upon the Vedanta-sutra-s.
The Brahma-sutra-s or Vedanta-sutra-s, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita are the three basic authoritative texts on which all the above three systems are based. In addition to the three texts, the Visistadvaita school accepts the Pancaratra (पाञ्चरात्र, Pāñcarātra) and Vaikhanasa (वैखानस, Vaikhānasa) agama-s (आगम, Āgama) (6), and the four thousand divine songs in the language of Tamil called "Nalayira Divya Prabhandam", being mystical, devotional outpourings by twelve Vaishnava saints (called as Alvars in Tamil). The Dvaita school accepts the Pancaratra agama as an additional authoritative text.
The Philosophy in a nut-shell:
The three principles namely the Brahman, the individual souls and the matter (manifested universe) are the subject matter of inquiry in the Vedanta Philosophy. Is there a distinction between the three? If they are identical then why do they appear to be distinct, if they are distinct, then what is the relation amongst them? Is the phenomenal world real or an illusion? These are some of the questions answered by the schools and ofcourse the way they are answered becomes the points of difference among the schools. The Upanishads, as mentioned earlier, mention about the identity between the Brahman and the individual souls at some places and also the distinction between them at some other places and hence there is the difference in interpretation.
Sankara established that there is no other reality or existence other than Brahman, emphasising the identity of the individual soul with the Brahman. The apperance of the phenomenal world is mistaken to be real because of an illusory force called maya (माया, māyā) which is inexplicable, and once the maya is transcended and the right knowledge of Brahman is acquired, illusion is destroyed and the individual soul identifies its union with the Brahman. Dvaitam means 'two' and the affixing of an 'a' (अ) in front of it negates the presence of two and it means only one real entity and that is the Brahman.
Ramanuja established that all three principles, namely the Brahman, the individual soul and the phenomenal world are all real and they are treated as "one" because the individual souls and the phenomenal world are actually the body of the Brahman. They are treated as "different" because they have differences in qualities among them. The individual soul is eternal and is subservient to the Brahman, though he can, upon liberation, attain unimpeded knowledge like the Brahman. Since the non-dualism aspect is qualified by stressing upon the dualistic aspect, this school is called visista (qualified) advaita.
Madhva held a 'different and opposite' view to that of Sankara and had agreed with Ramanuja in certain doctrines and diasgreed with him in certain doctrines. He emphasised that the Brahman, the individual soul and the matter are all different from each other and they can never be identical in any way. Hence his school is called dualisitc or dvaita.
References and footnotes:
(1) See the page on Mimamsa for an understanding of the background.
(2) See the page on Sad-darshana to understand the word Darshanam.
(3) A Short History of Sanskrit Literature, by T.K.Ramachandra Aiyar, page 203.
(4) A Short History of Sanskrit Literature, by T.K.Ramachandra Aiyar, page 204.
(5) A Short History of Sanskrit Literature, by T.K.Ramachandra Aiyar, page 204.
(6) The word Agama means "a traditional doctrine or precept, a sacred writing or scripture". The Pancaratra and Vaikhanasa agama-s are texts that elaborate on the mystical worship of Lord Vishnu at temples or at home.