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Bhartrmitra III.1
Date: Wed May 30 2001 - 13:08:28 PDT

III. Philosophy of Bhartrmitra

1. Similarity with the Lokaayata Doctrine - 
As stated above, in his Slokavarttika, Kumarila states that 
he has attempted to wrest the Mimamsa Sastra from the followers of 
Lokaayata sect, and has tried to bring it back to the aastika fold. 
Commenting on this verse, Parthasarathi Misra states that Kumarila has 
alluded to Bhartrmitra and other scholars here. Umbeka Bhatta makes 
the same identification also in his commentary 'Slokavarttikavyakhya 
Tatparyatika' [Raja et al 1971:3]. It is clear that Bhartrmitra was a 
prominent, but not the only proponent of a particular school of 
Mimamsa, whose doctrines were similar in many ways to the tenets of 
Lokaayata School. I will refrain from going into a general discussion 
on the school of Charvaka/Lokaayata[4], focusing on what the followers 
of Purva Mimamsa have to say with regard to it, and the possible 
similarities between the views of Bhartrmitra and Lokaayatikas. 

To start with Kumarila, let us consider what his own views were on the 
followers of the Lokaayata system. Kumarila puts the following bitter 
invective against the followers of the Lokaayata doctrine in the mouth 
of a Purvapakshin [Jha 1983:128-129, modified slightly] while 
commenting on PMS 1.3.3 -

" If the mere fact of perceptible worldly motives being found for the 
actions laid down in the Smritis were to make them un-authoritative, 
then, inasmuch, as there is always a likelihood of some such motive 
being found, in connection with all that is laid down in the Veda, all 
the scriptures would have to be considered equally authoritative. For 
instance, such grounds of the alleged unauthoritativeness of the 
Smritis, as the presence of the motives of affection, aversion, 
vanity, recklessness, delusion, laziness, avarice, and the like, are 
capable of being attributed to all actions (Vedic as well as 
non-Vedic). So long as our own minds are pure and devoid of all 
wickedness, we can always admit the Smritis to have a sound basis (in 
the Veda); and it is only when our own minds become tainted that we 
begin to suspect their authoritative character.

What performance of Dharma is there, in which some sort of a 
perceptible selfish motive cannot be found, and which cannot be found 
to be contradictory to some other direct Vedic assertions? (The 
chances of contradiction are equally present in all injunctions, 
whether the action laid down be found to have a perceptible motive or 
not). And then again, the terribly ignorant atheists have no other 
business except finding some sort of a worldly motive for all actions, 
- even those that are not due to any apparent perceptible worldly 
motive. Even the actions laid down in the Veda are made by them to be 
due to certain worldly motives; and on the slightest pretext they 
explain one Vedic injunction to be contradictory to other Vedic texts. 
And under the circumstances, if the Mimamsakas once give an 
opportunity to the atheists, thus encouraged, the atheists would not 
leave the authority of any oath of Dharma safe. Their conduct is that 
of monkeys and Pisaachas, because these atheists do not trouble their 
objective until the Mimamsakas themselves give them an opportunity of 
attack. And when they have once been given an opportunity, by such 
persons as borrow their imaginary attacks upon the authority of the 
scriptures, who (i.e., which scripture) can hope to escape alive, if 
once fallen in the way of their (argumentative) path? For these 
reasons, it is not right for the Mimamsakas to help the accomplishment 
of the purposes of the atheists, who are bent upon the destruction of 
all Dharma."

In this passage, the Purvapaksin is instigating the follower of 
Mimamsa Sastra to take up the gauntlet thrown by the follower of 
Lokaayata school, and defeat his contention that the Smritis and 
virtuous conduct established by tradition cannot be taken as 
authoritative sources of Dharma.

Can this description of Lokaayata sect be applied to the views of 
Bhartrmitra? Commenting on Slokavarttika, Parthasarathi Misra 
says [Sastri 1978:5] that Bhartrmitra had introduced false doctrines 
(apasiddhaanta) like "there are no good and the bad fruits of the 
obligatory daily duties (nitya) and prohibited acts (nishiddha)" into 
the Mimamsa Sastra and had made it akin to the Lokaayata Sastra.[5]

Umbeka Bhatta clarifies even further [Raja 1971:3, translation mine] - 

"(A doubt is raised-) 'In order to comprehend the purport of the Vedas 
and to memorize the same, Bhartrmitra and others have written several 
tracts and texts like Tattvasuddhi etc., pertaining to each different 
topics. Hence, the composition of this text (Slokavarttika) is 
redundant.' (To this, Umbeka replies) - 'To counter such a possible 
objection, the author of the Varttika has composed the verse 'praayena 
etc.'' ( Mimamsa is the foremost of the all the aastika 
sastras, because it discusses the means of attaining all the goals of 
human existence. Such a true aastika system has been given a 
predominantly Lokaayata form. The true Smritis and true/virtuous 
conduct established by tradition is a source of Dharma, (but in this 
modified version of Mimamsa Sastra) the authority of these has been 
negated without any cogent reason. So also the good and bad results of 
the injunctions and prohibitions (by the Vedas) respectively are not 
considered/are rejected in this system. The sole difference admitted 
between such a school of Mimamsa and Lokaayata is that the former 
teaches the acts that are enjoined by the Vedas (while the latter does 
not). Otherwise, there is no difference (between Lokaayata and this 
version of Mimamsa Sastra). By such untruthful commentators, the 
progress of the Mimamsa Sastra on the path of truth has been hindered, 
and it has been set forth on the path of falsehood. To extricate the 
Mimamsa Sastra from this quagmire and to establish it back on the 
aastika path, an attempt has been made by me (Kumarila) through the 
composition of this Varttika text."

Note that there is a slight difference in the views attributed to 
Bhartrmitra by the Umbeka and Parthasarathi Misra. According to the 
former, Bhartrmitra did not admit any fruit of the 'vidhi' whereas 
according to the latter, Bhartrmitra did not admit any fruit of the 
'nitya' rites like the agnihotra. Desisting from doing prohibited 
actions (nishiddha-karma) and performance of one's daily religious 
obligations (nityakarma) are discussed in or enjoined strongly by the 
Dharmashastras (sat-smrtis) and traditions established by the virtuous 
(sad-aacaara) and are often not discussed by the Sruti. Hence, a 
rejection of the nityakarma and pratishiddha-karmas automatically also 
implies a rejection of smritis and sadaacaara, on which these karmas 
are primarily founded. An understanding of this fact enables one to 
comprehend Umbeka's description of Bhartrmitra's views more 

A related view of Bhartrmitra is found referred to in Parthasarathi 
Misra's commentary on the Citraaksepa-parihaara section of Kumarila's 
Slokavarttika. The Citraa-yaaga is a sacrifice, which grants cattle to 
the performer according to Vedic texts. Since cattle do not appear 
immediately after the sacrifice is over, heretic revilers of the Vedas 
question the very efficacy of the sacrifice. The Mimamsakas argue, in 
defense of the Veda, that the fruit of the sacrifice viz., the cattle, 
need not appear immediately after the sacrifice because the Vedic text 
enjoining this rite does not promise an immediate result. The fruit 
therefore, could result in a future life, or anytime in future as 
such. In the Mimamsa school of thought, the chronological disconnect 
between the performance of a sacrifice and its promised fruit is 
bridged with the help of an 'unseen force' called the 'apuurva' which 
ensures that the fruit accrues to the sacrificer in future, whenever 
the time is ripe [7]. In verses 14-15 of this section however, 
Kumarila refers to certain people who do not deny the efficacy of the 
Citraa sacrifice in bestowing the fruit on the sacrificer, but insist 
that the fruit accrues in this very life, and not in some future life. 
Kumarila says [Jha 1983:378-379]-

"And those, who hold that the results of the Citra etc., must appear 
in this very life, will not be able to show any cause for the 
appearance of their results (cattle etc.) in favor of those who have 
never performed those sacrifices during their present lives. Verse 14 
Because (according to these theorists) the affects of the Citra etc. 
(performed during some previous life) must have been exhausted in the 
course of that life; and portions of the (previous) enjoyment of 
Heaven cannot follow one to a new life." Verse 15 

Introducing verse 14, Parthasarathi Misra adds that Bhartrmitra etc. 
hold that the citraa-yaaga bears fruit in this very life [Sastri 
1978:483]. Udayavira Shastri informs that according to some 
traditional scholars of Mimamsa like Chinnasvami Shastri, Bhartrmitra 
did not accept 'apuurva'. Perhaps, indications such as the one by 
Parthasarathi Misra here might have resulted in such a view about 
Bhartrmitra in the larger community of Mimamsakas. Apuurva is one of 
the fundamental tenets of the schools of Prabhakara and Kumarila 
(which derive from the commentary of Sabara) and its possible 
rejection by Bhartrmitra would not have endeared him to the followers 
of Mimamsa, all of whom owed allegiance to Sabara indirectly or 

Shastri [1970:218-219] has drawn attention to some interesting 
passages in the manuscript of commentary of Harisvami on the Satapatha 
Brahmana. In these passages, Harisvami[8] has referred to the specific 
interpretations of a school of ritualists who were 'taarkikas' or 
rationalists. From these interpretations, it appears that they 
interpreted Vedic texts literally and rationally, rejecting all 
supernatural and metaphorical import. According to them, yajnas were 
pure injunctive actions enjoined by the Sruti, and had to be performed 
in the due manner and order that was prescribed in the texts, so as to 
keep the Vedic tradition alive in memory. Mundane meanings were 
ascribed to all the arthavaada (eulogistic) passages, and the promised 
fruits of rituals were denied or ignored. Such an attempt at the 
rationalization of the import of the Sruti is seen in the PMS 1.1 
(tarkapaada) itself, but these taarkikas seemed to have carried the 
argument too far, and perilously close to the Lokaayata viewpoint. The 
view of these taarkikas seems close to the philosophy of Bhartrmitra, 
although the meager data available on him does not permit us to reach 
a firm conclusion in this regard. 

Let us consider some verses attributed to the Lokaayata/Charvaka 
school that occur in the first chapter of Madhavacharya's 
Sarva-darsana-sangraha [Chattopadhyaya 1990:247-257] and in the second 
chapter of the Sarva-siddhanta-sangraha, an apocryphal text attributed 
to Shankaracharya [Rangacarya 1983] - 

"Whatever is arrived at by means of direct perception, that alone 
exists. That which is not perceived is non-existent, for the (very) 
reason that it is not perceived. And even those, who maintain the 
(real existence) adrishta (the unperceivable), do not say that what 
has not been perceived has been perceived.
If what is rarely seen here and there is taken to be the 
unperceivable, how can they (really) call it as unperceivable? How can 
that, which is always unseen, like the (ever unseen) horns of a hare, 
and other such things, be what is really existent?
In consequence of (the existence of) pleasure and pain, merit and 
demerit should not be here (in this connection) postulated by others. 
A man feels pleasure or pain by nature, and there is no other cause 
(for it).
A wise man should endeavor to enjoy the pleasures here in this world 

Several other verses attributed to Brhaspati and other teachers of the 
Lokaayatas are found quoted in literature. These revile the Vedas, 
reject the efficacy of Vedic rites like offerings to the manes and the 
agnihotra, reject the notion of hell and heaven, of rebirth, or the 
possibility that the Vedic rites can transport the oblations to the 
gods in heaven or to the manes. Bhartrmitra clearly did not go that 
far, for he accepted the commands implicit in Vedic statements But, he 
rejected the notion that Vedic rites could yield fruit in a future 
life and denied that obligatory duties like the agnihotra could bear 
any fruit. Nevertheless, this was sufficient to brand him as a 
follower of the heretical doctrines of the Lokaayata school.[9]

What factors could have lead to such a school of thought within 
Mimamsakas? We can only speculate. Perhaps, when Vedic ritualism came 
under heavy attack from the atheists in ancient times, the Vedic 
ritualists tried to adjust their philosophy to align it slightly with 
the tenets of the Lokaayatas and thus shield it from their attacks. As 
a result, some Mimamsakas rejected the efficacy of Vedic rituals in 
obtaining the desired fruit, and downplayed all those aspects of the 
Yajnas that were connected with arthavaada, with devatas, with the 
after-life (paraloka) and so on. Rather, they advocated a 'rational' 
interpretation of texts to shield them against the attacks of 
Lokaayatas, and advocated the performance of Vedic rituals in the 
prescribed manner only because they were enjoined by the Sruti, which 
was authoritative for them. 

[4] For a discussion on the Charvaka/Lokayata doctrine, refer 
Chattopadhyaya [1990] and Dasgupta [1940:512-550]. Refer also the 
bibliography available at the URL

[5] The notion that nitya-karmas produce no fruit is however not 
peculiar to Bhartrmitra alone. An ancient, theistic commentator of 
Bhagavad-Gita quoted by Shankaracharya on verse 18.6 is also said to 
have subscribed to this notion. Elsewhere, under verse 4.18, 
Shankaracharya quotes an ancient commentary according to which, the 
nitya-karmas do not bear any fruit provided they are performed for the 
sake of Isvara, and therefore they might be considered as inaction 

[6] According to Sabara's commentary on PMS 1.1.2 however, certain 
black magic and sorcery rites like the Syena-yaaga that are prescribed 
by Vedic texts (eg. Shadavinsa Brahmana) fall within the realm of 
adharma and must be avoided. For Sabara therefore, these acts would 
also fall within the realm of 'nishiddha-karma'. However, there is a 
fundamental difference between Bhartrmitra's and Sabara's attitude 
towards the 'nishiddha-karma'. Sabara holds that these adhaarmic acts 
can back-fire on the performer. In other words, these do bear fruit. 
On the other hand, Bhartrmitra states that these do not bear any 
fruit. Kumarila criticizes Sabara's opinion very strongly and argues 
that rites such as the Syena-yaaga are also within the realm of Dharma 
since they are enjoined by the Vedic texts.

[7] The concept of apuurva is intimately related to another concept 
called 'adrshta'. The terms are used almost interchangeably in the 
system of Kumarila Bhatta. Readers interested in the differences in 
the interpretation of these two words in the Sutras of Jaimini, in 
Sabara's bhashya, in the Varttikas of Kumarila and in the Brhati of 
Prabhakara should refer Clooney [1990:221-253].

[8] The date of Harisvami is a subject of considerable controversy. 
According to available indications, Harisvami was a contemporary of 
Vikramaditya who ruled Ujjain in the first century BCE. This would 
rule out Bhartrmitra as a taarkika in all probability.

[9] Mimamsaka [1977:30-32] and Shastri [1970:213-222] opine that the 
charge of atheism has been laid unfairly at the door of Bhartrmitra by 
the followers of Kumarila Bhatta. They suggest that Bhartrmitra had 
merely intended to oppose certain contemporary practices like animal 
sacrifice in Vedic rituals which, were justified with the help of 
Smrti texts and tradition. Shastri even suggests that Bhartrmitra 
might have belonged to the Pancharatra Vaishnava sect. In my opinion, 
this suggestion is informed more by the two scholars' allegiance to 
the Arya Samaj sect of Hinduism and is not warranted by the meager 
information available on Bhartrmitra. In fact, as I have shown later, 
Bhartrmitra even rejected the utility of the Upanishads per se, and 
therefore can justly be called a follower of the Lokayata sect.


Chattopadhyaya, Debiprasad; 1990; Carvaka/Lokayata; Indian Council of 
Philosophical Research; New Delhi

Clooney, Francis X.; 1990; Thinking Ritually, Re-discovering the 
Purva-Mimamsa of Jaimini; Publications of the De Nobili Research 
Library, No. 17; Vienna

Dasgupta, Surendranath; 1940; A History of Indian Philosophy, vol IV; 
The University Press, Cambridge

______.;1949; A History of Indian Philosophy, vol IV; The University 
Press, Cambridge

Jha, Ganganath; 1983; Slokavartika; Sri Satguru Publications; Delhi

Guha, Abhaykumar; 1921; Jivatman in the Brahmasutras; University of 
Calcutta; Calcutta

Mimamsaka, Yuddhishthhira; 1977; Mimamsa-sabarabhashyam, vol. I; 
Ramlal Kapoor Trust, Bahalgarh, Distt. Sonepat, Haryana

______.; 1984; Sanskrit Vyakarana Sastra ka Itihasa, vol. I, 4th ed.; 
Ramalal Kapoor Trust Press; Sonepat (Haryana)

Pandey, Sangam Lal; 1974; Pre Samkara Advaita Philosophy; Darshan 
Peeth; Allahabad

Raja, K. Kunjunni  and Thangaswamy, R; 1971; Slokavarttikavyakhya 
Tatparyatika of Umveka Bhatta; University of Madras. Revised edition 
of the text as published by S. K. Ramanatha Sastri in 1940.

Rangacarya, M; 1983; The Sarva-siddhanta-sangraha of Sankaracarya; 
Ajay; New Delhi

Sastri, Swami Dvarikadasa; 1978; Slokavarttika of Sri Kumarila Bhatta 
with the Commentary Nyayaratnakara of Sri Parthasarathi Misra; Tara 
Publications; Varanasi

Shastri, Udayavira; 1970; Vedanta Darsana ka Itihasa; Virajananda 
Vaidika Sodha Samsthana; Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh)

           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
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