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Bhartrmitra - Part I
Date: Wed May 30 2001 - 07:14:13 PDT

I. Life and age

In his introduction to Sabara's commentary on Jaimini's Purva Mimamsa 
Sutras (henceforth 'PMS'), Kumarila Bhatta states that he has 
endeavored to bring back the Mimamsa Sastra to the 'aastika patha' 
[Sastri 1978:5] or to the path of the Vedas, since it has been made a 
'Lokaayata Sastra' by many older scholars- 

" For the most part Mimansa has, in this world, been made atheistic 
and this effort of mine is made to turn it to the theistic path." 
Sutra 1.1.1, verse 10 [Jha 1983:2]

In his sub-commentary named 'Nyayaratnakara' on the above verse, 
Parthasarathi Misra clarifies that the reference is to Bhartrmitra 
[Sastri 1978:5]. Further, he refers to the work as a very ancient 
exposition (cirantana-vyaakhyaana) on Mimamsa, implying that 
Bhartrmitra was long anterior to Kumarila. Umbeka, the oldest 
commentator of the Slokavarttika, also confirms [Raja 1971:3] that 
Kumarila is referring to the views of 'Bhartrmitra and others' 

Parthasarathi Misra again attributes to Bhartrmitra, some views stated 
by Kumarila in verses 130-131 of the 'sabdanityataa-adhikarana' 
[Sastri 1978:540] and verses 14-15 of the 'citraaksepa-parihaara' 
section of the Slokavarttika (see more below).

At the beginning of the first chapter and the fourth chapter of his 
'Brahmasiddhi', Mandana Misra criticizes certain views of older 
teachers on the utility of the Upanishads. Anandapurna Muni, the 
commentator of the Brahmasiddhi, states that the views criticized by 
Mandana Misra belong to Bhartrmitra. This indicates that Bhartrmitra 
had some definite views on Vedanta as well. 

In the Atmasiddhi, Sri Yamunacharya (d. 1037 C.E.) says [Neevel  
"…Nevertheless, many persons have had their judgment corrupted by 
giving their credence to various writings of uneven quality that have 
correct and incorrect ideas interwoven through them like warp and 
woof, books such as those composed by Acarya Tanka, Bhartrprapanca, 
Bhartrmitra, Bhartrhari, Brahmadatta, Samkara, Srivatsanka, Bhaskara 
etc. Since persons who have been confused in this way do not 
understand things as they really are and have many erroneous 
conceptions, the undertaking of this work or discussion with the aim 
of establishing a (clear, comprehensive and definitive) understanding 
(pratipatti) of the (atman and paramatman) is proper." 

This passage is further proof that Bhartrmitra had authored some views 
or works on Vedanta in addition to his writings on Mimamsa, and 
Yamunacharya rejected these views. 

Sesha, the commentator on the Madhava Vijaya of Narayana Bhatta, 
states that Madhavacharya refuted 21 commentaries on the Brahmasutras 
that were written by teachers before him [Dasgupta 1949:53]. In this 
list, the name of Bhartrmitra is missing. Is it because he was 
primarily considered a Mimamsaka by the time of Sesha? This conjecture 
does appear to be true, considering that the Nyayamanjari of 
Jayantabhatta refers to Bhartrmitra as a celebrated Mimamsaka 
[Bhattacharya 1978:443].

Sabara does not refer to the views of Bhartrmitra. This leads to the 
strong possibility that Bhartrmitra was posterior to Sabara. In the 
Slokavarttika, there is a clear indication that further corroborates 
the fact that Bhartrmitra succeeded Sabara. In verses 130b-132a of the 
sabdanityataa section, Kumarila criticizes the view of a 
'self-professed scholar' [Sastri 1978:540] who imagines that he has 
discovered something new (see more below) with regard to the mechanism 
of 'hearing' of sabda. Parthasarathi Misra comments that this 
'self-professed scholar' is none other than Bhartrmitra. Thereafter, 
in verses 132b-133a, Kumarila adds [Jha 1983:430; Sastri 
1978:540.Translation slightly modified]-

"(The Bhashya too) has not mentioned the 'Auditory Sense' (Srotra) to 
be anything other then a modification (sanskaara) produced by the 
sounds (dhvanijanya sanskaara). Beyond this, what else have they found 
to be indicated by the word "Auditory Sense" (Srotra) (that they seek 
to improve upon the Bhashya)?"

It is apparent (and this is also clarified by Parthasarathi Misra in 
the Nyayaratnakara), that Kumarila is referring here to Sabara's 
extensive comment on PMS 1.1.13. Under this sutra, Sabara has 
discussed the mechanism of 'hearing' in great detail, in order to 
demolish the prima-facie view that 'Sabda' is ephemeral, and not 
eternal as taught by the PMS of Jaimini. Sabara elaborates on the role 
of 'akaasa' (sky/space), of wind and orifice of the human ear etc., in 
hearing. Kumarila therefore, mocks at the pseudo-innovation that 
Bhartrmitra claims to have made in the Mimamsa view. He remarks 
sarcastically that Sabara's explanation is quite detailed and the 
innovation of Bhartrmitra merely smacks of pedantry, and not of any 
real improvement upon Sabara's exposition. Kumarila's censure of 
Bhartrmitra's pedantry will make sense only if we assume that 
Bhartrmitra followed Sabara.

In contrast to our conclusion above on the chronological relationship 
between Sabara and Bhartrmitra, Mimamsaka [1984:392-393; 1977:33-35] 
proposes that Bhartrmitra and Bhartrhari both preceded Sabara. Such a 
view is unacceptable for a number of reasons, including the fact that 
Mimamsaka places Sabara before 600 BCE, something, which is 
historically unacceptable. [2]

The date of Bhartrmitra depends upon the date of Sabara and Kumarila. 
Unfortunately, there is considerable discrepancy between the various 
views on the dates of Sabara. The traditional view is that Sabara was 
a contemporary of King Vikramaditya, who ruled in the 1st century BCE. 
Whatever be the date of Sabara, it is clear that Bhartrmitra's work on 
the Mimamsa has been designated as an 'ancient exposition' 
(cirantana-vyaakhyaana) by Parthasarathi and this indicates two things 
1.	Bhartrmitra was long anterior to Kumarila
2.	Since Sabara was anterior to Bhartrmitra, Sabara was also long 
anterior to Kumarila

Currently, many scholars place Kumarila around 650 CE and Sabara 
around 400 CE. This small gap of 250 years hardly leaves any scope for 
designating the post Sabara work of Bhartrmitra as an 'ancient 
exposition' and might be considered a indication in favor of the 
traditional view [3]. If we assume the traditional data of ~100 BCE 
for Sabara, he will be separated from Kumarila by 750 years. Under 
such an assumption, it would be relatively safe to place Bhartrmitra 
before 300 CE. I do want to emphasize however, that this date, as well 
as the current dates assigned by 'scholarly consensus' are little more 
than speculations.


[1] The Tatparyatika of Umbeka Bhatta on the Slokavarttika of Kumarila 
ends abruptly at the 'Spotasiddhi' section. Its printed edition [Raja 
1971] is based on a solitary manuscript obtained from Kerala, and it 
is not known if the manuscript is incomplete or whether Umbeka did not 
comment beyond the Spotasiddhi section. Umbeka followed Mandana Misra, 
and contrary to popular tradition, the two were different people. The 
Tatparyatika is the oldest known commentary on the Slokavarttika. 
Sucarita Misra, in his commentary on the Slokavarttika, does not name 
Bhartrmitra at verse Nevertheless he does mention that 
certain 'cirantana' (ancient) expositions of the Mimamsa Sutras had 
dragged the school into proximity of the Lokaayata doctrine.

[2] In addition to his unacceptable chronology for Sabara, Kumarila 
and Shankaracharya etc., Mimamsaka bases his dating of Bhartrmitra on 
questionable interpretations of certain passages dealing with Purva 
Mimamsa in the works of Bhartrhari and Jayanta Bhatta. See note [18] 
below for an alternate interpretation, which de-links the views 
expressed in the quoted passages from those of Bhartrmitra.

[3] Devasthali [1948-49] argues for a date of ~100 BCE for Sabara on 
the basis of a certain usage of Sanskrit grammar by Sabara while 
dissolving the compound 'dharmajijnaasaa' in PMS 1.1.1. In support of 
the later date of Sabara, it is argued that under PMS 1.1.5, Sabara 
has criticized certain views that were prevalent in the Vijnanavaada 
and Sunyavaada circles of Buddhist philosophers. This argument is 
fallacious because, the Vijnanavaadin opponent of Sabara does not cite 
any Buddhist texts in support of his view. Instead, he quotes certain 
passages of the Satapatha Brahmana. The exposition of Sunyavaada by 
Sabara is too vague to warrant an association with parallel Buddhist 
views. In fact, this section, along with the adjacent 
'Niraalambanavaada' section occurs in the 'Vrttikaaragrantha'  portion 
of Sabara's commentary, and is borrowed from the ancient Vrtti on the 
PMS by Upavarsha Acharya. Indian tradition is firm that Upavarsha 
lived even before Patanjali (~150 BCE). Guha [1921] shows that the 
views which were later prevalent in these circles of Buddhist scholars 
are actually mentioned in the Pali Tripitaka too. Hence a refutation 
of these views in certain Brahminical texts should not be used to date 
these texts after 300 CE, when these views merely gained prominence in 
certain Buddhist circles.


Bhattacharya, Janaki Vallabha; 1978; Jayanata Bhatta's Nyaya-Manjari; 
Motilal Bananarsidass; New Delhi

Dasgupta, Surendranath;1949; A History of Indian Philosophy, vol IV; 
The University Press, Cambridge

Devasthali, G. V.; 1948-49; Positive Data for the Date of 
Sabarasvamin; in 'Journal of Ganganatha Jha Research Institute', vol. 
6, pgs. 231-240

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)

Neevel, Walter G. Jr.; 1977; Yamuna's Vedanta and Pancaratra: 
Integrating the Classical and the Popular; Harvard Dissertations in 
Religion 10; Scholar's Press; Missoula, Montana

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

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

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

           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
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