Myth, Rituals and the Foundations of Ethics:
Calling in Mimamsaka's Understanding of Non-violence -
A Phenomenological Approach
University of Madras, Chennai
The Mimamsa is essentially a philosophy of ethical action, but more concerned with trans-sensual nature of the ethical force and the ritual. The significance and workings of rituals as envisaged by Mimamsa have other-worldly implications than having social action which is concerned with this world and Mimamsa leaves this aspect to the ethical codes for elaboration and explanation. The ethical codes base their teachings on the metaphysics of Mimamsa and use their methods for interpretation and application. The Mimamsa is a Philosophy of active life and teaches the indispensability of ethical action since ethical action is the supreme governing force of the universe. The Mimamsa defends four basic premises: 1. The agent of ethical action must be real; 2. Action itself must be real; 3. Action is the controlling and guiding principle of the universe and the universe as the field of action is also real. The central concept of the Mimamsa is dharma (ethical potency) which controls the universe and produces the results for the agent of action.
Besides Mimamsa, other schools of Indian philosophy have given great importance to the moral action including Ahimsa, the non-violence to the living beings. This has been very carefully undertaken by the tradition in which the contrary (instances of violence) can be accommodated through sacred cosmogonic myths by creating a sacred time when a myth is enacted and transforms the thinking of the believers. Such myths are incorporated into rituals explicitly and as background assumption depending on the type of ritual being performed.
This paper attempts to analyse the concept of non-violence as presented by Mimamsakas having such instances which are overtly violent. In analysing this, I would draw the tools of understanding from the tradition of phenomenology that accepts the faith of the believer as the sole religious reality without imposing value judgements on the experience of the believer.