Vedanta and Mimamsa

Vedanta is closely aligned with its sister school, Mimamsa (meaning “enquiry”).The two are often called Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa, denoting the earlier and later schools of enquiry. The earlier Mimamsa deals with dharma and focuses on rituals, particularly for promotion to higher planets. Its main texts are from the Karma-kanda section of the Vedas.

The later school, Vedanta, deals with Brahman and derives much from the Jnana-kanda section, especially the Upanishads and Vedanta Sutras (also known as the Brahma Sutras). Members of these two doctrines are traditionally at loggerheads, but they are essentially complementary. Much of modern Hinduism, though philosophically grounded in its Vedanta, borrows its ritualistic practice from Purva Mimamsa.

There are ten principal schools of Vedanta. Of these, two are purely Advaita, one purely Dvaita and seven a synthesis of both. In Hinduism as represented in the UK, there are four important schools of Vedanta.

The Four Main Schools of Vedanta Represented in the UK

For any tradition to be accepted as a genuine Vedantic school, the founder must present commentaries on three scriptures – the Upanishads, the Vedanta Sutras, and theBhagavad-gita, collectively called the “prasthana trayi.”

Below are the four main branches of Vedanta along with: (1) its founding theologian, (2) the sampradaya, (3) the main representative movement in the UK.

SchoolTheologianSampradayaUK Movement
Advaita (monism)ShankaraSmartasRamakrishna Mission
Vishishtadvaita (qualified monism)RamanujaShri VaishnavasSwami Narayana Mission
Suddhadvaita (purified monism)VallabhaPushti MargShree Vallabha Nidhi
Achintya Bheda-abhedaBaladevaGaudiya VaishnavaISKCON (Hare Krishna Movement)

Common Misunderstandings

Vedanta (and all Hinduism) is entirely monistic, believing only in the all-pervading world-soul, Brahman, rather than a personal God

This advaita philosophy is certainly popular, and offers a simple explanation of the many deities. Nonetheless, many theologians have considered God to be a person. He is not merely an anthropomorphic representation, nor are the various deities and murtis simply incarnations or representations of an impersonal Supreme.

Thus Hinduism includes both monism and monotheism. It is misleading to call the Abrahamic religions,”the monotheistic traditions,” implying that monotheism is absent from the Eastern traditions. Vedanta includes many monotheistic schools. They may accept the existence of many gods and goddesses, but strongly emphasise the pre-eminence of the Supreme Deity.