Pûrva Mîmâmsa-sûtras on the other hand. The former give nothing but a description as concise as possible of the sacrifices enjoined in the Brâhmanas; while the latter discuss and establish the general principles which the author of a Kalpa-sûtra has to follow, if he wishes to render his rules strictly conformable to the teaching of the Veda. The gñânakânda of the Veda, on the other hand, is systematised in a single work, viz. the Uttara Mîmâmsâ or Vedanta-sûtras, which combine the two tasks of concisely stating the teaching of the Veda, and of argumentatively establishing the special interpretation of the Veda adopted in the Sûtras. This difference may be accounted for by two reasons. In the first place, the contents of the karmakânda, as being of an entirely practical nature, called for summaries such as the Kalpa-sûtras, from which all burdensome discussions of method are excluded; while there was no similar reason for the separation of the two topics in the case of the purely theoretical science of Brahman. And, in the second place, the Vedânta-sûtras throughout presuppose the Pûrva Mîmâmsâ-sûtras, and may therefore dispense with the discussion of general principles and methods already established in the latter.
The time at which the two Mîmâmsâ-sûtras were composed we are at present unable to fix with any certainty; a few remarks on the subject will, however, be made later on. Their outward form is that common to all the so-called Sûtras which aims at condensing a given body of doctrine in a number of concise aphoristic sentences, and often even mere detached words in lieu of sentences. Besides the Mîmâmsâ-sûtras this literary form is common to the fundamental works on the other philosophic systems, on the Vedic sacrifices, on domestic ceremonies, on sacred law, on grammar, and on metres. The two Mîmâmsâ-sûtras occupy, however, an altogether exceptional position in point of style. All Sûtras aim at conciseness; that is clearly the reason to which this whole species of literary composition owes its existence. This their aim they reach by the rigid exclusion of all words which can possibly be spared, by the careful avoidance of all unnecessary repetitions, and, as in the case of the grammatical Sûtras, by the employment of an arbitrarily coined terminology which substitutes single syllables for entire words or combination of words. At the same time the manifest intention of the Sûtra writers is to express themselves with as much clearness as the conciseness affected by them admits of. The aphorisms are indeed often concise to excess, but not otherwise intrinsically obscure, the manifest care of the writers being to retain what is essential in a given phrase, and to sacrifice only what can be supplied, although perhaps not without difficulty, and an irksome strain of memory and reflection. Hence the possibility of understanding without a commentary a very considerable portion at any rate of the ordinary Sûtras. Altogether different is the case of the two Mîmâmsâ-sûtras. There scarcely one single Sûtra is intelligible without a commentary. The most essential words are habitually dispensed with; nothing is, for instance, more common than the simple omission of the subject or predicate of a sentence. And when here and there a Sûtra occurs whose words construe without anything having to be supplied, the phraseology is so eminently vague and obscure that without the help derived from a commentary we should be unable to make out to what subject the Sûtra refers. When undertaking to translate either of the Mîmâmsâ-sutras we therefore depend altogether on commentaries; and hence the question arises which of the numerous commentaries extant is to be accepted as a guide to their right understanding.