Is the plurality of subjects compatible with the idea of a Vedāntic kind of liberation (in which there seems to be no distinction among different souls)? And can there be an absolute brahman if there are still distinct subjects?
I just read Kiyotaka Yoshimizu’s Kumārila’s Reevaluation of the Sacrifice and the Veda from a Vedānta Perspective (in Mīmāṃsā and Vedānta, edited by Bronkhorst and Preisendanz, 2007). The paper elaborates on thematics close to the ones dealt with by Roque Mesquita (Die Idee der Erlösung bei Kumārilabhaṭṭa, WZKS 1994) and John Taber (Kumārila the Vedāntin?, in the same Mīmāṃsā and Vedānta) and adds to the debate Yoshimizu’s close knowledge of Kumārila in general and of his less studied works in particular. The article focuses in fact on the Ṭupṭīkā, Kumārila’s commentary on the last part of the Pūrva Mīmāṃsā sūtra, and compares it with the fragments of the Bṛhaṭṭīkā and with the Tantravārttika.
Kumārila is the chief exponent of the Bhāṭṭa school of Pūrva Mīmāṃsā and the Mīmāṃsā is mainly a school of Vedic exegesis. The Vedic sacrifices necessarily require someone responsible for their performance and responsibility is explicitly said to be individual. In other words, the Vedic injunctions enjoin specific individuals and not human beings in general. Thus, they require a plurality of subjects.
However, Yoshimizu shows how Kumārila accepts the notion of a paramātman ‘supreme Self’ in different passages of his works. paramātman can be used as a synonym of God, Īśvara, but is mostly used as a synonym of the all-encompassing brahman. The latter would contradict the plurality of subjects which is required by Mīmāṃsā.
Thus, we need to imagine that Kumārila’s paramātman does not entail monism. What else could it mean, then, to say that liberation is the “attainment of the supreme Self” (paramātmaprāpti, TV, quoted in fn. 6). Given that the paramātman seems to be in all authors who mention it a single entity, the TV claim seems to entail that everyone achieves the dignity of the single paramātman. How can this not contradict pluralism?
One might suggest that pluralism only exists in the saṃsāra, but could a pluralistic ontology be compatible with its monistic evolution, given that the paramātman is said to exist also along the saṃsāra? Would it make sense to think of living beings as leaving the proscenio of their plural world one after the other, in order to dissolve into the paramātman?
Alternatively, one should think of Kumārila’s claim as entailing an ontology akin to the one later known as Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta, i.e., only God exists independently, but human beings are his features (viśeṣa) and are, hence, not identical with him.
Can you think of other ways out?
P.S. Yoshimizu kindly informed me that he might elaborate further on the topic of the paramātman a new paper for the next World Sanskrit Conference in Bangkok.