Did ṛṣis author the Veda? UPDATED

A Mīmāṃsā and Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta view about it

In his Seśvaramīmāṃsā (ad 1.1.29), Veṅkaṭanātha discusses the problem of the authorship of the Veda while being a Mīmāṃsaka, but also trying to condede something to theism.

For instance, he is less straightforward than Mīmāṃsā authors in ruling out the role of the ṛṣis. Mīmāṃsā authors spoke of the ṛṣis mentioned in connection with some Vedic parts as having just recited (and not authored) those parts in an excellent way. Veṅkaṭanātha does not deny his opponent’s claim that ṛṣis could see parts of the Veda they did not learn with a teacher. Nonetheless, they only see what they are eligible to see, through powers given to them by Prajāpati. They also don’t see anything new:

For this very reason, also the fact that the ṛṣis have done the sūtras, the [Vedic] parts (kāṇḍa) (Brāhmaṇa and Upaniṣads) and the mantras (i.e., the Vedic saṃhitās), conforms to previous acts (i.e., they have uttered them as they were in the previous kalpa), [and] the immediate perception (sākṣatkaraṇa) of a part of the Veda which has not been studied [by them] by ṛṣis who had specific powers given [to them] by Prajāpati conforms with their various eligibilities. For this reason, in this way there is no author of the Veda. Therefore, in all times the Vedas are only recited by a sequence (paramparā) of people depending on someone else (paratantra).

ata eva ṛṣīṇām sūtrakāṇḍamantrakṛttvam api prācīnakarmānuguṇaṃ prajāpatipradattaśaktiviśeṣāṇāṃ tattadadhikārānuguṇam anadhītavedabhāgasākṣātkaraṇam eva. tad evaṃ na vedakarteti sarvadā paratantrapuruṣaparamparādhītā eva vedāḥ.

In other words, ṛṣis are an exception to the normal transmission of the Veda, they are not at its origin. And they don’t see anything more than what people learn through their teachers.

Now a question to you, dear readers: I am not sure about my interpretation of the compound sūtrakāṇḍamantrakṛttvam. This is found in the same context also in Veṅkaṭanātha’s Nyāyapariśuddhi, but I could not find it in any other text. I am not sure about its meaning, since the Vedic kāṇḍas (karmakāṇḍa and jñānakāṇḍa) do include mantras. Nor did Veṅkaṭanātha mention here mantras of altogether different origin… Moreover, sūtras are generally accepted to have an author, so that they don’t really belong to the same group. What could be meant here?

Being a Mīmāṃsaka and believing in God might be hard

To my knowledge, Veṅkaṭanātha’s Seśvaramīmāṃsā has been commented upon only once in Sanskrit, namely in the 20th c. by Abhinavadeśika Vīrarāghavācārya.
At times, the Sūkṣmārthaṭīkā‘s author seems to disagree with Veṅkaṭanātha insofar as he stresses that a certain position by the Mīmāṃsā school is “not accepted by us” (i.e., by the Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedāntins). Many such cases pertain to the core teachings about language and the Veda being fix according to Mīmāṃsā and depending on God according to Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta. In the commentary on SM ad PMS 1.1.29, the Sūkṣmārthaṭīkā is quite explicit:

By contrast, we do not accept the inference said by Mīmāṃsakas, namely ”Each recitation of the Veda has been preceded by one’s teacher’s teaching one the recitation of the Veda, because it is a Vedic recitation, like the present ones”. We do not accept it, because there is an exception, since the probans is absent in the recitation performed by Brahmā of the [Vedic text] based on the Lord (who was Brahmā’s inner controller, so that Brahmā did not need to learn the Veda from a teacher) as well as in the present recitation of the Veda, when it is performed by an ascetic who has made it present (and therefore can see it without the need of a teacher).
And we also do not accept the syllogism because it contradicts the sacred texts speaking of creation and dissolution [of the entire world].

vedādhyayanaṃ sarvaṃ gurvadhyapanapūrvakam adhyayanatvād ity anumānaṃ tu mīmāṃsakoktaṃ necchāmaḥ. īśvaramūlacaturmukhakartṛkādhyayane sākṣātkāritapasvikārite ādyādhyayane ca sādhyābhāvāt vyabhicārāt (ad SM ad 1.1.29, 1971 edition p. 128).

It is easy to see how a Mīmāṃsaka could not have agreed less with Vīrarāghavācārya’s arguments. Mīmāṃsā authors in general believe in a beginningless time and think that the idea of creations and dissolutions is only an unwarranted assumption. Even more dangerous is the idea that an ascetic might see directly the Veda, since this could open the door to yogipratyakṣa and to autonomous religious experiences.

In all the above ways, the Sūkṣmārthaṭīkā‘s author also indirectly points out the gigantic effort Veṅkaṭanātha undertook, almost seven centuries before, when he tried to propose a synthesis of Pūrva Mīmāṃsā and Vedānta.