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Manu Smriti
(contributed by Prof. G.C.ASNANI, MSc., Ph.D. (United Nations Service, Retd.)

Selections from Hindu Scriptures, Series No.1, “SMRITIS”  

IN India , particularly after Independence in 1947, the younger generation of Hindus has been ignorant and indifferent about the teachings of Hindu religion. There has also been persistent effort from some quarters to speak ill of Hindu religion. This has had the natural effect of younger generation developing indifference towards and even ridicule of Hindu religion in India . The Constitution of India encourages non-Hindu youngsters to be given education about the teachings of their respective religions in the Govt.- aided educational institution of India, but Hindu youngsters cannot be given such education about Hindu religion in Govt.-aided educational institutions.  

Outside India , the Christian missionaries have consistently worked for over three centuries to paint Hindu religion as demonic barbarism. These missionaries collect huge amounts of money and recruit large number of persons from outside India to remove Hinduism from the surface of the earth. This type of propaganda against Hinduism has affected and is affecting the political policies of foreign governments towards India .  

By now, we have also become familiar with Taliban Movement in Afghanistan and Pakistan . It correctly represents Islam without any hide-and-seek game. Government-aided Madrasas in India become factories for Talibanism inside India , for destruction of Hinduism.

It is time that we Hindus assert ourselves and place the basic teachings of Hinduism before the whole world, for the people to read for themselves and come to their own conclusions directly without interference from those who have been profiting by hurling abuses at Hinduism. This is the first in the series of publications which we propose to publish.  

We are sure that a better knowledge about Hinduism inside India will strengthen the Hindu society, give it the self- confidence to understand, practise and propagate the noble teachings of Hinduism; this shall be for the benefit of the whole world which is being engulfed by inter-religious warfare under various pretexts. Religion is essentially a matter of self-discipline, self-culture, enriching of one’s inner self, realisation of divinity which lies dormant in every living being and the manifestation of this divinity in our daily conduct of life. Religion cannot be used and should not be used as a weapon in our hands and mouths to conquer and subjugate others, to win political power and destroy other religious communities; that would be barbarism and not religion. Religion should bring peace, tranquility and happiness to everyone on this earth.  

In this first book of the series, we are presenting Selections from some of the Smritis like Manu Smriti and Vasistha Smriti, and Smritis of Yagnavalkya, Apastamba, Gautama, and Baudhayana. In this collection, we have taken help from the following publications :  

a) Sacred Books of the East, edited by Max Muller, published by Motilal Banarsidass, Vols. 1 to 50.  

b) Publications of Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune. Smritis are the Rules of conduct framed by Rishis at various stages of history of the Hindu Society. While there is some apparent diversity in these rules, it is not difficult to trace the underlying unity of self-discipline and the object of welfare of the society. With this underlying unity, there have been changes in rules from time to time, and no one would be right in picking up a sentence here and there and making much noise about it. We should look at the underlying structural basis of the Smritis. It may not be out of place to mention here that the Constitution of India framed by Independent India in 1948 has had 75 Amendments upto the year 1995. If in the course of less than half a century, the law makers of India have found it necessary to have Amendments at the rate of more than one Amendment per year, some changes in the rules of conduct suggested by Rishis into the sacred books of the Hindu society, over a period of several hundred centuries, should not be a cause of complaint by any rational reasoning. And then there is also the Grand Principle of Freedom of thought, belief and action given to every Hindu by the Hindu Scriptures:

“For choosing your course of conduct at any time and place, keep in view the instructions given first in Sruti(Vedas), then in Smritis, Itihaas(History of great personalties) and finally you act according to your conscience.” (Manu Smriti, II, 6)  

This Grand Principle of Freedom given to an individual by the Hindu religion will, in course of time, form the basis for ending inter-religious and intra-religious conflicts. I have great pleasure in acknowledging the help given in this Collection, Compilation and Computer typesetting by Shri N. Madhavan, Shri Sudhindra Mujumdar and Shri Sanjay Chakane, without whose constant support, it would not have been possible at all to bring out this booklet. All of us have worked together with a common objective of rendering a little service to the Hindu Society, and our Sanatana Hindu Dharma. May the message be transmitted further and further.  

There has been too much public criticism against Manu Smriti, which criticism is not based on sound reasoning and thoughtful study. Before criticising Manu Smriti, we should consider the following points:  

i) Manu Smriti was compiled several thousand years back during which interval, social, economic and political conditions have changed in Hindu society. If Indian Constitution has required more than one Amendment per year, how many Amendments would be necessary in Hindu Constitution compiled several thousand years back?  

ii) There were no printing presses and standard reference editions several thousand years back. Naturally, the current edition of Manu Smriti has suffered from many interpolations for which Maha Rishi Manu cannot be held responsible and for which criticism of Maha Rishi Manu will not be justified.  

iii) Further, as has been seen the practice of Hindu religion, there is enormous, almost complete freedom for an individual to believe or to disbelieve any dogma, to accept or to discard any instruction written in any book, and to use one's own intelligence and conscience before adopting any course of action. This is the beauty of Hindu religion.

vi) Maha Rishi Manu himself says that if there is anything in his Smriti which is not acceptable to the conscience of any person, that person should reject it and act according to his/her own conscience. Then, where is any reasonable ground for criticising Maha Rishi Manu? Rather, he deserves our respect for his giving us instructions to reject what is against our conscience even in his Manu Smriti.  

Which other religious scripture in the world outside Hindu religion and its branches gives such freedom?


(i) Communalism:  

Proselytizing religious like Christianity and Islam are rabid communal religions which have created and continue to create inter-religious and inter-communal warfare. While indulging in activities of such perpetual inter-communal warfare, any resistance from Hindu society in India is termed by them as "Communalism! Communalism!". It is like a thief shouting "Thief, Thief" and getting away!
(ii) Caste System:  

These proselytizing religions also accuse and nearly abuse Manusmriti for caste system. The underlying spirit behind Hindu religion codified by Maharishi Manu is that Religion is essentially a matter of self-discipline, self-culture, enriching of one's inner self, realisation of divinity which lies dormant in every living being irrespective of creed, colour or caste and the manifestation of this divinity in our daily conduct of life. Anything found in Manusmriti contradicting this spirit is a later interpolation and manipulation for which we cannot blame Maharishi Manu. We can easily identify such manipulations. If somebody does not care to find out this truth, then also the great Maharishi Manu has clearly stated in his Manusmriti, which statement fortunately remains inside Manusmriti till today, that if there is any statement in Manusmriti which is contrary to your conscience, please reject it outright and follow your own conscience. Then, where is the justification for decrying Maharishi Manu as is customary for critics of Hinduism? Maharishi Manu tells you to follow your conscience inspite of whatever is written in this or that Book. Our salutations to this Maharishi Manu for this freedom! Anti-Hindu fanatics call Hindus as "MANU-VADIS". Have they cared to read and understand Manusmriti, or they are just parroting what anti-Hindu missionaries have taught them to repeat and repeat? "Above every Book, follow your conscience" is the watchword of great Maharishi Manu; hundreds of salutations to Maharishi Manu who gave this freedom of thought, belief and action.
Superiority by Birth or by Conduct ?  

Also, Maharishi Manu made it clear that superiority is not by birth but by Conduct. This Principle was further emphasized later by Maharishi Veda Vyasa in Mahabharata; relevant extract from Mahabharata Vana Parva, Section 179 is also given below. (Unfortunately, some selfish politicians in India are now taking a retrograde steps by giving superior positions not on merit but by birth caste-certificates).  


* The Seniority of Brahmanas is from Sacred Knowledge, that of Kshatriyas from valour, that of Vaisyas from wealth in grain, but that of Sudras is from age alone. (II, 155)  

* A man is not therefore considered Venerable just because his head is gray; him who, though young in age, has learned the Veda, the Gods consider to be Venerable. (II, 156)  

* As an elephant made of wood, as an antelope made of leather, such is an unlearned Brahmana; those three have nothing but the names of their kind. (II, 157)  

* Just as a eunuch is unproductive with women, as a cow with cow is unprolific, and as a gift made to an ignorant man yields no reward, likewise is a Brahmana worthless, who does not know the Richas (Vedic Verses). (II, 158)


* He who possesses faith may receive pure learning even from a man of lower caste, the highest law even from the lowest, and an excellent wife even from a base family. (II, 238)  

* Even from poison, nectar may be taken; even from a child, good advice; even from a foe, a lesson in good conduct; and even from an impure substance gold. (II, 239)  

* Excellent wives, learning, the knowledge of Law, the rules of purity, good advice, and various arts may be acquired from anybody. (II, 240)


* Women must be honoured and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands and brothers-in-law, who desire their own welfare. (III, 55)  

* Where women are honoured, there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honoured, no Sacred rite yields rewards. (III, 56)

* Where the female relations live in grief, the family soon wholly perishes; but that family where they are not unhappy ever prospers. (III, 57)  

* The houses on which female relations, not being duly honoured, pronounce a curse, perish completely as if destroyed by magic. (III, 58)  

* Hence men who seek their own welfare, should always honour women on holidays and festivals with gifts of ornaments, clothes, and dainty food. (III, 59)


* Manu has declared that those Brahmanas who are thieves, outcasts, eunuchs, or atheists are unworthy to partake of oblations offered to gods and ancestors. (III, 150)


* He who injures harmless creatures from a wish to give himself pleasure, never finds happiness, neither living nor dead. (V, 45)  

* He who permits the slaughter of an animal, he who cuts it up, he who kills it, he who buys or sells meat, he who cooks it, he who serves it up, and he who eats it, must all be considered as the slayers of the animal. (V, 51)  

* There is no greater sinner than that man who, though not worshipping the gods or the manes seeks to increase the bulk of his own flesh by the flesh of other beings. (V, 52)


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