11

Many contemporary groups (fundamentalist Christians and Muslims; secular liberals; Marxists) have denounced the "Manu Smriti" text as a source of discrimination against the "lesser castes" as well as against women. One researcher from the Arya Samaj has said that the "Manu Smriti" text has been altered (via addition of later shlokas) throughout the centuries in order to give economic and political power to the Brahmins and Kshatriyas. This same researcher states that the true and original verses of Lord Manu did not contain such discrimination and inequality.

What is the validity of such accusations and assertions? Please provide guidance to all the interested individuals of Hindu Dharma living abroad who don't have access to the primary textual sources of "Manu Smriti".

18
  • 17
    1) And what parts of Hindu scripture do they not condemn?? 2) Have you read the Manu Smriti? It is an ancient text, with many parts meant for people of that time. The Old Testament of the Bible gives directions as to how a man should treat his young female slaves - what about that? 3) The laws of Manu are smriti, they are not sruti. If parts of it conflicts with sruti then reject it. All modern Vedanta rests on three legs - the Upanishads, the Gita, and the Brahma Sutras - no matter what your sect. Don't get lost in secondary texts. Jul 4 '16 at 6:05
  • 5
    @SwamiVishwananda, i need advice on day-to-day matters - how to divide inheritance, how to choose a bride/groom, how to clean myself after nature's call, what direction to keep my head while sleeping etc. Do Vedas have these ? If so, can you show me where ? The philosophy 'reject smriti if conflicting with sruti' was made famous by Swami Vivekananda (I read almost full CW and Ramakrishna Kathamrita end-to-end), but he didn't sweep all age-old wisdom under 'irrelevant for today'-carpet, which has lead to disastrous consequences. If u can show which Manu Smriti verses are against Vedas, pls do.
    – mar
    Nov 5 '18 at 3:25
  • 1
    In the Dharma sastras such as Manu-smriti sages explained things which they learned from Sruti, and Itihasas, Pancaratras and sattvic Puranas such as Vishnu Purana and Bhagavatam are also written according to teachings of Sruti. Nov 6 '18 at 15:40
  • 3
    @ram Hinduism can do without the text offering such mechanical control of life. Religious texts are meant to be pondered and critiqued to obtain wisdom. Not to be used like an OS manual.
    – tejasvi88
    Dec 31 '19 at 14:29
  • 1
    @ram I would be much wary to take obscure and uncritiqued fitness advice which is dismissed by the rational majority. But that's irrelevant. I won't go as far either to call Manusmriti 'god-send'. Great piece of work by humans? Absolutely.
    – tejasvi88
    Jan 1 '20 at 7:28
7

No Manusmriti is not altered.

  • The fault is in the eyes of those whose views have been brainwashed by the Abrahamic educational approach of the occidentals.

  • The fault is in the eyes of those who are trying to equate a pig and a cow(trying to equate a Chandala and a Brahmana).

  • The fault is in the minds of those who are propounding the Western notion that all men are born equal which is against the Vedas.

When a person obtains birth in a comparatively, lower class family or a high class family, it is for his own good and not an act of unjust because he is, merely, rewarded that jati due to his good or bad deeds in his previous birth. Now, he has an opportunity to ascend to higher stages in a sequence. Short-cut methods do not work in the Vedic system. So Manusmriti is correct when it degrade low caste people.

The super-imposed fraudulent notion that Manusmṛti has been mutilated and modified a number of times is just a myth created by Arya Samaj since they can't accept the original teachings of Hindu Dharma. Before the arrival of British in India(in 18th Century AD) no Hindus ever considered that his Vedic scriptures and texts are mutilated and modified. How can Manusmṛti be mutilated when Bhagavad Geeta cannot be? All verses of Geeta are, till now, accepted as comprising the original form of the text and all 20+ classical Sanskrit commentaries (by commentators belonging to diverse Vedic sects) on Geeta have accepted the same version of the text despite Gītā being written.

Similarly, when Manusmṛiti has more than 6 commentaries available till date and all the commentators have accepted the same version of the text and have shared same views in their interpretation with very trivial variance of opinion, it is, totally, idiotic to say that the text has undergone any mutilation. After all, these commentators were highly proficient scholars in the dharma- Shastra as trained by the Srauta and smartta traditions.

1
  • 4
    -1 Unlike most major religions, Hinduism does not have a core dogma or doctrine. This answer presents an obscure aspect of it.
    – tejasvi88
    Dec 31 '19 at 14:13
7

Dr. Surendra Kumar of the Arya Samaj has written a concise and critical commentary of the "Manu Smriti". A scanned version can be located on-line via Google. In this commentary, Dr. Kumar states that spurious interpolations have been made to the original text of the "Manu Smriti" over time. The interpolated verses seem to be written in a different style of Sanskrit and they also tend to be "irrelevant and out of context but also thematically discordant". These interpolated verses were added to the original manuscript by various interpolaters throughout history who had vested interests in maintaining socio-economic and political power.

In his critical analysis, Dr. Kumar concludes that the original verses seem to embody Maharishi Manu as "a legal luminary and religiously righteous sage". These original verses embody "noble and just laws" of the time-period as well as displaying "due considerations to a man's potentialities, actions and abilities".

In brief, it seems as though the "Manu Smriti" discusses noble and well-balanced principles on the one hand, while other verses embody extremely objectionable principles (which seem quite anti-Manu in essence). These other verses also seem to be written in a different style of Sanskrit and seem out of context in the overall flow of the manuscript. Hence, the probability of interpolation of verses by vested groups is quite high.

In the end, I agree with Dr. Kumar's conclusions. Maharishi Manu was a stellar shastrakar and smritikar during the epoch of monarchy. I highly doubt that such a brilliant individual would include paradoxically contradicting verses within the same manuscript.

It is true that we cannot import all of the original verses of Maharishi Manu to our contemporary pluralistic society (founded on democratic principles). However, there is much within "Manu Smriti" which can be studied and emulated.

Dr. Surendra Kumar's arguments can be found in "Opposition to Manu: Why". It is published by the Arsh Sahitya Prachar Trust (Delhi). A copy of this concise booklet has been scanned online; one can find it easily via a Google search.

I'll end this response with a very relevant comment from Dr. Surendra Kumar (from the "Foreword" section of the booklet):

"No system in the world is completely foolproof or wholly acceptable. Even the present social and political system is not perfect. If some flaw creeps into the system then it can be remedied. Our ancient saints and sages have suggested to us a panacea for tackling such unwarranted situations: [Sanskrit verse quoted from Taittiriya Upanishad, I-II-2] This means that good actions of others should be embraced and imitated and not the rest."

1

Manusmriti is not canonical scriptural text in shiava, vaishnava and shakt traditions.

Only in few smarta and other sects- manusmriti will be considered among religious scriptures. In those sects, also it is not primary source, but only secondary text.

4
  • 3
    Manu smriti and other dharma shastras are also respected by the sects you have mentioned. The injunctions in the text are followed while doing nitya karmas (daily rituals). It is not right to say they don't consider Manu smriti as a religious text. Nov 5 '18 at 4:03
  • 3
    Read commentaries on the Vedanta sutra by several Vaishnava traditions and they all quoted from Manu-smriti. It's accepted Dharma sastra scripture. Nov 5 '18 at 5:03
  • I have mentioned that it is "not" canonical scripture
    – zaxebo1
    Nov 7 '18 at 2:28
  • 3
    This seems like a comment. Please add some sources. Nov 7 '18 at 19:11
0

The people complaining about the Manusmṛti base their accusations on the completely unfounded notion that it is meant for our time. Smṛti means to remember which suggests it's a memory of something from a distinct time. It is still useful because it is still pretty close to the truth and answers some important questions about other texts.

Clues that it is completely not meant for today include:

  • Probably the most important. The Sarasvatī river flows clear to see

सरस्वतीदृशद्वत्योर्देवनद्योर्यदन्तरम् । तं देवनिर्मितं देशं ब्रह्मावर्तं प्रचक्षते ॥ १७ ॥

sarasvatīdṛśadvatyordevanadyoryadantaram | taṃ devanirmitaṃ deśaṃ brahmāvartaṃ pracakṣate || 17 ||

The region lying between the divine rivers Sarasvati and Dṛṣasvatī which has been created by the gods,—they call ‘Brahmāvarta’—(17)

  • The decision-makers are somehow able to tell someone's Varṇa, which has been established as very hard to do (although Virāṭa seems to be able to do it pretty well somehow).

  • The following verse suggests food is free at this time due to the lack of pay or self-cooking. That implies a very different world.

अन्नमेषां पराधीनं देयं स्याद् भिन्नभाजने । रात्रौ न विचरेयुस्ते ग्रामेषु नगरेषु च ॥ ५४ ॥

annameṣāṃ parādhīnaṃ deyaṃ syād bhinnabhājane | rātrau na vicareyuste grāmeṣu nagareṣu ca || 54 ||

Their food should be given to them, through others, and in a broken dish; they shall not wander about in villages or cities during the night.—(54)

(By the way, the first line here misses out some of the Sanskrit meaning. Meṣa means ram/sheep. Anna is used to mean food, but especially rice (kind of like Chinese). So Annameṣa translates as rice and meat of ram/sheep dish, presumably to show the quality of food given. The sanskritdictionary.com definitions for deya and syāt are pretty self explanatory. Bhinnabhājana could translate as broken dish, or it could mean processed food in reference to the cooking and diving process. Thus, I think it means: A rice and ram/sheep meat dish (or a like substitute), [word praising the supreme god in the form of Anna] should be given to them. Perhaps (the person implementing this) could process it. It's safe to say this society is massively more wealthy than our own to afford this and it not even being a big deal to find funds.

Thus, when learning the Manusmṛti discern using your honest judgment what is true forever, what is similar to the truth now, and what does not apply anymore. Also, some verses make it obvious they are supposed to be true forever.

One prominent use of the Manusmṛti is as a companion text to Mahābhārata as many of the terms in the Manusmṛti are used in the Mahābhārata, but with much more of an explanation in the former.

The translation while probably well-intentioned, translates some qualifying terms weirdly, which has a knock-on effect on the meaning of some important verses, so you should look up the Sanskrit yourself. Sometimes it greatly changes the meaning.

Sources:

https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/manusmriti-with-the-commentary-of-medhatithi/d/doc145593.html

https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/manusmriti-with-the-commentary-of-medhatithi/d/doc201787.html

1
  • ——It could be annam+esha—which takes the sheep out of question.. Dec 22 '20 at 21:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .