Is it permissible to deny the authority of Manusmriti considering that all the four major schools of Hinduism(Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism and Smarta tradition) only consider Vedas and Upanishads as their scriptural authority?

Edit: My question has more to do with authority of Manusmriti than its acceptance in society. Can a normal follower of one of the above mentioned schools of Hinduism do away with Manusmriti by denying it while still following the other dharmic philosophies?

  • 4
    @Surya Parashara Smriti might be of the Kaliyuga without technology. IMHO, every Smriti is outdated now because of technology. Apr 10 '18 at 16:00
  • 7
    From here: "The Smritis (Dharma Shastras) themselves suggest that some of the laws should be changed if they are found offensive to future generation" - I think this answers your question. Apr 10 '18 at 16:26
  • 4
    I personally believe we need another Smriti suitable for present time impregnated with Upanishadic wisdom. Traditional Smritis seem outdated. Apr 10 '18 at 17:07
  • 3
    @sv. Constitution isn't based on Dharma. Apr 11 '18 at 10:09
  • 4
    @sv. "there lies your problem" - here lies your problem, not mine as you are not gonna believe Karma theory nor Karma theory is sentient enough to explain itself unto you. "Your are mixing religious concepts like karma, yuga cycles and what not with day to day affairs of humans" - Mixture is needed according to the mind whose philosophy is grounded on Karma theory. I do not dream, I am not social reformer. These are just theoretical ideas. Btw, Meanwhile you can freely romanticize with the constitution. Apr 11 '18 at 17:27

Argument 1a)

Manusmriti 4.176 says

  1. Let him avoid (the acquisition of) wealth and (the gratification of his) desires, if they are opposed to the sacred law, and even lawful acts which may cause pain in the future or are offensive to men.

Hence, even any lawful act which may cause pain in the future and are offensive to men , like casteism/varna implementation by birth, have to be avoided as per manusmriti itself.

Argument 1b)

Manu Smriti, Chapter 2, Verse 12 ( http://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/manusmriti-with-the-commentary-of-medhatithi/d/doc145585.html ) says

वेदः स्मृतिः सदाचारः स्वस्य च प्रियमात्मनः । एतच्चतुर्विधं प्राहुः साक्षाद् धर्मस्य लक्षणम् ॥ १२ ॥

vedaḥ smṛtiḥ sadācāraḥ svasya ca priyamātmanaḥ |

etaccaturvidhaṃ prāhuḥ sākṣād dharmasya lakṣaṇam || 12 ||

The Veda, the Smṛti, the Practice of cultured Men(Sadaachaara), and what is agreeable to oneself(one's own Inner Conscience)—these directly constitute the fourfold means of knowing Dharma.

--> conclusion: So, even manusmriti which upholds vedas and smriti for knowing dharma, "that manusmriti itself also" puts Sadaachaar and what is agreeable to oneself(one's own Inner Conscience) - on equal footing to knowing Dharma/ethical moral practise


Please see : The Bhagavad-Gita, with the commentary of Sri Shankaracharya, Translated to English by Alladi Mahadeva Sastri. https://archive.org/details/Bhagavad-Gita.with.the.Commentary.of.Sri.Shankaracharya

Shankaracharya in his own Gita Bhasya 18.66 declares the following:

https://ia800304.us.archive.org/8/items/Bhagavad-Gita.with.the.Commentary.of.Sri.Shankaracharya/Bhagavad-Gita.with.the.Commentary.of.Sri.Shankaracharya.pdf see Pg 529 of the PDF (or Pg 513 as mentioned in bookpages topright)

Shruti is an authority only in matters not perceived by ordinary instruments of knowledge such as pratyaksha or immediate perception - ie, it is an authority to the mutual relations of things to an ends, but not in matters lying within range of pratyaksha; indeed sruti is intended as authority only for knowing what is beyond knowledge. Wherefore it is not possible it is supposed to the notion of "I" which arises in the connection with the aggregate of the body etc, and which is evidently due to illusion is only a figurative idea.

A hundred statements of sruti may declare that fire is cold or that it is dark; still they possess no authrity in the matter.If shruti shoud at all declare that fire is cold or that it is dark; we would still suppose that it intends quite a different meaning from the apparent one, for its authority can not be otherwise maintained: we should in no way attach a meaning , which is otherwise opposed to other authorities or its own declaration.

--> conclusion : Hence, in matter of this wordly's immediate perception matters even shruti(veda) is not given the authrity, the perceptive knowledge and reasoning are given more weightage. Hence, the notions of human equality and justice and no caste-creed, which were espounded by vivekanada,dayanand saraswati etc too, deal with this worldly matter, where perception and deduction-reasoning will hold authority over vedas(shruti). So obviously smriti which have even far less authority in any matter(and if smriti's any text conflict with vedas , then vedas hold supreme), then smriti authority can also be denied - on the basis of Shankracharya's quoted text.


ref: http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_6/epistles_second_series/124_sir.htm

Swami Vivekananda said regarding ignoring bad directives in Hindu scripture:

Such a God I have seen in my life, and his commands I live to follow. "The Smritis and the Puranas are productions of men of limited intelligence and are full of fallacies, errors, the feelings of class and malice. Only parts of them breathing broadness of spirit and love are acceptable, the rest are to be rejected."

[Complete-Works / Volume 6 / Epistles – Second Series / CXXIV] http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_6/epistles_second_series/124_sir.htm


Vedas are canonical scriptures(pramanas) in each astika sect. But Manusmriti is not a canonical scripture in all sects. It is canonical for Smarta sect . But Arya samaj only considers Veda as canonical scripture, they even have their own different Vishuddha manusmriti. Nath sampradyaya does not consider Manusmriti as canonical scripture. So, it is permissible to deny authority of Manusmriti as per the convention of the sect, which the person follows.

5) Kapalika is non-puranic form of shavism. Puranas (which are smritis) are not considered as canonical there. So, in these type of non-smriti shaivite sects manusmriti will not be applicable

6) Lingayat Shaivism does not consider even vedas as pramana, but still given respect. Vachanas are canonical. Hence, entire corpus smriti text are not authority there.

7) If so many official sects can officially deny manumsirit/entire smriti as canonical authority, then obviously a non-sectarian hindu individual(who is not officially affiliated to any sect of hinduism) can also deny the Manusmriti to be canonical for him, and he can still be a scripturally valid Hindu.

8) refer to https://hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/400/13287

The Smritis (Dharma Shastras) themselves suggest that some of the laws should be changed if they are found offensive to future generation:

"However, discard the desire (kama) and material wealth (artha) if contrary to Dharma; as also, any usage or custom or rules regarded as source of Dharma if at any time they were to lead to unhappiness or arouse people's indignation. (Manu Smriti 4.176)

9) refer: refer to https://hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/400/13287

Both Sruti and Smriti cannot override human reason. I am posting here two quotes on the importance of reason:

Acharya Shankara, for example, in his Gita Bhasya 18.66 says:

"The appeal to the infallibility of the Vedic injunction is misconceived. The infallibility in question refers only to the unseen forces or apurva, and is admissible only in regards to matters not confined to the sphere of direct perceptions, etc. ..... Even a hundred statements of sruti to the effect that fire is cold and non-luminous won't prove valid. If it does make such a statement, its import will have to be interpreted differently. Otherwise, validity won't attach to it. Nothing in conflict with the means of valid cognition or with its own statements may be imputed to sruti."

10) refer to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%80gama_(Hinduism)#Relation_to_the_Vedas_and_Upanishads

The Vedas and Upanishads are common scriptures of Hinduism, states Dhavamony, while the Agamas are sacred texts of specific sects of Hinduism. The surviving Vedic literature can be traced to the 1st millennium BCE and earlier, while the surviving Agamas can be traced to 1st millennium of the common era. The Vedic literature, in Shaivism, is primary and general, while Agamas are special treatise. In terms of philosophy and spiritual precepts, no Agama that goes against the Vedic literature, states Dhavamony, will be acceptable to the Shaivas.Similarly, the Vaishnavas treat the Vedas along with the Bhagavad Gita as the main scripture, and the Samhitas (Agamas) as exegetical and exposition of the philosophy and spiritual precepts therein.The Shaktas have a similar reverence for the Vedic literature and view the Tantras (Agamas) as the fifth Veda.

The heritage of the Agamas, states Krishna Shivaraman, was the "Vedic peity maturing in the monism of the Upanishads presenting the ultimate spiritual reality as Brahman and the way to realizing as portrayed in the Gita". David Smith remarks, that "a key feature of the Tamil Saiva Siddhanta, one might almost say its defining feature, is the claim that its source lies in the Vedas as well as the Agamas, in what it calls the Vedagamas".[35] This school's view can be summed up as,

The Veda is the cow, the true Agama its milk.
— Umapati, Translated by David Smith

---->conclusion: only vedas and upanishads form the common scriptures of hinduism, rest are sectarian. Hence, manusmriti is not canonical text except for Smarta sect (also see https://hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/26097/13287 ).

**BUT Now, even inside Smarta sect: there are two OPINIONS/SUBSCHOOLS **

SUBSCHOOL 10.1: "Smarta's sub-school, who think that all smritis have equal authority for every yuga, but Dharmaśāstra Nibandhanas have reconciliation authority ":

quoting from https://hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/15063/13287 In the book, Hindu Dharma: The Universal Way of Life, Swami Chandrasekharendra Saraswati hints that all smṛtis are relevant in every yuga and any differences between various smṛtis are reconciled in the Dharmaśāstra Nibandhanas adapted to the region where you live.

Smṛtis and Allied Works

Manu, Parāśara, Yājñavalkya, Gautama, Hārīta, Yama, Vişņu, Śaňkha, Likhita, Brhaspati, Dakşa, Angiras, Pracetas, Sarihvarta, Acanas, Atri, Apastamba and Satatapa are the eighteen sages who mastered the Vedas with their superhuman power and derived the Smrtis from them. Their works are known after them like Manusmrti, Yajñavalkya-smrti, Parasara-smrti and so on, and they contain all that we need to know about all the dharmas to be adhered to and all the rituals to be performed during our entire life. Apart from these eighteen, there are eighteen subsidiary Smṛtis called Upasmṛtis(1). It is customary to include the Bhagavadgīta among the Smṛtis.

What we find in one Smṛti may not be found in another. There may also be differences between one Smṛti and another. These give rise to doubts which are sought to be cleared by works called "Dharmaśāstra Nibandhanas".

There are some Smrtis that do not contain instructions with regard to all observances. For instance, some do not mention sandhyavandanas. The reason must be it is such a common rite that everybody is expected to know it. Then some omit the Śrāddhas ceremony and some others are silent on various types of "pollution" (for instance, that due to the birth of a child in the family or the death of a relative). Certain matters are taken for granted. After all, we do not have to be told about how to breathe or eat.

The nibandhanas do not leave out any rite or dharma. Differences between various Smṛtis are sought to be reconciled in them.

Each region follows its own nibandhana. In the North, it is the one authored by Kasinatha Upadhyaya. In Maharastra, it is the Mitaksara: it has the force of law and is accepted as such by the law courts. Niraayasindhu by Kamalakara Bhatta is also accepted as an authority there. In the South, the Vaidyanatha-Diksitiyan by Vaidyanatha Diksita is followed. These are the important authorities for householders. Sannyasins follow Visvesvara-samhita. In Tamil Nadu the Dharmasastra means the Vaidyanatha-Diksitiyam. This nibandhana has been translated into Tamil.

(1) The authors of these are : Jabali, Naciketas, Skanda, Laugăkşi, Kăéyapa, Vyăsa, Sanatkumāra, Śantanu, Janaka, Vyāghra, Kātyāyana, Jātukarnya, Kapiñjala, Baudhāyana, Kāņāda, Viśvāmiktra, Paițhinasa, Gobhila. - Rā. Ga.

OPINION/SUBSCHOOL 10.2: Smarta sub-school, who think that in kaliyuga Parashara smriti has authority, not manusmriti: refer to: https://hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/14977/13287 refer to : http://www.astrojyoti.com/pdfs/DevanagariFiles/13Parashara_Smriti.pdf Chapter 1, Sloka 24(same chapter) makes it precise as to which rules to be applied in which age.

Krite tu Manava Dharmastretayam Gowtamah Smritaha|| Dwapare Sankhalikhitah Kalou Parashara Smritaha||

For Krita Manu's laws apply,Gowtama's for Treta ,in Dwapara those written by Sankha and Likhita apply and "Prashara Smriti is the one that applies in Kali" .

11) Also see book about imagined-manuvad:

Shashi Shekhar Sharma, Imagined Manuvād: the Dharmaśāstras and their interpreters, Rupa & Co., 2005 https://books.google.co.in/books/about/Imagined_Manuv%C4%81d.html?id=IJacAAAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y

12) refer Is there any verse or historical evidence suggesting that manusmriti is more authoritative than other smritis?

13) refer: https://hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/784/13287

Vivekananda says many unholy acts and ridiculous stories in vedas. The correct meaning of the statement "The Vedas are beginning less and eternal" is that the law or truth revealed by them to man is permanent and changeless.

14) British colonialists made huge propaganda regarding projecting manusmriti as canonical text for even non-Smarta hindus, and giving illusion that Britishers were governing Hindus as per their own religious law .

refer : by madhu kishwar https://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/h_es/h_es_kishw_mythic_frameset.htm

by Rajiv malhotra http://creative.sulekha.com/follow-up-on-manusmriti-to-my-article-in-outlook-india_135208_blog

  • 1
    How are puranas bad? I know smritis are a little controversial as they talk about caste system, money, punishment. Which makes people insecure. But puranas don't even talk about caste or anything they just keep their deities as supreme. Apr 11 '18 at 14:32
  • @AjayVarma most of them are deterrents, furthermore they say give punishment accordingly, very few punishment have physical harm, unlike abrahamic laws which are filled with Gore. It even says to change according to time. Morality is objective, it doesn't look as horrific to me as it does to you, for some people killing animals looks most horrific, but there are others who misquote scriptures to justify their non vegeterian habits, people perceive morality differently because of different influences. Apr 11 '18 at 19:28
  • 1
    update: I have added "shankarachrya's official comment regarding limitations on shruti etc authority in particular cases" . Please see argument (2) of my answer
    – zaxebo1
    Apr 12 '18 at 0:15
  • @AnubhavJha: Whatever you are saying that can form another answer. So please elaborate your point of view(POV) , with references and deductions as separate answer in detail, so that we can understand your POV better.
    – zaxebo1
    Apr 12 '18 at 0:19
  • 1
    "even lawful acts which may cause pain in the future" - thieves find it painful to be put in jail, can we stop putting thieves in jail ?
    – mar
    Nov 30 '20 at 6:33

The Manusmriti verse 4.176,

He shall, avoid such wealth and pleasures as are opposed to righteousness, as also righteousness if it be conducive to unhappiness, or disapproved by the people.—(176)

DOES NOT, in any way, mean that one is free to make up his own notions of dharma, nor does it mean that one should change dharma if they don't like it.

What it actually means is what the commentator Medhātithi says:

Or, again (one should avoid), such acts as are ‘disapproved by the people,’ as being blameworthy; e.g., the killing (at sacrifices) of the bull, which should not be killed; and the act of eating its flesh is more blameworthy than that of eating other kinds of flesh.

This prohibition is with a view to perceptible results, just like the prohibition of touching a snake. Ordinary men, being ignorant, would not know that the killing of the bull is permitted (under special conditions), and would therefore make it known that the sacrificer of the bull is an unrighteous person; and, as a large majority of men are illiterate, even cultured persons, not caring to investigate the source of the popular opinion, would avoid the person (as unrighteous). This is what has been said in the passage—‘the king being righteous,’ etc., etc..

What this means is that you are not obligated to carry out an optional karma in the Vedas if the ordinary people don't like it and if they will hurt you or tarnish your reputation if you do carry it out.

But Medhātithi then states:

What we have said above, is in accordance with the explanation provided by older writers. As a matter of fact, however, it can never be right to reject, on the strength of Smṛti, what has been enjoined by the Veda. The right example of the act aimed at by the Text is as follows: The custom of ‘niyoga’ (‘begetting of a child on the widowed sister-in-law’) is sanctioned by Smṛtis; but it is not performed, because it is ‘deprecated by the people;’ or, again, when one is supporting an unprotected young woman, entirely through pity,—if people show their disapproval by giving out that ‘she appeals to hiś generosity because she is a woman,’—then the said righteous act of supporting would be one that is ‘deprecated by the people.’—(176)

So, what this verse means is that you are not obligated to follow a Smriti custom if the people don't like it or if it makes them unhappy (thereby possibly hurting you).

You must log in to answer this question.

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