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NOTE: This question is NOT a duplicate of this question.

The Manusmriti has this verse about the types of bodies one can enter due to different Gunas. Here are the bodies can can be born in due to being Sattvic:

12.39 - I am now going to describe, briefly, in due order, those migratory states into which one falls through each quality [Guna] from among these.

....

12.48 - Ascetics and hermits, Brāhmaṇas, celestial beings, lunar asterisms, and Daityas represent the first state partaking of ‘Sattva.’

This verse talks about the bodies one can be born in due to partaking in Sattva, as well as the actual Guna composition of the bodies, because another verse says:

12.81 - With whatever disposition a man performs an act, the fruit thereof he reaps with a body of that same quality.

And Medhatithi's commentary for verse 81:

When a man performs a certain act with a disposition partaking of the quality of ‘Sattva,’ or of that of ‘Rajas,’ or of that of ‘Tamas,’—the act also partaking of one of these same qualities of Sattva, Rajas or Tamas,—then it is ‘with a body of the same quality’—i.e., by one abounding either in Sattva or in Rajas or in Tamas—that ‘he reaps the result thereof,’—this result also partaking of either Sattva or Rajas or Tamas.

But my question is, why are Daityas said to be Sattvic in this verse? Daityas are Asuras (demons) who live in Patala and frequently attack the Devas in Swarga, and commit planetary genocide. Here is what Hiranyakashipu, a Daitya, did on Earth:

SB 7.2.10 — While I am engaged in the business of killing Lord Viṣṇu, go down to the planet earth, which is flourishing due to brahminical culture and a kṣatriya government. These people engage in austerity, sacrifice, Vedic study, regulative vows, and charity. Destroy all the people thus engaged!

SB 7.2.11 — ..... When the brāhmaṇas are killed, no one will exist to encourage the kṣatriyas to perform yajñas, and thus the demigods, not being appeased by yajña, will automatically die.

SB 7.2.14 — The demons set fire to the cities, villages, pasturing grounds, cowpens, gardens, agricultural fields and natural forests. They burned the hermitages of the saintly persons, the important mines that produced valuable metals, the residential quarters of the agriculturalists, the mountain villages, and the villages of the cow protectors, the cowherd men. They also burned the government capitals.

This doesn't sound very Sattvic.

Now, elsewhere, in other scriptures, Asuras are said to partake of the quality of Rajas.

From the Srimad Bhagavatam:

SB 7.1.8 — When the quality of goodness is prominent, the sages and demigods flourish with the help of that quality, with which they are infused and surcharged by the Supreme Lord. Similarly, when the mode of passion is prominent the demons [Asuras] flourish, and when ignorance is prominent the Yakṣas and Rākṣasas flourish. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is present in everyone’s heart, fostering the reactions of sattva-guṇa, rajo-guṇa and tamo-guṇa.

SB 11.25.19 — With the increase of the mode of goodness, the strength of the demigods similarly increases. When passion increases, the demoniac [Asuras] become strong. And with the rise of ignorance, O Uddhava, the strength of the most wicked [Rakshasas] increases.

What do other Manusmriti commentators, like Bharuci, say about this verse? Perhaps this could be a case of Kalpa-bheda, and Daityas were Sattvic in some Kalpa or time period.

  • Thenword Sattva does not necessarily mean the first of the three gunas. pl see sanskritdictionary.com/… – user17294 Feb 6 '19 at 15:53
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    @ParthaBanerjee In the case of these Manusmriti verses, it is talking about the sattva guna, and not any other meaning of sattva. – Ikshvaku Feb 6 '19 at 16:03
  • what do you mean by always? A word can hwve different meanings in the same book or passage! If Daityas are sattwika, it can never mean sattwa guna. As there are three consecutive slokas all having the different grades of sattwa – user17294 Feb 6 '19 at 16:07
  • @ParthaBanerjee Those are the grades of Sattva guna: low, middling, and high. "I am now going to describe, briefly, in due order, those migratory states into which one falls through each quality from among these." – Ikshvaku Feb 6 '19 at 16:17
  • yes, and that means its not just sattva raja and tama – user17294 Feb 6 '19 at 16:19
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According to Manu Smriti, the different beings falling under Sattva, have further been classified into 3 sub-categories.

  1. Lowest category under Sattva (Manu Smriti 12.48)

Ascetics and hermits, Brāhmaṇas, celestial beings, lunar asterisms, and Daityas represent the first state partaking of ‘Sattva.’

  1. Middle category under Sattva (Manu Smriti 12.49)

Sacrificers, sages, gods, vedas, luminaries, years, Pitṛs and Sādhyas represent the second state partaking of ‘Sattva.’

  1. Highest category under Sattva (Manu Smriti 12.50)

Brahmā, creators of the universe, Dharma, the Great One, Unmanifest,—these the wise ones describe as representing the best state partaking of ‘Sattva.’


Coming to the question proper - Why are Daityas Sattvic according to the Manusmriti?, we have to understand that even Daityas have the capacity to do austerities, albeit with different motive.

Kurma Purana says Prahlada, a Daitya, alongwith his brothers fought with Vishnu. So Original character of Prahlada might have been pure asuric. This character might have been changed later and he got converted into a devotee.

So in the creation of God, nothing is rigid. Everyone will be given an opportunity to mend one's ways.

That was why Daityas were categorised under lowest category of Sattva, as they can mend their ways and finally get moksha or liberation.

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  • He was born a devotee, then became asuric and fought against the devas, and then went back to becoming a devotee. – Ikshvaku Feb 18 at 1:55
  • And yeah I was thinking similarly too. Like the Asuras have their own guru (shukracharya), so they have the opportunity to be good. – Ikshvaku Feb 18 at 3:52
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The specific dispositions i.e. Gunas are not a definining characteristic of an individual. An individual can exhibit different gunas throughout his life as he carries out various activities. Manusmriti has given a general mapping to improve our understanding of the various gunas and the degrees within them.

For instance Gandharvas are classified as having highest Rajas guna. This makes sense as their primarily activities is to satisfying their sensual organ. But then we also have stories of Gandharvas displaying other characteristics including that of warriors.

When it comes to Daityas, if you have likes of Hiranyakashipu at one end you also have Mahabali and Prahlada at the other end.

Furthermore I would like to draw attention to 12.31 and 12.37 from Manusmriti.

12.31 Vedic study, austerity, knowledge, purity, control over the organs, practice of virtue and meditation on the Soul,—are the characteristics of the quality of ‘Sattva.’

12.37 When, however, the act is one which he wishes to understand in all its details, by doing which he does not feel ashamed, and by which his heart feels satisfied,—it is characterised by the quality of ‘Sattva.’—(37)

If you consider the above verses then Daityas for sure make good candidates for being representative of Sattva guna. Easy to see for case of Prahlada and Mahabali. Hiranyakashipu falls short on virtue, but I believe he understood details of his atrocities, wasn't ashamed and felt satisfied. So he makes a good candidate for being on the lowest rung on Sattva ladder

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