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TL;DR WHAT TO DO WHEN SCRIPTURES GO AGAINST CONSCIENCE?

What to do when Parshara Smriti go against my conscience? How can I treat a chandala (I do not even know what that means, except that it is a low caste) differently from a Vaishya? How are they different? Just because they did bad karma, does not mean I will not even look at them. And there are verses that say menstruating women are impure. I can understand that. But, one verse was especially immoral, and luckily goes against the law of my country, from chapter 7-

The mother, and the father, and likewise the eldest brother, all these three relatives will go to hell, if before menstruation they neglect to marry the girl

What kind of Dharma has been prescribed in Parashara Smriti? Marrying a girl so young? I have come to believe Parashara smriti is highly interpolated.

In any case, the question stands. If a scripture goes against my conscience, will I attain bad karma if I do not follow it. This is a general question and does not pertain to Parashara Smriti.

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    All the smritis say the same .. if u think ur conscience is good enough a guide then for u consulting any of those scriptures is redundant – Rickross May 5 at 5:59
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    Just an add-on, Chandal is a person who works in a crematorium (Sham-shan-ghat), collecting woods, clean-up, and maintenance of the place. – V.Aggarwal May 6 at 4:31
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    smritis, by definition, are written by man. different smritis were made in different times in different locations to suit different circumstances and consequently give different advice. to be Hindu means to follow the 3 prasthanas; the Gita, brahma sutras, the upanishads - not to follow every smriti. – Swami Vishwananda May 6 at 6:50
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    @Rickross, by that logic, a thief can 'consult' his conscience and happily steal. the reason why we have scriptures is that humans are very good at confusing desires with conscience. why even have rules if we can do whatever we want and then justify it later as conscience ? – ram May 9 at 5:08
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    That is precisely my point too ... @ram – Rickross May 9 at 6:04
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Sri Krishnaprem, the great Gaudiya Vaishnava saint ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishna_Prem) writes in His 'Cruelty and Religion'

However divine the ShAstras may have been in its origin, it has been transmitted to us through the memories and writings of purely human beings who like all human beings are subject to error...There are many other practices which..are..intolerable cruelties...If we once admit the principle that Bhagavan would never sanction,let alone command cruelty, we must then fearlessly erase from our religions teachings of all such acts however well-established they may be.(The Search For Truth, page 115-6).

Krishnaprem further writes

Does the Lord of all sanction the cruelty or not?.. The Upanishads, the Gita, the Bhagawata, the Mahabharata are filled throughout with teachings setting forth in unmistakable terms the duty of love and compassion to all beings and thses lofty teachings, the crest jewel of the Sanatana Dharma, should be allowed to overrule by divine right all lesser or narrower teachings.Do not fear that the whole structure of Hindu religion will be weakened by such criticism. The Sanatana Dharma is no decayed house that will crumble to pieces at a touch. It is built of the rock of Eternal Truth and its sublime beauty will only shine out more replendently than ever if the mud plaster with which selfish men have covered it up be removed...MA hinsyAt sarvabhutAni--"Do injury to no living being!" This is subtle teaching of the Veda.

MahAjano yena gatah sa panthAh--I think He answered your question.

UPDATE

Please see how contradictory the sayings of our Smriti-s are regarding the age of marriage of a girl with the evidence avalable in our epics and puranas.The Baudhayana, Gautama, Vasistha or Parashara Smriti-s all recommend marriage before her reaching puberty! And what do we see in our Ramayana, Mahabhara and the Puranas? Was Sita or Parvati or Draupadi or Damayanti or any such female character got married 'while running nacked' as advised by the Smriti-s? No. They were matured enough and chose or being chosen by their husbands themselves. The Swayamvara obviously was never held for a girl who does not understand the meaning of marriage! I think it makes it clear that no such injunction existed originally, which leads to a conclusion that all these slokas of the Smriti-s recommending child marriage are interpolations of some later time when this was somehow needed by the society.

https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.128125

  • @ShashwatAsthana I have provided the link.Please read that book. – user17294 May 4 at 17:41
  • Okay, I will do so. – Random-15 May 4 at 17:42
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    @ShashwatAsthana And todays we must obey our constitution! – user17294 May 4 at 17:42
  • 'what do we see in our Ramayana, Mahabhara' - Neither Sita's nor Draupadi's marriage was a svayaṃvara. They were won (vīryaśulka). – sv. May 5 at 17:00
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    @sv. The maturity of their characters reveal that they were not child. – user17294 May 5 at 17:22
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The answer to this question is given in scripture itself and in the writings of the greats. Scripture can be regarded as scripture only if it is reasonable.

Bhisma said in Mahabharata

'Even the words heard from an ignorant person, if in themselves they be fraught with sense, come to be regarded as pious and wise. In days of old, Usanas said unto the Daityas this truth, which should remove all doubts, that scriptures are no scriptures if they cannot stand the test of reason.'

Mahabharata Santi Parva Section CXLII

Acharya Shankara, for example, in his Gita Bhasya 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."

REF: Srimad Bhagavad Gita Bhasya of Sri Sankaracarya 18.66 translation by Dr. A. G. Krishna Warrier, p629;

Yoga Vasistha Ramayan says:

“The remark of a child is to be accepted, if it is in accordance with reason; but the remark of even Brahma Himself, the creator of the world is to be rejected like a piece of straw if it does not accord with reason.

REF: Vasistha's Yoga II.18 translated by Swami Venkatesananda, p 35;

Sri Vacaspati Misra, another Advaita Vedanta philosopher, says,

"Even one thousand scriptural statements cannot transform a jar into a piece of cloth".

REf: quoted by Radhakrishnan in his book, 'Indian Philosophy'.

Manu Smriti (4.176) advises discarding traditions and customs which offend people.

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.

Swami Vivekananda has advised rejection of those parts of Smritis and Puranas that are offensive.

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. The Upanishads and the Gita are the true scriptures.

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda/Volume 6/Epistles - Second Series/CXXIV

  • but the remark of even Brahma Himself, the creator of the world is to be rejected like a piece of straw if it does not accord with reason - does this mean when something Vivekananda says is unreasonable, it needs to be rejected as well? – sv. May 5 at 17:04
  • Of course. Ultimately it is the reader of the scripture or any text who decides what is reasonable. Sri Krishna says in Gita 18.63, '..Reflecting on this entire teaching, do as you think fit'. There is no need to be slave of either scripture or of any one. This Hindu position is utterly different from the position of the Abrahamic faiths which stress blind belief. – Pradip Gangopadhyay May 6 at 15:17
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    And who is going to judge what Bhishma said is reasonable or not? I mean there has to be a hierarchy of judges .. to me its completely unreasonable because scriptures talk about those truths which we can not discover by sensory methods (reasoning) .. and what about Swami Vivekanada? Is he authorized somewhere in the Vedas to call the Vedic Rishis men of limited intelligence? What is the guaranty that he is talking sense? @PradipGangopadhyay Who is going to judge all that? – Rickross May 6 at 16:18
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    @Rickross, you have already judged Vivekananda or Bhishma's statements as unreasonable. Good for you. You have already answered your question. I find both Bhishma and Vivekananda to be reasonable. Where is the need for any hierarchy? Every spiritual aspirant will have to make their own judgement. – Pradip Gangopadhyay May 6 at 16:26
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    @PradipGangopadhyay Neither did I answer the Q nor did u .. what u did is talking of subjectivity but in religion it does not work like that because Laws are fixed .. Vivekananda calling Vedic Rishis fools is completely unacceptable to me because our religion is indebted to those Rishis .. If they had not composed the scriptures what will Vivekananda comment upon? What will he deal with? Our religion is called Arsha Dharma - the religion of the Rishis and he is calling them fools ..fine but who will judge his intelligence? Yes, there has to be a hierarchy of judges – Rickross May 6 at 16:34
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"What to do when scriptures go against conscience?"

When scriptures go against conscience, one must change their conscience to match scriptures.

One's conscience is not a guide regarding dharma because it is not a pramana. Many people have different conscience, and the asuric / rakshasa people have their own conscience that is against dharma.

So conscience cannot be a guide.

Confirmed by Krishna in Bhagavad Geeta:

16.23: "He who discards scriptural injunctions and acts according to his own whims attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme destination"

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What kind of Dharma has been prescribed in Parashara Smriti? Marrying a girl so young? I have come to believe Parashara smriti is highly interpolated.

Then you have to believe that all other similar scriptures were also interpolated. Because every such scriptures contain such injunctions.

Smritis elaborate the Vedic way of life. And, the Dharmasutras are part of the Kalpas, which (Kalpa) is one of the six Vedic limbs.

From the Introduction of the book Dharmasutras - Patrick Oilvelle:

The Dharmasutras are part of the Vedic Supplements and are written primarily in the sutra style, even though verses are interspersed and the sutras are not as succinct as those of Panini. The Dharmasutras form part of the ‘ritual expositions’ known collectively as Kalpasutras that include three types of expositions: S´rautasutras dealing with vedic rituals, Grhyasu¯tras dealing with domestic rituals, and Dharmasu¯tras.

So, let's see what these Dharmasutras have to say about the subject.

Baudhayana DharmaSutras:

A man should give his daughter in marriage while she still runs naked to a man of good qualities who has maintained his vow of chastity, or even to a man lacking good qualities; let him not hold back a girl who has started to menstruate.

If a man does not give his daughter in marriage within three years after she has reached puberty, he undoubtedly incurs a guilt equal to that of performing an abortion
(4.1.8.11-12)

Gautama Dharmasutras:

When three menstrual periods have passed, a girl may discard the jewellery her father has given her and join herself on her own to a man of blameless reputation. 21A girl shall be given in marriage before she reaches puberty, and a man who fails to give her incurs a sin. 23According to some, she should be given in marriage before she begins to wear clothes.

(18.20-23)

Vashishta DharmaSutras

If due to her father’s negligence a girl here is given in marriage after her proper time has elapsed, she, who was made to wait, brings ruin to her giver, like a teacher’s fee that is paid after the time has passed.

Out of fear that she should menstruate, a father should give a girl in marriage while she still goes about naked, for if she remains in his house after puberty her father becomes guilty of a sin. 71 As many menstrual periods a girl has while men of equal class are asking for her hand in marriage and she herself is willing, so many foetuses do her parents kill––so states the Law.

(17.57.70-72)

Similar verses are there in all other similar scriptures including Apasthambha Dharamsutras etc.So, when what all the scriptures say is going against what we feel as "correct" then we can discard our thinking.

Because the sages who gave these laws are said to be omniscient.

Manu Smriti 2.7. Whatever law has been ordained for any (person) by Manu, that has been fully declared in the Veda: for that (sage was) omniscient.

But of course we can't follow this sort of instructions now but for that we can not blame the scriptures.

Allied reading from Kanchi Paramacharya's book Hindu Dharma:

Eight Forms of Marriage

The eighth and last is paisaca. In asura even though the girl's willingness to marry the man is of no consequence, at least her people are given money. In raksasa, though violence is done to the girl's family, the marriage itself is not against her wish. Rukmini loved Krsna, did she not? In paisaca the girl's wish does not count, nor is any money or material given to her parents. She is seized against her wish and her family antagonised.

We have the brahma type at one end and the paisaca at the other. There cannot be the same system or the same arrangement for everybody. Our sastras have taken into account the differences in temperament and attitude among various sections of people and it is in keeping with the same that they have assigned them different rites, vocations, etc. All our present trouble arises from the failure on the part of men, who advocate the same system for all, to recognise this fact.

There are tribals living in the forests who look fierce and have a harsh way of life. But at heart they may be more cultured than townspeople, not to speak of the fact that they are useful to society in many ways. They have frequent family feuds. In consideration of this raksasa and paisava marriages may have to be permitted in their case. After the marriage, they are likely to forget their quarrels and live in peace with each other. Ksatriyas who are physically strong and are used to material pleasure are allowed the gandharva form of marriage and their girls have even the right to choose their husbands as in the svayamvara ceremony.

It is for these reasons that the dharmasastras, which are based on the Vedas and which constitute Hindu law, permit eight forms of marriage. In all these eight, the bride and groom have the right to be united in wedlock with the chanting of mantras. But brahma is the highest of the eight forms. In it the bride must not have attained puberty. "Pradanam prak rtoh": -- this statement is in the dharmasastras themselves. A girl's marriage, which has same significance for her that the upanayana has for a boy, must be performed when she is seven years old (or eight years from conception)

Unfortunately, in the case of some girls, a groom does not turn up in time for a brahma marriage to be performed. Meanwhile, they grow old and their marriage is conducted in the arsa, daiva, or prajapatya way. Only these types are permitted for Brahmins. But for the rest other types are also allowed. They may marry a girl who has come of age either in the gandharva way or in a svayamvara.

Related article you can read: Controversy about Age of Marriage.

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    I think we should feel ashamed while quoting from this smritis.A girl while running naked will have to marry a man who have maintained his vow or even to to a man lacking good qualities--so that husband can take wife on his lap I suppose? Which of our Devis--Radhika, or Parvati etc were married at this age? Which deity couples are shown in our ancient temples with such huge age difference? If one Smriti can have interpolation, why not others? Why would God or saints want to ruin the innocent girls' lives? I am really very very surprised!! – user17294 May 5 at 11:19
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    What was the age of Draupadi?Of Sakuntala? Which of the female characters in our epics or Kavyas were married while running naked? Their parents were not aware of the Dharmashastras I suppose? Janaka, Drupada, Kanva--all went to hell!! These are clear instances of shameful interpolations probably done to save the girls from the evil eyes of the foreign invaders. – user17294 May 5 at 11:40
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    @ram so according to you a girl runned naked upto 13 years? – user17294 May 5 at 17:15
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    @commonman, who are you to support or decry it? it was not 'introduced' because of social reasons. it was 'removed' because of social reasons. Like i mentioned in my answer, the scriptures show the way to get 100% marks. but people can't do that, so they make a rule that 35% is good enough for pass mark. that's why age of marriage increase by sharda act to 16. because many men were too degraded to have innocent attachment to younger girls. because society degraded, concession was made. don't bring down shastras to satisfy the current crop of men. – ram May 5 at 17:22
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    @ram I have quoted from Krishna prem. Another from Swamiji.They both agreed that our smriti-s contain interpolations and I find that right.In that sense I support. – user17294 May 5 at 17:24
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Just because they did bad karma, does not mean I will not even look at them

Yet you, and most of society, already follows this. There are criminals locked up in jail that have committed such horrid crimes you would not even want to look at them, let alone shake hands or eat with them. Maybe you are not aware of the type of crimes a person has committed that results in his birth as a chandala.

Btw, there are 2 types of chandala - jati and karma (birth and action)

Jati chandala - Due to bad action in previous birth, born as chandala in current birth

Karma chandala - Due to bad action in current birth, considered as chandala in current birth.

By that definition, a brahmana drinking liquor may fall under this category. Shastras say the Karma chandala is to be treated worse than Jati chandala.

Na karyamaavasatyena naagnihotrena vaa punah, sa bhavetkarma chandaalo yastu dharma paraangmukhah

That house holder who has no respect for Dharma, especially if a Brahmana, is as fallen like the worst human being.


one verse was especially immoral, and luckily goes against the law of my country.. Marrying a girl so young?

You're confusing 2 things - marriage and sex. Sex is based on carnal desire. Marriage need not be based on carnal desire, although it commonly is.

The reason for child marriage, Sharda act is discussed in another question. Repeating some points here

In olden days, when child-marriage was prevalent, most people had their Kama under control. Both the boy & the girl would be quite young. Hence Kama would not have even entered their hearts. In that age of innocence, if a platonic attachment is formed, it lasts much longer and stronger than an infatuation based just on looks which comes in older people. And most importantly, there would be no sex until the girl reached menarche. In fact, the girl mostly would stay with her parents until she reach puberty, only then go to her husband & in-laws home.

I have come to believe Parashara smriti is highly interpolated.

Your belief is wrong.

There is nothing wrong with the Smritis, nor are they interpolated. They are a medicine for the ills in society. But people don't realize that medicine first tastes bitter, and later cures you. They mistake it for poison, which also first tastes bitter, and then kills you.

Carnal desire enters heart during teenage. If at that time, it's not controlled and channeled properly, you can guess what will happen. Society does not allow adolescents to marry before 18, and in most cases, parents don't even bring up topic of marriage until 21 for girls, and 25 for boys. Then what will they do from the age of 14 to 24 for 10 years when the natural urge for sex continuously stirs their mind ? Pornography, and if unchecked, illicit sex, like it happens in the West.

Are you, OP, aware of any normal college going student who has never watched aabhaas adult pictures/videos ?

On the one end, young girls are getting raped, men cheat them saying love, then use & throw them, unwanted pregnancies & heinous abortion crime. On other end, women not getting married because they want to be independent, then when they reach 30 years age, they and their parents lamenting that nobody wants to marry them.

The solution for both of these is early marriage. Not child marriage, since it's against current laws, but there is no valid reason to postpone marriage beyond legal age of 18.


If a scripture goes against my conscience, will I attain bad karma if I do not follow it.

Suppose a thief says "if a law goes against my conscience, will I attain bad karma if I steal?"

First, you and I do not decide shastras or laws. They were also not written by normal human beings' as an another answer claims. That answer links to one Vaishnavite Krishna Prem, who is known for shunning orthodoxy & blind traditionalism.

I know another Vaishnavite Krishna Premi Anna, who is known for advocating and following ancient traditions even today.

In Kali Yuga, people are degraded. Hence it is not possible for us to live up to the lofty ideals of Smritis. That is a disability on our part, it's not the fault of Shastras.

In the words of Swami Vivekananda (whom both @commonman and I are ardent fans of):

We must always elevate the life to the ideal, not bring down the ideal to the level of our lives now.

The IDEAL is controlling Kama. The IDEAL is marriage at young age.
We people, being degraded, are unable to live up to it. So we brought some laws in 'constitution' to prevent exploitation of young girls, forced marriage etc. That is completely fine, and required in this age.

It's a little bit like "Law says no bribery allowed. We can't live up to it. So let's bring a new law that says it's OK to bribe through corporate election campaign funds"

Let's not pretend that the Smritis themselves are wrong. They are correct. We can't live up to them, so we gave ourselves some concessions.

but we shall not bring down the ideal, just because we are not strong enough for it

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    I have a question for you. Some dharma shastras prescribe horrible punishments for sudras for reciting or hearing vedas. Would you justify them as ok, or would you interpret them as arthavAda or would you reject them or would you explain it in some other way? – Lazy Lubber May 4 at 19:57
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    Thanks for the answer. With this attitude, we should not be really surprised if sUdras and avarNas leave Hinduism. India would be in trouble if all these groups leave. Many Hindus in India understand this. However, those who migrate to other countries dont care so much. Hence they adopt a more orthodox attitude compared to their counterparts in India. Just an observation. Could be right or wrong. – Lazy Lubber May 4 at 20:45
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    @LazyLubber, yeah..your opinion vs that of a literal saint. – ram May 4 at 20:59
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    Call me whatever you want. Here are some interesting facts about the Kanchi mutt - advaita-vedanta.org/avhp/alt_hindu_msg.html Have a good day! – Lazy Lubber May 4 at 22:38
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    @LazyLubber, "India would be in trouble if all these groups leave" - circular logic at its best. the reason India is in trouble is because people don't stick to orthodox practices. it's like saying 'the reason thieves leave is because police are strict'. if a society is made up of people who mostly want to be adharmic, such a society will cease to exist soon enough on its own. if a society is to be protected, it is by protecting the traditions of dharma. protecting a society by giving up its ideals is like protecting the branches by burning the roots. – ram May 9 at 0:18

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