[Advaita-l] Manusmriti

S.N. Sastri sn.sastri at gmail.com
Mon Feb 13 23:04:43 CST 2006

 Shri Sthanunathan Ramakrishnan wrote on February 13, 2006:-
 Once I asked Swami Paramaananda Bharathi (in
Bangalore) about this, after one of his lectures,
where he said that the Shastras are the source of good
for all living beings, not just human beings alone.
    His answer was that some of the "violent"
statements in Manu smriti seemed to be interpolations,
because he had seen an 1860 (or so) publication of the
Manu Smriti (or Shankara's commentary on it, I forget
which), in which such verses were absent.

  That such violent punishments were never meted out
(at least as far was we know) seems to suggest the
latter day origin of such verses.
  SrI Sankara has, in his bhAshya on brahmasUtra 1.3.38 quoted these violent
statements from Gautama Dharma sutra XII.4:-- "Then should he happen to hear
the Vedas, the expiation consists in his ears being filled with lead and
lac" . Again,  "How can one (a SUdra) study the Vedas when they are not to
be recited within his hearing? Then there is the chopping off of his tongue
if he should utter the Vedas, and the cutting of the body to pieces if he
should commit it to memory".  (From Advaita Ashrama publication of the
English translation of brahmasUtra bhAshya by Swami Gambhirananda of the
Ramakrishna Mission). The same passage appears in the editions of all the
sanskrit bhAshya texts which I have seen. So how can it be said that it is
an interpolation when it was there even in Sankara's time? To say that it
must have been interpolated in the bhAshya also, would be too far-fetched.
The above quotations are from Gautama Dharma sutra and not from Manusmriti.
I have not been able to locate such statements in Manusmriti. If somebody
could point out where it is in Manusmriti I shall be grateful.  Sankara has
quoted from Manusmriti the following verse in the same bhAshya: "Vedic
knowledge should not be imparted to a SUdra" (Manusmriti-IV.80).It is true
that as far as we know, these punishments have not been carried out, but
that cannot justify the existence of such statements in the Dharmasastra. Of
course it would be good if they can be proved to be interpolations.


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