Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi

by Ganganatha Jha | 1920 | 1,381,940 words | ISBN-10: 8120811550

This is the English translation of the Manusmriti, which is a collection of Sanskrit verses dealing with ‘Dharma’, a collective name for human purpose, their duties and the law. Various topics will be dealt with, but this volume of the series includes 12 discourses (adhyaya). The commentary on this text by Medhatithi elaborately explains various t...

Verse 1.5 [Origin of the World]

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and English translation by Ganganath Jha:

आसीदिदं तमोभूतमप्रज्ञातमलक्षणम् ।
अप्रतर्क्यमविज्ञेयं प्रसुप्तमिव सर्वतः ॥ ५ ॥

āsīdidaṃ tamobhūtamaprajñātamalakṣaṇam |
apratarkyamavijñeyaṃ prasuptamiva sarvataḥ || 5 ||

This (World) was in existence in the form, as it were, of dense Darkness,—unperceived, undifferentiated, incogitable, (hence) incognizable; as it was wholly merged in deep sleep.—(5).


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

At the very outset there arises an objection—

“Where we began and whereto we are carried! Manu was asked to expound the duties laid down in the scriptures, and he promised to expound them; under the circumstances, the description of the world in its undifferentiated state (with which the present verse begins) is wholly irrelevant and purposeless. In fact it becomes a true case of the well-known proverb —‘ Being questioned about mangoes, he describes the Kovidāra tree.’ Further, there is no authority in support of what is here described; nor is any useful purpose served by it. So the whole of this First Discourse need not be studied at all.”

Our answer to the above is follows:—What the First Discourse does is to describe the fact of the Treatise having an extensive scope; so that what is described here is the whole range of the cosmic process, beginning with Brahman down to the inanimate objects, as forming the basis of Dharma and Adharma, Right and Wrong; for instance, verse 49 describes the vegetable objects as ‘wrapped in manifold Darkness, the result of their own acts’ [which shows that plants also are related to, and affected by, Right and Wrong]; and later on, again in Discourse 1, verse 23, it will be stated that ‘having recognised, by means of his intellect, these transitions of the individual soul, through merit and demerit, (Right and Wrong), one should fix his attention upon the Right.’ From all this it follows that Right is the cause of superiority (in the scale of existence) and Wrong of the reverse; thus the present treatise, expounding the exact nature of Right and Wrong, serves an extensive purpose, and as such should be studied. Such is the purport of the First Discourse.

The authority for what is declared in the present verse consists of Mantra, Arthavāda and Inference. As for the Mantra we have the following (in Ṛgveda, 10.129.3)—‘Darkness existed, enveloped in darkness, uncognised in the beginning; this whole existed in a fluid state; the gross was contained in the subtile; the one entity that existed came to lie born, by virtue of austerities.’ The meaning is as follows:—‘At the Universal Dissolution, the Sun, the Moon, the Fire and other sources of light having been destroyed, there existed Darkness alone;—this (subtile) Darkness was ‘enveloped,’ wrapped, in Darkness in the gross form; at this time there was no cogniser; hence, there being no one to cognise things, there was no cognition of anything; therefore Darkness is described as enveloped in darkness;—‘in the beginning,’ i.e. before elemental creation, it was ‘uncognised,’ unknown; ‘this whole existed in the fluid state,’ i.e. every active or mobile object was motionless; the ‘gross,’ the larger, ‘was contained in the subtile,’ the smaller; i.e. every differentiated object was resolved into its original evolvents; this indicates the undifferentiated state of the world; and the last foot of the Mantra describes the earliest stage of evolution; that ‘one entity’ which ‘existed’ ‘came to be born, by virtue of austerities,’ i.e. by the force of austerity it became manifested in differentiated forms; i.e. under the influence of past acts, it came into existence again; or, it may mean that under the conditions described, Hiraṇyagarbha, came into existence by himself, by virtue of his austerities; as described later on (verso 6)—‘Thereupon the self-born &c. &c.’

The possibility of Universal Dissolution is proved by Inference: That which has been found to bo destroyed in one part is also found to be destroyed in its entirety; e.g. at one time a single house is found to be burnt, and at another time the entire village is burnt (this is the Major Premise); all such things as are produced by active agents,—such for instance, as houses, palaces and the like are found to be liable to destruction (this is the second step in the inferential process);—this world, consisting of rivers, oceans, mountains &c., is the work of an active agent (this is the third step);—hence it follows that, like the house &c., the whole world will come to destruction (this is the final conclusion). It will not be right to argue that the fact of the world being the work of an active agent is itself not yet established;—for that fact also is deduced from the fact of the world having, like the house and such things, a particular shape;—all this constitutes the Inference (upon which the statements in the present verse are based).

We do not make any attempt either at clarifying (discussing and strengthening) the said proofs, or at refuting (the counter-arguments); because the present treatise does not deal with proofs and reasonings; and reasonings could not be fully grasped until they have been fully stated and examined; and if all this were done, the work would become a treatise on ‘Reasonings,’ not on ‘Law;’ and further, it would become too prolix.

This subject (of Creation and Dissolution) in its details shall be found described (in verses 7 et seq.) and the process described shall be in some places in accordance with the Purāṇas and sometimes in accordance with the Sāṅkhya doctrines. But the knowing or not knowing of those details does not make any difference in Right and Wrong; hence we are not going to deal with it in detail. If any person stands in need of the detailed account of the process, be should search for it in the said sources of information. What we undertake to do is to construe and explain the words of the text, and this is all that we shall do. A brief exposition of the purport of the Discourse we have already given.

This,’ world, ‘was in exitence,’ ‘in the form of dense Darkness’—i.e. as if it were dense darkness; the term ‘which has several meanings, is here used to denote similarity; just as in the statement ‘yat tad bhinneṣvabhinnam chinneṣvachinnam sāmānyabhūtam sa śabdaḥ’ (‘that which remains the same even though the things denoted by it are diverse; which remains undestroyed even when the things denoted are destroyed, which is, as if it were, a Generality, this is the Word’), the word ‘samānyābhūtaḥ’ means ‘as if it were a generality.’ “What is it that constitutes the similarity of the World to Darkness?”

The answer is given by the next word ‘unperceived;’ in as much as all the products with their diverse differentiated forms are at the time resolved in the Evolvent Original, the world is not p erceived.

It might have been cognised by means of Inference; but that also is not possible; as it is ‘undifferentiated’; the ‘differential’ meant is that character which distinguishes one thing from another; and this also is dissolved at the time; for the simple reason that all products, with their distinguishing features, have been destroyed.

Incogitable’—that form in which the World existed was not capable of being even thought of, in that form; ‘cogitation’ here stands, for all forms of Inference; the meaning being that at the time there was no kind of Inference—neither from generals to particulars, nor from particulars to generals—available, by means of which the World could be cognised.—For these reasons it was also ‘incognizable.’

From all this it might follow that the World did not exist at all, and it was only a non-existent World that came into existence (subsequently); with a view to preclude this, the text adds—‘as if wholly merged in deep sleep.’ As a matter of fact, the existent can never come into existence out of the non-existent; it has been declared in the Upanisads (the Chāndogya)—‘O dear one, this was, in the beginning existent; how could the existent be born out of the non-existent?’—All that is meant is that the World is incognizable by the instrumentality of the ordinary means of cognition, which operate through, and bear upon, only differentiated things; that such is its condition is known from the scriptures, which also are as transcendental in their character as the ante-natal condition of the World.

As if merged in deep sleep,’—‘deep sleep’ stands for that condition of repose which is beyond the conditions of waking and dreaming; and it has been cited only by way of illustration; the meaning being—‘just as the soul, in the condition of deep sleep, remains entirely unconscious of any thoughts or sufferings, and free from all notions of diversity,—and yet it cannot be said to be non-existent, because on waking, it is recognised as being the same that was asleep, as shown by the idea I have slept soundly,—exactly the same is the case with the World, as is shown by the scriptures that describe things as they have actually existed, and also proved, for those who depend upon reasonings, by what appear to be sound Inferences.’

Was in existence’—the past tense has been used, because the condition described can never be known by any person; hence it is that it has been described as ‘incognizable.’

Wholly’—this shows that the dissolution is not partial but total. (5)


Explanatory notes

Tamas’ is generally taken here in the sense of the ‘Root evolvent’, only Rāghavānanda taking it in the sense of the Vedantic māyā; he is supported by Sāyaṇa who explains the term similarly, under his explanation of Ṛgveda 18. 129. 8.

P. 8, l. 8—(1) tam āsīt (Ṛgveda 10.129.8)—Sāyaṇa supplies a somewhat different explanation:

As a Vedāntin, Sāyaṇa identifies tamas with māyā |

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