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...

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

अर्थकामेष्वसक्तानां धर्मज्ञानं विधीयते ।
धर्मं जिज्ञासमानानां प्रमाणं परमं श्रुतिः ॥ १३ ॥

arthakāmeṣvasaktānāṃ dharmajñānaṃ vidhīyate |
dharmaṃ jijñāsamānānāṃ pramāṇaṃ paramaṃ śrutiḥ || 13 ||

The knowledge of Dharma is ordained for those who are not addicted to the pursuit of wealth and pleasures; and for those seeking for the knowledge of Dharma, the Revealed Word is the highest authority.—(13)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

Wealth’ stands for cattle, land, gold and so forth, and ‘addiction’ to it means being entirely taken up with the undertaking of cultivation, service, etc., for the purpose of acquiring and accumulating wealth.

Pleasures’ stands for sexual pleasures; and ‘addiction’ to these means constant recourse to it, as also to its accompaniments in the shape of singing and music, etc.

For people who are devoid of these (wealth and pleasures), ‘the knowledge of Dharma,’ the true understanding of Dharma, ‘is ordained,’ specially propounded, accomplished; the verb ‘vidhīyate’ is derived from the root ‘dhīṅ’ to accomplish.

Objection.—How is it that people addicted to wealth and pleasures can have no knowledge of ‘Dharma?’ In fact such persons also, as time permits them, can obtain some knowledge of ‘Dharma,’—by listening at the time of eating and at such times as do not interfere with their pursuit of wealth and pleasure, to stories and to the precept or example of others (who know Dharma).”

In view of the above objection, the author has added the words—‘for those who seek the knowledge of Dharma,’ etc. The chief authority for Dharma is the Veda; and the Veda can never be understood by the persons referred to. It is extremely difficult to comprehend and for its due comprehension it requires the thorough study of the sciences of Nigama (Vedic commentaries), Nirukla (Philology), Vyākaraṇa (Grammar), Tarka (Logic) Purāṇa (History) and Mīnāmsā (Exigetics). And this entire mass of literature can never be acquired by a man unless he renounces all other activities. What can be learnt from stories and examples are only a few stray Dharmas, and not the entire body of Dharma, in the shape of the performance of the Jyotiṣṭoma and other sacrifices, along with all its accessory details, which can be learnt only from the Veda and the other sources of Dharma. It is in view of all this that the text says—‘the Revealed Word is the highest authority.’ This how ever is not meant to take away the force of ‘Example’ as a source of knowledge.

What is stated in the text is corroborated by the following well-known saying—‘He alone acquires learning who shuns wealth like snake, sweetmeats like poison, and women like evil spirits?


[ Another explanation of the verse.]

According to others again the expression ‘arthakāma’ stands for hankering after visible rewards—and for people ‘addicted’ to these,—those who hanker after honour, fame, etc., and who, seeking after visible results, have no other end in life save worldly advancement—‘the knowledge of Dharma,’ i.e., ‘performance of Dharma,’—is not ‘ordained,’ taught. The term ‘jñāna’ (’knowledge’) stands for’that in which the act becomes recognised’ (jñāyate asmin), i.e., its performance; it is only when the Dharma is performed that it becomes clearly manifest, clearer indeed than that comprehended at the time that the scriptures are studied. It is for this reason that it is the performance that is spoken of as ‘jñāna,’ ‘knowledge.’

What the text means therefore is this:—Even though the performance of Dharma brings worldly advancement, yet one should not undertake it entirely with a view to that fame; it should be undertaken with the sole idea that it is prescribed by the scriptures. The act having been done with this idea, if some visible result also follows, it may do so, but it is not what is thought of by the man. In fact the

Veda itself describes the result following from Vedic study as ‘fame and worldly advancement,’ in the passage—‘the world progressing endows him with four things—honour, gifts, freedom from taxes and freedom from death.’ To the same effect is the following saying—‘The water supplied for the growth of sugar-cane waters also the grasses and creepers, in the same manner when a man treads the path of Dharma, he also obtains fame, pleasure and riches.’


“When the act is endowed with a certain faculty, it does not lose that faculty, even though it may be performed with some other end in view; it must always bring about its natural effects; e.g., even though one may drink poison, with the idea that it is an efficacious medicine, yet it does not fail to kill him. Similarly even though the act may be done with a view to some visible reward, yet it cannot fail to bring about the invisible results mentioned in ' the scriptures. Why then should you have this aversion, which makes you assert that an act should not be undertaken with a view to worldly advancement?”

It is in view of this objection that the text adds—‘For those seeking for the knowledge of Dharma, the Revealed Word is the highest authority.’ And what this means is that ‘those who seek for visible rewards do not obtain any invisible reward,—and it is not only that he does not obtain the invisible result, he commits sin also by being addicted to what is prohibited.’—(13)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

Vidhīyate’.—Medhātithi puts forward a second explananation of this.


Comparative notes by various authors

Āpastamba-Dharmasūtra, 2.20.1.—‘In the performance of duties one shall not allow considerations of worldly things.’

Āpastamba-Dharmasūtra, 1-2.7.—‘In all countries one should imitate the behaviour of all such good men as are self-controlled, experienced, free from greed and haughtiness.’

Āpastamba-Dharmasūtra, 1-30.9.—‘In cases of conflict what is laid down in the Śruti is more authoritative.’

Gautama-Dharmasūtra, 1.6.—‘When there is a conflict between two equally authoritative texts, there is option.’

Jaimini-Mīmāṃsā-Sūtra, 1.3.3.—‘When a Smṛti conflicts with Śruti, it has no authority; where it does not conflict, there is presumption of corroborative Śruti.

Also see the Comparative notes for Verse 2.6 (Sources of Knowledge of Dharma).

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: