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:

प्राक्कूलान् पर्युपासीनः पवित्रैश्चैव पावितः ।
प्राणायामैस्त्रिभिः पूतस्तत ओं।कारमर्हति ॥ ७५ ॥

prākkūlān paryupāsīnaḥ pavitraiścaiva pāvitaḥ |
prāṇāyāmaistribhiḥ pūtastata oṃ|kāramarhati
|| 75 || 

Seated upon Kuśa-blades pointing eastwards and sanctified by Kuśa-blades, when one has purified himself by means of three ‘breath-suspensions,’—then alone he becomes entitled to the syllable ‘oṃ.’—(76)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

The term ‘kūṭa’ means ‘kuśa-blade’;—‘Seated upon’ them,—i.e., seated upon kuśa-blades pointing eastwards. The accusative ending in ‘kūṭān’ being in accordance with Pāniṇi 1. 4. 46, ‘adhisthīnsthāsām karma,’ where the latter part consists of the factors ‘athā’—‘ā’—‘āsām.’ In the word ‘paryupāsīnaḥ’ also we have an ‘ā’, the word containing the factors ‘pari’—‘upa’—‘ā’—‘āsīnaḥ’; the prefixes ‘pari’ and ‘upa’ having no significance at all.

Sanctified by kuśa-blades’;—i.e., having been made pure. The term ‘pavitra’ cannot stand for the Aghamarṣaṇa and other mantras; for the simple reason that at the time that the text is being dealt with, the student has not read those mantras. Nor are kuśa-blades capable, by their mere presence, to bring about purification for one who does no (purificatory) act; thus then, the necessity of some intervening act being essential, we are led to conclude, on the basis of another Smṛti, that this act is in the form of touching the sense-organs; Gautama (1.48-50) having prescribed ‘the touching of the organs with Kuśa-blades and seating upon Kuśa-blades pointing eastwards.’

Purified by means of three Breath-suspensions’—The air passing through the mouth and the nostrils is called ‘prāṇa,’ ‘breath’; and the ‘āyāma’ of this is its suspension, holding within the body, preventing its going out. Another Smṛti (Yājñavalkya, Ācāra, 23) has laid down the measure of the time during which the breath is to be suspended—as also the mantra accompanying it,—“One, witholding his breath, should mutter three times the Gāyatrī along with the Praṇava and the Śiras,—this is what is called ‘Breath-suspension’.” The revered Vaśiṣṭha has added to these the Great Vyāhṛtis also. It is the end of the mantra that should mark the end of the suspension, no other limit for it being prescribed. In as much as all Smṛtis are meant to serve the same purpose, we must accept this same method of ‘Breath-suspension’ to be meant by the present text also, specially as there is no inconsistency with it.

Objection.—“What has been said here involves a mutual interdependence: until the Breath-suspensions have been performed one should not pronounce ‘Oṃ,’ while without this syllable ‘Oṃ’ there can be no ‘Breath-suspension’.”

There is nothing wrong in this. When Yājñavalkya lays down that ‘one should mutter three times; etc.,’ all that is meant is the mental act of remembering, thinking of, the syllable ‘Oṃ’; for when the breath is suspended, there can be no utterance of any syllable; though it is true that ‘Japa,’ ‘Reciting,’ is (in most cases) something that can be accomplished only by an operation of speech. In connection with the reading of the Veda however, what is intended is actual utterance of the syllable; and this for the simple reason that the act of reading consists of actual utterance—the root (in ‘adhyayana’) signify ing the waking of sound, and sound is that which is heard by the Ear, and not that which is cognised only by the mind.

What is prescribed here is not something applicable to the syllable ‘Oṃ’ itself,—whereby it could be made applicable to the uttering of the syllable on other occasions also. It has been said that the syllable should be pronounced at the beginning of Vedic study; but if the. rule here laid down were meant to be applicable to all utterances of the syllable, it would have to be observed in connection with such utterances of it in ordinary parlance as when one says ‘we say yes (oṃ).’

Then again, Gautama (l.49) has declared that. ‘the three Breath-suspensions extend over fifteen moments.’ The term ‘mātrā,’ ‘moment,’ stands for that point of time which is taken up in the pronouncing of a simple unmodified vowel; and in as much as this cannot be consistent with the time-limit prescribed by Yājñavalkya, this latter cannot be accepted as applicable to what is prescribed by Gautama; in which connection again no mantras are laid down. From this it is clear that there can be ‘Breath-suspensions’ even without the uttering of the syllable ‘oṃ.’ And thus there need be no mutual interdependence.

Then alone does the man ‘become entitled to the syllable oṃ’;—i.e., to the ‘pronouncing’ of the syllable,—the word ‘pronouncing’ having to be supplied if the entire term ‘oṅkāra’ is taken as standing for the Praṇava. If however we take the term ‘kār’ separately in the sense of making,—so that ‘oṁkāra’ means the making or uttering of the syllable ‘oṃ,’—then we do not need to supply any other word. The uttering of the syllable having been laid down (under 74), where it is called ‘praṇava’;—the term ‘oṅkāra’ in the present sense simply serves the purpose of explaining what that ‘praṇava’ is.

So that ‘praṇava’ and ‘oṅkāra’ are synonymous terms; as we have already pointed out (in the Bhāṣya on 74).—(75)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

Pavitraiḥ’—‘Kuśa-blades—by which the seat of the vital airs is touched’—(Medhātithi);—‘The Aghamarṣaṇa’ and other Vedic texts (noted by Medhātithi, but rejected by him, though adopted by Nandana). Burnell has translated the term as ‘grass-rings on the third finger’;—this is in exact conformity with the present usage, where a blade of Kuśa, twisted into the form of a ring, is worn on the third finger on the occasion of all religious ceremonies.

This verse is quoted in Vidhānapārijāta (p. 521);—in Vīramitrodaya (Saṃskāra, p. 522), which explains ‘prākkūlān’ as prāgagrān ‘pointing eastwards’,—and ‘pavitraiḥ’ simply as ‘pāranaiḥ’ ‘purificatories’;—in Saṃskāramayūkha (p. 49), which explains ‘prākkūlān’ as ‘with tips pointing towards the east’;—in Saṃskāraratnamālā (p. 316) which has the same explanations and adds that it refers to Kuśa-blades;—in Smṛticandrikā (Saṃskāra, p. 135) which has the same explanation and explains ‘pavitraiḥ’ as purificatory;—also in Nṛsiṃhaprasāda (Saṃskāra, p. 471).


Comparative notes by various authors

Gautama-Dharmasūtra, 1.51-56.—‘The sense-organs should be touched with Kuśa-blades;—there should be three Breath-suspensions, of fifteen units; and the seat should be on Kuśa-grass pointing eastwards.’

Baudhāyana-Dharmasūtra, 2.4.5,7.—‘At the commencement of the performance of all acts, as also before the Twilight Prayers, one should sprinkle himself with the sanctifying blades and thereby prepare himself;—to this effect it is declared that seated on Kuśa-blades, holding Kuśa-blades in the hand, sprinkling himself with water, one should repeat the Gāyatrī a thousand times;—being purified with three Breath-suspensions.’

Kūrmapurāṇa (Vīramitrodaya-Āhnika, p. 254).—‘Seated on Kuśa-blades pointing eastwards, with mind collected, he should perform throe Breath-suspensions and then the Twilight Prayers.’

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