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:

आसां महर्षिचर्याणां त्यक्त्वाऽन्यतमया तनुम् ।
वीतशोकभयो विप्रो ब्रह्मलोके महीयते ॥ ३२ ॥

āsāṃ maharṣicaryāṇāṃ tyaktvā'nyatamayā tanum |
vītaśokabhayo vipro brahmaloke mahīyate || 32 ||

Having discarded his body by one of these methods adopted by the Great Sages, the Brāhmaṇa, with sorrow and fear departed, becomes exalted in the region of Brahman.—(32).


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

The austerities spoken of above and the ‘Grand Journey’ just spoken of constitute ‘the methods adopted by the Great Sages.’ By ‘one of these’—by drowning in a river, by falling from a precipice, by burning one self by fire, by starving one’self to death—one should discard his body.

The result of this is that ‘with sorrow and fear departed’ he reaches the regions of Brahman. ‘Sorrow’ consists in the experiencing of the sufferings of hell, etc.,—Fear’—of going to hell. Both these disappear for the man; and directly—not having to pass through the several stages of Light, etc.—he goes to the region of Brahman.

The ‘region of Brahman’ is a particular place, superior than Heaven itself; and in that ‘he becomes exalted’—remains to honoured. This does not mean that he obtains the ‘Selfsovereignty’ of Brahman; since the text distinctly adds the term ‘region’; specially as Liberation is going to be spoken as being led to from the fourth Life-stage.

They say that Liberation is not attained by mere Action.

But this is not right; since in this very work it has been said—‘he should study the Vedic texts contained in the Upaniṣads in order to attain the Self’; and ‘attainment of the Self’ is nothing more than meditating,’ upon the Self and thereby becoming absorbed in it; there can be no other meaning of the term ‘attain’. And further what is to be meditated upon by yogins in connection with the Upaniṣad-texts is the Self:—‘One fixed in Brahman reaches immortality’, ‘he becomes absorbed therein’ and so forth.

It might be argued that—“there are other forms of success proceeding from austerities, spoken of in such texts as ‘if he is desirous of reaching the regions of the Pitṛs etc. etc.’; wherein we find it stated that man can attain that degree of greatness which belongs to Brahman, and which is acquired by his determined activity; but this cannot be Liberation.”

But this is not right. Because there is no distinction made. The man of action is just as much entitled to ‘Immortality’ (which is Liberation) as to the forms of worship leading to inferior results. It is nowhere declared that those forms of worship which relate to Non-duality shall be followed by the Renunciate only.

“But, having declared that ‘there are three departments of Dharma’, the Upaniṣad (Chāndogya) names ‘sacrifice, study and charity’, which represent the duties of the Householder; then it mentions ‘austerity’ which refers to the Hermit; then it speaks of theStudent dwelling in the Teacher’s house’, which refers to the Life-long Student; and lastly it mentions ‘one who is fixed in Brahman’, and this refers to the Renunciate. Further on, it declares that the former three lead to ‘sacred regions’; from which it follows that it is the remaining fourth, the Renunciate, who attains Immortality.”

Not so at all; the term ‘brahmasaṃstha’, ‘fixed in Brahman’, is used in its literal sense of ‘one who is given up to meditating upon Brahman’ [and this has no reference to any particular stage of life].

“If all men were equally entitled to it, then all that the Upaniṣad need have said is ‘one who is fixed in Brahman reaches Immortality’ [and nothing need have been said regarding the three life-stages]”.

Not so; what the passage means is that,—‘the several life-stages lead to sacred regions, which constitutes the result mentioned in connection with the Injunctions relating to the stages; but if, while still in the same stages, if a man fixes himself upon Brahman, he attains Immortality, which means non-return to birth.’

“Those who know the Self have declarered that Brahman is non-dual; and It is also called ‘one in whom all activity has ceased’; the Life-stages on the other hand, all constitute the path of activity, consisting of the performance of various acts leading up to various results; so that there is a clear incompatibility between the ‘knowing of the non-dual Self’ and the performance of the Agnihotra and other rites, which are inseparable from the stages of the Householder &c., and which are all based upon notions of diversity

Our answer to this is as follows:—This would be equally applicable to Renunciation also, which also consists of restraints and observances, which presuppose diversity.

It might be argued that—“For the man who has renounced all activity and entered the path of Inaction, there are no scriptural injunctions at all”.

Such certainly is not the meaning of the scriptures. Renunciation is going to be described as ‘the surrendering of the notions of I and mine’, and not the abandoning of all that is enjoined by the scriptures. Further, in connection with the Renunciate also, when he is hungry and goes about begging food, the notion of action and agent is always present. Under the circumstances, what reasonable man could assert that—“in the case of the Renunciate there is no incompatibility between his engaging in the said acts pertaining to the ordinary worldly life and his realising of the non-dual Brahman,—while there is a clear incompatibility between this latter and the performance of the Agnihotra and other acts prescribed by the scriptures”?

The following argument may here be put forward “When the Renunciate is hungry and engages himself in eating, there is certainly incompatibility between this act and his knowledge of Self; but this incompatibility or incongruity lasts during that time only; just when a man walks in the dark he may put hist foot upon thorny places; but when the sun rises and he obtains sufficient light, he places his foot only upon the right path, which is free from thorns; in the same manner, during the time that the man is suffering from hunger, he loses sight of his knowledge of Self; but as soon as the cessation of hunger comes about, like light in the other case, his firm conviction regarding the Self reasserts itself and the man regains his knowledge”.

The same may be said regarding the Hermit also.

For the Householder also, there would be nothing incongruous in his attending to his wife and children and also meditating upon Brahman.

“But how can the man of manifold activities, who has become identified with diversity, ever obtain conviction regarding Non-duality”?

In connection with the duties of the Householder also it has been laid down that—‘he shall meditate in solitude’ (4.248), and ‘having made over eveything to his son &c.’ (4.247)

“It has been declared in the Śruti that ‘the man desiring heaven should not die before the span of his lift; has run out how then can there beany ‘giving up of the body’ for the Hermit? It is not possible for the present text to restrict this Śruti- text to cases other than that of the Hermit. Because the Śruti is more authoritative, and as such, could not be restricted in its scope by the Smṛti.”

There would be no going against the said Śruti if the man were to seek death when his body is torn up by old age and by sorrows and he knows that death is near at hand. What the

Śruti says is ‘before the span of his life has run out’; where as if dying were not considered right under nay and every circumstances, then it would have simply said ‘one desirous of heaven should not die.’ Further, the Upaniṣads speak of several signs of approaching death; and these also have their use in connection with the Śruti in question; the sense being that ‘unless a man knows of impending death by means of such signs he shall not seek to die.”—(32)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

Āsām anyatamayā’—‘The aforesaid austerities as also the Great Journey’ (Medhātithi); so also ‘others.’ There is no difference of opinion among the commentators, as Buhler makes out,

Hopkins is wrong in translating ‘bhṛguprapāta’ as ‘drowning;’—Buhler has understood it rightly to mean ‘precipitating himself from a mount.’

This verse is quoted in Mitākṣarā (on 3.55), winch adds the following notes:—The ‘brahmoloka’ here meant is not ‘the eternal Brahman’, but a particular region; otherwise there would be no sense in the adding of the term ‘loka’; also because Liberation (which would be the ‘reaching of the eternal Brahman’) is not held to be attained without the fourth Life-stage of Renunciation; as is clear from the Śruti text (Chāndogya) which speaks of the first three life-stages as ‘puṇyalokāḥ’, ‘leading to sacred regions’, and of the ‘Brahmasaṃstha’ (Renunciate) alone as attaining immortality.’

This verse is quoted in Parāśaramādhava (Ācāra, p. 5.31);—in Aparārka (p. 945), which adds that the ‘methods’ referred to are those described under verse 23 et. seq. it adds that all that has been prescribed under the ‘duties of the Religious Student’ has to be followed by the Householder, the Hermit and the Renunciate also, in so far as it does not militate against anything that has been prescribed specifically for any of these.

It is quoted in Nirṇayasindhu (p. 398).


Comparative notes by various authors

(verses 6.31-32)

See Comparative notes for Verse 6.31.

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