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 6.36 [The manner of Paying the three Debts]

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

अधीत्य विधिवद् वेदान् पुत्रांश्चोत्पाद्य धर्मतः ।
इष्ट्वा च शक्तितो यज्ञैर्मनो मोक्षे निवेशयेत् ॥ ३६ ॥

adhītya vidhivad vedān putrāṃścotpādya dharmataḥ |
iṣṭvā ca śaktito yajñairmano mokṣe niveśayet || 36 ||

After having studied the Vedas according to rule, having begotten sons in the rightful manner, and having offered sacrifices to the rest of his ability,—he shall turn his mind towards Liberation.—(36).


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

This Smṛti-text reiterates what has been said in the following Śruti—‘Man is born beset with three debts—the debt of sacrifice to the gods, the debt of offspring to the Pitṛs, and the debt of vedic study to the sages’ (Śatapatha-Brāhmaṇa,

“But the Jābāla-śruti has declared that—‘one should go forth as a mendicant after having been a house-holder, or he may go forth directly after studentship’."

Our explanation of this is as follows:—What the text just quoted does is to mention the mere coming into existence of the stage of Renunciation; and if it were taken in its literal sense it would be contrary to what is said in the following verse regarding the impropriety of ‘going forth, without having begotten offspring’.

“Well, when we have the Śruti just quoted, what if it be contrary to a Smṛti- text?”

We explain. The necessity of taking to the Householder’s life has been directly enjoined (with all its details); while all that the text does in regard to the Renunciate is to enjoin that ‘one shall go forth’; and nothing is said as to the rites to be performed by the Renunciate, or the procedure to be adopted in regard to those rites. As regards the Householder on the other hand, the Agnihotra and other rites have been prescribed along with nil their appurtenant details. This is what we meant (by urging that the Śruti text quoted, if taken in its literal sense, would be contrary to the Smṛti- text). Those persons then who, not knowing of the Śruti text describing thethree debts’, take their stand upon Smṛti -texts only, and become life-long ‘students’, find themselves running up against the ‘Householder’s Life’ which has been directly enjoined.

There are some people who explain the Smṛti-texts relating to the ‘Life-long Student’ as applying to the case of such men as are suffering from impotence or some such debility, and are, on that account, not entitled to entering upon the House holder’s Life.

But we do not understand what these people really mean. Their meaning may be as follows:—Such a person is not entitled to the rites laid down in the Śruti, on account of their being incapable of properly accomplishing such acts as the ex amining of the clarified butter (which cannot be done by the blind), or the walk in Viṣṇu’s steps (which cannot be done by the lame); and that even so the said Śruti-texts have their application in the case of such men as are capable of duly accomplishing the rites with all the said details; so that there is no need for taking them as forcing the disabled persona also to perform the acts.

If this is what is meant, then as regards the Smṛti -texts also which speak of the ‘Life-long student’,—such a student also would have to ‘fetch water for the Teacher,’ to beg for food, and so forth; and in regard to the Renunciate also it has been declared that ‘he shall not dwell in any one place for a second night’. So that how could the blind and lame be entitled to these life-stages as prescribed by the Smṛti -texts? In fact the Initiatory Ceremony (upanayana) itself is clearly indicative of all (the four life-stages). Hence the desire of the person for marriage, which is referred to later on (9.203) in the text—‘if he has need for a wife etc. &c.’ Though in connection with the Initiatory Ceremony also, there are several details, such as looking at the sun, going round the fire, and so forth (which cannot be done by the blind or the lame), yet—in as much as the uninitiated person, by reason of his having become an outcast, would not be entitled to marry,—it is open to the man to keep up bis studentship, even though defective, by serving his Teacher to the best of his ability. As for the impotent man, he is, by his very nature, unfit for the Initiatory Ceremony; in fact, like the outcast, he is not entitled to anything at all.

From all this our mind is not satisfied with the view that the life of the Renunciate (directly after studentship), or that of the Life-long Student, is meant for disabled people. In fact the two methods may well be regarded as optional alternatives; as is done in the case of the two Vedic texts laying down oblations to be offend ‘before sunrise’ and ‘after sunrise’. And it is in accordance. with the alternative view that nil the four life-stages should be passed through that we have the passage—‘without paying off his debts &c.’,—which is deprecatory and not prohibitive (of Life-long Studentship, or Direct Renunciation). Or, it may be taken as referring to cases where the married man is going to take to Renunciation.—(36).


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

This verse is quoted in Yatidharmasaṅgraha (p. 3) along with 35 which has the following notes:—These two verses mean that a man who has not already acquired dispassion towards worldly and celestial things should do all things according to the scriptures and then have recourse to Renunciation,—‘vrajatyadhaḥi.e., lingers in the satya and other regions lower than Liberation,—the Jabāla śruti justifies Renunciation also for those who have not passed through all the preceding life-stages.


Comparative notes by various authors

(verses 6.36-37)

Bodhāyana (2.11.34).—‘Those dwell with us who fulfil the following duties—the study of the Vedas, the studentship, the procreation of offspring, faith, austerity, sacrificing and giving gifts; he who praises other duties becomes dust and perishes.’

Āpastamba (2.24.8).—(Same as Baudhāyana.)

Yājñavalkya (3.57).—‘One shall turn his mind towards liberation only after having studied the Vedas, performed japa, obtained sons, given away food, maintained the fires and performed sacrifices to the best of his ability;—never otherwise.’

(For other texts, see under 33-34.)

Kāmandaka (2.29-31).—‘The duties of the Renunciate are to renounce all activity, to live on begging, to dwell under trees, to refuse all gifts, to avoid injury to living beings, to maintain an attitude of equality towards all, to be neutral to friends and enemies, to be unmoved by joy and grief, to be pure in mind and body, to curb speech, observe vows, to withdraw the senses from their objects, to keep the mind collected, to be absorbed in meditation and to purify his intentions.’

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