Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi

by Ganganatha Jha | 1920 | 1,381,940 words | ISBN-10: 8120811550 | ISBN-13: 9788120811553

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:

आर्षं धर्मोपदेशं च वेदशास्त्राविरोधिना ।
यस्तर्केणानुसन्धत्ते स धर्मं वेद नैतरः ॥ १०६ ॥

ārṣaṃ dharmopadeśaṃ ca vedaśāstrāvirodhinā |
yastarkeṇānusandhatte sa dharmaṃ veda naitaraḥ || 106 ||

If a man explores, by ratiocination, the Vedic teaching regarding Dharma, he alone, and no other, understands Dharma.—(106)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

Ārṣa’ means ‘pertaining to a Ṛṣi,’ and the term ‘ṛṣi’ here means the Veda; hence ‘Ārṣa Upadeśa’ means ‘Vedic teaching.’

This, if a man ‘explores’—tries to find out—‘by ratiocination’—by means of inferences,—‘he understands Dharma’—such is the verbal construction of the passage.

Ratiocination’—is the process of reasoning where a certain proposition is set up, and rejected, if found to be wrong on examination; the man coming to such conclusions as—‘It is right to accept this, and reject that.’ For instance, the sacred text used at the Āgneya sacrifice is—‘Devasya tvā savituḥ...agnaye tvā juṣṭam nirvapāmi’ (Vājasaneya Saṃhitā, 2.11); now an ectype of this Āgneya is the ‘Saurya’ Sacrifice of which the deity is Sūrya;—and in accordance with the general law that ‘the ectype shall be performed in the same manner as its archetype,’ it would follow that the sacred text just quoted shall be used at the Saurya sacrifice also;—but here one argues that though ‘agnaye tvā’ would be the right form for the Āgneya, where the deity is Agni, it could not be right for the Saurya, where the deity is Sūrya; hence while at this latter, the rest of the text shall be used in the same form, the words ‘agnaye tvā’ should be altered into ‘sūryāya tvā.’ Such a reasoning would not be inconsistent with the Veda.

Some people may argue thus: “At the Saurya sacrifice, Agni is not the deity; and it is in accordance with their meanings that sacred texts are employed at sacrifices; so that when one part of the said text is not applicable to the Saurya sacrifice, if that portion were dropped, it would cease to be a Sacred text;—hence the whole text should be dropped.”

But such reasoning would be contrary to the teaching of the Veda.

Similarly if one were to argue that—‘Since the sacred text has to be used, it must be always used in its original unaltered form only,’—this also would be contrary to the Veda.

In fact, what is set forth here is not an Injunction, but a commendatory statement; and the purport of it is that what should be done in such cases is to be ascertained by the process of reasonings embodied in the Mīmāṃsā;—hence it is the study of Mīmāṃsā that is indirectly enjoined for the purpose of obtaining a correct knowledge of Dharma.

Others explain the text in the following manner:—

Tarka,’ ‘Ratiocination,’ stands for works of which reasoning forms the main subject; which make it their business to set forth the ordinary means of cognition,—i.e., works on Nyāya, on Vaiśeṣika and on the materialistic Systems of Philosophy. From among these however, those belonging to the last category,—i.e., works written by Bauddhas, Nirgranthas and others—which are inconsistent with the Veda—are rejected; since for these writers the Veda is not an authoritative source of knowledge; as it is for Kapila, Kaṇāda (and the Naiyāyika). This is shown by the following Sūtra of Gautama—‘Perception, Inference, Analogy and Word are the pramāṇas’ (1.1.3); and the Vaiśeṣikas also—‘the authoritative character of the Veda is due to its being His declaration’ (Vaiśeṣika Sūtra). Hence these latter should be carefully listened to (and learnt). In the Mahābhārata also, the revered Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana has declared—‘O king, your intellect seems to be bewildered by the words of the text, just like that of the foolish Vedic scholar, and hence it fails to grasp the subtle aspects of things’;—where the mention of ‘bewilderment caused by the words of the text’ implies the propriety of applying reasonings. There is yet another statement—‘One who follows the Smṛtis should never attend to materialistic Brāhmaṇas, since these are adepts in evil and proud of their learning.’ This forbids listening to unsound reasonings; while the former text (from the Mahābhārata) lays down the propriety of attending to sound reasonings.

The authoritative character of the Veda some people would seek to prove by the fact of its being the work of God. But this is not possible; as according to this view the Veda cannot he authoritative, as its whole fabric would rest upon the will of God, and when we find contradictory statements, we are prone to take the opposite view that the Veda is not trustworthy.

For this reason the reasonings set forth by these persons would also have to be rejected as ‘unsound’; specially as these do not help in any way towards the understanding of the meaning of Vedic texts. Says the Sāṅkhya, for instance (in regard to the Veda)—‘it is beset with impurity, destruction and excess’ (Kārikā, 2). The followers of Gautama also have put forward certain arguments, which embody the prima facie position against the Ritualistic Section of the Veda (Nyāya Sūtra, 2.1.5, et. seq.);—though these arguments are represented as proceeding from another party.

It is only in the Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā and the Vedānta that we find the authority of the Veda unequivocally stated, in the form in which it is set forth in such Vedic texts as—‘The gods came down from the heavenly regions to this world,—the sages followed them,—and the men said to them—How are we going to live?—To them the sages revealed all their duties,—hence the reasonings that the good Brāhmaṇas propound are Vedic.’ This is a passage that explains the exact nature of what is meant by ‘ratiocination’ in the present context.—(106)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

This verse is quoted in Aparārka (p. 22);—and in Smṛtitattva (p. 511).

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