Vasistha Dharmasutra

by Georg Bühler | 1882 | 44,713 words

The Dharmasutra of Vasistha forms an independent treatise and has no relationship with the Kalpasutra. The chapters of this text are divided in a way that resemble the practice of later Smritis. This Dharmasutra has a unique characteristic, it cites the opinions of Manu at many places. This led scholars like Bühler among others to form a hypothesis...

1. There are four castes (varṇa), Brāhmaṇas, Kṣatriyas, Vaiśyas, and Śūdras.[1]

2. Three castes, Brāhmaṇas, Kṣatriyas, and Vaiśyas, (are called) twice-born.

3. Their first birth is from their mother; the second from the investiture with the sacred girdle. In that (second birth) the Sāvitrī is the mother, but the teacher is said to be the father.[2]

4. They call the teacher father, because he gives instruction in the Veda.[3]

5. They quote also (the following passage from the Veda) to the same (effect): 'Of two kinds, forsooth, is the virile energy of a man learned in the Vedas, that which (resides) above the navel and the other which below (the navel) descends down-wards. Through that which (resides) above the navel, his offspring is produced, when he initiates Brāhmaṇas, when he teaches them, when he causes them to offer oblations, when he makes them holy. By that which resides below the navel the children of his body are produced. Therefore they never say, to a Śrotriya, who teaches the Veda, "Thud art destitute of offspring."'[4]

6. Hārīta also quotes (the following verse): 'No religious rite can be performed by a (child) before he has been girt with the sacred girdle, since he is on a level with a Śūdra before his (new) birth from the Veda.'[5]

7. (The above prohibition refers to all rites) except those connected with libations of water, (the exclamation) Svadhā, and the manes.[6]

8. Sacred learning approached a Brāhmaṇa (and said to him), 'Preserve me, I am thy treasure, reveal me not to a scorner, nor to a wicked man, nor to one of uncontrolled passions: so (preserved) I shall become strong.'[7]

9. 'Reveal me, O Brāhmaṇa, as to the keeper of thy treasure, to him whom thou shalt know to be pure, attentive, intelligent, and chaste, who will not offend thee nor revile thee.'

10. '(That man) who fills his ears with truth, who frees him from pain and confers immortality upon him, (the pupil) shall consider as his father and mother; him he must never grieve nor revile.'[8]

11. 'As those Brāhmaṇas who, after receiving instruction, do not honour their teacher by their speech, in their hearts or by their acts, will not be profitable to their teacher, even so that sacred learning (which they acquired) will not profit them.'

12. 'As fire consumes dry grass, even so the Veda, asked for, (but) not honoured, (destroys the enquirer). Let him not proclaim the Veda to that man, who does not show him honour according to his ability.'

13. The (lawful) occupations of a Brāhmaṇa are six,[9]

14. Studying the Veda, teaching, sacrificing for himself, sacrificing for. others, giving alms, and accepting gifts.[10]

15. (The lawful occupations) of a Kṣatriya are three,

16. Studying, sacrificing for himself, and bestowing gifts;

17. And his peculiar duty is to protect the people with his weapons; let him gain his livelihood thereby.

18. (The lawful occupations) of a Vaiśya are the same (as those mentioned above, Sūtra 16),

19. Besides, agriculture, trading, tending cattle, and lending money at interest,

20. To serve those (superior castes) has been fixed as the means of livelihood for a Śūdra.[11]

21. (Men of) all (castes) may wear their hair arranged according to the customs fixed (for their family), or allow it to hang down excepting the lock on the crown of the head.[12]

22. Those who are unable to live by their own lawful occupation may adopt (that of) the next inferior (caste),[13]

23. But never (that of a) higher (caste).

24. (A Brāhmaṇa and a Kṣatriya) who have re-sorted to a Vaiśya's mode of living, and maintain themselves by trade (shall not sell) stones, salt, hempen (cloth), silk, linen (cloth), and skins,[14]

25. Nor any kind of dyed cloth,

26. Nor prepared food, flowers, fruit, roots, per-fumes, substances (used for) flavouring (food); nor water, the juice extracted from plants; nor Soma, weapons, poison; nor flesh, nor milk, nor preparations from it, iron, tin, lac, and lead,[15]

27. Now they quote also (the following verse): 'By (selling) flesh, lac, and salt a Brāhmaṇa at once becomes an outcast; by selling milk he. becomes (equal to) a Śūdra after three days.'[16]

28. Among tame animals those with uncloven hoofs, and those that have an abundance of hair, (must not be sold), nor any wild animals, (nor) birds, nor beasts that have tusks (or fangs).

29. Among the various kinds of grain they mention sesamum (as forbidden).[17]

30. Now they quote also (the following verse): If he applies sesamum to any other purpose, but food, anointing, and charitable gifts, he will be born again as a worm and, together with his ancestors, be plunged into his own ordure.'[18]

31. Or, at pleasure, they may sell (sesamum), if they themselves have produced it by tillage.[19]

32. For that purpose he shall plough before breakfast with two bulls whose noses have not been pierced.

33. (If he ploughs) in the hot season, he shall water (his beasts even in the morning).

34. The plough is attended by strong males, provided with a useful share and with a handle (to be held) by the drinker of Soma; that raises (for him) a cow, a sheep, a stout damsel, and a swift horse for the chariot.[20]

35. The plough is attended by strong males, i.e. is attended by strong men and bullocks, provided with a useful share--for its share is useful (because) with the share it raises, i.e. pierces deep--and provided with a handle for the drinker of Soma,--for Soma reaches him,--possessing a handle for him. That raises a cow, a sheep, goats, horses, mules, donkeys and camels, and a stout damsel, i.e. a beautiful, useful maiden in the flower of her youth.

36. For how could the plough raise (anything for him) if he did not sell grain?

37. Substances used for flavouring may be bartered for (other) substances of the same kind, be it for one more valuable or for one worth less.[21]

38. But salt must never (be exchanged) for (other) substances-used for flavouring (food).

39. It is permitted to barter sesamum, rice, cooked food, learning, and slaves (each for its own kind and the one for the other).

40. A Brāhmaṇa and a Kṣatriya shall not lend (anything at interest acting like) usurers.[22]

41. Now they quote also (the following verses): 'He who acquiring property cheap, gives it for a high price, is called a usurer and blamed among those who recite the Veda.'

42. '(Brahman) weighed in the scales the crime of killing a learned Brāhmaṇa against (the crime of) usury; the slayer of the Brāhmaṇa remained at the top, the usurer sank downwards.'

43. Or, at pleasure, they may lend to a person who entirely neglects his sacred duties, and is exceedingly wicked,[23]

44. Gold (taking) double (its value on repayment, and) grain trebling (the original price).[24]

45. (The case of) flavouring substances has been explained by (the rule regarding) grain,

46. As well as (the case of) flowers, roots, and fruit.

47. (They may lend) what is sold by weight, (taking) eight times (the original value on repayment).[25]

48. Now they quote also (the following verses): 'Two in the hundred, three and four and five, as has teen declared in the Smṛti, he may take as interest by the month according to the order of the castes.'[26]

49. 'But the king's death shall stop the interest on money (lent);'[27]

50. 'And after the coronation of (a new) king the capital grows again.'

51. 'Hear the interest for a money-lender declared by the words of Vasiṣṭha, five mash's for twenty (kārṣāpaṇas may be taken every month); thus the law is not violated.'[28]

Footnotes and references:


-2. II. Viṣṇu II, 1-2; Manu X, 4.


Identical with Manu II, 169a, 170a, and Viṣṇu XXVIII, 37-38. The Sāvitrī or the verse addressed to Savitṛ is found Rig-veda III, 62, 10.


Gautama I, 10; Manu II, 171.


The reading tathāpyudāharanti, which several of my MSS. give, seems to me preferable to Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita's udāharati. Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita explains sādhu karoti, 'makes them holy,' by adhyātmam upadiśati,' teaches them transcendental knowledge.'


Viṣṇu XXVIII, 40. Instead of Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita's 'yāvadvedo na jāyate,' 'yāvadvede na jāyate,' which occurs in several MSS. and in the parallel passages of Manu II, 172 and other Smṛtis, must be read.


Gautama II, 5. The rites referred to are the funeral rites.


-9. Viṣṇu XXIX, 9-10, and introduction, p. xxiii; Nirukta II, 4.


Viṣṇu XXX, 47.


Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita wrongly connects the word brāhmaṇasya with the next Sūtra. For this and the next seven Sūtras, compare Viṣṇu II, 4-14.


Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita by mistake leaves out the word 'dānam.'


I read 'teṣām paricaryā,' with the majority of the MSS., instead of Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita's 'teṣāṃ ca paricaryā.'


In illustration of this Sūtra Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita quotes a verse of Laugākṣi, which states that Brāhmaṇas belonging to the Vasiṣṭha family wore the top-lock on the right side of the head, and the members of the Atri family allowed it to hang down on p. 12 both sides, while the Bhṛgus shaved their heads, and the Āṅgirasas wore five locks (cūḍā) on the crown of the head. Cf. Max Müller, Hist. Anc. Sansk. Lit., p. 53.


Viṣṇu II, 15.


For this and the following four Sūtras, see Gautama VII, 8-21.


Rasāḥ, 'substances used for flavouring,' i.e. 'molasses, sugar-cane, sugar, and the like.'--Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita. See also note on Gautama VII, 9.


Identical with Manu X, 92.


Viṣṇu LIV, 18; Āpastamba I, 7, 20, 13. Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita wrongly connects this Sūtra with the preceding one.


Manu X, 91.


Manu X, 90.


Vājasaneyi-saṃhitā XII, 71. The translation follows the explanation given in the next Sūtra as closely as possible, though the latter is without doubt erroneous. The purpose for which Vasiṣṭha introduces it, is to show that a Vedic text permits agriculture to a Brāhmaṇa who offers Soma-sacrifices.


-39. Gautama VII, 16-21.


Manu X, 117. Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita reads with MS. B., vārdhushiṃ na dadyātām, and explains it by vṛddhiṃ naiva prayojayetām, 'they shall not take interest.' I read with the other MSS. vārdhuṣī, and translate that term by 'usurers.' Below, Sūtra 42, vārdhushi is used likewise in this its usual sense.


Manu X, 117.


-47. Viṣṇu VI, 11-17; Colebrooke I, Dig. LXVI, where 'silver and gems' have been added after gold, and rasāḥ, 'flavouring substances,' been translated by 'fluids.' The translation differs also in other respects, because there the Sūtras stand by themselves, while here the nouns in Sūtras 44 and 47 are governed by the preceding dadyātām, 'they may lend.' They, i.e. a Brāhmaṇa p. 15 and a Kṣatriya. The rule, of course, refers to other castes also, and to those cases where no periodical interest is taken, but the loan returned in kind.


The Ratnākara quoted by Colebrooke loc. cit. takes 'what is sold by weight' to be 'camphor and the like.' Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita thinks that 'clarified butter, honey, spirituous liquor, oil, molasses, and salt' are meant. But most of these substances fall under the term rasāḥ, 'flavouring substances.' The proper explanation of the words seems to be, 'any other substance not included among those mentioned previously, which is sold by weight.'


Viṣṇu VI, 2, and especially Manu VIII, 142. The lowest rate of interest is to be taken from the highest caste, and it becomes greater with decreasing respectability. According to Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita and the commentators on the parallel passage of Viṣṇu, Manu, and other Smṛtis, this rule applies only to loans for which no security is given--a statement which is doubtlessly correct.


-50. Both the reading and the sense of this verse, which in some MSS. is wanting, are somewhat doubtful. I read with my best MSS.,


Gautama XII, 29; Colebrooke I, Dig. XXIV. The rule given in this Sūtra refers, as Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita correctly states, to loans, for which security is given. The rate is 1¼ per cent for the month, or 15 per annum; see the note to Gautama loc. cit. Manu, VIII, 140, especially mentions that this rate is prescribed by Vasiṣṭha.

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