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. (To live according to) the rule of conduct is doubtlessly the highest duty of all men. He whose soul is defiled by vile conduct peṛṣes in this world and in the next.[1]

2. Neither austerities, nor (the study of) the Veda, nor (the performance of) the Agnihotra, nor lavish liberality can ever save him whose conduct is vile and who has strayed from this (path of duty).

3. The Vedas do not purify him who is deficient in good conduct, though he may have learnt them all together with the six Aṅgas; the sacred texts depart from such a man at death, even as birds, when full-fledged, leave their nest.

4. As the beauty of a wife causes no joy to a blind man, even so all the four Vedas together with the six Aṅgas and sacrifices give no happiness to him who is deficient in good conduct.[2]

5. The sacred texts do not save from sin the deceitful man who behaves deceitfully. But that Veda, two syllables of which are studied in the right manner, purifies, just as the clouds (give beneficent rain) in the month of Iṣa.[3]

6. A man of bad conduct is blamed among men, evils befal him constantly, he is afflicted with disease and short-lived.[4]

7. Through good conduct man gains spiritual merit, through good conduct he gains wealth, through good conduct he obtains beauty, good conduct obviates the effect of evil marks.[5]

8. A man who follows the rule of conduct established among the virtuous, who has faith and is free from envy, lives a hundred years, though he be destitute of all auspicious marks.[6]

9. But a man who knows the sacred law shall perform in secret all acts connected with eating, the natural evacuations and dalliance with (his wife); business to be accomplished by speech or intellect, likewise austerities, wealth, and age, must be most carefully concealed.

10. And a man shall void both urine and fæces, facing the north, in the day-time, but at night he shall do it turning towards the south; for (if he acts) thus, his life will not be injured.[7]

11: The intellect of that man peṛṣes who voids urine against a fire, the sun, a cow, a Brāhmaṇa, the moon, water, and the morning or evening twilights.[8]

12. Let him not void urine in a river, nor on a path, nor on ashes, nor on cowdung, nor on a ploughed field, nor on one which has been sown, nor on a grass-plot, nor in the shade (of trees) that afford protection (to travellers).[9]

13. Standing in the shade (of houses, clouds, and so forth), when it is quite dark, and when he fears for his life, a Brāhmaṇa may void urine, by day and by night, in any position he pleases.[10]

14. (Afterwards) he shall perform the necessary (purification) with water fetched for the purpose (from a tank or river, and with earth).[11]

15. For a bath water not fetched for the purpose (may also be used).[12]

16. (For the purpose of purification) a Brāhmaṇa shall take earth that is mixed with gravel, from the bank (of a river).

17. Five kinds of earth must not be used, viz. such as is covered by water, such as lies in a temple, on an ant-hill, on a hillock thrown up by rats, and that which has been left by one who cleaned himself.

18. The organ (must be cleaned by) one (application of) earth, the (right) hand by three, but both (feet) by two, the anus by five, the one (i.e. the left hand) by ten, and both (hands and feet) by seven (applications of earth).[13]

19. Such is the purification ordained for house-holders; it is double for students, treble for hermits, but quadruple for ascetics.[14]

20. Eight mouthfuls are the meal of an ascetic, sixteen that of a hermit, but thirty-two that of a householder, and an unlimited quantity that of a student.[15]

21. An Agnihotrin, a draught-ox, and a student, those three can do their work only if they eat (well); without eating (much), they cannot do it.

22. (The above rule regarding limited allowances of food holds good) in the case of penances, of self-imposed restraint, of sacrifices, of the recitation of the Veda, and of (the performance of other) sacred duties.[16]

23. The qualities by which a (true) Brāhmaṇa may be recognised are, the concentration of the mind, austerities, the subjugation of the senses, liberality, truthfulness, purity, sacred learning, compassion, worldly learning, intelligence, and the belief (in the existence of the deity and of a future life).

24. One may know that bearing grudges, envy, speaking untruths, speaking evil of Brāhmaṇas, backbiting, and cruelty are the characteristics of a Śūdra.[17]

25. Those Brāhmaṇas can save (from evil) who are free from passion, and patient of austerities, whose ears have been filled with the texts of the Veda, who have subdued the organs of sensation and action, who have ceased to injure animated beings, and who close their hands when gifts are offered.[18]

26. Some become worthy receptacles of gifts through sacred learning, and some through the practice of austerities. But that Brāhmaṇa whose stomach does not contain the food of a Śūdra, is even the worthiest receptacle of all.[19]

27. if a Brāhmaṇa dies with the food of a Śūdra in his stomach, he will become a village pig (in his next life) or be born, in the family of that (Śūdra).

28. For though a (Brāhmaṇa) whose body is nourished by the essence of a Śūdra's food may daily recite the Veda, though he may offer (an Agnihotra) or mutter (prayers, nevertheless) he will not find the path that leads upwards.

29. But if, after eating the food of a Śūdra, he has conjugal intercourse, his sons will belong to the giver of the food, and he shall not ascend to heaven.

30. They declare that he is worthy to receive gifts, who (daily) rises to recite the Veda, who is of good family, and perfectly free from, passion, who constantly offers. sacrifices in the three sacred fires, who fears sin, and knows much, who is beloved among the females (of his family), who is righteous, protects cows, and reduces himself by austerities.

31. Just as milk, sour milk, clarified butter, and honey poured. into an unburnt earthen vessel, peṛṣ, owing to the weakness of the vessel, and neither the vessel nor those liquids (remain),

32. Even so a man destitute of sacred learning, who accepts cows or gold, clothes, a horse, land, (or) sesamum, becomes ashes, as (if he were dry) wood.[20]

33. He shall not make his joints or his nails crack,[21]

34. Nor shall he make a vessel ring with his nails.

35. Let him not drink water out of his joined hands.[22]

36. Let him not strike the water with his foot or his hand,

37. Nor (pour) water into (other) water.

38. Let him not gather fruit by throwing brickbats,

39. Nor by throwing another fruit at it.

40. He shall not become a hypocrite or deceitful.[23]

41. Let him not learn a language spoken by barbarians.

42. Now they quote' also (the following verses): 'The opinion of the Śiṣṭas is, that a man shall not be uselessly active, neither with his hands and his feet, nor with his eyes, nor with his tongues and his body.'[24]

43. 'Those Brāhmaṇas, in whose families the study of the Veda and of its supplements is hereditary, and who are able to adduce proofs perceptible by the senses from the revealed texts, must be known to be Śiṣṭas.'[25]

44. 'He is a (true) Brāhmaṇa regarding whom no one knows if he be good or bad, if he be ignorant or deeply learned, if he be of good or of bad conduct.'

Footnotes and references:


VI. Manu IV, 155. The word ācāra, which has been variously translated by 'conduct,' 'rule of conduct,' and 'good conduct,' includes the observance of all the various rules for every-day life, taught in the Smṛtis, and the performance of the prescribed ceremonies and rites.


I read with MSS. Bh. and E., ṣaḍaṅgāstvakhilāḥ sayajñāḥ. The reading of MS. B., which: Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita adopts, ṣaḍaṅgāh sakhilāḥ means, 'together with the six Aṅgas, (and) the Khila (spurious) portions of the Veda.'


Iṣa is another name for Āśvina, the month September-October. Though the rainy season, properly so called, is over in September, still heavy rain falls in many parts of India, chiefly under the influence of the beginning north-east monsoon, and is particularly important for the Rabi or winter crops. I think, therefore, that it is not advisable to take, as Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita does, yathā ishe ’bdāḥ both with the first and the second halves of the verse, and to translate, As the clouds (in general remain barren) in the month of Iṣa, even so the texts of the Veda do not save from evil the deceitful man who behaves deceitfully. But that Veda, two syllables of which have been studied in the right manner, sanctifies, just as the clouds in the month of Iṣa, (which shed a few drops of rain on the day of the Svāti conjunction, produce pearls)." 'In the right manner,' i, e, with the due observance of the rules of studentship.


Identical with Manu IV, 157.


Manu IV, 156. By the inauspicious marks' mentioned in this verse, and the 'auspicious marks' occurring in the next, the various lines on the hands and feet &c. are meant, the explanation of which forms the subject of the Sāmudrika Śāstra.


Identical with Manu IV, 158; Viṣṇu LXXI, 92.


Viṣṇu LX, 2. I read with the majority of the MSS., na riṣyati.


Identical with Manu IV, 52.


Viṣṇu LX, 3-22.


Identical with Manu IV, 51.


Viṣṇu LX, 24.


I.e. one may bathe also in a tank or river.


Viṣṇu LX, 25.


Identical with Viṣṇu LX, 26, and Manu V, 137.


-21. Identical with Āpastamba II, 5, 9, 13, and S. 21, with Sāṅkhāyana, Gṛhya-sūtra II, 16, 5.


'Penances (vrata), i.e. the Kṛcchras and the rest; self-imposed restraint (niyama), i.e. eating certain food in accordance with a vow, and so forth, during a month or any other fixed period . . . . sacred duties (dharma), i.e. giving gifts and the like.'--Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita.


Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita connects brāhmaṇadūṣaṇam, translated above by 'speaking evil of Brāhmaṇas,' with śūdralakṣaṇam, and renders the two words thus, 'the characteristics of a Śūdra which degrade a Brāhmaṇa.'


'Close their hands,' i.e. are reluctant to accept.


Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita takes kiṃcit, translated by 'some,' to mean 'somewhat,' 'to a certain degree,' i.e. neither very distinguished nor very despicable.


Manu IV, 188. Read in the text 'evaṃ gā vā' instead of 'evaṃ gāvo.'


Gautama IX, 51.


Gautama IX, 9.


Manu IV, 177.


Manu IV, 177; Gautama IX, 50-51.


Manu XII, 109.

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