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...

Chapter XXIII

1. If a student has approached a woman, he shall slay in the forest, in a place where four roads meet[1] (kindling) a common fire, an ass for the Rakṣas (the goblins),

2. Or he may offer an oblation of rice (caru) to Nirṛti (the goddess of hell).

3. Let him throw into the fire (four oblations consisting) of that (sacrificial food, saying), To Lust svāhā; to him who follows his lust svāhā; to Nirṛti svāhā; to the divine Rakṣas svāhā.'

4. If, before returning home (from his teacher, a student) voluntarily defiles himself, sleeps in the day-time, or practises any other vow (than that of studentship), the same (penance must be performed).[2]

5. If he has committed a bestial crime, he shall give a white bull (to a Brāhmaṇa).[3]

6. The guilt incurred by a bestial crime with a cow, has been explained by the (rule regarding) the killing of a female of the Śūdra caste.[4]

7. A student breaks his vow by performing funeral rites,[5]

8. Excepting those of his mother and his father.[6]

9. If a (student) is sick, he may eat, at his pleasure, all that is left by his teacher as medicine.[7]

10. If (a student) who is employed by his teacher (to perform some duty), meets with his death, (the teacher) shall perform three Kṛcchra penances.[8]

11. If a student eats meat which has been given to him as leavings (by his teacher), he shall perform a Kṛcchra penance of twelve days' duration, and afterwards finish his vow.[9]

12. The same (penance must be performed) if he eats food given at a Śrāddha or by a person who is impure on account of a recent death or birth.[10]

13. It is declared in the Veda, than honey given without asking does not defile (a student) of the Vājasaneyi-śākhā.[11]

14. For him who committing suicide becomes An Abhiśasta, his blood-relations (sapiṇḍa) shall not perform the funeral rites.[12]

15. He is called a suicide who destroys himself by means of wood, water, clods of earth, stones, weapons, poison, or a rope.

16. Now they quote also (the following verse): 'The twice-born man who out of affection performs the last rites for a suicide, shall perform a Cāndrāyaṇa penance together with a Taptakṛcchra.'[13]

17. We shall describe the Cāndrāyaṇa below.[14]

18. A fast of three days (must be performed) for resolving to die by one's own hand.

19. 'He who attempts suicide, but remains alive, shall perform a Kṛcchra penance during twelve days. (Afterwards) he shall fast for three (days and) nights, being dressed constantly in a garment smeared (with clarified butter), and suppressing his breath, he shall thrice recite the Aghamarshaṇa;'

20. Or, following the same rule, he may also frequently recite the Gāyatrī;

21. Or, having kindled a fire, he may offer clarified butter with the Kūṣmāṇḍas.

22. 'And the guilt (of) all (offences) excepting mortal sins is removed thereby.'[15]

23. Now he may also sip water in the morning, thinking of (the Mantra), 'May fire and wrath and the lords of wrath protect me,' &c., and meditating on his sin; (then) he may mutter the Vyāhṛtis that end with satya (truth), prefixing (the syllable) Om (to each), or he may recite the Aghamarshaṇa.[16]

24. If he touches a human bone to which fat still adheres, he becomes impure during three (days and) nights;[17]

25. But (on touching a bone) to which no fat adheres, a day and a night,

26. Likewise if he has followed a corpse (to the burial-ground).[18]

27. If he passes between men reciting the Veda, he shall fast during a day and a night.

28. (Those who recite the Veda) shall sprinkle each other with water and stay away (from their houses) during three (days and) nights.[19]

29. (The same penance must be performed) for a day and night, if a dog, a cat, or an ichneumon pass quickly (between those who recite the Veda).[20]

30. If he has swallowed the flesh of a dog, a cock, a village pig, a grey heron, a vulture, a Bhāsa, a pigeon, a man, a crow or an owl, (he must) fast during seven days, (and thus) empty his entrails (afterwards he must) eat clarified butter, and be initiated again.[21]

31. 'But a Brāhmaṇa who has been bitten by a dog, becomes pure, if he goes to a river that flows into the ocean, (bathes there), suppresses his breath one hundred times, and eats clarified butter.'[22]

32. 'Time, fire, purity of mind, water, looking at the sun, and ignorance (of defilement) are the six means by which created beings are purified.'[23]

33. It is declared in the Veda that, on touching a dog, a Cāṇḍāla, or an outcast, he becomes at once pure, if he bathes, dressed in his clothes.[24]

34. If (while reciting the Veda) they hear noises made by outcasts or Cāṇḍālas, they shall sit silent and fasting during three days;

35. Or if they repeat that (text of the Gāyatrī) at least one thousand times, they become pure; thus it is stated in the Veda.

36. By this rule (the penance to be performed by) those who teach or sacrifice for vile men has been explained. It is declared in the Veda that they become pure by also relinquishing the fees (which they received).[25]

37. By this same (rule the penance prescribed for) an Abhiśasta, (one accused of a heinous crime,) has been explained.

38. (If he has been accused of) killing a learned Brāhmaṇa, let him subsist during twelve days on water (only), and fast during (another) twelve days.[26]

39. If he has falsely accused a Brāhmaṇa of a crime which causes loss of caste, or of a minor offence which does not cause loss of caste, he shall subsist during a month on water (only), and constantly repeat the (Ṛcas called) Śuddhavatīs;[27]

40. Or he may go to bathe (with the priests) at (the conclusion of) a horse-sacrifice.

41. By this (rule the penance for) intercourse with a female of the Cāṇḍāla caste has been declared.[28]

42. Now (follows the description of) another Kṛcchra penance, applicable to all (men), where (the rule given above) has been altered.

43. On one day (let him eat) in the morning (only), on the (following) day at night (only), on the (next) day food given without asking, and on the (fourth) day (let him) fast; the succeeding (three) periods of four days (must be passed) in the same manner. Wishing to show favour to the Brāhmaṇas, Manu, the chief among the pillars of the law, has thus described the Śisukṛcchra (the hard penance of children) for infants, aged, and sick men.

44. Now follows the rule for (the performance of) the Cāndrāyaṇa (lunar penance).[29]

45. On the first day of the dark half (of the month) let him eat fourteen (mouthfuls), let him diminish the (number of) mouthfuls (each day by one), and continue in this manner until the end of the fortnight. In like manner let him eat one mouthful on the first day of the bright half, and (daily) increasing (the number 6f) mouthfuls, continue until the end of the fortnight.

46. Meanwhile let him sing Sāmans, or mutter the Vyāhṛtis.

47. A month during which he thus performs a Cāndrāyaṇa, the Ṛṣis have called by way of laudation, 'a means of purification' (pavitra). It is prescribed as an expiation of all (offences) for which no (special penance) has been mentioned.

Footnotes and references:


XXIII. Gautama XXIII, 17


Manu XI, 121.


Viṣṇu LIII, 7; Gautama XXII, 36.


Viṣṇu LIII, 3; Gautama XXIII, 12.


Manu V, 88.


Mann V, 91.


The object of the Sūtra is to permit during sickness a relaxation of the rules regarding forbidden food. Hence a sick student may eat honey, meat, &c.


Yājñavalkya III, 283. 'Meets with his death,' e.g. is killed by a wild animal or a snake, while collecting fuel in the forest.


Manu XI, 159; Yājñavalkya III, 282; see also Āpastamba's discussion on the subject, I, 1, 4, 5.


Manu XI, 158.


This Sūtra may also mean, 'It is declared that, according to the Vājasaneyaka, honey given (to a student). without his asking for it does not defile him.' But a parallel passage of Devala, which Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita quotes, makes, I think, the version given above appear preferable. In either case the passage is explained by the fact that, according to the Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa, Śvetaketu, one of the great teachers of the White Yajur-veda, strongly pleaded for the use of honey; see Weber, Indische Studien X, 123 seq.


Viṣṇu XXII, 56; Gautama XIV, 12.


Viṣṇu XXII, 58-59.


See below, Sūtra 45.


Regarding the efficacy of the Kūṣmāṇḍa texts, see above, XXII, 9.


The text occurs Taitt. Ār. X, 24, I.


-25. Manu V, 87; Viṣṇu XXII, 75.


Manu V, 101.


Gautama I, 58.


Gautama I, 59.


Viṣṇu LI, 3-4; Gautama XXIII, 4-5; Manu XI, 157. The Sūtra is badly corrupted in Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita's edition. I read kaṅka instead of vaṅka, leave out vāyasa after bhāsa, and change kākolūkānāṃ sādane to kākolūkamāṃsādane. The latter change is absolutely necessary; firstly, because the penances for killing dogs and men have been given above; secondly, because the word mānuṣa requires a noun which it qualifies at the end of the compound; thirdly, because the penance which is prescribed, fasting until the entrails are empty, is absurd for murder, but appropriate for eating forbidden food; and fourthly, because the parallel passages of other Smṛtis actually do prescribe it for eating the flesh of excessively impure animals and for cannibalism. The change of amā to ānā is a very common mistake in Devanāgarī MSS.


Viṣṇu LIV, 12.


Viṣṇu XXII, 88.


Āpastamba I, 5, 15, 16.


Viṣṇu LIV, 25, 28.


Yājñavalkya III, 287.


Yājñavalkya III, 286.


Viṣṇu LIII, 5, 6.


-47. Viṣṇu XLVII. It must be understood that during the bright half of the month the number of mouthfuls must be increased every day by one.

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