SMRITIS and DHARMASHASTRAS in HINDUISM Hindu Scriptures

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SMRITIS and DHARMASHASTRAS in HINDUISM


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  • suyash95 173 days ago | +0 points

    The fundamental categorization of Hindu scriptures is in terms of shruti and smRti. The shruti texts are the Vedas, which are descriptive texts. This means they describe things as they really were. So they describe society and the different classes of people and their interactions as it really was. The smRti texts are prescriptive texts. This means these are various texts of individual authors who wrote their personal opinion of how things should be in their time. These are framed as “laws” and the texts can be called “law books” in modern parlance. So with this fundamental definition in mind, it is highly unintelligent to imagine that every single “law” written in these “law books” were actually implemented in practice without knowledge of how ancient Indian society was organized.

    DharmashAstras fall in the category of secondary scripture called smRti, and they are prescriptive texts. They contain do’s and don’t’s. However, there is no unanimity on which text is the one and only authority. The basic tenet is that each age deserves its own law book to work within the social context peculiar to it. Each book is attributed to a specific author, and in the best light it can be called the author’s opinion.

    But again, the point to be emphasized is that these books were prescriptive, and there is no evidence that all the laws in these books were enforced at all. Especially in regards to the allegation that these laws are oppressive and denigrating to women or specific classes: Hindu culture, art, music, dance, architecture, sculpture, etc would not have developed in such beautiful and wholesome ways if such vast sections of society were so depressed and oppressed. Most, if not all, of the artisans, craftsmen, dancers, painters, singers, musicians and other creative people were women and shudras and the oppressive Brahmins were beggars.

    The Smritis can say a whole lot of things, but People are failing to understand that “saying things” is not the same as “doing things”. They are entirely wrong that any of the theoretical text books called Dharmashastras became the “law of the land”. There r countless examples where nobody cared what the Dharmashastras said, and did what their caste tradition was. For example, all the Dharmashastras prohibit cousin marriage, but there are many communities throughout India that practice cousin marriage. The Shastras prescribe 7 levels of separation of sanguinity between the bride and groom, but even Buddha’s Shakya tribe, who called themselves Suryavamshi Kshatriyas and descendants of Rama, strictly had cousin marriage, completely disregarding the rules in the Dharmashastras. Similarly, many Brahmin communities in south India also do cousin marriage, by completely ignoring their own Dharmashastras. I have given enough examples in my answer where the actual conditions were 180 degrees apart from what you would think from reading the Dharmashastras.

    So Basically What they are ? .They are narratives, opinions, personal notes - in today’s world, “blogs”! Unlike communal religions which have state built into the religion, Hindu traditions and the state were always different entities. And it is the state that makes the laws, not Hindu traditions. Even the Veda/Purana and darshana are “secondary knowledge”, meaning they are someone else’s experiences. We can use them to find our own path to the truth, or we can create our own path. All humans are born with all the tools they need to seek the truth. And while the texts are useful, they are optional.Smriti writers were similar to Jurisprudence scholars of 17th Century suggesting various ways of making law and implementing them. Acceptance of those theories was in the hands of kings . Most such suggestions remained in theory only.

    The problem with the DS started with their translation by European scholars namely Julius Jolly, Hermann Oldenburg, G. Buhler and edited by Max Muller. The translations were overall good but they entitled the collection as “The Sacred laws of the Aryas.”

    “Sacred” hints at being of divine origin and thus akin to the laws of the Bible or Quran. This is deceptive because they are neither divine nor even inspired by Divinity - they are the laws promulgated by human jurists according to time, place and circumstance and were by and large IDEALISTIC and not pragmatic.

    They were “Priestly” laws which described the ideal society that the priests envisaged. There was no kingdom at any time in the history of India where any of these laws were legislated as the law of the land. They were honoured more by lip service than by application.

    If you study Hindu legal system, you will know that no Hindu kingdom followed smriti or the other dharma shastras. Every king would ask his court pundits to make a new vyavahara text, which would be consistent with his family traditions and the culture of his subjects , keeping in mind their time.

    Hindu laws were always interpreted according to the hermeneutic principles of the Mīmāṁsa and certainly there was a lot of flexibility. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately after Colonization , the British were the final arbitrators in the civil law in India and marriage, divorce, inheritance, torts etc came under the jurisdiction of the civil authorities.

    Also the other factor is that all matters pertaining to these matters was settled by the caste panchayats on the basis of Custom and Usage and not Dharma Shastra. So in the absence of the High Court of Dharma Shastra there were no avenues of appeal and the decisions of the panchayat were final.

    how many known smritis are there?

    Let’s count:

    1) Manu, 2) Umā-Maheśvara, 3) Nandi, 4) Brahmā, 5) Kumāra, 6) Dhūmrāyaṇa,

    7) Kaṇva, 8) Vaiśvānara, 9) Bhṛgu, 10) Yājñavalkya, 11) Mārkaṇḍeya, 12) Kuśika,

    13) Bharadvāja, 14) Bṛhaspati, 15) Kuni, 16) Kuṇibāhu, 17) Viśvāmitra,

    18) Sumantu, 19) Jaimini, 20) Śakuni, 21) Pulastya, 22) Pulaha, 23) Pāvaka,

    24) Agastya, 25) Mudgala, 26) Śāṇḍilya, 27) Solabhāyana, 28) Bālakhilya,

    29) Saptarṣi, 30) Vyāghra, 31) Vyāsa, 32) Vibhāṇḍaka, 33) Vidura, 34) Bhṛgu,

    35) Aṅgiras, 36) Vaiśampāyana.

    There are many more like Vatsa, Marīci, Devala, Pāraskara, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Ṛṣyaśṛṅga, Likhita and Chāgaleva.

    Then there are Upa Smritis:

    1) Logākṣi, 2) Kāśyapa, 3) Vyāsa, 4) Sanatkumāra, 5) Śāntanu, 6) Janaka,

    7) Vyāghra, 8) Kātyāyana, 9) Jātūkarṇa, 10) Kapiñjala, 11) Baudhāyana,

    12) Kaṇāda and Viśvāmitra.

    About 46 smritis and 13 upa-smritis.


    SUBJECT MATTER OF DHARMA SHASTRAS

    The Dharma Śāstras all deal with three broad topics:– 

    Vyavahāra - legal matters and social structuring and engineering. Thi is 2000 years ago when there was no separation between religion and state. The kings devised there own laws issued through proclamation and edict - but were supposedly guided by their Brahmin advisors - advice which they were not obliged to accept. Most of the Family Laws on Marriage, divorce, adoption etc. are derived from the Nārada Smrti which treats of these topics in great detail.Nowadays Vyavahāra is managed by the secular democratically elected government - so this entire section can be deleted. 

    Ācāram – this section deals with personal and daily conduct and is based on life in a village. So it deals with some very important topics like how far from a domicile should one walk to answer the calls of nature, where one should bath and when, what mud to use as a detergent and how many times one should apply it to be clean - again dealing with many issues which are simply outdated and irrelevant to our modern lives. However there are still many guidelines about personal and interpersonal conduct which are still useful and applicable.

    Prāyaścittam – reparation or atonement for offences committed. here again we have a cross-over between crime and “sin”. The atonements range from fasting to committing suicide. Murder or rape for example are both a crime and a sin - so extremely severe atoning practices are prescribed which involve suicide. It is forbidden for any priest to prescribe the prāyaścittas in this day and age so this entire section is also redundant. SUMMARY So most of the Dharma Shastra (including the politically charged Manu) are completely redundant and useless today. The only use they have is for studying medieval Indian sociology and for priests to sort out some nitty gritty problems and conflicts with custom and tradition that may arise - like how many times to walk around the sacred fire during a wedding ceremony. (Answer is 3 or 4 not 7!!) Those who wish to practice a more conservative and orthodox mode of living can refer to the ācāram section to find guidelines for themselves.

    Most of them are lost now.

    All these were merely recommendatory in nature and they were never administered as law text in ancient or medieval Hindu society. These were not codes of law but a commentary on morals. The smritis were composed in different parts of India and at different times and they recorded the social customs,practices of different JATIS and to reflect the prevailing state of society at that time.There was never a single body of an overarching law which legitimized a uniform legal code for entire Hindu community.The actual enforcement of the law was in the hands of the local communities,JATIS n Kingdoms which had their own rules.


    Hindu custom derives from Shastra (scripture) and from Custom & Usage (rīti-rivāj) - the Brahmins generally follow Shastra and the vast majority of Hindus follow Custom & Usage and hold it to be of higher authority than Shastra even when there is a conflict between the two. For example, Shastra severely condemns dowry as wicked and sinful - Custom & Usage endorse it. So no matter how much the priests may condemn dowry - will people change over night? Can the scourge of dowry be blamed on Brahmins?

    Hindu law is divided into (1) social rules and regulations, (2) religious law and (3) state laws.

    (1) Social rules and regulations are decided and managed by the elected caste panchayat (governing committee) - and each caste has different social rules - some conflicting and some consonant with other castes. The castes themselves managed petty criminal matters and took care of their own affairs.

    (2) Religious law with its multitude of strict restrictions and observances was applicable only to Brahmins but was applied rarely.

    (3) State law regarding taxes, duties, supervision, criminality etc. was formulated, regulated and enforced by the King and his ministers.

    India was a patchwork of kingdoms and city monarchies - each and every city and kingdom had its own laws as did every community and caste. Every time a kingdom changed hands the kings would modify and change laws according to their changing circumstances or whims. All absolute monarchs rule by DECREE not by abiding by an ancient and defunct code..

    you can see the nature of the judiciary and legal system in India has been extremely complex over the millennia reflecting the multifarious diversity of Indian society, and an egregious attempt to rationalise and regulate it caused immense disruption which echos even today.

    Hinduphobes brings quotes from Dharmashastra,Puranas,Manu which r somehow derogatory towards Shudra Class.these r the opinions of people, not some divine commands.The Hindu scriptures constitute a whole vast library and in that library there are many diverse opinions, narratives, laws, and paths. There is contradiction, agreement,abrogation, innovation and reform.

    The ancient Hindu Law books are now completely obsolete and are found only on library shelves. There are some elements of Hindu law governing current marriage legislation in India. Hinduism like Christianity can thrive and flourish without a legal wing since legislation is by the people for the people.

    The three major Law Books (Smritis) are Manu , Yājñavalkya and Parāśara Smṛti

    The minor law Books are:—Āpastamba, Viṣṇu, Dakṣa, Samvarta, Vyāsa, Hārita, Sātātapa, Vasiṣṭha, Yama, Gautama, Uṣāna, Atri, Śaunaka, Aṅgirasa, Kātyāyana, Devala, Sankha & Likhita.

    And one written by a woman — Madalasa Smriti.

    There are no Hindu courts or judges and very few paṇḍits study Hindu Law any more

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  • suyash95 173 days ago | +0 points

    There is a maxim in Vedānta called makṣikā-nyāyaḥ — the maxim of the fly - used to denote the fault-finding tendency of some deplorables, which is like the behaviour of flies whicThere is a maxim in Vedānta called makṣikā-nyāyaḥ — the maxim of the fly - used to denote the fault-finding tendency of some deplorables, which is like the behaviour of flies which are attracted to ulcers or pustules no matter how beautiful the body may be.h are attracted to ulcers or pustules no matter how beautiful the body may be.

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  • suyash95 173 days ago | +0 points

    the Dharma Shastra which is loosely based on the Veda with input by various law-givers. 80% of the Dharma Shastra is conditioned by time and circumstance and hence irrelevant to the modern world. There is a heap of seriously objectionable stuff promulgated by some law-givers which is anachronistic and should be rejected. Like the noble bees - we should seek out the nectar in the DS and consume only that. And eschew the behaviour of the detestable disease carrying fly that only seeks filth! (SJW - take note!!)

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    • suyash95 169 days ago | +0 points

      All the Dharma Shastras and Sutras (Manu, Apastamba, Baudhāyana, Hiraṇyakesin, Gobhila, Narada, Vishnu, Parashara, Yajjavalkya etc. etc.) claim the “Vedas” to be their inspiration and source. But these “Vedas” they speak of are just metaphorical and not the actual Vedas which Abhijit Kurse has pointed out are mainly poems of praise to various Devas and Devis and not text-books of rules and regulations. There is very little basis for law in the actual Vedas.

      But scattered throughout the appended works like the Brahmaṇas, Aranyakas and the Upaṇiṣads there are hints and glimpses of rules, regulations, customs, traditions and procedures etc. which the Law-givers have seized upon to create their idealised rules for society. So the Dharma-shastras are huge buildings constructed on tiny and unstable metaphorical “Vedic” foundations.

      For example - the mention of varna in the Veda is scant and ill-defined. The primary source being the famous Purusha Sukta in which society is described as a “Person” - with the Brahmins being the mouth, the Kshatriyas the arms, the Vaishyas the thighs and the Sudras the feet – without any further elaboration of the concept. The authors of the Dharma Shastras (Manu et all - then worked this idea into the concept of social engineering and administration ).

      The other bane of ancient Hindu society Sati - is not mentioned anywhere in the Veda. What is mentioned is the Aryan funeral custom of the wife lying beside her deceased husband on the pyre and then being raised up by a male relative and led back to the village. Even Manu concurs with this usage - but some of the others decided it would be convenient if she were left on the funeral pyre!! Again non-Vedic!!

      So there is a very flimsy and mostly imaginary relationship between the Veda and Manu-smriti.

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  • suyash95 138 days ago | +0 points

    Does the Hindu religion contain any set of permanent rules, or does it keep on changing?

    Rules and regulations in Hinduism are specific to estate (varna) and stage of life (ashram) - and they differ widely and change according to time, place and circumstance.

    There is only the Loka-dharma or eternal code of good conduct which is always the same for everyone.

    This is the list according to Apastamba.

    • speaking the truth
    • sharing resources or justice (saṃvibhāgas)
    • liberality
    • rectitude and honesty (ārjavaṃ)
    • noble conduct (āryam) vide noblesse oblige
    • gentleness/non aggression
    • tranquillity
    • self-control
    • amity with all creatures
    • benevolence/compassion (anṛśaṃsaṃ)
    • contentment (tuṣṭiḥ)

    — there is agreement that these standards apply to all orders of life. By practicing them according to the rules, one attains the summation of life. (Apastamba 1:23:6)

    Virtually the same from the Mahābhārata

    adrohaḥ satya-vacanaṃ saṃvibhāgo dayā damaḥ |

    prajanaṃ sveṣu dāreṣu mārdavaṃ hrīścāpalam |

    evaṃ dharma pradhāneṣṭhaṃ manuḥ svāmyabhuve'bravīt ||

    Abstention from aggression and prejudice, truthfulness, justice, compassion, self-restraint, procreation with one's own spouse alone, amiability, modesty and patience, the practice of these virtues is the best of all Dharmas, thus declared Manu Svayambhuva. (MB. Santi Parva.)

    N.B. The gentle readers will note there is no mention of belief in God or slavish worship demanded or necessity to believe in any “sky-stuff” whatsoever. DHARMA is about practice not belief.

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  • suyash95 107 days ago | +0 points

    There are dozens of dharmashastras and there is no evidence that they were used as actual law books in state any time before the British, who created the idea of a Hindu law which they implemented. Read George Cohn and the host of scholars on how the British created Hindu law for administration because when they took over from the Mughals they discovered Hindus didn't follow any singular law like the Muslims did. They were all over the map, each community functioned differently and as such impossible to administer, so they created Hindu law from texts assuming that Dharmashastras were just like the Sharia or Judaic law. Dharmashastras and Sutras were not ever the law of any land before, they were guides, descriptive, and prescriptive texts. There are dozens if not over a 100 dharmashastras from all over India and various times

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  • suyash95 73 days ago | +0 points

    How important are the various Dharma Shastras for modern Hinduism?

    The short answer - Not at all important!

    The long answer follows:–

    Firstly what are the Dharma Shastra and Sutras?

    They are codes of law written by various jurists and addressing secular legal matters as well as regulations regarding stages of life and castes.

    There are 18 written by Brahmins — Viṣṇu, Dakṣa, Samvarta, Vyāsa, Hārita, Sātātapa, Vasiṣṭha, Yama, Āpastamba, Parāśara, Gautama, Likhita, Uṣāna, Atri, Śaunaka, Aṅgirasa, Kātyāyana & Yājñavalkya.

    One written by a Kṣatriya — Manu

    and one written by a woman — Madālasa.

    The three most important are Manu, Yajñavālkya and Parāśara.

    They were compiled from about 500 BCE till the Middle Ages. They went through many editions and were heavily redacted and interpolated by the scribes so we cannot be certain of what the original authors wrote and what is latter addition.

    The problem with the DS started with their translation by European scholars namely Julius Jolly, Hermann Oldenburg, G. Buhler and edited by Max Muller. The translations were overall good but they entitled the collection as “The Sacred laws of the Aryas.”

    “Sacred” hints at being of divine origin and thus akin to the laws of the Bible or Quran. This is deceptive because they are neither divine nor even inspired by Divinity - they are the laws promulgated by human jurists according to time, place and circumstance and were by and large IDEALISTIC and not pragmatic.

    They were “Priestly” laws which described the ideal society that the priests envisaged. There was no kingdom at any time in the history of India where any of these laws were legislated as the law of the land. They were honoured more by lip service than by application.

    The DS in the modern world are almost completely redundant and they only time priests refer to them is in connection with rituals and sacraments when some knotty issue arises.

    In the modern times the stages of life (āśramas) and caste (varṇa) are supererogatory and insignificant to most Hindus.

    So apart from ethical teachings contained in them they are largely inconsequential for Hindu lay folk. The majority of Hindus cling more fiercely to Custom & Usage than they do to the Dharma Shastra.

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  • suyash95 73 days ago | +0 points

    What happens if we don't follow the Hindu shastra?

    Shastra simply means “instruction”.

    Shastra is a vast library covering many and various topics.

    The genre of Shastra which specifically deals with conduct is the Dharma Shastra which consist of about 23 different books each by a different law-giver. They generally deal with civil law, religious law and means for atonement and reparation etc. The authors did not all agree and so there is much disagreement and contradiction between them.

    The bulk of the Dharma Shastra is no longer applicable since there is a division between “Church and State” so only the “religious” instruction is still applicable.

    BUT the truth be known very few Hindus have any regard for Shastra. There are no courses of instruction on Dharma Shastras, no lectures are given, and very few priests I know have even read any of them.

    What the majority of traditional Hindus practice is called CUSTOM & USAGE - the practices and customs that have been handed down in families and communities. This is why there is so much variation in what Hindus believe and practice and most of it has little or no basis in Shastra whatsoever.

    So to answer your question nothing happens to you except confusion, disorientation and misguidance.

    So for example the following common customs, practices and beliefs are not unequivocally supported by Dharma Shastra.

    • Caste allocation by birth only.
    • Giving and taking Dowry
    • Arranged marriages after the age of puberty.
    • Seven rounds of the fire at weddings.
    • The submission of new brides to the in-laws
    • Financial control by the husband
    • Wearing of veils or covering the head by women
    • Kanya-dāna (giving away the bride) for adults
    • Vegetarianism
    • Not eating of beef.
    • Ganesha puja or any other kind of puja
    • Worshiping of Icons
    • Visiting temples and going on pilgrimages
    • And many many more.

    Several of the afore mentioned practices are derived from the Puranas or from family traditions and are not found in the Dharma Shastras.

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  • suyash95 48 days ago | +0 points

    DHARMASHASTRAS -

     

    There are dozens of dharmashastras and there is no evidence that they were used as actual law books in state any time before the British, who created the idea of a Hindu law which they implemented. Read George Cohn and the host of scholars on how the British created Hindu law for administration because when they took over from the Mughals they discovered Hindus didn't follow any singular law like the Muslims did. They were all over the map, each community functioned differently and as such impossible to administer, so they created Hindu law from texts assuming that Dharmashastras were just like the Sharia or Judaic law. Dharmashastras and Sutras were not ever the law of any land before, they were guides, descriptive, and prescriptive texts. There are dozens if not over a 100 dharmashastras from all over India and various times

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