AND THE THREE NATURAL TRAITS
(Manusmrti Book Twelve)
The transition from the older order to the four-varnas scheme was not easy. Krshna and the intellectuals of the social periphery had insisted that the assignment of vocations to individuals should be based on their natural aptitudes and traits. The three levels, higher, lower and middle had to be correlated to these traits, gunas. Buhler translates the verse (24) as: Know Goodness (sattva), Activity (rajas) and Darkness (tamas) to be the three qualities (gunas) of the Self (atmana), with which the Great One (mahan) always completely pervades all existences (sarva bhava).
Jha translates the expression, sarvabhava, as all beings. Burnell translates this verse as: Essentiality, passion and darkness one should know (to be) the three threads of self, by (means of) which (three) the Great one, penetrating without exception (aseshata) all these conditions, abides. He points out that this verse goes to the bottom of the Samkhya philosophy. Jones interpreted it as: Be it known, that the three qualities of the rational soul are a tendency to goodness, to passion and to darkness; and endued with one or more of them, it remains incessantly attached to all these created substances.
Every one is endowed with all the three traits, gentleness, dynamism and ignorance though not in the same combination. None is exempt from being influenced by these attitudes that mould the personalities of the individuals, bhavas. These emanate from the mahan, the authority who is superior to the kshetrajna. Bhrgu has not referred to this mahan as the great soul (paramatma) or as the soul within man or other living beings (jivatma). Mahan certainly is not identical with life or soul or intellect or mind. Does Bhrgu refer to a school of thought that had identified the presence of all the three traits, gunas, in every being and which recommended that classification of the larger society should be made on the basis of the predominance of the trait? That would result in the formation of three major classes.
Jones reads the verse (25) as: When any one of the three qualities predominates in a mortal frame (deha), it renders the imbodied spirit (saririna) eminently distinguished for that quality (guna). The soul that is the occupant of the body is called dehi or saririna. Bhrgu does not dwell on how the body or the soul in it happened to be dominated by a particular trait rather than by the other two. Jha translates this verse as: Whichsoever of these qualities wholly predominates in a body, it makes the owner of that body abound in that quality.
Burnell translates the verse (26) as: Essentiality is called knowledge; darkness, ignorance; passion, love and hate. This is their form, penetrating all and underlying all existent (beings). Buhler translates it as: Goodness is declared (to have the form of) knowledge, Darkness (of) ignorance, Activity (of) love and hatred; such is the nature of these (three) which is (all-) pervading and clings to everything created. Jones explains it as: Goodness is declared to be true knowledge; darkness, gross ignorance; passion, an emotion of desire or aversion: such is the compendious description of those qualities, which attend all souls.
Jha reads it as: Sattva has been declared to be Knowledge, Tamas to be Ignorance, and Rajas to be Love and Hate; such is the nature of these, all pervading and impenetrating all beings.According to the Smrti, all discrete individuals (sarva bhuta) can be classified as educated and cultured (jnanam, sattvam), uneducated and inert (ajnanam, tamas) and passionate and aggressive (raga-dvesha, rajas). Krshna, who upheld samkhya and yoga, expected the intelligentsia to excel in both jnanam and vijnanam. Jnanam refers to acquisition of all accumulated knowledge and vijnanam to acquiring fresh knowledge through both empirical means and experimental methods. On rajas, the stands of Bhrgu and Krshna are similar but not identical.
Jones interprets the next verse (27) as: When a man perceives in the reasonable soul a disposition tending to virtuous love, unclouded with any malignant passion, clear as the purest light, let him recognize it as the quality of goodness. Burnell reads it as: Whenever one observes in the self anything united with joy, perfectly clear (effulgence), at peace as it were one should regard that as essentiality. Buhler explains it as: When (man) experiences in his soul a (feeling) full of bliss, a deep calm, as it were, and a pure light, then let him know (that it is) among those three (the quality called) goodness. Jha presents it as: Whenever one perceives in himself something full of bliss, calm and pure, he should know it to be Sattva.
When one notices in himself (atmani), jnanam or knowledge combined with affection (preeti) that would make him prone to be of help to those who approach him and also pure (suddha) serenity or placidity (prasantam) one has to consider himself as being imbued with sattvam. That person is not merely an intellectual but is gentle, affectionate, grateful and solicitous, serene, unagitated and flawless. Sattvam is the trait of a truly cultured person. This statement is in tune with Krshnas stand on the three traits. The terms, goodness and essentiality, do not convey these notes adequately.
Jones translates the verse (28) as: A temper of mind, which gives uneasiness and produces disaffection, let him consider the adverse quality of passion, ever agitating embodied spirits. Burnell read it as: But whatever (is) united with grief and causes the self no joy, one should know (to be) irresistible passion, (which) for ever holds incorporate (beings). Buhler translates it as: What is mixed with pain and does not give satisfaction to the soul one may know (to be the quality of) Activity, which is difficult to conquer, and which ever draws embodied (souls towards sensual objects).Jha translates this verse as: What is mixed with pain and brings unhappiness to the soul, know that to be Rajas, imperceptible and constantly attracting embodied beings.
One who is not grateful for and is not satisfied with what he has got and is hence unhappy and always agitated is said to be one imbued with rajas. This person is noted to be one agitated rather than aggressive and dynamic. Bhrgu was explaining his stand on the gunas to the proponents of the school of Karmayoga. Here his stand is not identical with Krshnas.
Jones translates the verse (29) as: That indistinct, inconceivable, unaccountable disposition of a mind naturally sensual, and clouded with infatuation, let him know to be the quality of darkness. Buhler translates it as: What is coupled with delusion (moham), what has the character of an undiscernible mass, what can not be fathomed by reasoning, what can not be fully known, one must consider (as the quality of) Darkness. Jha reads it as: What is mixed with stupefaction, undiscernible, of the nature of sensual objects, incapable of being reasoned about and uncognisable, one should recognize it as Tamas.
This class (tamas) covers one who is under the influence of delusion (moham) and consequently pursues the mirage. One whose identity is not manifest (avyaktam) and who is hence indistinguishable from the inanimate objects comes under this category and so too one who is given to the pursuit of the objects of senses (vishayaatmaka) comes under it. One who is illogical (apratarkyam) and ignorant (avijneyam) of what is to be known too falls in this category. This definition would bring most of the society under the ambit of tamas. Here his stand is closer to Krshnas. ( Bhrgu was elaborating his statement in the verse (26), which was too simple.
Buhler reads the next verse (30) as: I will, moreover, fully describe the results (phala) which arise from these three qualities, the excellent ones (agra), the middling ones (madhya) and the lowest (jaghanya). He translates the verse (31) as: The study (abhyasa) of the Vedas, austerity (tapas), (the pursuit of) knowledge (jnanam), purity (soucham), control over the organs (indriyanigraham), performance of meritorious acts (dharmakriya) and meditation on the soul (atma chinta) (are) the marks (lakshanam) of the quality (guna) of Goodness (sattvikam).Jha follows this line but does not translate the term, sattva, as goodness.Jones read it as: Study of scripture, austere devotion, sacred knowledge, corporeal purity, command over the organs, performance of duties and meditation on the divine spirit, accompany the good quality of the soul.
The intellectual who is also cultured irrespective of the class to which he is assigned is noted for his devotion (tapas) to the work he has undertaken and also for introspection and self-examination (atmachinta).The term, jnanam, is not to be translated as sacred knowledge. It is a diversionary attempt to present the Brahmans as but a sacerdotal class. Sattva is a trait that may be found in members of all classes but not necessarily in all the members of a class. All of them were expected to be acquainted with and constantly study the Vedas, which are a compendium of the multifarious aspects of the social, cultural, economic and political history of the people. Those who are known for sattva, gentleness are engaged in the performance of acts, duties and rites that are prescribed by the social laws (dharma). They are not after wealth (artha) or sexual pleasure (kama) and at the same time are not retired from their duties.
Jones translates the next verse (32) as: Interested motives for acts of religion or morality, perturbation of mind (adhairya) on slight occasions, commission of acts forbidden by law, and habitual indulgence in selfish gratification are attendant on the quality of passion. Buhler reads it as: Delighting in undertakings, want of firmness, commission of sinful acts and continual indulgence in sensual pleasures (are) the marks of the quality of Activity. Burnell interprets it as: The sign of the thread belonging to passion (comprises) desire for undertaking, instability, undertaking things not right to be done, indulgence in sensual (pleasures) again and again. Jha translates it as: Proneness to undertake work, impatience, commission of improper acts (asatkarya), constant addiction to sensual objects, are the characteristics of the quality of Rajas.
It is imprecise to translate sattva as goodness or essentiality and rajas as passion or as activity. The dynamic person has an aptitude for new undertakings and is not contented with what he has. He feels insecure with his present position (adhairya) and is in the midst of acts that are not good for the society (asatkarya). He is given to continual pursuit of sensual pleasures (vishaya upaseva). But he is not alleged to be uneducated or disinterested in gaining knowledge. Bhrgu does not accuse him of being ambitious or covetous or of being violent and positively harmful. Like Krshna, he too departed from the conventional Atharvan interpretation of Rajas. Rajas is marked not by aggressiveness but by dynamism that is needed for enterprise and progress.
Jones translates the verse (33) as: Covetousness, indolence, avarice, detraction, atheism, omission of prescribed acts, a habit of soliciting favours and inattention to necessary business, belong to the dark quality. Burnell describes these qualities as greed, sleep, lack of firmness (of will), cruelty, unbelief, attention to many things, fondness for begging and carelessness. Buhler reads this verse as: Covetousness, sleepiness, pusillanimity, cruelty, atheism, leading an evil life, a habit of soliciting favours, and inattentiveness are the marks of the quality of Darkness. Jha reads it as: Avarice, drowsiness, irresolution, cruelty, disbelief, bad character, habit of begging, and inattentiveness are the characteristics of the quality of Tamas.
Bhrgu was required to categorize the persons who were engaged in social and political activities. While those categorized as belonging to the sattva class are contented and are engaged only in righteous acts, those in the rajas class are eager to commence new undertakings and are seen to be involved in acts that are not of a good type. All others are assigned to the tamas class. The covetous (lobha) are included in it and so are the dreamers (svapna) who desire to become rich without working. The latter include speculators. Those who are not firm in their commitment to noble values fall in this category.
Bhrgu places the atheists (nastikas) and those who are engaged in economic and other activities of a heterodox nature (bhinnavrtti) in it. The beggars (who seek to live on alms without working) and those who presume that their work does not need much attention and are hence easy-going (pramada) too are placed in the tamas class. Those who are described as belonging to the tamas category are not necessarily uneducated or lacking in dynamism. They are wantonly inert or pursue undesirable activities and desire to amass wealth quickly. They are illogical and irrational in their thoughts and constitute the counter-intelligentsia. Bhrgus approach is similar to that of Krshna. Only a few are admitted to sattva and rajas types.
Buhler translates the next verse (34) as: Know, moreover, the following to be a brief description of the three qualities, each in its order, as they appear in the three (times, the present, past and future). Obviously, the text does not refer to sequence in time. Jones reads it as: Of those three qualities, as they appear in the three times, past, present and future, the following in order from the lowest may be considered as a short but certain criterion.
Burnell reads it as: The thread-sign of these same three threads, which abide in three (things) (trishu) should be known (to be comprised by) the short and orderly summary as follows. Neither construct, three things and three times, is acceptable. Jha points out that according to the medieval commentator, Medhatithi, the expression, three times, meant either the three conditions, equilibrium, increase and decrease or the high, low and middling character of the three results. The stand of some medieval editors that the text should be read as nrshu rather than trishu may be accepted. It is a reference to the free men (naras, nrs) who manned the bureaucracy.
Burnell translates the verses (35, 36, 37) as:Whatever act one feels ashamed of having done, or, of being about to do, every such act should be known (jneyam) by a wise man (vidu) (to be) the sign of the thread belonging to darkness (tamas). If by any act (karma) in this world (loka) one seeks extended fame, although not made unhappy by not succeeding (asampatta), that act should be known (to be one) belonging to passion (rajas). If one desires (that) any (act) be known by everybody, if (there is) any (act) he is not ashamed (of) performing (acara) and if by any (act) his self (atma) is pleased (tushya), (every) such (act is) the sign of the thread of essentiality (sattva).(Burnell uses the imagery, the thread, to refer to the innate trait, guna.)
This summary pertains to the acts performed by persons in the administrative machinery. How to assess the acts of the officials and others is indicated here. While the lower type of men would conceal their bad acts, the best of the men would like to do everything openly. Men of rajas type seek fame but do not feel sad when they fail in their assigned duty.
Burnell translates the verse (38) as:The sign of darkness (tamas) is called desire (kama); (the sign) of passion (rajas), gain (artha); the sign of essentiality (sattva), right (dharma); among these each follows in order according as it is better (than the preceding). Buhler reads it as: The craving after sensual pleasures is declared to be the mark (lakshanam) of Darkness, (the pursuit of) wealth, of Activity, (the desire to gain) spiritual merit the mark of Goodness; each later (named quality is) better than the preceding one. Jones reads it as: Of the dark quality, as described, the principal object is pleasure; of the passionate, worldly prosperity; but of the good quality, the chief object is virtue: the last mentioned objects are superior in dignity.
Those in whom tamas is dominant are after sexual and sensual pleasure (kama).Those who are dynamic and aggressive seek wealth and power.(Both these concepts are covered by the term, artha.)Those who are gentle and enlightened follow the righteous path set down by Dharmasastra. It would be misleading to state that Hindu social thought gave equal importance to all the four human values, dharma, artha, kama and moksha.
Jones translates the verse (39) as: Such transmigrations, as the soul procures in this universe by each of those qualities, I now will declare succinctly. Burnell reads it as: I will tell briefly the transmigrations in due order of this All, which one receives through (possessing) any one of these threads. Buhler reads it as: I will briefly declare in due order what transmigrations in this whole (world) (a man) obtains through each of these qualities. Jha translates this verse as: I am now going to describe briefly, in due order, those migratory states into which one falls through each quality from among these. The term, patipadya, does not imply transmigration. It would only indicate change of social rank and status in life (samsara). There is both ascent and descent in this social ladder. These are linked to the three innate traits (gunas).
Jones translates the verse (40) as: Souls, endued with goodness, attain always the state of deities; those filled with ambitious passions, the conditions of men; and those immersed in darkness, the nature of beasts; this is the triple order of transmigration. Buhler too adopts this line. Burnell translates it as: Always (these creatures) possessed by essentiality attain divinity; those possessed by passion, mans estate; those possessed by darkness, the estate of animals: the three-fold course (is explained) in these words. Jha too goes along with this interpretation.
Medhatithi has not commented on this verse. The medieval commentators and the modern scholars have failed to note that this verse treats the members of the social world of nobility as being characterized by sattva. The intellectuals too can have a place in this cultural aristocracy, this verse concedes. But all who are involved in economic activities are brought within the ambit of the social world of commoners, manushyas. The rest are consigned to the third social world, tirya.
Social reorganization results in the creation of this subaltern, a conglomeration of rejects from all social sectors. I have used the term, counter-intelligentsia, to denote this sub-altern. The new sattva sector is termed as intelligentsia and the rest, the commonalty, as the economic society. Those who are gentle and serene (sattvika) attain the status of nobles (devatvam) and those who are aggressively active (rajasa) the status of the commoners (manushyatvam). Those who are inert and ignorant (tamasa) go to the level of the lower beings (tiryaktvam).This threefold passage (gati) is constant.
The naras who are not members of the commonalty, manushyas, and who man the bureaucracy are expected to note that they would sink to the lowest level if they are after sexual pleasure only. They would be reabsorbed only in the commonalty even if they seek only harmless economic advantages and would be able to rise even to the level of the aristocracy only if they are educated and cultured.
While assessing the merit and trait (guna) of the individual and assigning him his place in the social and administrative ladder, low, middle and van, both his work (karma) and his formal knowledge (vidya) are taken into account. (41) It is irrational and diversionary to describe this process of social ascent and decline as transmigration. The editors of Dharmasastra took note of all the then existing social cadres and arranged them in a hierarchical order. Those in the tamasa category were at the lowest level and those excelling in sattva at the highest level and those of the rajasa type in the middle level. They found it necessary to classify each of these three sections into three grades, low, middle and high. They arrived at nine tiers and in each there had to be internal ranking. Thus over forty social cadres of the Vedic times were graded. They adopted a holistic and societal approach while constructing this social pyramid.
The trees and plants that can not move by themselves (sthavara) are at the bottom of all the societal cadres included in the lowest of the three tamas tiers and above them are the germs and insects whose life span is too short. The fishes (matsyas), the serpents (sarpas) and the turtles (kacchapas) rank above the above them. The cattle (pasu) and the deer (mrga) are at the top of this level. They are less inert and less incapable of saving themselves than the matsyas and sarpas in the struggle for survival in which all beings are caught. It may be noted that the beings grouped under this category are not all devoid of gentleness (sattva) and aggressiveness (rajas). (42) Manusmrti ranks elephants (hastis), horses (turangas), workers (Shudras), uncivilized aliens (mlecchas), lions (simhas), tigers (vyaghras) and boars (varahas) above them and places in the middle tamas tier.( 43) Scouts (charanas), messengers (suparnas), the deceptive men (dambhika purushas), rebel guards (rakshas), and hiding externees (pisachas) are placed in the highest of tamas cadres. (44) .
These cadres were not inert or ignorant and were placed next in rank to the rajas sector.Charanas, suparnas, were later assimilated in the institution of spies. They were better educated and more mobile than those in the lower and middle tiers were and dambhika purushas were at the lowest level in the highest tamas sector, next to the rajas sector. They were not birds, and were not tribal groups though they were dressed in feathers. Just above them are rakshasas and paisachas. We notice in the lowest rajas sectors the gladiators (jhallas) and the wrestlers (mallas), the acrobats (natas) and also the men (purushas) who earned a livelihood by wielding weapons (sastravrttaya). Feudal lords and states used the last as mercenaries. The gamblers and drunkards who are prone to pick up quarrels are in this tier. (45). .
Besides kings (rajans) and soldiers (kshatriyas), the counsellors of the kings (rajapurohitas) are included in the middle rajas tier. So also the wranglers (vadayuddhapradhana) who participated in academic, political and legal debates are placed in this sector. These cadres are not devoid of intellectual merit but are aggressive and dynamic in their approach and not sedate. (46) The Rajapurohita was a senior political authority and an expert in Atharvaveda, the socio-political constitution of the Vedic times. Unlike the cardinals and archbishops, he was not an ecclesiastical authority. He ranked higher than ministers.
The wranglers must have been members of the political bodies like sabha and samiti. Some of them supported the king and his measures while others opposed them as they debated on these as the representatives of the people and their respective socio-economic groups. Though they were intellectuals, they lacked stoicism and impartiality. Political ideologues and activists, Brahmavadis, were not accepted as equal to Brahmarshis who were scholars in metaphysics. The guna paradigm calls for a radical re-thinking on the characteristics of the four-varnas scheme and its origins. Many of the stereotypes popularized by the western Indologists have to be abandoned.
Gandharvas and Apsarases were treated as social groups who excelled in rajas but were closer to the sattva sector. They were not celestial beings and were not mere musicians and danseuses who entertained the gods. They were concrete social cadres and were superior to the commoners, manushyas. Gandharvas were adventurous and were intelligent but were not as aggressive as the Kshatriyas or as sedate as the Brahmans were. Apsarases were highly talented and educated women who were bold and asserted their independence.Between these two cadres are ranked the Guhyakas, Yakshas and followers of Vibudhas. (47) Guhyakas had secret wealth and knew secret techniques and stayed in inaccessible places like caves. They were not primitives.
Yakshas were plutocrats who controlled the industrial economy of the other society of the forests and mountains and were feared but were scholars and respected even as the nobles, devas, were. But the Yakshas were not sober and could not be placed in the sattva sector. Vidyadharas and other groups of the social periphery were intellectuals but were not sober enough to be admitted to thesattva sector. They were followers of budhas, who were intellectuals of the social periphery but were considered as wayward and heterodox in their approach. The Vidyadharas were aggressive young intellectuals who opposed hedonism. Vibudhas were engaged in spreading knowledge and wisdom. None of these groups belonged to the agro-pastoral economy that characterized the core society of the Vedic times. The Vedic society had a parallel economy too. It was confined to the forests and mountains and was technologically more advanced than the agro-pastoral economy of the plains, prthvi. Tapasas and Yatis belonged to the intelligentsia of this parallel society.
Tapasas, Yatis and Vipras are placed in the lowest of the three sattva tiers. They are not totally free from rajas. Tapasas were yogis engaged in strenuous endeavour to attain the objectives they had chosen. Yatis were more self-denying than these tapasas and less extrovert. They were less accessible but were more honoured than the tapasas. Both the groups were closer to the rajas sector than to the sattva sector. The Vipras were active Brahmans who had left behind their families and were moving about educating the masses.The elite who rode in high coaches (vimana) but were not proud, others who were not warriors (na-kshatra) and the reformed warlords (daityas) were placed in the first level of sattva tiers.
The tapasas and yatis, hermits and ascetics had given up arms and wealth; and their power to endure hardship was admirable. The Vipras were not theologians and were not domestic priests either. They were not adequately sedate. The elite groups (ganas) were not free from pride and ostentation though they were not aggressive and dynamic. They like the nakshatras formed the bourgeoisie, the Vaisya varna. They were not Kshatriyas. The reformed feudal chieftains, daityas, were included in this sector. Prahlada and Virocana could find a place here but not the crude and cruel asuras. The daityas ranked far superior to the ViprasBrahmans, in common parlance). (48)
In the middle level of the sattva sector we find those who perform (officiate at) sacrifices (yajvan), sages (rshis), nobles (devas), Vedic scholars (veda), seers (jyotishi), the then role models (vatsaras), the elders (pitaras) (who had retired from all economic activities) and the saddhyas. (49) The jyotishis were diviners who could forecast the future from knowledge of the past and the present currents. They were not prophets even as the vimana ganas were not angels. The highest place in this standard sattva sector is assigned to those who have attained perfection in all fields of study and experience, through knowledge as well as intuition, perseverance as well as enlightenment. Brahma, Visvasrjas, Dharma, Mahan and Avyakta feature in the highest of the sattva sectors.
Brahma was the designation of the Prajapati of Brahmavarta and was considered to be the best among the intellectuals. [Brahma has later been honoured as the God of Creation.] The first Manu had held this position before his elevation as Manu Svayambhuva. He held the rank of Dharma. Dharma was entitled to interpret the comprehensive socio-cultural constitution while the Brahma was the chief judge and was an expert in the Atharvan socio-political constitution. The Prajapatis like Marici and Bhrgu were known as social organizers (Visvasrjas, shapers of the universe). They ranked above Brahma and lower than Dharma. The term, mahan, may be a reference to Mahadeva, who is identified with Siva and Rudra., the highly charismatic personage (Parameshti) of the Vedic age, The highest position however is given to the Indiscernible, Unmanifest (Avyakta) (God) who cannot be visualized in any form or described in words. (50)
Higher Sattva-----1.The Indiscernible (Avyakta) 2. The Great One (Mahan) 3.Manu Svayambhuva (Dharma) 4.Shapers of the Society (Visvasrjas, Prajapatis) 5.Prajapati of Brahmavarta, the ideal intellectual and chief judge (Brahma)
Middle Sattva---6.The Perfect (Saddhyas) 7. Elders (Pitaras) 8.Role Models (Vatsaras) 9. Seers, Prophets and Guides (Jyotishis) 10.Vedic Scholars 11. Nobles (Devas) 12. Sages (Rshis) 13. Those who perform sacrifices (yajnas)
Lower Sattva----14. Reformed warlords (Daityas) 15. Non-Kshatriyas (Later, Vaisyas) 16. Rich elite (VimanikaGana) 17.Scholars (Vipras) 18.Ascetics (Yatis) 19. Hermits (Tapasas)
Higher Rajas----20.Apsarases (Free women of the Vedic times) 21.Local Administrators (Vibhutis) 22. (Yakshas) Plutocrats 23. Technocrats (Guhyakas) 24. Gandharvas (Free Men of the Vedic Times)
Middle Rajas--25.Wranglers, Legislators 26. Political Counsellors (Rajapurohitas) 27. Soldiers (Kshatriyas) 28; Kings (Rajans)
Lower Rajas-----29.Drunkards 30.Gamblers 31.Mercenaries 32. Jugglers 33. Wrestlers 34. Gladiators
Higher Tamas-----35. Externees (Paisachas) 36. Rebel Militants (Rakshasas) 37.Mesmerised persons 38. Messengers (Suparnas) 39. Scouts (Charanas)
Middle Tamas-----40. Boars. 41.Tigers and lions. 42.Aliens (Mlecchas) 43. Workers (Shudras) 44.Horsemen (Asvas) 45 Elephant tamers, artisans (Hastis)
Lower Tamas------46. Caretakers (Mrga, deer) 47. Cowherds (pasu) 48. Workers in marshy lands (Kacchapas) 49. Woodcutters, spinners (sarpas) 50. Fishermen (matsyas) 51.Germs and Insects 52. Plants and immobile things and peoples (sthavara)
The three gunas (innate traits) scheme treated all inanimate and apparently all non-human beings as being under the influence of tamas, ignorance and inability to distinguish between good and evil. But some beings are more active than others and some more harmful than others. Social groups associated with them shared similar traits.The fishermen (matsyas and nishadas), the spinners and rope-makers (sarpas) and workers in marshy lands (kacchapas) were visualized as being naturally timid and less intelligent than the pastoral people. All these were away from the agrarian villages peopled by Shudra workers most of whom were uneducated and lacked dynamism but they were not harmful. The sarpas who formed the proletariat of the industrial society could prove harmful if provoked. The lions and tigers and boars too are so and they cannot be easily tamed. But the elephants and horses can be tamed. Those who lived by these animals are not ignorant. They ranked higher than the cowherds, shepherds and deersmen.
The hastis were artisans and architects and belonged to the naga technocrats. The asvas were cavaliers and were a lower stratum of the gandharvas. They had no personal property. The hastis and asvas ranked lower than the agricultural workers, Shudras. The new varna scheme far from resorting to social repression and discrimination opened the path for social ascent for many cadres. Ignorance and illiteracy, docility and timidity were not punished. Social cadres that were characterized by these traits were assigned to thetamas sector. Theywere pitied and provided social security and enabled to advance socially. The technocrats and the proletariat (Nagas and Sarpas), the cowherds and deersmen and the Nishada fishermen did benefit.
The Shudras of the later Vedic age occupied the middle position in the tamas sector of the Vedic times. The aliens, Mlecchas, were aggressive and uncultured like those who dealt with lions and boars. Charanas and Suparnas who were later absorbed in the Institution of Spies as scouts and messengers were not unintelligent though they lacked formal education and were active also but were not aggressive. They could be absorbed in the sattva sector if only they could get educated. But the Shudra workers were not expected to make headway in this respect.
The hastis and asvas could be absorbed only in the rajas sector while those in the lower tamas sector could not progress above the level of the Shudras. The Rakshasas could get reinstated as Kshatriyas in the rajas sector and the Paisachas as scholars in the sattva sector for they were intelligent but had become heretics. The dupes might not be able to rise up to the sattva sector. But these purushas who had talents could rise up to the sattva or rajas sector if they became alert. Social reorganization would witness the gamblers and drunkards and most of the jugglers, gladiators and wrestlers and mercenaries shunted down from the lower rajas sector to the tamassector unless they acquired the culture necessary to be taken into the organized army as Kshatriyas. The wranglers and the political counsellors would find it difficult to enter the sattva sector and get treated as equal to Brahmans.
Of course they could not be accepted as Vaisyas in the new order. While the Gandharvas who were in the higher rajas sector could be absorbed in the Kshatriya varna, most of the others in this sector could get accommodated in the lower sattva sector as Vaisyas. Apsarases, Vibhutis and their followers (Vidyadharas), the rich elite, plutocrats and technocrats would fit in the Vaisya varna. Hermits (tapasas), ascetics (Yatis), scholars (Vipras) could be absorbed in the Brahmana varna but not the rich elite and nakshatras, non-warriors whose place was in the bourgeoisie rather than in the intelligentsia or in the aristocracy. The reformed warlords could be only absorbed as landlords in the Vaisya sector or as administrators as they had lost the right to be accepted as Kshatriyas.
All others in the middle sattva sector had to be accepted as Brahmans or as cultural aristocracy.The transition from the pre-varna social hierarchy based on innate traits to the new four classes scheme was not easy. It required careful planning. The various social cadres that were identified were absorbed in one or the other of the four social classes, Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Shudra.
But there were many who could not be so absorbed and they were assigned to one or the other of the several mixed classes, samkaravarnas. The editors of Manusmrti were not in favour of creating a fifth varna, social class, either of cultural aristocracy, devas, who would be superior to the four varnas or an infra-cultural configuration of outcasts, antyavasayi. The four-varna scheme seems to have frozen both further social ascent, utthana,and fall, patita.
Burnell translates the verse (51) as: (Thus has been) explained all this complete transmigration (resulting) from acts of three kinds, (transmigration which is) threefold (and again) threefold, and extends through all existent things. He comments: This tripled threefold transmigration is divided in short thus: every act brings the actor into one of three states (essentiality, passion, darkness), each of which has three grades (lowest, middlemost, highest), the act itself being of three kinds in that it may be of the mind, speech or action.
Jones read it as: This triple system of transmigrations, in which each class has three orders, according to actions of three kinds, and which comprises all human beings, has been revealed in its full extent. Buhler read it as: Thus (the result) of the threefold action, the whole system of transmigrations which (consists) of three classes, (each) with three subdivisions, and which includes all created beings, has been fully pointed out.
The editors of Manusmrti had been asked to explain how far their scheme of four varnas, social classes, agreed with that proposed by the advocates of Karmayoga that the correlation between innate traits (gunas) and vocations (karma) that one was to follow should be maintained in the four-varna scheme. The societal system thus created (krtsna) as to cover the lives (samsara) of all beings (sarvabhautika) is based on a holistic approach or perspective (sarvasamudrshti) towards social actions (karma). Transmigration does not convey this intent and is to be kept out of any description of this scheme.
The next few verses seem to have been interpolations effected later by persons who had failed to appreciate the context in which the previous verses were presented. Buhler translates the verse (52) as: In consequence of attachment to (the objects of) the senses, and in consequence of the non-performance of their duties, fools, the lowest of men reach the vilest births. Jha translates this verse as: Foolish men of the lowest class go through the vilest migratory states, in consequence of being addicted to the senses and by not attending to duties.
Burnell reads it as: By indulgence of the organs of sense and by not practising right (dharma), ignorant (avidvan) and low (adhama) men (nara) enter upon base transmigrations. The free men (naras) who are given to hedonism and do not adhere to the conduct prescribed by Dharmasastra tend to lead a life (samsara) of sins (papa). Commoners, manushyas, who were bound to their clans, were not accused of being hedonistic.
Burnell translates the next verse (53) as: Learn now in full by what different acts here this vital (spirit) enters into different births one after the other in this world. Jha reads it as: Into what wombs the soul enters, and in consequence of what acts, listen to that in due order. Buhler translates it as: What wombs (yoni) this individual soul (jiva) enters in this world (loka) and in consequence of what actions (karmas), learn the particulars of that at large and in due order.
He reads the verse (54) as: Those who committed mortal sins (mahapataka), having passed during large numbers of years through dreadful (ghora) hells (naraka), obtain after the expiration of (that term of punishment), the following births. Burnell read it as: After receiving (as punishment) horrible hells during many series of years (varsha ganas), the great criminals at the end of this (time) enter upon the following transmigrations. Jha reads it as: Persons who have committed the heinous offences, having passed, during several years, through dreadful hells, after the expiation thereof, the following migratory states. Socio-political authorities give the deviants the punishment due to them and how the convicts would be reabsorbed in the civilized society is then discussed.
Burnell reads the verse (55) as: The slayer of a BrahmanChandalas and Pukkasas. Harassment including abuse of the Brahman jurist would lead the convict to life imprisonment, that is, exile to the forest for twelve years, as pointed out in chapter 11 of Manusmrti dealing with expiation.On return from exile, the delinquent would be treated as one belonging to the lowest of the tamas tiers or the middle tamas tier. If the offender had been a Brahman earlier, he would be treated as a Chandala, one born to a Brahman woman by a Shudra and made to live near the crematoria. Or he would be allowed to become a butcher, Pukkasa. (56)
The later editors were not satisfied with the punishment given by the courts and the expiation recommended by the social counsellors. They would not reabsorb the fallen Brahman in his original varna even after he had realized the enormity of his offence. He is shunted to the lowest or the middle tamas tier and in the four-varnascheme he would have a place only in the class of workers who had no property, Shudra varna.
The third major offence was theft. The Vipras were often found to have stolen articles from the houses of persons who did not perform household sacrifices. They too were punished by the civil courts and asked by their peers to expiate their crime.Burnell translates the verse (57) as: A Brahman (who is) a thief (would pass) thousands of times (into the womb) of spiders, snakes, chameleons, animals living in the water and Pisachas (who) delight in destruction. These guilty Vipras are not assigned to any of the sattva cadres or classes and are shunted to the tamas cadre and treated as at best belonging to the counter-intelligentsia (Paisacas) even after they have undergone the prescribed punishment and performed the recommended expiation.
The Vipras were equal to the naras, free men, and no clan would take them back if they misbehaved. Reinstatement of the punished delinquents was ruled out. Violation of the seat of the teacher and of his bed was another major crime. It was punished by the social authority mainly with imposing a period of expiation and was not taken to the court. The later editors of Manusmrti warn that he who violates the Gurus couch would pass hundreds of times (into the womb) of grasses, bushes, vines, animals that eat raw flesh, ravenous animals and those who have done cruel acts. (58) The guilty student is warned that he would be shunted to the lowest or middle tamas level and refused pardon despite repeated pleas.
The more weak and indifferent the state was to social offences, the more adamant the social leaders and authorities were in their refusal to take back the penitent. Those who are guilty of minor offences and have been punished by the courts and have also undergone the prescribed courses of expiation of sins are still looked down upon by the society. They are not easily rehabilitated. Men who have delighted in hurting others are treated as equivalent to carnivorous animals and those who eat forbidden food as equivalent to worms. Thieves are like species whose members eat one another. The community was not willing to trust those found to have stolen the property of others. Those who have intercourse with women (stris) of lower social ranks are declared to be dead (preta). (59)
One who has social relations (samyoga) with members of his clan who are declared to have fallen from status (patita) and one who has had sexual intercourse (yogita) with the wife of another man and he who has appropriated the property of a Vipra (a scholar who has left behind his family and property and become a teacher of the masses) are treated as equivalent to a Brahman who has turned into a Rakshasa.Such a person though he may be an educated Brahman is equivalent to a militant who annexes the wealth (including the wives and children) of others and is hence kept away from the villages and towns. (60)
Buhler translates the next verse (61) as: A man who out of greed has stolen gems, pearls or coral or any of the many other kinds of precious things, is born among the goldsmiths. Here the guilty was a manava who claimed to be a person not bound by the codes of any clan or community and could be punished only by the state in whose jurisdiction he committed the crime. There was a class council of Brahmans that could decide on whether to take him back or not.[Some have interpreted that this council would treat him as a hemakarta (one who made jewels) and would not accept him as a Brahman as he was found to be greedy. Goldsmiths were not trusted though they claimed to be equivalent to Brahmans.]
The commoners, especially workers and small peasants, were organized as clans and communities. The councils of the clans and communities could ensure that every one of their members abided by the kuladharmas and jatidharmas. No king dared to antagonize these clans and communities whose unwritten codes were respected as sanatana dharma. No court appointed by a king (rajan) or by a parthiva or by a prthvipati or a narapati or a mahipati who all functioned under that king could set aside any provision of the rights and duties of the common man (manushya) as incorporated in those dharmas. Manava Dharmasastra accepted this position. It did not set aside any section of the kuladharmas, jatidharmas and desadharmas.
But the free men, naras, who did not owe allegiance to their clans and communities and pursued vocations of their choice and had acknowledged the state law (desadharma) and consented to serve the state, were eligible for civil liberties as prescribed by the state law.These civil liberties were irrelevant for the commoners who knew no power above that of their clan-council or community court.
The manavas who were members of a class (varna) association with which they had opted for in tune with their respective aptitudes (guna, svabhava) and chose a vocation (svakarma) that was prescribed or permitted for that class were not subordinate to any kuladharma or jatidharma or desadharma but had to adhere to the rules of the economic corporation (sreni) or guild (samgha) pertaining to that vocation.
Only these manavas who were citizens of the world and whose deeds were exceptionally good, creative and constructive, and who had not stolen the valuable assets of others would be eligible for governance under the codes of classes (varnas).
The editors of Manava Dharmasastra were not willing to concede that all could be honest persons, and that hence they need not be brought under any economic or social code. There were some manavas who abided by their class codes while pursuing the vocation chosen by them from among those permitted for that class but who were yet greedy and selfish and annexed what they had created for the use of others. Not all of these hemakartas, creators of valuable assets, were honest.
Manava Dharmasastra hesitated to grant the technocrats a place among the ranks of the intelligentsia (Brahmans, Vipras). No one should be permitted to encroach on the right to the wealth created by personal endeavour. While kuladharmas, jatidharmas, desadharmas, dharmas of srenis and samghas ensured social, political and economic stability and had punitive provisions to check deviance, the enormous freedom that the manava enjoyed as his right to pursue a vocation for which he is fit without being hindered by any of the above restrictive codes, should not result in the creator of valuable assets annexing those public assets as his personal wealth. The high talents of the manava irrespective of the class and vocation he has opted for are meant for the good of the entire humanity.
The manushya has to work for his clan and community and find his welfare in submission to their codes. Thenara works for himself but abides by the civil codes of his state and country. The manava has chosen the career that suits his talents and aptitude and takes care that his valuable services are meant primarily for humanity. He is governed by the provisions of Manava Dharmasastra, especially by the codes of varnas and asramas, and exercises the rights and duties defined by it. These rights raise him far above the level of a common worker, manushya, and that of a nara whose services can be hired by the state. This distinction has to be borne in mind as we deal with these clauses on deviance. In the verse (68), the editors use the term, nara, instead of the term, manava, used in the verse (61).
In the verses (62-67) the manava is warned against allowing his status to get lowered and his character tarnished by indulging in petty thefts. The village community called one who stole grains, a rat. Similarly those who stole other objects were likened to and called by the names of other beings. That man (nara) who has forcibly taken away any kind of property (dravyam) belonging to another, or who has eaten sacrificial food (of) which (no portion) had been offered, inevitably becomes an animal. (68)
The expression tiryaktvam jagdhva does not necessarily mean estate of animals.It implies that the delinquent free man, nara, was kept out of the civilized community and was shunted to the lower stratum of the new enlarged commonalty, to the sub-altern, and forced to wander like animals in search of food. The editors of Manusmrti warn the women (stri) of the respectable families that they too would be treated in the same manner and called by the names of the female sex of the creatures correlated with the object stolen by them. (69)
Burnell translates the verse (70) as: Now indeed the castes (by) deserting without necessity their own proper occupations after migrating through evil transmigrations, enter a condition of servitude among enemies. Jones translates it as: If any of the four classes omit without urgent necessity, the performance of their several duties, they shall migrate into sinful bodies and become slaves to their enemies. It is irrational to interpret that the soul of the delinquent would migrate in this or the next to the body of an animal or low creature for such errors of omission.
Buhler translates this verse as: But (men of the four) castes, who have relinquished without the pressure of necessity their proper occupations, will become the servants of Dasyus, after migrating into despicable bodies. Jha says: If men of various castes (varnas) deviate from their occupations (karma), under normal conditions, they migrate into vile migratory states and become servants (preshya) under robbers (dasyus).
The editors of Manusmrti agreed to accommodate all social cadres in the appropriate class, varna, or mixed class, samkaravarna, that was relevant to the vocation assigned to or followed by them.They also consented to provide a scheme of apaddharma, duties in exigency that covered vocations and means of livelihood too. But the latter should be resorted to only in genuine exigency and not used to deliberately violate the code prescribed for classes and permitted for mixed classes.
Those who have relinquished their prescribed duties and resorted to sinful ways of life (papa samsara) would be forced to live like agents (messengers, preshya) of dasyus, it was warned. The mercenaries employed by the erstwhile warlords, asuras, were known as dasyus. They were denied all rights, social or economic or political and chased into the deep forests. Similarly the deviants would be deprived of all freedom, which the members of the recognized social classes and mixed classes had. The delinquents would be treated as dead (preta) by the councils of their respective class.
(71,72) indicate by what names they would be known and on what they would feed. Buhler translates the ensuing verses as: In proportion as sensual men indulge in sensual pleasures, in that same proportion their taste for them grows. (73) By repeating their sinful acts those men of small understanding suffer pain here (below) in various births (yonis). (74) They are warned against the torture of being tossed about in dreadful hells (narakas),
Tamisra and the rest, that of the forest with sword-leafed (asipatra) trees and the like, and that of being bound and mangled and various torments, the pain of being devoured by ravens and owls, the heat of scorching sand and the torture of being boiled in jars which is hard to bear and births in the wombs of despicable beings (viyoni) which cause constant misery and afflictions from cold and heat and terrors of various kinds, the pain of repeatedly lying in various wombs (garbha) and agonizing births (janma), imprisonment in fetters hard to bear and the misery of being enslaved by others (parapneshyatvam) and separation from their relatives and dear ones and the pain of dwelling together with the wicked (durjana), labour in gaining wealth and its loss, trouble in making friends and the appearance of enemies, old age (jara) against which there is no remedy, the pangs of diseases, afflictions of many various kinds, and finally unconquerable (durjaya) death (mrtyu).
The above sufferings are to be experienced by the hedonists.With whatever disposition of mind (bhava) (a man) performs any act (karma), he reaps its result (phala) in a (future) body (sarira) endowed with the same quality. (81) This verse does not seem to refer to future births. Bhrgu then states: All the results proceeding from actions have thus been pointed out; learn (next) those acts which secure supreme bliss to a Vipra. (82) The counsel in the above verses was given to the Vipras in particular. They were not professional teachers or priests and were engaged in teaching and officiating as priests after their retirement from domestic duties. They did not expect remuneration.
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