KARMAYOGA AND VIPRAS: TRAINING THE JUDICIARY
According to some interpreters of Karmayoga, every act has an inescapable consequence. Those who do evil acts are bound to suffer in proportion to the wickedness of that act. The commoner is told that if the state and the society including the immediate community fail to punish that act and correct the delinquent, he would suffer in the next life. The good acts are rewarded by the society. Burnell translates the verse (83) as: Perusal of the Veda, (ascetic) austerity, knowledge, and controlling of the organs of sense, doing no injury, and serving the Guru, (is) the highest source of deliverance.
Buhler calls these as the best means for attaining supreme bliss. Jones interprets it as: Studying and comprehending the Veda, practising pious austerities, acquiring divine knowledge of law and philosophy, command over the organs of sense and action, avoiding all injury to sentient creatures, and showing reverence to a natural and spiritual father, are the chief branches of duty which ensure final happiness. Jha translates this verse as; Vedic study, austerity, knowledge, control of the sense organs, harmlessness, service of elders are the best means of attaining the highest good.
Bhrgu was briefing the scholars, Vipras, on their conduct after leaving their school and after having taken leave of their families. They had studied the Vedas when at school and now they have to study them in depth and regularly (abhyasa). They have to exert themselves (tapas) in the tasks they had undertaken as Vipras. They have to continue to acquire further knowledge (jnanam) in all subjects. They have to regulate (samyam) their organs (indriyas) of sense and action and practise ahimsa, harmlessness and continue to serve their teacher (guruseva). They had not parted company with their teacher. This would give them the best social and moral benefit (param sreyas). The supporters of Karmayoga want to know whether among all those good acts (shubhakarma) mentioned above whether there was one that was declared to be more useful for a social leader, purusha. (84)
Bhrgu replies that that according to the Smrti, among all these, knowledge of the self (atmajnanam) is the best. Among all the disciplines of study (sarva vidya) this is the best as one obtains from it the status of a noble (amrtam, immortality in common parlance). The status of a deva, noble, is higher than that of the social leader, purusha. (85) Anvikshiki (which included Samkhya, Yoga and Lokayata), Trayi (the three Vedas, Rg, Yajur and Sama), Varta (Economics) and Dandaniti (Science of Polity) were the four main faculties in the major educational institutions. Samkhya covered jnanam and vijnanam. Atmajnanam was a special branch of Yoga. The supporters of Karmayoga must have been satisfied with this statement. [Some commentators notice these two verses to be not pertinent to the context.] Jones translated this verse as: Of all those duties, answered Bhrgu, the principal is to acquire from the Upanishads a true knowledge of one supreme God; that is the most exalted of all sciences, because it ensures immortality. It is not sound to identify atmajnana with the Upanishads.
Burnell translates the verse (86) as: Now amid all these six acts, that one more productive of deliverance (than the rest), both after death and here, should be known (to be) always the ceremony (taught) in the Veda. Jones interpreted it as: In this life, indeed, as well as in the next, the study of the Veda to acquire a knowledge of God, is held the most efficacious of those six duties in procuring felicity to man. Jha translates it as: Among the six aforesaid actions, the performance of Vedic Acts should be regarded as the most efficacious for bringing about happiness in this world and as well as after death. This verse has been dwelt on elaborately by the medieval commentators and some modern scholars who have taken orthodox positions.
Buhler translated it as: Among those six (kinds of) actions (enumerated above, the performance of) the acts taught in the Veda must ever be held to be most efficacious for ensuring happiness in this world and the next. It is not sound to introduce the concept of deliverance (from the cycle of births and deaths) here. Similarly the use of the term, jneyam, does not imply that knowledge of God is the best (sreyas). According to the theory of action or duty (karma) enshrined in the Vedas, pursuit of the knowledge of what is to be known (that is, knowledge of the self) is the best of the six duties. It is not sound to treat the term, karma, as a reference to Vedic rites. The six acts mentioned in verse (83) above do not include these rites.
Burnell translation of the next verse (87) as: And in practising the ceremony (taught) in the Veda, all these without exception are comprised, one after the other, in this very rule of ceremony is unacceptable. Jones interpreted it as: For, in the knowledge and adoration of one God, which the Veda teaches, all the rules of good conduct, before-mentioned in order, are fully comprised. Buhler read it as: For in the performance of the acts prescribed by the Veda all those (others) are fully comprised, (each) in its turn in the several rules for the rites. He notices that according to most commentators, both the sacrifices prescribed by the Vedas and the duty (karma) to get free from all acts (nivrttam karma) include all the six points mentioned in verse 83. Jha translates this verse as: All these are fully included, each in its turn, in a particular course of performance of the Vedic act. This explanatory note might have been interpolated later.
Bhrgu was pointing out to the advocates of Karmayoga, especially the Vipras, the scholars who were engaged in educating the masses that the scheme of Karmayoga as enshrined in the Vedas included all the other duties without exception. This has nothing to do with Vedic sacrifices or with the efforts to attain salvation, moksha, freedom from worldly responsibilities. Karmayoga called for performance of prescribed and approved duties without attachment to them or to their results and rewards. The Vedic approach was not different from this, according to Bhrgu, the chief editor of Manava Dharmasastra. The Vipras gave prominence to performance of Vedic sacrifices and officiated at the last rites for all without fees and some Brahman priests objected to this.
Burnell translates the next verse (88) as: The ceremony (taught) in the Veda is of two sorts, either selfish or disinterested, and, (according as it is of the former or latter sort), it produces (worldly) happiness (only) or causes (final) deliverance. Jones interpreted it as: The ceremonial duty, prescribed by the Veda, is of two kinds; one connected with this world, and causing prosperity on earth, the other abstracted from it, and procuring bliss in heaven. Buhler reads it as: The acts prescribed by the Veda are of two kinds, such as procure an increase of happiness and cause a continuation (of mundane existence, pravrtta), and such as ensure supreme bliss and cause a cessation of mundane existence (nivrtta). Jha translates this verse as: The Vedic acts are of two kinds; (a) The active, which is conducive to happiness and prosperity, and (b) the passive, which is conducive to the highest good.
The duties (karma) assigned to the Vipras by the Vedas were of two kinds, Bhrgu explains. Some were concerned with vocations that one followed (pravrtti) and the others with the lives of those who had withdrawn from worldly activities (nivrtti). The former was happiness-oriented and the latter was for spread of merit (naisreyas). The concept of final salvation, is not dealt with here. Bhrgu stresses that the Vedic scheme of duties was not merely mundane nor was it exclusively spiritual.
Burnell translates the verse (89) as: A selfish ceremony is explained (as) one connected with some desire (of benefit) here or hereafter; a disinterested (ceremony) is designated (as) one devoid of desire and (performed) after knowledge (has been acquired). Jones read it as: A religious act, proceeding from selfish views in this world, as a sacrifice for rain, or in the next, as a pious oblation in hope of a future reward, is declared to be concrete and interested; but an act performed with a knowledge of God, and without self-love, is called abstract and disinterested.
Buhler read it as: Acts which secure (the fulfillment of) wishes in this world or in the next are called pravrtta (such as cause a continuation of mundane existence); but acts performed without any desire (for a reward) preceded by (the acquisition) of (true) knowledge, are declared to be nivrtta (such as cause the cessation of mundane existence). Jha reads it as: That which is done with knowledge and brings about the fulfilment of desires either in this world, or in the next, is described as active; while that which is done with knowledge and without desires, is declared to be passive.
Bhrgu explains that all activities motivated by worldly desires or even by desire for heaven or immortality are known to be of pravrtta category. Only those activities that are free from such desires and personal interests (nishkamam) and which are preceded by knowledge of what one has to do and what would be the result of that act are hence said to be of nivrtta category. The Vipras were often required to officiate as judges in socio-economic disputes. They had to note that the respondent should prove that the crime was not committed for personal advantage, whether an immediate or distant one. He had to also establish that he was doing his prescribed duty in a disinterested manner, knowing fully the consequences of his act. He could not plead ignorance of the implications of his act.
Burnell translates the verse (90) as: (By) practising a selfish ceremony one reaches equality (samyatam) with the gods; but (by) practising a disinterested (ceremony) one overcomes in truth the five existent (elements). Jones read it as: He, who frequently performs interested rites, attains an equal station with the regents of the lower heaven; but he, who frequently performs disinterested acts of religion, becomes for ever exempt from a body composed of the five elements.
Buhler interprets it as: He who sedulously performs acts leading to future births (pravrtta) becomes equal to the gods; but he who is intent on the performance of those causing the cessation (of existence, nivrtta) indeed, passes beyond (the reach of) the five elements. Jha reads it as: He who devotes himself to the active side, attains equality (samya) to the gods (devas); while he who devotes himself to the passive section, passes beyond the five material substances (bhutas).
One who performs duties (karma) that are part of his vocation (pravrtta) can become equal to the nobles (devas). This is pointed out to the Vipra who is required to function as a neutral judge in civil disputes. The nobles who were superior to the king and his ministry and also to the judiciary had their own preferences and goals though these were not harmful to any sector of the society. The professional judges too adopt this approach. The expression, five bhutas, may not be interpreted as the five elements.
The five officials of the state who controlled the different wings of the executive (bureaucracy, urban areas, rural areas, treasury and army) were required to be totally free from personal interests and preferences and observe rigorous disinterested impartiality. Their conduct is of the nivrtta or udasina (disinterested) type. The Vipras, as social workers and also as judges, were expected to adopt this approach. They were not ideologues pursuing their own goals or following sectarian interests and stands. The medieval commentators had failed to notice this aspect and were led into a debate on how one should function in order to become one with gods.
Buhler translates the verse (91) as: He who sacrifices to the Self (alone), equally recognizing the Self in all created beings and all created beings in the Self, becomes (independent like) an autocrat and self-luminous. Some commentators have traced two meanings in the term, svarajyam, he points out.
Burnell translates it as: One who sees alike self in all-existent (things) and all-existent (things) in self, (as) a sacrificer of self attains absolute sway. Jones interpreted it as: Equally perceiving the supreme soul in all beings and all beings in the supreme soul, he sacrifices his own spirit by fixing it on the spirit of God, and approaches the nature of that sole divinity who shines by his own effulgence. Jha reads this verse as: He who perceives (pasya) the Self (atmanam) in all beings (sarva bhutas), and all beings in the Self (atmani), and sacrifices (yaji) to the Self, attains self-government (svarajyam).
Bhrgu was explaining how the officials, especially the judges could maintain impartiality and objectivity. He was explaining his stand especially to the Vipras, Brahman scholars who were entitled to be members of the judiciary. The Vipras were eager to ensure that all individuals including those of the social periphery who were not organized as clans or communities or as classes were able to take part in the Vedic sacrifices. They would even risk being accused of having stolen articles from those who did not perform sacrifices needed for those who performed them. These Vipras used to officiate as priests at these sacrifices without taking fees.
The Vedic sacrifices were based on the principle that one sees himself in all beings and all beings in himself. Hence a Vipra did not distinguish between a sacrifice offered by him and a sacrifice where he officiated. Both were meant for the welfare of all beings. One who performs sacrifices in this spirit attains a status where he is a master of himself (svarajyam) and is not subordinate to any governmental or social authority. The scholar, Vipra, of this type was equal to a noble, Deva, who was not subordinate to the state. The medieval commentators who had lost touch with the Vedic social polity that aimed at enabling every individual be a master of his own destiny preferred to describe svarajyam as the status of Paramatma (God).
Jones translated the next verse (92) as: Thus must the chief of the twice-born, though he neglect the ceremonial rites mentioned in the Sastras, be diligent alike in attaining a knowledge of God and in repeating the Veda. Buhler translated it as: After giving up even the above-mentioned rites, a Brahmana should exert himself in (acquiring) the knowledge of the Soul, in extinguishing his passions, and in studying the Veda. Burnell read it as: The highest of the twice-born (the Brahman) having neglected the ceremonies as they have been declared, should be diligently occupied with the knowledge of self, peace, and perusal of the Veda.
Jha reads this verse as: Having renounced even the said acts, the Brahmana (dvijauttama) shall concentrate his effort on the knowledge of Self (atmajnanam), on calmness (sama) and on the study of the Veda. This counsel is given to the best (uttama) of the dvijas, twice born. Why was the Vipra advised to pay more attention to regular study (abhyasa) of the Vedas than to performance of his professional duties that provided him the means of his livelihood?
Jones reads the next verse (93) as: Such is the advantageous privilege of those, who have a double birth from their natural mothers and from the gayatri, their spiritual mother, specially of a Brahman; since the twice-born man, by performing this duty but not otherwise, may soon acquire endless felicity. Buhler read it as: For that secures the attainment of the object of existence, especially in the case of a Brahmana, because by attaining that, not otherwise, a twice-born man has gained all his ends. Burnell translates it as: For herein, especially to a Brahman, consists the whole end and aim of existence; since the twice-born man becomes perfect (only by) attaining this (knowledge of self) and in no other way. Jha reads this verse as: This represents the fulfilment of the object of ones existence, especially for the Brahmana; it is only when he has attained this, and not otherwise, that the twice-born man has accomplished his purpose.
The Brahman acquires the fulfillment of his birth (janmasaphalyam) only by performing what he has been created for (krtakrtyam). He has been made a dvija in order to continue to study the Vedas. This second birth (janma) would become meaningless if he gives prominence to earning a livelihood rather than to keep on studying the Vedas and live according to its message.
Burnell translates the verse (94) as: The Veda (is) the eternal (sanatana) eye (chakshu) of manes (pitrs), gods (devas) and men (manushyas); (something) impossible and immeasurable (is) the Veda treatise (sastra); so stands the case. Buhler translates it as: The Veda is the eternal eye of the manes, gods and men; the Veda-ordinance (is) both beyond the sphere of (human) power, and beyond the sphere of (human) comprehension; that is a certain fact. Jones interpreted it as: To patriarchs, to deities, and to mankind, the scripture is an eye giving constant light; nor could the Veda-Sastra have been made by human faculties; nor can it be measured by human reason unassisted by revealed glosses and comments; this is a sure proposition.
What the ancestors (pitrs) and the nobles (devas) and the commoners (manushyas), the three strata of the core society witnessed in the past is recorded in the Veda. [The category of pitrs included not only the authoritarian heads of clans but also the retired feudal lords, daityas.] The ordinance promulgated by the Veda is something impossible to adhere to and is incomprehensible. Bhrgu was dwelling on the code known as Sanatana Dharma that was based on the experiences of the ancients. He directed the Brahmans to be well acquainted with the Vedic hymns so that they might be able to perform their duties properly.
Burnell translates the verse (95) as: Whatever traditions (Smrtis) lie outside the Veda and whatever (works) are ill-revealed (heterodox), are all without fruit after death, since they are said to rest in darkness. Buhler translated it as: All those traditions (smrti) and all those despicable systems of philosophy, which are not based on the Veda, produce no reward after death; for they are declared to be founded on Darkness.
According to the Smrtis whatever are outside the Vedas (Srutis) are based on crooked perspectives and are all of no use for securing final liberation after death. They are based on ignorance (tamas) according to the Smrtis. Bhrgu does not declare any particular school of thought as unacceptable. Whether any particular school of thought adheres to the Vedas that have outlined the Sanatana Dharma is to be ascertained by reference directly to the Vedas. This is a caution given to the Vipras.
Burnell translates the next verse (96) as: And all (systems)other than that, which are brought forth and disappear (are) on account of their being (composed) in time near (to us, proved to be) without fruit and without truth. Buhler reads it as: All those (doctrines), differing from the (Veda), which spring up and (soon) perish, are worthless and false (anrta), because they are of modern date. Jha reads it as: Those other (doctrines) which spring up and perish are all worthless and false, being of modern growth.
Bhrgu was not willing to give credence to the then recent schools of thought. He stood by the early Vedic schools that upheld the laws based on Rta and which were in force during the early and middle Vedic periods before they were replaced by laws based on eternal truth, Satya. The laws based on Rta accorded with the laws of nature and were not cumbersome. (The term, anrta, does not refer to atheism and practice of cruel methods to subordinate others.) Jones interpreted this verse as All systems, which are repugnant to the Veda, must have been composed by mortals, and shall soon perish; their modern date proves them vain and false. Bhrgu has not claimed that the Vedas were composed by God and not by men.
Jones translates the verse (97) as: The three worlds, the four classes of men and their four distinct orders, with all that has been, all that is, and all that will be, are made known by the Veda. Buhler reads it as: The four castes, the three worlds, the four orders, the past, the present and the future are all severally known by means of the Veda. Burnell interprets it as: One by one the four castes, the three worlds, the four orders of life, the past, the present and the future, (in short) everything depends on the Veda.
Not only the scheme of the four classes (varnas) and four stages of life (asramas) but also the scheme of three social worlds (lokas) are explained by the Vedas. They also cover the past of the society and the present and also indicate how it will function and be in the future. for success. Jha translates it as: The four castes, the three worlds, the four life-stages, the past, the present and the future are each learnt from the Veda".
Of significance is the recognition given to the Vedic classification of the larger society into three social worlds, lokas. This classification cannot be annulled by any later system. The editors of Manusmrti are keen to establish that the varnashrama scheme that would replace the three lokas scheme has its roots in the Vedas and is hence not to be repudiated.
Manava Dharmasastra is legislation for all times as it derives its authority from the Vedas which it is claimed is not only a record of the entire past but also an ordinance that governs the lives of the peoples of all ages to come. Dharmasastra as social legislation covers all aspects of life and all sectors of the society. It is catholic in outlook and not dogmatic though it prescribes a few rules binding on all the members of the society and expects all to refrain from anti-social activities.
Buhler translates the verse (98) as: Sound, touch, colour, taste and fifthly smell, are known through the Veda alone, (their) production (is) through the (Vedic rites, which in this respect are) secondary rites. Jha takes a similar stand. Burnell interprets it as: Sound, touch, form, taste and fifth smell, depend according to (their) origin, mood and action upon the Veda alone. Which sound, which touch, which shape, which taste and which smell is to be appreciated, one learns by reference to the Veda. What he learns depends on his innate trait (guna) and his vocation (karma). The Vedas do not impose uniformity. They cater to a wide spectrum of preferences in all fields, it is implied.
Buhler translates the next verse (99) as: The eternal lore of the Veda upholds all created beings; hence I hold that to be supreme, which is the means of (securing happiness to) these creatures. Jones read it as: All creatures are sustained by the primeval Veda-sastra, which the wise therefore hold supreme, because it is the supreme source of prosperity to this creature, man. Burnell read it as: The eternal Veda-treatise supports all existent (things); therefor this I think the highest, which ensures success to this creature (man). Jha reads it as: The eternal (sanatana) lore of the Veda upholds all beings (sarva bhuta); for this reason I regard this as the best means (sadhanam) of accomplishing the ends of every creature (jantu),
The ancient Vedic ordinance, Sanatana Veda-sastra, supported all individuals of the social periphery (bhutas), Bhrgu points out. Hence it was applicable not only to the settled communities but also to the unattached discrete individuals and those at the subsistence level (jantu), in addition to the four classes (varnas) and the three social worlds (lokas) that comprised organized and settled clans and communities with their distinct and protected vocations. They too get benefit by resorting to the means (sadhanam) suggested by the Vedas, he thinks. The supporters of Karmayoga were eager to ensure that people at all levels of economy were able to benefit from the ordinance that they referred to.
Burnell translates the verse (100) as: One, who understands the Veda-treatise deserves rule over armies, kingly power, the right to adjudge punishment, and the governorship of all the worlds. Jones read it as: Command of armies, royal authority, power of inflicting punishment and sovereign dominion over all nations, he only well deserves who perfectly understands the Veda-sastra.
Buhler read it as: Command of armies, royal authority, the office of a judge and sovereignty over the whole world he (only) deserves who knows the Veda-science. Jha translates it as: It is only one who knows the Vedic lore that deserves the command over armies, kingly authority, the office of the adjudicator of punishments and sovereignty over all kingdoms. He notices that in Medhatithis view, this claim is an exaggerated one.
The posts of chief of the army (senapati), of ruler of the hinterland (rajyam) and leadership (netrtvam) of the police and of the judiciary (danda) and lordship over all social worlds (sarvaloka adhipatya) are to be assigned to only those who are versed in the (socio-political) ordinance (sastra) based on the Vedas, Bhrgu says. This verse does not indicate that the king was personally an adjudicator. He was not advocating a theocratic state.
Burnell translates the verse (101) as: As fire (when its) strength is brought forth consumes even wet trees, so the Veda-knower consumes the act-born sin of self. Buhler translates it as: As a fire that has gained strength consumes even trees full of sap, even so he who knows the Veda burns out the taint of his soul which arises from (evil) acts. Jha reads this verse as: Just as fire, having gained strength, burns even green trees, even so does the person knowing the Veda consume all the evil effects of his deeds. Medhatithi is seen to have avoiding comments on this verse.
Even though a Vedic scholar, a king cannot be expected to punish only the guilty. One who knows the provisions of the Veda would get consumed the stains arising from his acts in the course of the discharge of his duties. He would not be criticized by the scholars even if the innocent happen to suffer along with the guilty as he takes stern steps to put down crimes. Is this a later interpolation? It seems to be so.
the Duties of a Brahman Jurist
Buhler translates the verse (102) as: In whatever order (a man) who knows the true meaning of the Veda-science may dwell, he becomes even while abiding in this world, fit for the union with Brahman. Burnell translates it as: He who abiding in any order whatever knows the true inner meaning of the Veda-treatise, even while existing here in this world is fitted for Brahman-existence. Jones read it as: He who completely knows the sense of the Veda-sastra, while he remains in any one of the four orders, approaches the divine nature, even though he sojourn in this low world. Jha reads this verse as: In whatever life-stage he may be, the person who knows the true meaning of the Vedic scriptures becomes fit for union with Brahman, even while dwelling in this world (loka).
One who knows the meaning and philosophy (tattva) of the ordinance (sastra) based on Vedas is fit to be appointed as a jurist (Brahma-bhuya) in this social world (of academicians) (loka) in whatever stage of life (asrama) he may be, according to Bhrgu. He was explaining the Dharmasastra to a council, which had advocates of Karmayoga and free scholars, Vipras. This socio-political constitution does not declare that only one in the vanaprastha or udasina stage should be selected for the judiciary that required impartial and disinterested discharge of duty.
Burnell translates the next verse (103) as: Those who have perused many literary compositions (granthi) are superior to those who are ignorant; those who remember what they learn are better than those who have perused many literary compositions; those who understand what they learn are superior to those who remember it; those who practise (vyavasaya) what they learn are better than those who understand it (jnani).
Buhler is not precise when he reads it as: Even forgetful students of the sacred books are more distinguished than the ignorant, those who remember them surpass the forgetful students, those who possess a knowledge of the meaning are more distinguished than those who only remember the words, men who follow the teaching of the texts surpass those who merely know their meaning.
Jha interprets Medhatithi as implying that better than those having knowledge are those who act. For a place in the judiciary, a practitioner of the laws as laid (kalpate) in the codes (sastras) based on the Vedas, must be given more weight than a jnani, that is, one who is versed in the knowledge of the past and the present accumulated and included in the Vedas. This jnani is better than one who strictly adheres to the text of the code. The latter is better than an ignoramus.
Burnell reads the verse (104) as: The best source of deliverance for a Brahman is (ascetic) austerity and (Vedic) wisdom; through (ascetic) austerity one slays sin; through (Vedic) wisdom one gets immortality. Buhler reads it as: Austerity and sacred learning are the best means by which a Brahman secures supreme bliss; by austerities he destroys guilt, by sacred learning he obtains the cessation of (births and) deaths.
The Vipras were expected to give the most attention to constant study of and reference to the Vedas while discharging their duties. The next in importance wastapas, exertion in achieving the impersonal goals they had severally set for themselves. The Vipras who were to be admitted to the judiciary had to be also always engaged in studying all subjects (vidya) and spreading their knowledge. By these they obtain the greatest benefit and benefit all (nisreyas). By tapas, exertion, they get rid of all defects (kilbisham) and by knowledge (vidya) they obtain immortality (amrtam), that is, the status of intellectual aristocrats. Vidya covers study of the three Vedas, economics (Varta), political science (Dandaniti) and Anvikshiki (samkhya, yoga and lokayata). The Vipras are qualified to handle any affair or dispute pertaining to the social polity.
Buhler translates the verse (105) as: The three (kinds of evidence), perception, inference and the (sacred) Institutes which comprise the tradition (of) many (schools), must be fully understood by him who desires perfection with respect to the sacred law. Burnell interprets it as: Immediate (visual) perception, inference, the treatises (of law) according to the various traditions, (this) triad must be well understood by one desiring clearness in regard to (rules) of right.
Jones interpreted it as: Three modes of proof, ocular demonstration, logical inference and the authority of those various books, which are deduced from the Veda, must be well understood by that man who seeks a distinct knowledge of all his duties. Jha translates this verse as: If one desires to obtain the correct knowledge of Dharma, he should become fully acquainted with these three; perception, inference and the scriptures of various traditions.
One who desires to be pure (suddhi) in his interpretation and implementation of social laws (dharma) while handling official duties (karya) as judge has to pay attention to the three, what is patently visible (pratyaksham), what has to be inferred (anumanam) and the code (sastra). He has to also take into account the different approved social practices (agamam). This is a direction to the Vipras. They have to be objective and impartial and also honour all the different traditions while functioning as judges. Of course this direction is applicable to all officials of the state and other social and economic bodies, which are required to abide by the codes.
Burnell translates the verse (106) as: He and no other knows the law who, by means of a philosophical system, not opposed to the Veda-treatise, intelligently follows (the works) of the seers and the regulations of the law. Buhler translates it as: He alone, and no other man, knows the sacred law, who explores the utterances of the sages and the body of the laws, by modes of reasoning not repugnant to the Veda-lore.
Jones read it as: He alone comprehends the system of duties, religious and civil, who can reason by rules of logic agreeable to the Veda, on the general heads of that system as revealed by the holy sages. Jha reads this verse as: If a man explores by tarka, ratiocination, the Vedic teaching regarding Dharma, he alone and no other, understands Dharma.
The judges were required to honour what the sages had counselled as dharma and what was not in conflict with the ordinances (sastra) based on the Vedas. They were thus prevented from referring to the writings and sayings of the heretical schools in defence of their verdicts.
Buhler translates the verse (107) as: Thus the acts which secure supreme bliss have been exactly and fully described; now the secret portion of these Institutes, proclaimed by Manu will be taught. Burnell reads it as: This, as has been declared without omission is the act that causes deliverance; thereby the secret mystery of this Manava treatise is explained. He has unnecessarily introduced the concept of deliverance. What has been described so far fully is the system of work (karma) that is the best in value (nisreyas).
Bhrgu then offers to counsel his students and others on the confidential sections of Manava Sastra, the science and code to be followed by all those (manavas) who had accepted the scheme of four classes and four stages of life.
These manavas were not bound by the laws of the clans and communities or by those of economic organizations or even by the laws of the states under which they happened to live. They claimed to be citizens of the world and might voluntarily accept any of these and could not be punished if they chose not to follow them. If a Vipra was confronted with conflicts in laws while dealing with these followers of Manava Dharmasastra how was he to give his verdict?
Burnell translates the verse (108) as: If a question should arise (couched thus): How is one to act in case no rules of right are handed down? The answer is, let that which well-instructed Brahmans may declare be regarded as an undoubted (asankita) (rule of) right. Buhler reads it as: If it be asked how it should be with respect to points of the law which have not been specially mentioned, the answer is: that which Brahmanas who are Sishtas propound (bryu), shall doubtlessly have legal force. Jones read it as: If it be asked how the law (dharma) shall be ascertained when particular cases are not comprised under any of the general rules, the answer is this: That which well-instructed Brahmans propound shall be held incontestable law (dharma).
The Brahman jurist was superior to the Vipras who were invited to assist the chief judge, who was an expert in Atharvaveda (Brahma), the socio-political constitution of the Vedic times. Where the Manava Dharmasastra failed to give a definite direction, the Vipras should refer to what these jurists, Brahmans who knew the constitution followed as dharma. These unrecorded practices of and positions taken by the Brahman jurists would have to be followed by the Vipras. [The principles that guided these jurists were available in Brahmasutra, a manual compiled by Badarayana. Bhrgu might have given his opinion before the latter work became available.]
Jones translates the verse (109) as: Well instructed Brahmans are they who can adduce ocular proof from the scripture itself, having studied, as the law ordains, the Vedas and their extended branches or Vedangas, Mimamsa, Nyaya, Dharmasastra, Puranas. Burnell reads it as: And they are to be known as well instructed Brahmans by whom the Veda, with its additions has been gone over according to law and who possess proofs perceptible by the senses from revelation.
Buhler interprets it as: Those Brahmanas must be considered as Sishtas who, in accordance with the sacred law, have studied the Veda together with its appendages, and are able to adduce proofs perceptible by the senses from the revealed texts (sruti). Jha translates this verse as: Those Brahmanas, by whom the Vedas, along with its supplements, has been learnt in the right manner, and who are guided directly by the revealed texts, shall be regarded as cultured. It is not sound to claim that the Vedas are revealed texts. All holy books have been composed or compiled by pious scholars.
The causes (hetus) advanced for a particular act that has taken place must be visible and physically verifiable (pratyaksha). The Brahman must have studied Vedas and the allied works (Upanishads, Brahmanas and Aranyakas) towards a correct appraisal of valid social and moral laws (dharma). He must be able to cite from the Srutis (Vedas) the evidences in favour of his stand. Then only he would be treated as a competent person, sishta, who could be depended on for directions on points on which the Manava Dharmasastra is silent. Bhrgu concedes that there are lacunae in the Dharmasastra edited by him and drafted by the ten scholars appointed by Manu Svayambhuva.
A council (parishad) of ten members could reexamine it or at least a committee of three members who followed their prescribed occupations could do so. Whatever they declared to be law, the legal force of that one must not dispute, Bhrgu states. (110) The council of ten members would have one expert in each of the three sciences (Vidyas), Trayi (the three Vedas, Rg, Sama and Yajur), Varta (economics) and Dandaniti (political science). There would be one member from each of the three stages of life, brahmachari, grhastha and vanaprastha, a student, a householder, and a retired elder. (The monks, sanyasis, were not expected to participate in the proceedings of any organization.) The other four would be experts in the science of reasoning (hetu), logic (tarkasastra), and etymology (nirukta) and dharma texts. (111)
As the next verse (112) provides for a smaller group of three members representing the three Vedas, Rg, Yajur and Sama, it is suggested that the expression, three Vidyas be interpreted as a reference to Trayi, Varta and Dandaniti.
Kautilya treated Anvikshiki as a separate discipline and as more important than these three. He covered Samkhya, Yoga and Lokayata by Anvikshiki. But as he points out, the school of Manavas (followers of Pracetas Manu, an author of Arthasastra) treated Anvikshiki as a special branch of the three Vedas rather than as a separate discipline, Vidya.
Bhrgu was trying to convince the supporters of Karmayoga that his scheme was not in conflict with their stands. Manusmrti provided for experts in Nyayasastra (hetusastra), Mimamsa and other systems (tarkasastra) and Nirukta in its council of ten members. The medieval commentators had lost touch with the social polity of the Vedic and early post-Vedic times and gave more importance to the the Vedas than the earlier scholars did. Some of them covered the Vedangas too under Vedas and tended to ignore the Atharvaveda.
The Brahman jurists were Atharvans and should have specialized in fields that were connected with jurisprudence rather than in metaphysics and theology. The verses 112-115 might have been later additions to the verse 111 which itself might have been a later interpolation. It would have been very difficult to convene a council of ten experts and the later administrators in rural areas would have opted for a council of three Vedic scholars or even referred the dispute to one who was a Vedic scholar instead of to a large assembly of Brahmans who were ordinary teachers or priests. Some who followed the social practices of Brahmans were either landlords or moneylenders.
To settle (nirnaya) doubts about dharma, a parishad, council, of three members who were experts in Rgveda, Yajurveda and Samaveda could be convened. (112)(113) Burnell translates the next verse as: That rule of right (dharma) which even one of the highest of the twice-born who was wise in the Veda shall propound must be known as the supreme rule of right, not that declared by myriad of ignorant persons. Jha translates this verse as: That, which even a single Brahmana learned in theVeda decides to be the law (dharma), shall be understood to be the highest law, and not what is asserted by ten thousand ignoramuses.
The calibre needed for a parishad is not present in an assembly of thousands of invitees who do not observe the vows (vratas) and are only Brahmans by birth (jati) and earn their livelihood as Brahmans. Bhrgu rejects the suggestion that the right to lay down the law should be given to only a huge assembly of educated persons and not to the only scholar or a committee of three members or to a council of eleven members. (114) The editors of Manusmrti are not in favour of pronouncement of verdicts on doubts about what is morally and ethically correct, by large assemblies convened for that purpose.
Burnell translates the next verse (115) as: If fools, whose nature is darkness (tamas, ignorance), declare any rule of right (dharma), when they know nothing about it, the sin resulting therefrom, becoming an hundredfold (greater), enters into them who declared it. The incompetent among those who were invited were being deterred from participating in such assemblies and giving their opinions. The competent few and not the incompetent many are to be relied on for judicious verdicts. These verses must have been interpolated later when there was a trend to convene samghas to determine what was dharma.
Bhrgu was addressing the Vipras and supporters of the theory of Karmayoga. Burnell translates the next verse as: All this, the best cause of deliverance, has now been set before you; the Brahman (Vipra) who swerves not from this obtains the highest course (paramagati). The term, nisreyas, would imply the best benefit for all including the individual concerned rather than deliverance (moksha) or bliss. The Vipra who followed his advice would gain the highest status in the society. (116)
Buhler translates the next verse (117) as: Thus did that worshipful deity disclose to me, through a desire of benefiting (hitakamya) mankind (loka), this whole most excellent secret (paramguhyam) of the sacred law (dharma). The expression, bhagavan, was used to show respect to the highest authority of the school (of any thought). Manu Svayambhuva like Manu Sraddhadeva had the status of a deva, a member of the nobility. Probably he belonged to the Maruts, one of the four groups of traditional nobles of the Vedic times. He desired to benefit all the social worlds. Jha reads it as: Thus has the blessed Lord explained to me, with a desire to benefit mankind, the highest secret of Dharma.
Jones translated it as: Thus did the all-wise Manu who possesses extensive dominion and blazes with heavenly splendour, disclose to me, from his benevolence to mankind, this transcendental system of law which must be kept devoutly concealed from persons unfit to receive it. He puts in Bhrgus mouth what Bhrgu did not say and did not either intend to say. Such translations do not present the Dharmasastra in a proper light. The Vipras were advised not to be eager to attend Dharma Parishads, which were convened to secure endorsement for laws that surreptitiously allowed immorality to flourish. They were broad-minded in their approach. But they should not allow this to be exploited by crooked rulers. Bhrgus played a major role in throwing out such rulers.
Burnell translates the next verse (118) as: In self (atmani) should one behold the All (sarvam), being and non-being with mind intent (samahita); for beholding in self the All one does not turn his mind (mati) to wrong (adharma). Buhler read it as: Let (every Brahmana), concentrating his mind, fully recognize in the Self all things, both the real and the unreal, for he who recognize the universe in the Self, does not give his heart to the unrighteous. Jones interpreted it as: Let every Brahman with fixed attention consider all nature, both visible and invisible, as existing in the divine spirit; for when he contemplates the boundless universe existing in the divine spirit, he can not give his heart to iniquity.
Jha translates it as: With a concentrated mind, one should perceive in the Self all things, real as well as unreal. One who perceives all things in the Self never turns his mind towards wrong. The advice is not only to the Brahman who has been appointed as a judge but also to the King who has to uphold justice. They have to weigh the facts and the untruths (sacha and asacha).
It is not sound to introduce the concept of divine spirit in this advice. The medieval commentators are seen to have read deep metaphysical notes in this verse, which was basically a warning and guidance to the judges and rulers who had often to overlook objectivity and impartiality. They were asked to place themselves in the position of the subjects and seek the welfare of all equally. The intelligent (mati) ruler does not lean towards adharma.
Buhler reads the next verse (119) as: The Self (atma) alone is the multitude (sarva) of the gods (devata), the universe (sarvam) rests on the Self; for the Self produces (janayati) the connection of these embodied (spirits) (saririna) with actions (karmayoga). Burnell translated it as: Self alone (are) all divinities; the All is founded in self, for self begets the chain of action in (all) these incorporate (creatures).
Jones interpreted it as: The divine spirit alone is the whole assemblage of gods; all worlds are seated in the divine spirit; and the divine spirit no doubt produces, by a chain of causes and effects with free will, the connected series of acts performed by embodied souls. Jha reads it as: The Self alone is all the gods; everything subsists in the self; it is the Self that brings about the connection of these embodied beings with actions.
It has to be pointed out again that these verses do not deal with the relation between the soul of the human being (jivatma) and the divine soul (paramatma). The wills of all the nobles and chieftains (devatas), especially of the frontier industrial society are taken into account by the leader of the enlarged society who directs all the members of the organized groups (saririnas) in accordance with the policy and methods outlined by Karmayoga. The editors of Manusmrti acknowledge this factor as they address the supporters of the school of Karmayoga. The rights of the individual to select and pursue his vocation diligently in accordance with the policy outlined by this school are asserted.
The chieftains mentioned above must have consented to honour the exercise of these naturally evolved rights and assured that the plutocrats and technocrats amongst them would not dictate terms. [Krshna must have taken over the academy (of Usanas) in Janasthana and converted it into a school of Karmayoga.] This aspect is hinted in the use of the term, jana, here, and of the term, Bhagavan, in verse (117).
Jones translates the verses (120 and 121) as: He may contemplate the subtle ether in the cavities of the body; the air in his muscular motion and sensitive nerves; the supreme solar and igneous light in his digestive heat and his visual organs; in his corporeal fluids, water; in the terrene parts of his fabric earth; in his heart the moon; in his auditory nerves the guardians of the eight directions; in his progressive motion, Vishnu; in his muscular force, Hara; in his organs of speech, Agni; in excretion, Mitra; in procreation, Brahma.
Buhler read it as: Let him meditate on the ether (kham) as identical with the cavities of the body, on the wind (anila) as identical with the organs of motions and of touch; on the most excellent light (param tejas) as the same with his digestive organs and his sight, on water (apa) as the same with his corporeal fluids, on the earth (gam) with the solid parts of his body (murti); on the moon as one with the internal organ; on the quarters of the horizon (disa) as one with his sense of hearing; on Vishnu as with his power of motion (kranta), on Hara as the same with his strength (bala), on Agni (fire) as identical with his speech (vak), on Mitra as identical with his excretions (utsarga), and on Prajapati as one with his organ of generation (prajana).
Jha draws attention to the interpretation provided by Medhatithi and comments that all meditation should be carried out in this manner.The roles of the different officials of the integrated late Vedic social polity are compared to the functions of the different parts of the body. The commentators of the medieval times and their followers of modern times have failed to note that Soma (Indu), Agni, Mitra and Prajapati were officials of the Vedic social polity and that Vishnu and Hara were great charismatic personages.
It may be noted that the verse (121) has been interpreted in a manner that brings together the three aspects of God as Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu and Siva) but not in the same manner as made popular later (as Gods representing Creation, Protection and Destruction). The editors of Manusmrti were trying to correlate the concept of Purusha with this larger social polity. The chief administrator of this polity has to be aware of these roles and functions that are interdependent and complement one another.
Buhler translates the verse (122) as: Let him know the supreme Male (Purusha, to be) the sovereign ruler of them all, smaller than even the small, bright like gold, and perceptible by the intellect only when in a state of sleep-like abstraction. Burnell translates it as: Controller of all (things), (a being made) of particles finer than fine even, gold-glancing, comprehensible (only) by an intelligence asleep, him one should know to be the supreme man (Purusha).
Jones read it as: But he must consider the supreme omnipresent intelligence as the sovereign lord of them all, by whose energy alone they exist; a spirit, by no means the object of any sense, which can only be conceived by a mind wholly abstracted from matter, and as it were slumbering; but which, for the purpose of assisting his meditation, he may imagine more subtle than the finest conceivable essence, and more bright than the purest gold.
Jha translates this verse as: The ruler (prasasitara) of all, who is minuter than the minutest of atom, bright like gold, amenable to dream-condition (svapnadhigamya), him should one know as the highest Purusha. The supporters of the school of Karmayoga were eager to know whether Bhrgu had a concept equivalent to Purushotthama or Parampurusha. This director or administrator (prasasitaram) of the affairs of the social polity and all its members and sectors (sarva) functions in a subtle manner and his presence is almost unnoticed like the atom of an atom (of gold). This subtle role may perhaps come to be known only in dream by the Unconscious Mind.
Burnell translates the next verse (123) as: This one some declare to be Fire (Agni); others, Manu Prajapati; some Indra; others, breath; others again, eternal Brahma. Buhler translates it as: Some call him Agni (Fire), others Manu, the Lord of Creatures, others Indra, others the vital air, and again others eternal Brahman. Jones read it as: Him some adore as a transcendently present in elementary fire; others in Manu, lord of creatures or as an immediate agent in the creation; some as more distinctly present in Indra, regent of the clouds and the atmosphere; others in pure air; others as the most High eternal Spirit.
Who is described as Parampurusha? Is the concept of Brahma, that is, the theory of social evolution presented by the school of Brahmavarta, identical with the concept of Purusha, that is, the theory of social evolution presented by the Purushasukta? Bhrgu asserts that the two are identical. [What Pracetas Manu who was one of the Prajapatis, recommended in his Arthasastra earlier was identical with what the school of Indra had recommended in Bahudantakam, a work on social polity. These two works were highly honoured by Bhishma and Kautilya.]
The invisible but essential supreme controller of the polity is compared to the vital breath (prana) by some other thinkers. Still others compared him to Agni, who as Jatavedas knew everything and represented the intellectuals as well as the commonalty and whose voice the nobles listened to with respect. Agni was the presiding officer of the peoples court during the Vedic times. He also presided over the council of scholars, Samiti while Indra presided over the house of nobles, Sabha. The Prajapati, the chief of the people, convened the two bodies. He was the greatest of the social leaders, Parampurusha.
Jones translated the verse (124) as: It is He who, pervading all beings in five elemental forms, causes them by the gradations of birth, growth and dissolution to revolve in this world until they deserve beatitude like the wheels of a car. Burnell read it as: This one, penetrating all created (things) by (means of) the five elements for ever by (means of) birth, growth and death, keeps up like a wheel (the course of) transmigrations. Buhler read it as: He pervades all created beings in the five forms (murti) and constantly makes them by means of birth, growth and decay, revolve like the wheels (of a chariot).
The controller of the larger social polity who is present among all the discrete individuals (sarva bhutas), especially of the social periphery, influences their life (samsara). He controls the heads of the five wings of the administration (pancha murti) included in the rajyam. He determines the cycle of emergence (janma), growth (vrddhi) and decay (kshaya) of social institutions including family. In the previous verse the editors explained who could become the greatest social leader and administrator, Parampurusha. Here his role with reference to all the individuals including those of the unorganized social periphery is pointed out. Bhrgus approach is in consonance with that of the school of Karmayoga promoted by Krshna.
Jones translates the verse (125) as: Thus the man, who perceives in his own soul the supreme soul present in all creatures, acquires equanimity toward them all, and shall be absorbed at last in the highest essence, even that of the Almighty himself. Buhler translated it as: He, who thus recognizes the Self through the Self in all created beings, becomes equal (-minded) towards all and enters the highest state, Brahman.
Burnell read it as: Thus he who by (means of) self sees self in all created (things), after attaining equality with the All, enters into Brahman, the highest place. Jha reads this verse as: He who perceives the Self (atma) through the Self (atmana) in all beings (sarva bhuta), becomes equal towards all and attains the highest state, Brahman. The jurist interprets the socio-political constitution, Atharvaveda (Brahma) and ensures equality among all individuals.
The chief administrator (by whatever designation he is referred to) who personally perceives the wills (souls, atma) of all discrete individuals (sarva bhuta) in his own, that is, who identifies himself with all individuals and treats all as equal (samata) is suitable for the position of the highest (param padam) official of the state, Brahma, the jurist who is entitled to interpret the socio-political constitution.
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