Q: Gurudev, can you please speak about the Manusmriti (Meaning “Laws of Manu”, referring to a text that expounds the code of laws & Dharma that should govern an individual and the society)? Is it relevant today?
A. See, Manusmriti was written by a king called Manu. He was a very wise king. A few lines in the Manusmriti which talk about how women should always be protected or a little bit about caste system (referring to the prescribed nature and professions belonging to the four social classes of Hindu society); these have been misinterpreted. I would say they might be interpolated (meaning: stretched too far). But this is not a scripture of the rishis.
It is by a king, so it is like a Constitution. That is all. So the Manusmriti is not an authority for the Sanatan Dharma (Vedic name for Hindu Religion). We do not need to follow it. It is like a Constitution. Like the Indian Constitution, the people in those days also made certain rules. So at that time Manu made certain rules. But it is not a universal scripture and it is not necessary for everybody to follow. It is not applicable for everyone everywhere and for all times. It is not so at all.
But there are some very good things also mentioned in the Manusmriti. It has very good knowledge. So you should take that which is relevant today and leave the rest. Our people have been following this in our country. You should always look at all the scriptures in the world with reason, with wisdom. This is what scriptures also say. They say that you should keep the Desha (country or place) and the Kaala (time) in mind when you apply knowledge or a particular scripture. This is important. Why are there so many problems in the world today? It is because some people want to implement those scriptures today which are 2000 years old or maybe 1400 years old. But they are not applicable today at all. This is the whole problem in the Middle East. Some people want to impose those rules which are not applicable for today’s time. It had relevance at that time but they are no longer relevant.
~ Sri Sri Ravi Shankar