Manusmriti In Today’s World

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



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  • Manu smriti… is not applicable in “Kaliyuga” . Those rules are laid for kruta yuga… One should follow “Parasara Smriti” for Kali Yuga…

    I THINK Sri Ravishankar is misquoted here…..

  • I was under the impression that Shruti (fundamentals) was for all times, and Smriti (ritualistic) was changeable with changing times.

  • Manusarti is written for all human race, not only for hindus. In current world Muslims are untouchable (shudra) therefore Muslims should be treated saperately

  • I perhaps, agree with srihari which is the truth. Can anybody show where it is written in the dharma sastras that Parasara smrithi is applicable to kali yuga. Manu is the manasa putra of Lord Bramha and therefore is quiteauthentic. moreover, he himself has not mentioned anywhere that his writings are applicable to only such and such a yuga, which would have been the case if it was his intention. If circumstance in kali yuga have changed due to scientific inventions, western outlook on life etc, it doesn’t mean that we should embrace the western ideologies in totto with all its evils. Even in this age, it is possible to follow Dharma sastras to a great extent if one has a will, with kindness and without causing harm between castes. Many such exemplary persons are existing to the day. What has been lost is discrimination between sastraic and asastriac acts, and other divine virtues. Arrogance of having wealth, name and fame acquired due to unethical practices, worship of sense pleasures and recognition of men indulging in such acts as heros have become the order of the day. This is all due to the effect kaliyuga which is ultimately gods will and can lead evil persons to destruction in the end as time cycle changes everything moment by moment. People justify disorder and unethical living by blaming the sastras and misquoting them to suit their fancies. However, the wise live following the injunctions of the sastras as far as it is practicable and try to acquire eternal happiness.

  • Shruti Smriti Mamaiva Agna – i.e Shruti and Smriti are my command (to the humanity) is Sri Krishna’s words in Mahabharata. All of Shruti and Smritis are very relevant to all the four yuga’s. We are living in the Vaivasvata Manvantara within which we are living in the 28th mahayuga. This manvantara alone will last 71 mahayuga cycles. For all of this manvantara, Manu Smriti is very relevant. When the next manu will take over, he may release a new manu smriti, which will be also be Lord Krishna Ordained. There are many smriti’s but the most relevant that we follow in Hinduism today are derived from Manu and Yagnavalkya. They have been codified, converted to practice, and handed down to us in the form of “life style” by our ancestors. Some so called reformists and cultural invasion of India over the centuries has modified this to its present form. There is an important connection between Karma and Shruti/Smriti. Not following the commandments of Shruti/Smriti will result in Papa Karma. Ex. Shruti says, “Satyam Vada, Dharmam Chara” in Taittriya Upanishad. If one does not follow this commandment, he/she gets papa karma. Accumulation of Punya/Papa Karma is the reason for re-birth. It is from Shruti/Smriti one has to learn how to exhaust one’s accumulated karma, and exhaust them in order to get to moksha or liberation. Doing Punya does not get rid of Papa that one has done. Only way to exhaust punya/papa is experience happiness/sadness (Pain) or seek divine intervention. All living beings on earth/other planets are here to experience happiness/sadness according to his/her karma and this opportunity has been given to the individual in order to exhaust his/her karma so that he/she may attain moksha. instead of learning the art of exhausting the karma balance, the being, shrouded in ignorance of shruti and smriti, goes on accumulating more karma resulting in future births. In reality one has to practice Karma, Gyana and Bhakti yoga or surrender to God to get rid of existing karma and seek Moksha. That is why this birth has been kindly given to the individual by God.

  • Appart from the very unfair treatment of women, and also of the lower castes…I think the Manu Smrti is still quite relevant today! Its description of the Doctrine of Yugas(Time Cycles)es especially interesting. I also would like to find good translations of the PURANAS, which are also very important!

  • I strongly feel manusmriti is highly, very highly misinterpreted. According to me it is the best book ever on the art of living. Following it would help greatly in the smooth functioning of the society. Manu did not insist birth based
    caste system in it. For reference u can see verse 2.68,69 and many more. He highly insists on the duties to be followed by humans. He insists on literacy. And condemns illiteracy. And we can understand if we can keenly relate the manusmriti and the bhagavad gita and interpret the former for he was also a vedantin.
    Considering the anti women verses,
    For eg., he suggests not to marry women with so and so diseases;
    He was also a human. But of the krita yuga.
    He lived during the krita treta transition too. Krita yuga is a era of no diseases unlike treta. So it is of human nature to condemn something which is too new or unusual or scary to him/her.
    Manusmriti is a very practical book.
    We must understand that even though we may have took birth from a brahmani’s womb we may have come from either God’s mouth or shoulders or hips or foot. i.e only God knows for what duties to accomplish we have come for.
    There is nothing condemnable in this.
    After all we prostrate on God’s feet and not on his mouth.
    Manu on the whole encourages literacy.
    Another verse says that a shudra/illiterate cannot occupy wealth.
    If u ponder over that statement u can very well understand that u can’t allow an illiterate to accumulate wealth. That’s pretty practical.

  • Sri Sri Ravi Shankar writes: A few lines in the Manusmriti which talk about how women should always be protected…have been misinterpreted. Marc (above) observes that apart from the very unfair treatment of women…I think the Manu Smruti is still quite relevant today.

    Here is the relevant verse in Sanskrit:

    Pita rakshati kaumare bharta rakshati yauvane; rakshanti sthavire putra na stri svatantryam arhati (Manu smriti 9:3).

    It is usually translated as follows:

    Father protects woman in childhood, brother protects her in youth; her sons protect her in old age; woman does not deserve to be free.

    It should be noted here that in the original verse Manu is merely observing how a woman was typically treated in his time. Toward that purpose, he uses the present tense (known grammatically as ‘lat’). It is important to note that he does not use the imperative tense (known grammatically as ‘lot’). So this verse cannot be taken in a prescriptive sense as most translations do (which leads to misinterpretations or deliberate distortions). Manu is not ordering (or prescribing) that a woman must not be left free. The part of the verse ‘woman does not deserve to be free’ should therefore be stated as–‘woman is not left alone [to fend for herself ].’