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The Dharmasastras (A Brief Study)
The Dharmasastras (A Brief Study)
Description
Preface

If religion helps a man to rise from the human level to the divine level, dharma (righteousness, a universal value- system) elevates him from the brute level to the human level. It helps him to live a socially useful life and, consequently, achieve happiness and peace in his personal life too.

Realising this, our rsis of yore who discovered this dharma, not only practised it in their own life but also vigorously propagated it. When Dadhici gave up his life to help the gods against the demons or when Vibhisana gave up his all to join Rama, they were showing that no sacrifice was too great in defense of dharma. When his brahmadanda quietly devoured all the missiles discharged by Vivamitra, Vasistha was actually exhibiting the tremendous power of dharma against adharma.

Starting with a skeletal concept in the Rgveda, dharma has grown into a gigantic structure with numerous branches and sub-branches, in the dharmasastra literature. This was not only necessary but also inevitable in the evolution of a dynamic social structure. While the ‘ãcãra’ part of it took care to concentrate on the development of a strong personal character in the individual, the ‘vyavahara’ part contributed much to social stability, by subordinating the individual’s freedom to social security and welfare. The ‘prayascitta’ part provided the remedial measures for transgressions.

All these were done quietly and unostentatiously by the authors of the dharmasastras who lived a life of austerity, but acquired and spread knowledge profusely. It goes to their credit that, even against many odds (including great risks to their own lives) they laboured hard and succeeded in keeping the Hindu society intact, preventing it from disintegration and chaos.

Thanks to the so-called ‘modern’ education (which is actually antiquated and obsolete from the standpoint of dharma, the eternal value of life) many in our country are totally ignorant of the great contribution of these pioneers and propagators of dharma in all its aspects. Nor do they have even an elementary idea of the necessity of, or, the importance of dharma in one’s life. This has resulted in the completely wrong notion that dharma has no place in a Secular State though it is the denominational or dogmatic religions that should be kept out of the general socio-political set-up!

Again, there is no need to rail against any of the books of the dharmasastras or vent one’s anger against them in public, since none of their authors has claimed absolute or eternal or universal jurisdiction for their rules! They have openly admitted that a society is always free to accept, to amend or even totally reject their views. When a civilised society prepares and promulgates a new constitution for itself, it does not tear off or burn the old constitution! It may perhaps keep it as a negative reference book so that the old mistakes are not repeated!

This booklet on the dharmasastras is aimed at giving a panoramic view of the concept and development of dharma as applied to individual and social life over the centuries. If it can be looked upon as a useful addition to our continuing education in Hinduism, the writer will feel rewarded.

Contents

Preface 3
Key to Transliteration and Pronunciation 11
Introduction 13
Sources of Dharma 14
Growth of the Dharmasastras 15
Topics of the Dharmasastras 19
Acara 19
Vyavahara 22
Prayascitta 24
The Philosophy of the Dharmasastras 26
Some Important Dharmasastra Works 28
Dharmasutras 28
Apastamba Dharmasutras 28
Ausanasa Dharmasutras 29
Baudhayana Dharmasutras 31
Gautama Dharmasutras 31
Harita Dharmasutras 32
Hiranyakesi Dharmasutras 33
Vaikhanasa Dharmasutras 34
Vasistha Dharmasutras 34
Visnu Dharmasutras 35
Smrti 36
Angirasa Smrti 36
Atri Smrti 37
Brhaspati Smrti 38
Brhat-Parasara Smrti 39
Daksa Smrti 40
Devala Smrti 40
Gobhila Smrti 41
Katyayana Smrti 41
Manu Smrti 42
Narada Smrti 43
Parasara Smrti 44
Samvarta Smrti 45
Vyasa Smrti 46
Yajnavalkya Smrti 47
Yama Smrti 48
Nibandhas 49
Caturvargacintamani 49
Kalpataru 50
Nirnayasindhu50
Smrticandrika 51
Smrtikaustubha 52
Smrtiratnakara 52
Smrtitattva 53
Viramitrodaya 54
Other Sources 55
Epilogue 59

The Dharmasastras (A Brief Study)

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Preface

If religion helps a man to rise from the human level to the divine level, dharma (righteousness, a universal value- system) elevates him from the brute level to the human level. It helps him to live a socially useful life and, consequently, achieve happiness and peace in his personal life too.

Realising this, our rsis of yore who discovered this dharma, not only practised it in their own life but also vigorously propagated it. When Dadhici gave up his life to help the gods against the demons or when Vibhisana gave up his all to join Rama, they were showing that no sacrifice was too great in defense of dharma. When his brahmadanda quietly devoured all the missiles discharged by Vivamitra, Vasistha was actually exhibiting the tremendous power of dharma against adharma.

Starting with a skeletal concept in the Rgveda, dharma has grown into a gigantic structure with numerous branches and sub-branches, in the dharmasastra literature. This was not only necessary but also inevitable in the evolution of a dynamic social structure. While the ‘ãcãra’ part of it took care to concentrate on the development of a strong personal character in the individual, the ‘vyavahara’ part contributed much to social stability, by subordinating the individual’s freedom to social security and welfare. The ‘prayascitta’ part provided the remedial measures for transgressions.

All these were done quietly and unostentatiously by the authors of the dharmasastras who lived a life of austerity, but acquired and spread knowledge profusely. It goes to their credit that, even against many odds (including great risks to their own lives) they laboured hard and succeeded in keeping the Hindu society intact, preventing it from disintegration and chaos.

Thanks to the so-called ‘modern’ education (which is actually antiquated and obsolete from the standpoint of dharma, the eternal value of life) many in our country are totally ignorant of the great contribution of these pioneers and propagators of dharma in all its aspects. Nor do they have even an elementary idea of the necessity of, or, the importance of dharma in one’s life. This has resulted in the completely wrong notion that dharma has no place in a Secular State though it is the denominational or dogmatic religions that should be kept out of the general socio-political set-up!

Again, there is no need to rail against any of the books of the dharmasastras or vent one’s anger against them in public, since none of their authors has claimed absolute or eternal or universal jurisdiction for their rules! They have openly admitted that a society is always free to accept, to amend or even totally reject their views. When a civilised society prepares and promulgates a new constitution for itself, it does not tear off or burn the old constitution! It may perhaps keep it as a negative reference book so that the old mistakes are not repeated!

This booklet on the dharmasastras is aimed at giving a panoramic view of the concept and development of dharma as applied to individual and social life over the centuries. If it can be looked upon as a useful addition to our continuing education in Hinduism, the writer will feel rewarded.

Contents

Preface 3
Key to Transliteration and Pronunciation 11
Introduction 13
Sources of Dharma 14
Growth of the Dharmasastras 15
Topics of the Dharmasastras 19
Acara 19
Vyavahara 22
Prayascitta 24
The Philosophy of the Dharmasastras 26
Some Important Dharmasastra Works 28
Dharmasutras 28
Apastamba Dharmasutras 28
Ausanasa Dharmasutras 29
Baudhayana Dharmasutras 31
Gautama Dharmasutras 31
Harita Dharmasutras 32
Hiranyakesi Dharmasutras 33
Vaikhanasa Dharmasutras 34
Vasistha Dharmasutras 34
Visnu Dharmasutras 35
Smrti 36
Angirasa Smrti 36
Atri Smrti 37
Brhaspati Smrti 38
Brhat-Parasara Smrti 39
Daksa Smrti 40
Devala Smrti 40
Gobhila Smrti 41
Katyayana Smrti 41
Manu Smrti 42
Narada Smrti 43
Parasara Smrti 44
Samvarta Smrti 45
Vyasa Smrti 46
Yajnavalkya Smrti 47
Yama Smrti 48
Nibandhas 49
Caturvargacintamani 49
Kalpataru 50
Nirnayasindhu50
Smrticandrika 51
Smrtikaustubha 52
Smrtiratnakara 52
Smrtitattva 53
Viramitrodaya 54
Other Sources 55
Epilogue 59
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