Saturday, January 06, 2018

Jesus and Manu on Women

See the source image
But Jesus didn't just sit there.
In our last post, we looked at an overview of an important Hindu text, The Law of Manu.  This work describes and justifies a social order constituted around four main castes: Brahmin (religious elite), Kashatriya (warriors and rulers), Vaishya (farmers, traders, artisans), and Sudra (servants).  Others are also described who lose caste, are evicted from the system for their "wrong-doings," or seem for some other reason to lie entirely outside of it.  Manu describes the lifestyle each caste, especially the Brahmins and kings belonging to the Kashatriya, should follow, the vastly differing spiritual value of each caste (coming, as they do, from different parts of Brahma's body), and how those who sin against detailed and often seemingly arbitrary caste regulations can regain their status and seek heaven.  We also quoted from a chapter on how kings should rule, fight and win battles, and so forth.

All this was a bit of an aside to our main subject, how Jesus has liberated women.  But I think it was helpful to get an overview of the ancient Hindu view of  society (which has by no means entirely passed away, as a former Brahmin pointed out in response to my last post). 

Now let's see how the Law of Manu treats women. 

Unlike my last post, in this case I will attempt to be fairly exhaustive.  (Though I may overlook things, in this or in other such posts.)  I will try to include every major and most minor texts in the Law of Manu having to do with the status, value, and position of women. 

For the most part, I will therefore try to let the text speak for itself, adding points of summary and relating the words of Manu to the teachings and influence of Christ, where appropriate.  I will begin by quoting important passages from each of the twelve chapters, then add a summary and conclusions.

Chapter One

The Creation story with which the Law of Manu begins resembles the Gnostic creation story somewhat, but with the role of the cosmic female subsumed seemingly into that of the male:

8. He, desiring to produce beings of many kinds from his own body, first with a thought created the waters, and placed his seed in them.

9. That (seed) became a golden egg, in brilliancy equal to the sun; in that (egg) he himself was born as Brahman, the progenitor of the whole world.

Here we have a kind of cosmic in vitro fertilization, with the divine female an ultimate product, not part of the Creation.  I personally don't put much stock in the importance of such details: the Gnostics talked a lot about Sophia, but weren't very good feminists, either.  And later Hindus worshipped Kali, who however failed to save girls from being burnt on funeral pyres. 

Chapter Two

The second chapter is mostly about how Brahmins should live, but contains some 17 verses that give us a few peaks into the position of women in society:

33. The names of women should be easy to pronounce, not imply anything dreadful, possess a plain meaning, be pleasing and auspicious, end in long vowels, and contain a word of benediction.

49. An initiated Brahmana should beg, beginning (his request with the word) lady (bhavati); a Kshatriya, placing (the word) lady in the middle, but a Vaisya, placing it at the end (of the formula).

50. Let him first beg food of his mother, or of his sister, or of his own maternal aunt, or of (some other) female who will not disgrace him (by a refusal).

So women are assumed to control the kitchen when (male) beggars come to call.

66. This whole series (of ceremonies) must be performed for females (also), in order to sanctify the body, at the proper time and in the proper order, but without (the recitation of) sacred texts.

67. The nuptial ceremony is stated to be the Vedic sacrament for women (and to be equal to the initiation), serving the husband (equivalent to) the residence in (the house of the) teacher, and the household duties (the same) as the (daily) worship of the sacred fire.

128. He who has been initiated (to perform a Srauta sacrifice) must not be addressed by his name, even though he be a younger man; he who knows the sacred law must use in speaking to such (a man the particle) bhoh and (the pronoun) bhavat (your worship).

129. But to a female who is the wife of another man, and not a blood-relation, he must say, 'Lady' (bhavati) or 'Beloved sister!'

138. Way must be made for a man in a carriage, for one who is above ninety years old, for one diseased, for the carrier of a burden, for a woman, for a Snataka, for the king, and for a bridegroom.

210. The wives of the teacher, who belong to the same caste, must be treated as respectfully as the teacher; but those who belong to a different caste, must be honoured by rising and salutation.

211. Let him not perform for a wife of his teacher (the offices of) anointing her, assisting her in the bath, shampooing her limbs, or arranging her hair.

212. (A pupil) who is full twenty years old, and knows what is becoming and unbecoming, shall not salute a young wife of his teacher (by clasping) her feet.

213. It is the nature of women to seduce men in this (world); for that reason the wise are never unguarded in (the company of) females.

214. For women are able to lead astray in (this) world not only a fool, but even a learned man, and (to make) him a slave of desire and anger.

215. One should not sit in a lonely place with one's mother, sister, or daughter; for the senses are powerful, and master even a learned man.

216. But at his pleasure a young student may prostrate himself on the ground before the young wife of a teacher, in accordance with the rule, and say, 'I, N. N., (worship thee, O lady).'

217. On returning from a journey he must clasp the feet of his teacher's wife and daily salute her (in the manner just mentioned), remembering the duty of the virtuous.

233. By honouring his mother he gains this (nether) world, by honouring his father the middle sphere, but by obedience to his teacher the world of Brahman.

In general, women seem here to be given some authority and respect in society.  One should honor the wife of one's teacher, and respect a woman's authority over the kitchen, anyway.  A few "safeguards" seem to be built into the system, though some -- don't shampoo the legs of your teacher's wife? -- seem either superfluous, or to assume a background level of surprising kinkiness. 

One should even honor married women in general by rising to greet them.

But there are also a few serious signs of misogyny here.  "It is the nature of women to seduce (and enslave) men," not the other way around.  The Pence Rule is in effect, strangely, not so much with strangers, but even with a sister or a mother!
A bit more ominous is verse 65:

67. The nuptial ceremony is stated to be the Vedic sacrament for women (and to be equal to the initiation), serving the husband (equivalent to) the residence in (the house of the) teacher, and the household duties (the same) as the (daily) worship of the sacred fire.

Here one's husband is equated with one's guru.  Women don't read the Vedas or perform the chief sacrifices, but how fortunate, they have a personal guru on call at home - hubby.  And as we saw in the previous post, one's guru is most sacrosanct and holy and must never be criticized -- even when he is an utter scallywag. 

As we shall see, The Law of Manu makes the implications explicit later.

Chapter Three

Here the initial question is, "Who should one marry?"  Twelve verses set out some of the guidelines for different castes:

8. Let him not marry a maiden (with) reddish (hair), nor one who has a redundant member, nor one who is sickly, nor one either with no hair (on the body) or too much, nor one who is garrulous or has red (eyes),

9. Nor one named after a constellation, a tree, or a river, nor one bearing the name of a low caste, or of a mountain, nor one named after a bird, a snake, or a slave, nor one whose name inspires terror.

10. Let him wed a female free from bodily defects, who has an agreeable name, the (graceful) gait of a Hamsa or of an elephant, a moderate (quantity of) hair on the body and on the head, small teeth, and soft limbs.

11. But a prudent man should not marry (a maiden) who has no brother, nor one whose father is not known, through fear lest (in the former case she be made) an appointed daughter (and in the latter) lest (he should commit) sin.

12. For the first marriage of twice-born men (wives) of equal caste are recommended; but for those who through desire proceed (to marry again) the following females, (chosen) according to the (direct) order (of the castes), are most approved.

13. It is declared that a Sudra woman alone (can be) the wife of a Sudra, she and one of his own caste (the wives) of a Vaisya, those two and one of his own caste (the wives) of a Kshatriya, those three and one of his own caste (the wives) of a Brahmana.

14. A Sudra woman is not mentioned even in any (ancient) story as the (first) wife of a Brahmana or of a Kshatriya, though they lived in the (greatest) distress.

15. Twice-born men who, in their folly, wed wives of the low (Sudra) caste, soon degrade their families and their children to the state of Sudras.

16. According to Atri and to (Gautama) the son of Utathya, he who weds a Sudra woman becomes an outcast, according to Saunaka on the birth of a son, and according to Bhrigu he who has (male) offspring from a (Sudra female, alone).

17. A Brahmana who takes a Sudra wife to his bed, will (after death) sink into hell; if he begets a child by her, he will lose the rank of a Brahmana.

18. The manes and the gods will not eat the (offerings) of that man who performs the rites in honour of the gods, of the manes, and of guests chiefly with a (Sudra wife's) assistance, and such (a man) will not go to heaven.

19. For him who drinks the moisture of a Sudra's lips, who is tainted by her breath, and who begets a son on her, no expiation is prescribed.

So keep away from talkative women and redheads.  (Were they common in India?  Or was this a sign of malnutrition?)  Marry a perfect Brahmin girl who doesn't need to shave her legs too much or too little, especially for number one.

Later, you might marry a woman of slightly lower caste, but you'll go to (a) hell and lose caste if you marry a Sudra.

This may tell us more about such issues as caste than it does about gender, but what is assumed here is also worth drawing out: (a) That a good man will want to get married, which is the normal condition of men and women in society; (b) that a good man may well wish to marry multiple wives.

31. When (the bridegroom) receives a maiden, after having given as much wealth as he can afford, to the kinsmen and to the bride herself, according to his own will, that is called the Asura rite.

32. The voluntary union of a maiden and her lover one must know (to be) the Gandharva rite, which springs from desire and has sexual intercourse for its purpose.

33. The forcible abduction of a maiden from her home, while she cries out and weeps, after (her kinsmen) have been slain or wounded and (their houses) broken open, is called the Rakshasa rite.

34. When (a man) by stealth seduces a girl who is sleeping, intoxicated, or disordered in intellect, that is the eighth, the most base and sinful rite of the Pisakas.

35. The gift of daughters among Brahmanas is most approved, (if it is preceded) by (a libation of) water; but in the case of other castes (it may be performed) by (the expression of) mutual consent.

Here we here some definitions of different forms of mating, from young love to murder and rape.  "The gift of daughters" seems to assume that the most normal wedding is one arranged by parents, probably by fathers. 

55. Women must be honored and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and brothers-in-law, who desire (their own) welfare.

56. Where women are honored, there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honored, no sacred rite yields rewards.

57. Where the female relations live in grief, the family soon wholly perishes; but that family where they are not unhappy ever prospers.

58. The houses on which female relations, not being duly honoured, pronounce a curse, perish completely, as if destroyed by magic.

59. Hence men who seek (their own) welfare, should always honour women on holidays and festivals with (gifts of) ornaments, clothes, and (dainty) food.

60. In that family, where the husband is pleased with his wife and the wife with her husband, happiness will assuredly be lasting.

61. For if the wife is not radiant with beauty, she will not attract her husband; but if she has no attractions for him, no children will be born.

62. If the wife is radiant with beauty, the whole house is bright; but if she is destitute of beauty, all will appear dismal.

63. By low marriages, by omitting (the performance of) sacred rites, by neglecting the study of the Veda, and by irreverence towards Brahmanas, (great) families sink low.

This passage is probably the most positive towards women in the Law of Manu.  Men should honor women: daughters, sisters, wives, and sisters-in-law.  Treat them right, they'll be happy and treat you right, and make you happy, and also make some little bambinos. 

If guests from the lower castes visit a Brahmin, he may generously let them eat with the servants.  In addition:

114. Without hesitation he may give food, even before his guests, to the following persons, (viz.) to newly-married women, to infants, to the sick, and to pregnant women.

But if you throw crumbs to a Sudras after a Sraddha meal, a feast in honor of one's ancestors, or sleep with the wrong woman that day, you and your ancestors are in big trouble:

249. The foolish man who, after having eaten a Sraddha (-dinner), gives the leavings to a Sudra, falls headlong into the Kalasutra hell.

250. If the partaker of a Sraddha (-dinner) enters on the same day the bed of a Sudra female, the manes of his (ancestors) will lie during that month in her (shit).

Again, this seems more a caste than a gender issue, however. 

Chapter Four

A Brahmana:

40. Let him, though mad with desire, not approach his wife when her courses appear; nor let him sleep with her in the same bed.

41. For the wisdom, the energy, the strength, the sight, and the vitality of a man who approaches a woman covered with menstrual excretions, utterly perish.

42. If he avoids her, while she is in that condition, his wisdom, energy, strength, sight, and vitality will increase.

43. Let him not eat in the company of his wife, nor look at her, while she eats, sneezes, yawns, or sits at her ease.

So forget about date-nights!  This seems to have the general effect of keeping the sexes in isolation. 

180. With his father and his mother, with female relatives, with a brother, with his son and his wife, with his daughter and with his slaves, let him not have quarrels.

Later a long list is given of those with whom one must not eat, including:

213. Nor (food) given without due respect, nor (that which contains) meat eaten for no sacred purpose, nor (that given) by a female who has no male (relatives), nor the food of an enemy, nor that (given) by the lord of a town, nor that (given) by outcasts, nor that on which anybody has sneezed . . .

Jesus' Feeding of the Five Thousand (or 4000) would have messed with pretty much all the rules given in this section.  Brahmins were not allowed to be the life of the party: Jesus was. 

Chapter Five

This chapter begins innocuously enough (as regards women), but ultimately proves a veritable powder keg. 

Among others, libations of water should not be offered:

90. To women who have joined a heretical sect, who through lust live (with many men), who have caused an abortion, have killed their husbands, or drink spirituous liquor.

Fine, fine.  So the ancient Hindus, like the ancient Taoists, seemed to recognize that abortion was wrong. 

Jesus did not offer water to any promiscuous women, so far as we know, aside from "living water" meant to cleanse her.  But he accepted water from that same woman.

The end of the chapter, however, speaks to "the duties of women."  And here most women in ancient India might feel glad that they were illiterate:

146. Thus the rules of personal purification for men of all castes, and those for cleaning (inanimate) things, have been fully declared to you: hear now the duties of women.

147. By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house.

148. In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independent.

149. She must not seek to separate herself from her father, husband, or sons; by leaving them she would make both (her own and her husband's) families contemptible.

150. She must always be cheerful, clever in (the management of her) household affairs, careful in cleaning her utensils, and economical in expenditure.

151. Him to whom her father may give her, or her brother with the father's permission, she shall obey as long as he lives, and when he is dead, she must not insult (his memory).

152. For the sake of procuring good fortune to (brides), the recitation of benedictory texts (svastyayana), and the sacrifice to the Lord of creatures (Pragapati) are used at weddings; (but) the betrothal (by the father or guardian) is the cause of (the husband's) dominion (over his wife).
153. The husband who wedded her with sacred texts, always gives happiness to his wife, both in season and out of season, in this world and in the next.

154. Though destitute of virtue, or seeking pleasure (elsewhere), or devoid of good qualities, (yet) a husband must be constantly worshipped as a god by a faithful wife
155. No sacrifice, no vow, no fast must be performed by women apart (from their husbands); if a wife obeys her husband, she will for that (reason alone) be exalted in heaven.

156. A faithful wife, who desires to dwell (after death) with her husband, must never do anything that might displease him who took her hand, whether he be alive or dead.

157. At her pleasure let her emaciate her body by (living on) pure flowers, roots, and fruit; but she must never even mention the name of another man after her husband has died.

158. Until death let her be patient (of hardships), self-controlled, and chaste, and strive (to fulfil) that most excellent duty which (is prescribed) for wives who have one husband only.
159. Many thousands of Brahmanas who were chaste from their youth, have gone to heaven without continuing their race.

160. A virtuous wife who after the death of her husband constantly remains chaste, reaches heaven, though she have no son, just like those chaste men.

161. But a woman who from a desire to have offspring violates her duty towards her (deceased) husband, brings on herself disgrace in this world, and loses her place with her husband (in heaven).

162. Offspring begotten by another man is here not (considered lawful), nor (does offspring begotten) on another man's wife (belong to the begetter), nor is a second husband anywhere prescribed for virtuous women.

163. She who cohabits with a man of higher caste, forsaking her own husband who belongs to a lower one, will become contemptible in this world, and is called a remarried woman (parapurva).

164. By violating her duty towards her husband, a wife is disgraced in this world, (after death) she enters the womb of a jackal, and is tormented by diseases (the punishment of) her sin.

165. She who, controlling her thoughts, words, and deeds, never slights her lord, resides (after death) with her husband (in heaven), and is called a virtuous (wife).

166. In reward of such conduct, a female who controls her thoughts, speech, and actions, gains in this (life) highest renown, and in the next (world) a place near her husband.

167. A twice-born man, versed in the sacred law, shall burn a wife of equal caste who conducts herself thus and dies before him, with (the sacred fires used for) the Agnihotra, and with the sacrificial implements.

168. Having thus, at the funeral, given the sacred fires to his wife who dies before him, he may marry again, and again kindle (the fires).

169. (Living) according to the (preceding) rules, he must never neglect the five (great) sacrifices, and, having taken a wife, he must dwell in (his own) house during the second period of his life.

On the cheery side, a husband should always give his wife "happiness." 

But as for a woman's obligations and role:

(a) From youth to old age, she should never be independent. She should be "subject" not to her mother, but to father, husband, and sons.

(b) She should manage the house with good cheer, cleaning and buying stuff cheap on E-Bay.

(c) She shall always "obey" the husband to whom her father "gives" her, even after he's dead.

(d) In fact, the wife should "worship" her husband, even if he's a complete slime, chasing other girls and without a redeeming trait.

(e) Obedience to your husband is how a woman gets to heaven, if she does.

(f) She should starve rather than remarry after he dies.  (Never mind divorce.)

(g) If she remarries, her children will be bastards.

(h) Plus she'll become an extremely sick puppy (jackal) in her next life.

(I) So suck it up, ladies.  If when you are twelve, Dad marries you to, say, Osama bin Laden when he is 55, obey him in everything, then starve yourself rather than remarry after he dies, or at least obey your son, and you'll wind up in heaven.

(j) But men can remarry if they like (168). 

Chapter Six

I found nothing about women in this chapter. 

Chapter Seven

The following chapter is about kings, not queens, and doesn't say much about women:

96. Chariots and horses, elephants, parasols, money, grain, cattle, women, all sorts of (marketable) goods and valueless metals belong to him who takes them (singly) conquering (the possessor).

Nice to be listed alongside umbrellas and sacks of rice as the spoils of war.

149. At the time of consultation let him cause to be removed idiots, the dumb, the blind, and the deaf, animals, very aged men, women, barbarians, the sick, and those deficient in limbs.

150. (Such) despicable (persons), likewise animals, and particularly women betray secret council; for that reason he must be careful with respect to them.

Women are the worst for telling secrets, even worse than foreigners and blind men, all of whom are (it seems) despicable.  Are we happy yet?  Or maybe now:

213. For times of need let him preserve his wealth; at the expense of his wealth let him preserve his wife; let him at all events preserve himself even by (giving up) his wife and his wealth.

So maybe women ARE more valuable than sacks of rice -- unless that rice helps the king keep his paramount self alive and kicking. 

The following verses point out that after the king has finished business, he should get some exercise, take a bath, and then may eat with the harem.

218. Let him mix all his food with medicines (that are) antidotes against poison, and let him always be careful to wear gems which destroy poison.

219. Well-tried females whose toilet and ornaments have been examined, shall attentively serve him with fans, water, and perfumes . . .

221. When he has dined, he may divert himself with his wives in the harem; but when he has diverted himself, he must, in due time, again think of the affairs of state.

No advice is given to queens. 

Chapter Eight

Some care is taken for widows in this chapter, fortunately.  And it is assumed that they may own property:

28. In like manner care must be taken of barren women, of those who have no sons, of those whose family is extinct, of wives and widows faithful to their lords, and of women afflicted with diseases.

29. A righteous king must punish like thieves those relatives who appropriate the property of such females during their lifetime.

However, one may lie to a woman to get her to sleep with you, or at least it's a relatively petty crime:

112. No crime, causing loss of caste, is committed by swearing (falsely) to women, the objects of one's desire, at marriages, for the sake of fodder for a cow, or of fuel, and in (order to show) favour to a Brahmana.

The king should, however, fine fathers (etc) who hawk defective daughters off on false pretenses:

224. But the king himself shall impose a fine of ninety-six panas on him who gives a blemished damsel (to a suitor) without informing (him of the blemish).

225. But that man who, out of malice, says of a maiden, 'She is not a maiden,' shall be fined one hundred (panas), if he cannot prove her blemish.

226. The nuptial texts are applied solely to virgins, (and) nowhere among men to females who have lost their virginity, for such (females) are excluded from religious ceremonies.

227. The nuptial texts are a certain proof (that a maiden has been made a lawful) wife; but the learned should know that they (and the marriage ceremony are complete with the seventh step (of the bride around the sacred fire).

I don't think Jesus would have much fancied excluding "fallen women" from religious ritual, since he often seemed to include them -- along with the ritual of sincere repentance that the prophets called for.

349. In their own defence, in a strife for the fees of officiating priests, and in order to protect women and Brahmanas; he who (under such circumstances) kills in the cause of right, commits no sin.

So in self-defense, and defense of priests and women, violence is permitted. 

Rape should also be punished, along with mixing of castes, according to the longest series of rules about sexual misbehavior in the text:

352. Men who commit adultery with the wives of others, the king shall cause to be marked by punishments which cause terror, and afterwards banish.

353. For by (adultery) is caused a mixture of the castes (varna) among men; thence (follows) sin, which cuts up even the roots and causes the destruction of everything.

354. A man formerly accused of (such) offences, who secretly converses with another man's wife, shall pay the first (or lowest) amercement.

355. But a man, not before accused, who (thus) speaks with (a woman) for some (reasonable) cause, shall not incur any guilt, since in him there is no transgression.

356. He who addresses the wife of another man at a Tirtha, outside the village, in a forest, or at the confluence of rivers, suffer (the punishment for) adulterous acts (samgrahana).

357. Offering presents (to a woman), romping (with her), touching her ornaments and dress, sitting with her on a bed, all (these acts) are considered adulterous acts (samgrahana).

358. If one touches a woman in a place (which ought) not (to be touched) or allows (oneself to be touched in such a spot), all (such acts done) with mutual consent are declared (to be) adulterous (samgrahana).

359. A man who is not a Brahmana ought to suffer death for adultery (samgrahana); for the wives of all the four castes even must always be carefully guarded.

360. Mendicants, bards, men who have performed the initiatory ceremony of a Vedic sacrifice, and artisans are not prohibited from speaking to married women.

361. Let no man converse with the wives of others after he has been forbidden (to do so); but he who converses (with them), in spite of a prohibition, shall be fined one suvarna.
362. This rule does not apply to the wives of actors and singers, nor (of) those who live on (the intrigues of) their own (wives); for such men send their wives (to others) or, concealing themselves, allow them to hold criminal intercourse.

363. Yet he who secretly converses with such women, or with female slaves kept by one (master), and with female ascetics, shall be compelled to pay a small fine.

364. He who violates an unwilling maiden shall instantly suffer corporal punishment; but a man who enjoys a willing maiden shall not suffer corporal punishment, if (his caste be) the same (as hers).

365. From a maiden who makes advances to a (man of) high (caste), he shall not take any fine; but her, who courts a (man of) low (caste), let him force to live confined in her house.

366. A (man of) low (caste) who makes love to a maiden (of) the highest (caste) shall suffer corporal punishment; he who addresses a maiden (on) equal (caste) shall pay the nuptial fee, if her father desires it.

367. But if any man through insolence forcibly contaminates a maiden, two of his fingers shall be instantly cut off, and he shall pay a fine of six hundred (panas).

368. A man (of) equal (caste) who defiles a willing maiden shall not suffer the amputation of his fingers, but shall pay a fine of two hundred (panas) in order to deter him from a repetition (of the offence).

369. A damsel who pollutes (another) damsel must be fined two hundred (panas), pay the double of her (nuptial) fee, and receive ten (lashes with a) rod.

370. But a woman who pollutes a damsel shall instantly have (her head) shaved or two fingers cut off, and be made to ride (through the town) on a donkey.

371. If a wife, proud of the greatness of her relatives or (her own) excellence, violates the duty which she owes to her lord, the king shall cause her to be devoured by dogs in a place frequented by many.

372. Let him cause the male offender to be burnt on a red-hot iron bed; they shall put logs under it, (until) the sinner is burned (to death).

373. On a man (once) convicted, who is (again) accused within a year, a double fine (must be inflicted); even thus (must the fine be doubled) for (repeated) intercourse with a Vratya and a Kandali.

374. A Sudra who has intercourse with a woman of a twice-born caste (varna), guarded or unguarded, (shall be punished in the following manner): if she was unguarded, he loses the part (offending) and all his property; if she was guarded, everything (even his life).

375. (For intercourse with a guarded Brahmana a Vaisya shall forfeit all his property after imprisonment for a year; a Kshatriya shall be fined one thousand (panas) and be shaved with the urine (of an ass).

376. If a Vaisya or a Kshatriya has connexion with an unguarded Brahmana, let him fine the Vaisya five hundred (panas) and the Kshatriya one thousand.

377. But even these two, if they offend with a Brahmani (not only) guarded (but the wife of an eminent man), shall be punished like a Sudra or be burnt in a fire of dry grass.

378. A Brahmana who carnally knows a guarded Brahmani against her will, shall be fined one thousand (panas); but he shall be made to pay five hundred, if he had connexion with a willing one.

To summarize:

(a) Don't even flirt with other men's wives.  Keep away.

(b) If you commit adultery with a woman, you should die, unless your Brahmin.

(c) Some men are allowed to talk with married women.

(d) Others will be fined .

(e) Whether or not you get limbs chopped off after making love depends on (1) whether she was willing and (2) which caste you belong to.

(f) Lesbians are also subject to fines, or maybe have a couple fingers cut off and be made to sit on her ass in public.

(g) An adulteress may also be eaten by dogs, with her partner burnt to death.

(h) Sudras who tango with upper-caste women is castrated and impoverished, or killed, depending on whether or not she was alone.  Men of other castes are fined, shaved with donkey piss, put in prison, and / or loses his property.  But if the husband is important, Romeo gets burnt "like a Sudra" in the hay in which he was presumably romping.

416. A wife, a son, and a slave, these three are declared to have no property; the wealth which they earn is (acquired) for him to whom they belong.

417. A Brahmana may confidently seize the goods of (his) Sudra (slave); for, as that (slave) can have no property, his master may take his possessions.

Other passages seem to assume that a woman may have property.  If we wish to reconcile these positions, it may be that a woman's property was assumed to belong to her husband while he still lived, but reverted to her after her death, to allow her something to live on. 

Chapter Nine

Manu begins this chapter with a 33-verse rant setting women firmly in their place:

1. I will now propound the eternal laws for a husband and his wife who keep to the path of duty, whether they be united or separated.
2. Day and night woman must be kept in dependence by the males (of) their (families), and, if they attach themselves to sensual enjoyments, they must be kept under one's control.
3. Her father protects (her) in childhood, her husband protects (her) in youth, and her sons protect (her) in old age; a woman is never fit for independence.
4. Reprehensible is the father who gives not (his daughter in marriage) at the proper time; reprehensible is the husband who approaches not (his wife in due season), and reprehensible is the son who does not protect his mother after her husband has died.
5. Women must particularly be guarded against evil inclinations, however trifling (they may appear); for, if they are not guarded, they will bring sorrow on two families.
6. Considering that the highest duty of all castes, even weak husbands (must) strive to guard their wives.
7. He who carefully guards his wife, preserves (the purity of) his offspring, virtuous conduct, his family, himself, and his (means of acquiring) merit.
8. The husband, after conception by his wife, becomes an embryo and is born again of her; for that is the wifehood of a wife (gaya), that he is born (gayate) again by her.
9. As the male is to whom a wife cleaves, even so is the son whom she brings forth; let him therefore carefully guard his wife, in order to keep his offspring pure.
10. No man can completely guard women by force; but they can be guarded by the employment of the (following) expedients:
11. Let the (husband) employ his (wife) in the collection and expenditure of his wealth, in keeping (everything) clean, in (the fulfilment of) religious duties, in the preparation of his food, and in looking after the household utensils.
12. Women, confined in the house under trustworthy and obedient servants, are not (well) guarded; but those who of their own accord keep guard over themselves, are well guarded.
13. Drinking (spirituous liquor), associating with wicked people, separation from the husband, rambling abroad, sleeping (at unseasonable hours), and dwelling in other men's houses, are the six causes of the ruin of women.
14. Women do not care for beauty, nor is their attention fixed on age; (thinking), '(It is enough that) he is a man,' they give themselves to the handsome and to the ugly.
15. Through their passion for men, through their mutable temper, through their natural heartlessness, they become disloyal towards their husbands, however carefully they may be guarded in this (world).
16. Knowing their disposition, which the Lord of creatures laid in them at the creation, to be such, (every) man should most strenuously exert himself to guard them.
17. (When creating them) Manu allotted to women (a love of their) bed, (of their) seat and (of) ornament, impure desires, wrath, dishonesty, malice, and bad conduct.
18. For women no (sacramental) rite (is performed) with sacred texts, thus the law is settled; women (who are) destitute of strength and destitute of (the knowledge of) Vedic texts, (are as impure as) falsehood (itself), that is a fixed rule.
19. And to this effect many sacred texts are sung also in the Vedas, in order to (make) fully known the true disposition (of women); hear (now those texts which refer to) the expiation of their (sins).
20. 'If my mother, going astray and unfaithful, conceived illicit desires, may my father keep that seed from me,' that is the scriptural text.
21. If a woman thinks in her heart of anything that would pain her husband, the (above-mentioned text) is declared (to be a means for) completely removing such infidelity.
22. Whatever be the qualities of the man with whom a woman is united according to the law, such qualities even she assumes, like a river (united) with the ocean.
23. Akshamala, a woman of the lowest birth, being united to Vasishtha and Sarangi, (being united) to Mandapala, became worthy of honour.
24. These and other females of low birth have attained eminence in this world by the respective good qualities of their husbands.
25. Thus has been declared the ever pure popular usage (which regulates the relations) between husband and wife; hear (next) the laws concerning children which are the cause of happiness in this world and after death.
26. Between wives (striyah) who (are destined) to bear children, who secure many blessings, who are worthy of worship and irradiate (their) dwellings, and between the goddesses of fortune (sriyah, who reside) in the houses (of men), there is no difference whatsoever.
27. The production of children, the nurture of those born, and the daily life of men, (of these matters) woman is visibly the cause.
28. Offspring, (the due performance on religious rites, faithful service, highest conjugal happiness and heavenly bliss for the ancestors and oneself, depend on one's wife alone.
29. She who, controlling her thoughts, speech, and acts, violates not her duty towards her lord, dwells with him (after death) in heaven, and in this world is called by the virtuous a faithful (wife, sadhvi)
30. But for disloyalty to her husband a wife is censured among men, and (in her next life) she is born in the womb of a jackal and tormented by diseases, the punishment of her sin.
31. Listen (now) to the following holy discussion, salutary to all men, which the virtuous (of the present day) and the ancient great sages have held concerning male offspring.
32. They (all) say that the male issue (of a woman) belongs to the lord, but with respect to the (meaning of the term) lord the revealed texts differ; some call the begetter (of the child the lord), others declare (that it is) the owner of the soil.
33. By the sacred tradition the woman is declared to be the soil, the man is declared to be the seed; the production of all corporeal beings (takes place) through the union of the soil with the seed.
Again to summarize:

(a) Women should be always dependent on men and under their control.  This is part of the "eternal law" for marriage. 

(b) This is because women are "never fit for independence." 

(c) Women need to be guarded because of their "evil inclinations." 

(d) By implication, this clearly refers to the danger that they will commit adultery with other men, and you will be stuck raising someone else's child. 

(e) Keep your wife busy, since idle hands are the devil's workshop.  She can do some banking and even investing, cook the food, take care of the house. 

(f) Booze, bad hours, and rambling around and staying in other homes are what cause a wife to go astray -- so watch it. 

(g) Women are heartless creatures unable to control themselves by nature, full of hatred dishonesty and impurity, and in love with dressing up.  Men are never described in such sweeping ways.

(h) Women also become like their husbands. 

(i) But we depend on these creatures for kids, happiness at home, and even the happiness of our ancestors. 

(j) A wife virtuous in words, thoughts, and actions, may get to go to heaven with her husband: the other kind can look forward to a nasty rebirth. 

(k) Women are the field and men the seed; the latter is more important. 

(l) As in every text we have read so far, the birth of a son is assumed to be a great blessing: the birth of a daughter is ignored. 

These verses do make a kind of sense that a farmer would understand.  If you want to grow a particular crop, you have to be careful what sort of seed is sown.  A little later the text explains that if you sleep with another man's wife, that man will own the child that comes of the union.

50. If (one man's) bull were to beget a hundred calves on another man's cows, they would belong to the owner of the cows; in vain would the bull have spent his strength.
51. Thus men who have no marital property in women, but sow their seed in the soil of others, benefit the owner of the woman; but the giver of the seed reaps no advantage.
The author appeals to earlier texts to defend his rule that widows should not remarry:

65. In the sacred texts which refer to marriage the appointment (of widows) is nowhere mentioned, nor is the re-marriage of widows prescribed in the rules concerning marriage.
66. This practice which is reprehended by the learned of the twice-born castes as fit for cattle is said (to have occurred) even among men, while Vena ruled.
67. That chief of royal sages who formerly possessed the whole world, caused a confusion of the castes (varna), his intellect being destroyed by lust.
68. Since that (time) the virtuous censure that (man) who in his folly appoints a woman, whose husband died, to (bear) children (to another man).
69. If the (future) husband of a maiden dies after troth verbally plighted, her brother-in-law shall wed her according to the following rule.
If there's something wrong with your wife, send her back within a year:
72. Though (a man) may have accepted a damsel in due form, he may abandon (her if she be) blemished, diseased, or deflowered, and (if she have been) given with fraud.
73. If anybody gives away a maiden possessing blemishes without declaring them, (the bridegroom) may annul that (contract) with the evil-minded giver.
If the husband is a drunk and the wife complains, she should be punished.  If the wife drinks, she can be punished (again) or replaced.  And she'd better not get mad when she's replaced:
77. For one year let a husband bear with a wife who hates him; but after (the lapse of) a year let him deprive her of her property and cease to cohabit with her.
78. She who shows disrespect to (a husband) who is addicted to (some evil) passion, is a drunkard, or diseased, shall be deserted for three months (and be) deprived of her ornaments and furniture.
79. But she who shows aversion towards a mad or outcast (husband), a eunuch, one destitute of manly strength, or one afflicted with such diseases as punish crimes, shall neither be cast off nor be deprived of her property.
80. She who drinks spirituous liquor, is of bad conduct, rebellious, diseased, mischievous, or wasteful, may at any time be superseded (by another wife).
81. A barren wife may be superseded in the eighth year, she whose children (all) die in the tenth, she who bears only daughters in the eleventh, but she who is quarrelsome without delay.
82. But a sick wife who is kind (to her husband) and virtuous in her conduct, may be superseded (only) with her own consent and must never be disgraced.
83. A wife who, being superseded, in anger departs from (her husband's) house, must either be instantly confined or cast off in the presence of the family.
84. But she who, though having been forbidden, drinks spirituous liquor even at festivals, or goes to public spectacles or assemblies, shall be fined six krishnalas.
A little later in the same chapter the author institutes what might be called the "Roy Moore dating rule" - which is a bit unfair to Moore:
94. A man, aged thirty years, shall marry a maiden of twelve who pleases him, or a man of twenty-four a girl eight years of age; if (the performance of) his duties would (otherwise) be impeded, (he must marry) sooner.
95. The husband receives his wife from the gods, (he does not wed her) according to his own will; doing what is agreeable to the gods, he must always support her (while she is) faithful.
96. To be mothers were women created, and to be fathers men; religious rites, therefore, are ordained in the Veda to be performed (by the husband) together with the wife.
97. If, after the nuptial fee has been paid for a maiden, the giver of the fee dies, she shall be given in marriage to his brother, in case she consents.
101. 'Let mutual fidelity continue until death,' this may be considered as the summary of the highest law for husband and wife.
Sisters do get some inheritance: 
118. But to the maiden (sisters) the brothers shall severally give (portions) out of their shares, each out of his share one-fourth part; those who refuse to give (it), will become outcasts.
127. He who has no son may make his daughter in the following manner an appointed daughter (putrika, saying to her husband), 'The (male) child, born of her, shall perform my funeral rites.'
137. Through a son he conquers the worlds, through a son's son he obtains immortality, but through his son's grandson he gains the world of the sun.
193. Even to the daughters of those (daughters) something should be given, as is seemly, out of the estate of their maternal grandmother, on the score of affection.
194. What (was given) before the (nuptial) fire, what (was given) on the bridal procession, what was given in token of love, and what was received from her brother, mother, or father, that is called the sixfold property of a woman.
195. (Such property), as well as a gift subsequent and what was given (to her) by her affectionate husband, shall go to her offspring, (even) if she dies in the lifetime of her husband.
230. On women, infants, men of disordered mind, the poor and the sick, the king shall inflict punishment with a whip, a cane, or a rope and the like.

Chapter Ten

I didn't notice anything much in this chapter about women. 

Chapter Eleven

9. (If) an opulent man (is) liberal towards strangers, while his family lives in distress, that counterfeit virtue will first make him taste the sweets (of fame, but afterwards) make him swallow the poison (of punishment in hell).

St. Paul says something similar: "he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever."  

59. Carnal intercourse with sisters by the same mother, with (unmarried) maidens, with females of the lowest castes, with the wives of a friend, or of a son, they declare to be equal to the violation of a Guru's bed.

139. For killing adulterous women of the four castes, he must give, in order to purify himself, respectively a leathern bag, a bow, a goat, or a sheep.

171. He who has had sexual intercourse with sisters by the same mother, with the wives of a friend, or of a son, with unmarried maidens, and with females of the lowest castes, shall perform the penance, prescribed for the violation of a Guru's bed.

Chapter Twelve

This chapter describes what incarnations various sins lead to (steal meat? You're a vulture in your next life.  Lettuce?  A peacock.  A woman?  A bear.  Don't ask why.)  It then describes the tortures that will ensue from failing to live one's life properly according to one's caste status. 

What should one do in response?

83. Studying the Veda, (practising) austerities, (the acquisition of true) knowledge, the subjugation of the organs, abstention from doing injury, and serving the Guru are the best means for attaining supreme bliss.

Most of these are not really open to women, so presumably serving her husband well will have to substitute. 

And then the author(s) end on a note reprising pantheistic and meditative themes in the Upanishads

118. Let (every Brahmana), concentrating his mind, fully recognise in the Self all things, both the real and the unreal, for he who recognises the universe in the Self, does not give his heart to unrighteousness.
119. The Self alone is the multitude of the gods, the universe rests on the Self; for the Self produces the connexion of these embodied (spirits) with actions.
123. Some call him Agni (Fire), others Manu, the Lord of creatures, others Indra, others the vital air, and again others eternal Brahman.
124. He pervades all created beings in the five forms, and constantly makes them, by means of birth, growth and decay, revolve like the wheels (of a chariot).
125. He who thus recognises the Self through the Self in all created beings, becomes equal (-minded) towards all, and enters the highest state, Brahman.
126. A twice-born man who recites these Institutes, revealed by Manu, will be always virtuous in conduct, and will reach whatever condition he desires.

Summary & Conclusions

Recently I thought about modern science fiction movies, and how wherever you go in the universe, it seems you always meet aliens who not only speak American English, but think like one or another kind of American.  I often think that science fiction would be improved if its authors would only study the texts of civilizations entirely removed from the West, in which thought patterns are wholly other than our own. 

The Law of Manu might be an interesting place to start.  Nothing could be further removed than our emphasis on equality and diversity, than the mental universe that gave rise to this text. 

I'm not going to claim that all our ideas are better than theirs, and that everything in their world was worse than what we have.  One has to admire the courage and mental strength of the Brahmin who forsakes his house and family to live under the trees, setting his mind on the next world, and forsaking entirely the pleasures of this one.  Perhaps in some ways, he was more of a hero than Alexander the Great or Achilles. 

But it was a terribly unjust, cruel, and arrogant world.  Slavery, torture, and murder seem to be taken for granted.  The poor, the sick, the blind, the weak, those marginalized in every society, are here trodden under foot even more, assumed to be suffering for their own sins, disavowed, disenfranchised, their goods stolen on any pretext. 

Here the patriarchy stands on stage, wholly unmasked. 

Women of all castes are placed at the bottom of society.  They are seen as inherently weak, driven by their emotions, liable to sin, unable to control themselves.  They are thus to be controlled by men, whether fathers, husbands, or sons, all their lives.  First marry them off when they are just 12 (or even 8!) to much older men.  Their goods belong to their husband.  He can be a drunk or a philanderer, and if they complain, they are punished, as they are if they drink or philander themselves! 

Montaigne apparently said that no one is a hero to his own valet.  How many men are heroes to their own wives?  Maybe a few.  Yet The Law of Manu asks women to go way beyond that, and treat their husbands not as heroes, but as gods, even when they were manifest bums. 

Why?  Because outside the family, there could be no life for women.  It was too dangerous for men. 

Jesus, I think it is clear, came to liberate the women of India, who were weighed down with such burdens (along with their own sins, yes). 

Jesus talked with women who were not his wives -- illegally, according to Manu.

He taught them the sacred scriptures -- at risk of hell. 

He healed their diseases. 

He accepted water from them, and offered living water in return -- at risk of his soul. 

Jesus stood against the power elite and rescued a woman about to be punished - properly, according to Manu -- for her sins. 

The Law of Manu carries a certain evolutionary sense.  The critics were right: religion (including atheistic religions) is often a means of social control.  By keeping women under tight control, one may indeed ensure that one's genetic seed is more effectively passed onto the next generation, through the "plowed field" of your obedient and hard-working wife (wives). 

The believers are right, too: social control has its uses, since the family remains the future. 

Reading this text, though, and what it says about women (and kings, and the castes and outcastes whom Jesus met and loved so freely), I have to agree with J. N. Farquhar, who called Jesus (caste criminal though he might seem) the "Crown of Hinduism," and with Vishal Mangalwadi, who called him the "Sanatan Sadguru," the true guide who brings light out of darkness.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Why India Damns but Needs Jesus (The Law of Manu I)

See the source image
How would Nietzsche fare in Manu's world? 
If the Hindu Law of Manu were enforced, Jesus and Santa Claus would go to hell, whereas Brahmin pizza-eaters would merely be cast out of the village.  Of the three, the Law of Manu reveals that India needed Jesus by far the most.

For several years, I have been examining here how the life and teachings of Jesus have liberated women around the world.  We read Jesus' own words, and how he interacted with women he met.  We looked at United Nations data on the status of women in 99 countries containing some 97% of the population.  We studied how Jesus' followers, especially missionaries, raised the status of women in many countries, by teaching, healing, and taking strong, effective stands against various forms of oppression.  We also systematically analyzed Muslim, Hindu, and Egyptian texts (Still working on Greek, Buddhist, and Confucian texts.  See here for an index of arguments to date.)

One of the countries I have focused on has been India.  I have argued that in its original "incarnation," Hinduism is even worse for women than Islam. 

So far, the only texts from India whose treatment of women I have analyzed have been the Rig Veda, a set of hymns that is among India's oldest and most influential extant writings, and the Ramayana, India's favorite epic.  I also wrote a piece this Christmas for The Stream which made mention of the Ramayana and another influential Hindu work, the Law of Manu.

Friedrich Nietzsche thought the Law of Manu was far superior to the Christian Bible, in part because its clear distinction between four castes preserved a social ranking that Nietzsche himself affirmed.

"The superior caste—I call it the fewest—has, as the most perfect, the privileges of the few: it stands for happiness, for beauty, for everything good upon earth. Only the most intellectual of men have any right to beauty, to the beautiful; only in them can goodness escape being weakness. Pulchrum est paucorum hominum [few men are noble]: goodness is a privilege."

If goodness is a privilege, it seems to me Jesus enjoyed that privilege far more than did the authors of the Law of Manu -- or than did Nietzsche, for that matter. 

The Law of Manu is a complex set of rules for life which was probably never a law in the strict sense, but that represents how kings, gurus, merchantmen and commons, also men and women, were expected to live in ancient India.  It is generally dated to about the time of Christ, or perhaps a little later.  (Which means, a few centuries after the great Maurya Empire, established in the wake of Alexander the Great's influential raid-in-force into the subcontinent.)

There are all kinds of complexities a thorough treatment of this text would demand.  No one knows exactly when it was first produced.  There are numerous versions.  And the text contradicts itself on many points, one reason that scholars suppose the present text is the product of many hands.  For our purposes, however, such complexities can be safely set aside.  It is as a representation of Hindu society that we read this book, we need not pin it down to one author or period or assume it is the only point of view in ancient India.

Reading this ancient work, I find a great deal worth quoting and commenting on, more than I can fit into one post.  The book reveals a developed Hindu social order far more clearly than the Rig Veda so many centuries before it, or the Ramayana, which seems however to complement, affirm, and illustrate much of what the Law of Manu has to say about life.

In this post, I'll describe some aspects of the social world that the Law of Manu sets forth in its first seven (of twelve) chapters, and how Jesus' life and teachings liberates a world held captive by such rules.  My method will not be as systematic as in my main argument on Christ and women: to some extent, I'll "cherry-pick" teachings that stand out.  But the text is pretty consistent in regards to caste, so I think the resulting picture will give you a good notion of the sort of society this book describes.

I intend to be more systematic in the next post.  There I'll cite all major passages having to do with women, and try to make sense of the whole.  This is both more important and more difficult, since passages about women are a bit more confusing (of course!) than about caste.

But let us begin, in this post, with a general description of some of the main ideas of The Law of Manu, especially the caste system that it systematically justifies.  We shall touch on the highest caste, the Brahmin, the second caste, in particular the role of the king, the servant or Sudra caste, and also outcastes, and some of the peculiar laws which are said to govern each. 

As with the Bible, the first part of the Law of Manu is focused on beginnings. 

Chapter One: Creation

5. This (universe) existed in the shape of Darkness, unperceived, destitute of distinctive marks, unattainable by reasoning, unknowable, wholly immersed, as it were, in deep sleep.

6. Then the divine Self-existent (Svayambhu, himself) indiscernible, (but) making (all) this, the great elements and the rest, discernible, appeared with irresistible (creative) power, dispelling the darkness.
7. He who can be perceived by the internal organ (alone), who is subtile, indiscernible, and eternal, who contains all created beings and is inconceivable, shone forth of his own (will).
8. He, desiring to produce beings of many kinds from his own body, first with a thought created the waters, and placed his seed in them.
9. That (seed) became a golden egg, in brilliancy equal to the sun; in that (egg) he himself was born as Brahman, the progenitor of the whole world.
The "gods" were created by "the Lord, along with the sacrifice (which as we saw, was the main theme of the Rig Veda) and the three vedas:
22. He, the Lord, also created the class of the gods, who are endowed with life, and whose nature is action; and the subtile class of the Sadhyas, and the eternal sacrifice.
23. But from fire, wind, and the sun he drew forth the threefold eternal Veda, called Rik, Yagus, and Saman, for the due performance of the sacrifice.
The first verse clearly shows the error many modern people make in identifying "God" with "the gods."  Even the ancient Hindus set them clearly apart: the Lord created the "class of gods," a kind of superior created being, not the origin of all things.  
One finds a little later, indeed: 
72. But know that the sum of one thousand ages of the gods (makes) one day of Brahman, and that his night has the same length.
The author also seems to believe in spontaneous emergence: 
45. From hot moisture spring stinging and biting insects, lice, flies, bugs, and all other (creatures) of that kind which are produced by heat.

Caste is a fundamental distinction arising from creation itself:

31. But for the sake of the prosperity of the worlds he caused the Brahmana, the Kshatriya, the Vaisya, and the Sudra to proceed from his mouth, his arms, his thighs, and his feet.
This saying does not originate in the Law of Manu, but can be found already in the Rig Veda. 
A little later, the author (s) begin to explain the social consequences of these differing origins in God: 
88. To Brahmanas he assigned teaching and studying (the Veda), sacrificing for their own benefit and for others, giving and accepting (of alms).
89. The Kshatriya he commanded to protect the people, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to study (the Veda), and to abstain from attaching himself to sensual pleasures;
90. The Vaisya to tend cattle, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to study (the Veda), to trade, to lend money, and to cultivate land.
91. One occupation only the lord prescribed to the Sudra, to serve meekly even these (other) three castes.
By contrast to the servant classes, the (male) Brahmana is entitled to everything by rights: 
98. The very birth of a Brahmana is an eternal incarnation of the sacred law; for he is born to (fulfil) the sacred law, and becomes one with Brahman.
99. A Brahmana, coming into existence, is born as the highest on earth, the lord of all created beings, for the protection of the treasury of the law.
100. Whatever exists in the world is, the property of the Brahmana; on account of the excellence of his origin The Brahmana is, indeed, entitled to all.
Indeed, it is explained in a later chapter that if he wishes, the Brahmana may simply take things from the Sudra without pay.  

Chapter Two: Castes
Heaven is attained through sacrifices, austerities, religious rites, and by studying and acting upon the Vedas: 
28. By the study of the Veda, by vows, by burnt oblations, by (the recitation of) sacred texts, by the (acquisition of the) threefold sacred science, by offering (to the gods, Rishis, and manes), by (the procreation of) sons, by the great sacrifices, and by (Srauta) rites this (human) body is made fit for (union with) Brahman.
Castes should be distinguished by names: 
31. Let (the first part of) a Brahmana's name (denote something) auspicious, a Kshatriya's be connected with power, and a Vaisya's with wealth, but a Sudra's (express something) contemptible.
Aside from the four castes are some who should be shunned by all Aryans: 
39. After those (periods men of) these three (castes) who have not received the sacrament at the proper time, become Vratyas (outcasts), excluded from the Savitri (initiation) and despised by the Aryans.
Sudras are not just an essential part of the social system, but are morally and spiritually sub-par, even reprehensible: 

103. But he who does not (worship) standing in the morning, nor sitting in the evening, shall be excluded, just like a Sudra, from all the duties and rights of an Aryan.

But even an aged Kshatriya, second caste, is but a child compared to a boy Brahmana: 

135. Know that a Brahmana of ten years and Kshatriya of a hundred years stand to each other in the relation of father and son; but between those two the Brahmana is the father.

Kings are given great power in this system, with no checks or balances on that power (see chapter 5): Brahmins are not like prophets in the Hebrew system, who point their fingers at oppressive political rulers and say, "You are the man!" as Nathan did to David. 

But highest of all on the social totem pole is the Bramana who reads the Vedas and who teaches them.  No one should ever question one's guru: 
200. Wherever (people) justly censure or falsely defame his teacher, there he must cover his ears or depart thence to another place.
201. By censuring (his teacher), though justly, he will become (in his next birth) an ass, by falsely defaming him, a dog; he who lives on his teacher's substance, will become a worm, and he who is envious (of his merit), a (larger) insect.
226. The teacher is the image of Brahman, the father the image of Pragipati (the lord of created beings), the mother the image of the earth, and an (elder) full brother the image of oneself.
So your teacher may oppress and steal and commit all kinds of crimes, but if you call him on it, in the next life, "You ain't nothing but a hound dog," or at least an ass.  Does anyone see potential problems with this?  It's not as if rebuking your teacher is an easy thing to begin with.  

Maybe that works when the guru is named Jesus.  But Vishal Mangalwadi's The World of the Gurus shows that blind worship of the teacher doesn't work so well with the ordinary kind of religious leaders that India has produced.

There is much in this text which feeds into the myth of the guru-as-god, which has caused so much trouble in India and elsewhere: 

Chapter Three: Out-castes

Aside from Sudras, the lowest of the castes, the Law of Manu also makes frequent reference to those who are excluded, or rejected, from all the castes.  Those references are not flattering, to put it mildly: 

92. Let him gently place on the ground (some food) for dogs, outcasts, Kandalas (Svapak), those afflicted with diseases that are punishments of former sins, crows, and insects.

This verse is ominous not just because it places outcastes on the same level as insects, but note also how it treats the sick: "those afflicted with diseases that are punishment of former sins."

Later verses make it clear that disease is, in fact, a sign of sin.  If you get really sick, not only do you have to suffer from your illness, but you know that you have it coming, and furthermore - society ostracizes you for being such a reprobate.  

This is an extreme example of what Jesus reacted against, when his disciples asked him, "Why is this man sick?  For his own sins, or for those of his parents?"

Jesus' answer was thus set to save not just Jewish followers, but the suffering of India. Paul Brand's autobiographical works as a leprosy surgeon in India following Jesus show what the example of Jesus could mean for Indians who had been caste out of society.

Leprosy and lesser skin problems are specifically mentioned later in the chapter, in fact: 
150. Manu has declared that those Brahmanas who are thieves, outcasts, eunuchs, or atheists are unworthy (to partake) of oblations to the gods and manes.
151. Let him not entertain at a Sraddha one who wears his hair in braids (a student), one who has not studied (the Veda), one afflicted with a skin-disease, a gambler, nor those who sacrifice for a multitude (of sacrificers).
Not all the prescripts here are bad, though: 

106. Let him not eat any (dainty) food which he does not offer to his guest; the hospitable reception of guests procures wealth, fame, long life, and heavenly bliss.

One of the main themes of this book is to describe precise punishments after death for exact sins in this life: 

133. As many mouthfuls as an ignorant man swallows at a sacrifice to the gods or to the manes, so many red-hot spikes, spears, and iron balls must (the giver of the repast) swallow after death.

172. The elder brother who marries after the younger, the younger brother who marries before the elder, the female with whom such a marriage is contracted, he who gives her away, and the sacrificing priest, as the fifth, all fall into hell.

From verse 153, a long list of "offenders" is described, "reprehensible" men of the higher castes whom Brahmins should nevertheless shun.  This includes whole professions such as shepherds, dog-breeders, architects, messengers (no Hermes in this pantheon?), farmers, morticians, singers, spice merchants (simple food is assumed best) and those who travel by sea.  It includes some categories of those whom we might call sinners, such as drunks, hypocrites, someone who sues his own father, a rapist or seducer of young women. 

But Brahmins are also taught to despise many categories, even in their own caste, of those who are: 

161. An epileptic man, who suffers from scrofulous swellings of the glands, one afflicted with white leprosy, an informer, a madman, a blind man, and he who cavils at the Veda must (all) be avoided.

Furthermore, whereas Jesus healed the blind (as did Margaret Brand in India), and lepers (as did Paul), religious leaders in India were taught by this text to shun both:

177. A blind man by his presence causes to the giver (of the feast) the loss of the reward for ninety (guests), a one-eyed man for sixty, one who suffers from white leprosy for a hundred, and one punished by a (terrible) disease for a thousand.

Jesus would likely have gone to hell for feeding the poor, if the rules in this book were enforced:

249. The foolish man who, after having eaten a Sraddha (-dinner), gives the leavings to a Sudra, falls headlong into the Kalasutra hell.

Chapter Four: Odd-ball Legislation

Atheists are right to complain that religions sometimes protect themselves by discouraging critical thought: 

30. Let him not honour, even by a greeting, heretics, men who follow forbidden occupations, men who live like cats, rogues, logicians, (arguing against the Veda,) and those who live like herons.

A Snataka should never look at his own image in a pool of water (38).  One is also told not to torment living creatures, not to talk with a menstruating woman (how does that conversation start?), not point to rainbows, not to tell anyone when a cow is suckling her calf, not to live in a country where the rulers are sudras or heretics, not to play musical instruments or dance, play with dice, ride on the backs of cows, or bite your nails.  (Perdition!)  Stepping on hair or bones will shorten your life.  

A king is as bad as a butcher with 100,000 slaugher-houses.  (86, But another chapter in the book will set out rules for kings, and praise their value highly.)  

You shouldn't read the Vedas during a fog, or when there's a halo in the sky, or during a thunderstorm or after an earthquake.  

Some of the rules here again bear on the lower castes: 
80. Let him not give to a Sudra advice, nor the remnants (of his meal), nor food offered to the gods; nor let him explain the sacred law (to such a man), nor impose (upon him) a penance.
81. For he who explains the sacred law (to a Sudra) or dictates to him a penance, will sink together with that (man) into the hell (called) Asamvrita.
Jesus, again, would have gotten in permanent trouble with the Karma Police.  

Never mind the Sermon on the Mount: the Proverbs of Solomon are far superior to the Laws of Manu.  

The Rig Veda is "sacred to the gods" (124).  

And don't ever hit a guru: 
159. Let him carefully avoid all undertakings (the success of) which depends on others; but let him eagerly pursue that (the accomplishment of) which depends on himself . . . 
162. Let him never offend the teacher who initiated him, nor him who explained the Veda, nor his father and mother, nor (any other) Guru, nor cows, nor Brahmanas, nor any men performing austerities.
163. Let him avoid atheism, cavilling at the Vedas, contempt of the gods, hatred, want of modesty, pride, anger, and harshness.
164. Let him, when angry, not raise a stick against another man, nor strike (anybody) except a son or a pupil; those two he may beat in order to correct them.
165. A twice-born man who has merely threatened a Brahmana with the intention of (doing him) a corporal injury, will wander about for a hundred years in the Tamisra hell.
Even Santa Claus would go to hell here (at least for a long, long time):

191. Hence an ignorant (man) should be afraid of accepting any presents; for by reason of a very small (gift) even a fool sinks (into hell) as a cow into a morass.

Don't eat with musicians, thieves, carpenters (I'm doomed), bankers, or prisoners.  (210)  Eating a Sudra's food rots your mind. (218) 

In the end, though, we're all alone: 
239. For in the next world neither father, nor mother, nor wife, nor sons, nor relations stay to be his companions; spiritual merit alone remains (with him).
240. Single is each being born; single it dies; single it enjoys (the reward of its) virtue; single (it suffers the punishment of its) sin.
A Brahmana advances by hanging with high-borns and avoiding low-borns: 

245. A Brahmana who always connects himself with the most excellent (ones), and shuns all inferior ones, (himself) becomes most distinguished; by an opposite conduct he becomes a Sudra.

Again, if this were true, Jesus could only look forward to misery in later lives.  

A few exceptions to this rule are allowed in verse 253: you can mix occasionally with your farming vassals, slaves, barber and cowherd. 

Chapter Five: Fine Dining

Sages don't eat pizza: 

5. Garlic, leeks and onions, mushrooms and (all plants), springing from impure (substances), are unfit to be eaten by twice-born men.

Sourdough waffles with strawberries and french fries, however, are OK:

10. Among (things turned) sour, sour milk, and all (food) prepared of it may be eaten, likewise what is extracted from pure flowers, roots, and fruit.

An onion can ruin your life: 

19. A twice-born man who knowingly eats mushrooms, a village-pig, garlic, a village-cock, onions, or leeks, will become an outcast.
In general, what we are meant to eat is fated by our nature, but in practice, the rules can be more complicated: 
29. What is destitute of motion is the food of those endowed with locomotion; (animals) without fangs (are the food) of those with fangs, those without hands of those who possess hands, and the timid of the bold.
30. The eater who daily even devours those destined to be his food, commits no sin; for the creator himself created both the eaters and those who are to be eaten (for those special purposes).
31. 'The consumption of meat (is befitting) for sacrifices,' that is declared to be a rule made by the gods; but to persist (in using it) on other (occasions) is said to be a proceeding worthy of Rakshasas.
So meat in generally is banned (including fish) for some, but you're a bit of a devil if you barbecue after the sacred holiday. 

52. There is no greater sinner than that (man) who, though not worshiping the gods or the manes, seeks to increase (the bulk of) his own flesh by the flesh of other (beings).

The king, however (no matter the earlier comparison to an owner of 100,000 slaughter houses) is an incarnation of many gods: 

96. A king is an incarnation of the eight guardian deities of the world, the Moon, the Fire, the Sun, the Wind, Indra, the Lords of wealth and water (Kubera and Varuna), and Yama.

This chapter also has a lot to say about women, but as I said, we'll cite those passages in the next post.

Chapter Six: Rules for Ascetics

While written long after the rise of Buddhism, one can see in these rules the sort of lifestyle which the Buddha entered into, then reacted against, and of which one can find heavy traces in the Ramayana.  
2. When a householder sees his (skin) wrinkled, and (his hair) white, and. the sons of his sons, then he may resort to the forest.
3. Abandoning all food raised by cultivation, and all his belongings, he may depart into the forest, either committing his wife to his sons, or accompanied by her.
6. Let him wear a skin or a tattered garment; let him bathe in the evening or in the morning; and let him always wear (his hair in) braids, the hair on his body, his beard, and his nails (being unclipped).
7. Let him perform the Bali-offering with such food as he eats, and give alms according to his ability; let him honour those who come to his hermitage with alms consisting of water, roots, and fruit.
8. Let him be always industrious in privately reciting the Veda; let him be patient of hardships, friendly (towards all), of collected mind, ever liberal and never a receiver of gifts, and compassionate towards all living creatures.
16. Let him not eat anything (grown on) ploughed (land), though it may have been thrown away by somebody, nor roots and fruit grown in a village, though (he may be) tormented (by hunger).

There are quite a few choices here: 

20. Or he may live according to the rule of the lunar penance (Kandrayana, daily diminishing the quantity of his food) in the bright (half of the month) and (increasing it) in the dark (half); or he may eat on the last days of each fortnight, once (a day only), boiled barley-gruel.

He should live on alms, according to very strict rules.  Indeed, death is part of the program. 

Here we even find the idea of blessing your enemies: 

48. Against an angry man let him not in return show anger, let him bless when he is cursed, and let him not utter speech, devoid of truth, scattered at the seven gates.

What is the purpose? 

60. By the restraint of his senses, by the destruction of love and hatred, and by the abstention from injuring the creatures, he becomes fit for immortality.


69. In order to expiate (the death) of those creatures which he unintentionally injures by day or by night, an ascetic shall bathe and perform six suppressions of the breath.

Such verses standing up for worms and beetles stand in ironic and stark contrast with the rules for kings, which come later in the book, and involve wholesale slaughter, indeed, without remorse or guilt or even any moral computation. 

The Law of Manu consistently sets out a four-fold program of liberation: 

75. By not injuring any creatures, by detaching the senses (from objects of enjoyment), by the rites prescribed in the Veda, and by rigorously practising austerities, (men) gain that state (even) in this (world).

Don't fret over death, because frankly, life stinks: 

76-77. Let him quit this dwelling, composed of the five elements, where the bones are the beams, which is held together by tendons (instead of cords), where the flesh and the blood are the mortar, which is thatched with the skin, which is foul-smelling, filled with urine and ordure, infested by old age and sorrow, the seat of disease, harassed by pain, gloomy with passion, and perishable.

80. When by the disposition (of his heart) he becomes indifferent to all objects, he obtains eternal happiness both in this world and after death.

But what if he becomes indifferent to that?  

The Law of Manu does, however, offer some of what we can recognize as decent moral teaching for the highest caste, hidden behind the veil superstitions and bigotry: 
92. Contentment, forgiveness, self-control, abstention from unrighteously appropriating anything, (obedience to the rules of) purification, coercion of the organs, wisdom, knowledge (of the supreme Soul), truthfulness, and abstention from anger, (form) the tenfold law.
93. Those Brahmanas who thoroughly study the tenfold law, and after studying obey it, enter the highest state.
No hope is held out for the other castes, however.  

Chapter Seven: Kings

Vishal Mangalwadi says he was shocked when he read the Old Testament, to find the sins of kings set out so plainly.  (Having been educated in India.) 

Unlike Israel, where king and prophet held one another in check, in the India at least of the Law of Manu, the two leading castes affirm one another's inviolability and divine nature.  True, kings do have duties:   

1. I will declare the duties of kings, (and) show how a king should conduct himself, how he was created, and how (he can obtain) highest success.
3. For, when these creatures, being without a king, through fear dispersed in all directions, the Lord created a king for the protection of this whole (creation),
4. Taking (for that purpose) eternal particles of Indra, of the Wind, of Yama, of the Sun, of Fire, of Varuna, of the Moon, and of the Lord of wealth (Kubera).
5. Because a king has been formed of particles of those lords of the gods, he therefore surpasses all created beings in lustre;
6. And, like the sun, he burns eyes and hearts; nor can anybody on earth even gaze on him.
7. Through his (supernatural) power he is Fire and Wind, he Sun and Moon, he the Lord of justice (Yama), he Kubera, he Varuna, he great Indra.

But the king is hardly human here.  HE may have duties, but it is no one's duty to rebuke him and call him to account, just as the student must never rebuke his guru.  (And indeed, the king should be "lenient towards Brahmanas" (32), indeed worship them (37) and follow their advice.)
12. The (man), who in his exceeding folly hates him, will doubtlessly perish; for the king quickly makes up his mind to destroy such (a man).
13. Let no (man), therefore, transgress that law which favourites, nor (his orders) which inflict pain on those in disfavour.
14. For the (king's) sake the Lord formerly created his own son, Punishment, the protector of all creatures, (an incarnation of) the law, formed of Brahman's glory.
15. Through fear of him all created beings, both the immovable and the movable, allow themselves to be enjoyed and swerve not from their duties.
True, the king is supposed to punish those who deserve it: 
20. If the king did not, without tiring, inflict punishment on those worthy to be punished, the stronger would roast the weaker, like fish on a spit;
But the problem is more that the weak will oppress the strong, than the other way around, or at least will not know their places:  
21. The crow would eat the sacrificial cake and the dog would lick the sacrificial viands, and ownership would not remain with any one, the lower ones would (usurp the place of) the higher ones.
When I covered India in World History, I emphasized that India was protected in the east by jungle, the south by ocean, the north by mountains, and the west by desert.  The king is instructed to take similar precautions when he founds a city: 
69. Let him settle in a country which is open and has a dry climate, where grain is abundant, which is chiefly (inhabited) by Aryans, not subject to epidemic diseases (or similar troubles), and pleasant, where the vassals are obedient and his own (people easily) find their livelihood.
70. Let him build (there) a town, making for his safety a fortress, protected by a desert, or a fortress built of (stone and) earth, or one protected by water or trees, or one (formed by an encampment of armed) men or a hill-fort.
The king should be a fighter.  (Not one who kills non-combatants, however, 91, or a rash oppressor, 111.)  But there is no hint of non-violence in this chapter: 

103. Of him who is always ready to strike, the whole world stands in awe; let him therefore make all creatures subject to himself even by the employment of force.

He must lay his plans of attack carefully and secretly, first removing idiots, the dumb, the blind, the deaf, animals, very old men, women, barbarians, and the sick or maimed, from counsel chambers.  

150. (Such) despicable (persons), likewise animals, and particularly women betray secret council; for that reason he must be careful with respect to them.

The king should take it for granted that his neighbor will be his enemy, and ally himself with the king of the state just beyond that state.  (Apparently this was written during a period of warring states.)  He should remain peaceful until he has gained enough power to go on the offensive: 

170. But when he thinks all his subjects to be exceedingly contented, and (that he) himself (is) most exalted (in power), then let him make war.

Manu describes the military formations into which a king should set his troops.  He also offers a general description of siege warfare (which I assume was hardly needed): 

195. When he has shut up his foe (in a town), let him sit encamped, harass his kingdom, and continually spoil his grass, food, fuel, and water.

So starve the buggers out!  What seems strangest about this advice, aside from the imprecations against stepping on beetles elsewhere in the text, is the complete absence of any moral justification for pillaging the neighboring country.  This is what a king does.  

He also taxes his country (taxes on various commodities are described), gets regular exercise (216), dines and enjoys himself with his harem (216,218).  But threatened by acute dangers, he might give up his wealth (first), then his wife (second), only then his own precious life (213).  

This chapter also assumes that the king will make good use of dissent among enemies and of spies (223).  The use of spies is a topic which the Arthashastra, the foundational political text of the Mauryan Empire just after the invasion of Alexander the Great, had emphasized in some detail, so it was nothing new in Indian politics.    


In some ways, the Law of Manu shows "Hinduism" (the term is problematic) evolving in a similar direction to that taken by Judaism.  There was a belief in spirits, but also an over-riding notion of a Supreme Being of some sort, called (in India) by different terms.  There was a deep focus on guilt, arising both from obviously evil acts, murder and theft and the like, but from a lengthening and rather arbitrary set of laws.  There was a focus on purity, which could be lost not only by doing bad things, but also by contracting disfiguring diseases.  And those who contracted such diseases were ostracized from society. 

India appears to have traveled much further down this route.  Some "castes" are already intrinsically superior to others in every important way.  (We'll see more of this in the final five chapters, if we get to them.)  The highest castes are like gods.  The lowest castes are hard, at times, to positively distinguish from insects. 

The sharpest contrast with Israel, besides the Jew's clearer and purer idea of God, lies perhaps in the institution of the prophet.  Unlike an Indian guru or king, a Jewish ruler or teacher was subject to the sharpest rebukes, with which the prophetic and even historical works of the Old Testament overflow.  This not only makes the Old Testament a more truly moral work, it also makes it more exciting -- even King David can stumble and fall, and then be rebuked with a parable and a boldly-extended finger pointed at Israel's greatest king.  

Along with that, without any concept of caste or innate superiority, the prophets stand for those on the margins.  Where the Law of Manu rebukes anyone who marries a widow and (as we shall see) the widow herself if she remarries, the prophets repeatedly rebuke anyone who oppresses her, and praise those who help widows, orphans, the poor, and even outsiders!  

Jesus comes as the fulfillment of the prophets and the greatest guru.  On the one hand, he is the sacrifice which the Indian Scriptures (including the Rig Veda, which is praised in this text) describe: Prajapati, giving himself for the world.  He is the true guru, who brings people "out of darkness into the light."

But part of that darkness consists of the social mores promulgated by the Law of Manu itself.  

According to the Law of Manu, Jesus was a damnably poor guru, a traitor to his caste.  (The caste to which a teacher of the Scriptures must belong.)  He ate with the lower orders.  He even taught them the Holy Scriptures.  He touched, he healed both the blind and the leper.  He rebuked Senior Brahmins who had kept most of the ceremonial law pretty well, and who knew and taught the Scriptures.  He ate, and served, fish.  He let animals die to save a clearly unwell man. 

So Jesus would go to hell, according to this text -- or one of the hells.  He might even have to swallow red-hot spikes, spears, and iron balls by the truck-load after death.

Nevertheless, I think it is clear that Jesus is precisely the kind of guru that India at well as Israel needed, to "lead us out of the darkness, into the light."