Manusmriti is the most enlightened, perfect and the greatest civil code ever known to humanity.
In this series only those Sloka-s have been selected for exposition that confront all misgivings / untrue perceptions about the wisdom of Manusmrti prevailing all around and facilitate accurate interpretation.
Akurvanvihitam Karma Ninditam Ca Samacaran I
Prasaktascendriyarthesu Prayascattiyate Naraha II XI / 1 II
Rituals enshrined in scriptures not being practised, enacting prohibited Karma-s and indulgence with Indriya-s demand Prayascitta.
Pertaining to Yajna, Upanayana, Veda-s etc., plethora of rituals have been prescribed in scriptures on how to pursue them and when. There is also a large number of Karma-s that are prohibited too viz. alcoholism, violence, indulgence with organs of perception. Prayascitta is the Tapa dedicated to the purpose of obliterating Samskara-s of such regressive Karma-s. Any one violating injunctions of scriptures is entitled to accomplish penitentiary measures to atone for the sins committed. Catalogue of Karma-s to be pursued diligently and a catalogue of Karma-s not to be pursued at all, both constitute an integral element of the social order of society as envisioned in Manusmriti.
Akamataha Krtam Papam Vedabhayasena Suddhyati I
Kamatastukrtam Mohatprayascitaiha Prthagvidhaiha II XI / 3 II
Sins committed reluctantly are dissolved by pursuit of Veda-s, Dhyana etc. while conscious acts of sins by a plethora of other means.
In this Sutra, Maharsi Manu has classified reprehensible Karma-s into two orders, one accomplished reluctantly and the other, consciously. It is quite natural that severity of retribution for both the orders would be substantially different, less severe for the former and rigorous for the later. Sins committed reluctantly may be dissolved by pursuit of Veda-s, Dhyana, conduct consecrated etc. These are not only capable of dissolving Samskara-s of Karma-s enacted but also elevating oneself spiritually to greater heights.
Retribution for Karma-s enacted consciously has been prescribed in subsequent Sutra-s.
Prayascitam Cikirsanti Vikarmasthastu Ye Dvijaha I
Brahamana Ca Parityaktastesamapyetadadiset II XI / 7 II
Dvija-s having enacted Vikarma-s as also those who eschewed Veda-s, may consecrate by pursuing aforesaid ascetic pursuits.
Dvija-s i.e. Brahmana, Ksatriya and Vaisya who have invited regressive destiny upon themselves owing to actions not conforming to Dharma as well as those who have discontinued study of Veda-s owing to any reason whatsoever, have the way open before them to redeem themselves again. For the specific purpose, ascetic pursuits as described above in preceding Sutra-s may be invoked and practised to obliterate those Samskara-s.
Vedoditanam Nityanam Karmanam Samatikrame I
Snatakavratalopam Ca Praysacittamabhojanam II XI / 8 II
Prayascitta of Upavasa for a day ordained for those not pursuing Vedic Karma-s or neglecting Upavasa-s for Brahmacarya.
Upavasa is the Tapa of fasting for the whole day accompanied by rituals of worship and Japa i.e. incessant chanting of a designated Mantra. Prayascitta i.e. penitence through Tapa is an effective means to dissolve regressive Karma of neglecting pursuit of Veda-s or Upavasa-s associated with the Asrama of Brahmacarya.
Anuktaniskratinam Tu Papanamapanuttaye I
Saktim Caveksya papam Ca Prayascittam Prakalpayet II XI / 9 II
Where Prayascitta is not defined, may be specified based on capabilities of the penitent and severity of offence.
There may an occasion when an offence has not been specified together with it’s Prayascitta owing to any reason whatsoever. In all probability, such offences are not very significant in nature and severity of Prayascitta may be minimal. Quantum of penitence may be decided by erudite elders or enlightened ones in community after carefully examining capabilities of the offender or heinousness of the regressive Karma.
Yairabhyupayairenansi Manavo Vyapakarsati I
Tanvoabhyupayanvaksyami Devarsipitrasevitan II XI / 10 II
Ways and means to eschew regressive Karma-s by men as practised by Rsi-s, erudite ones and elders, now being expounded.
After commenting on ways and means to dissolve Samskara-s left behind by regressive Karma-s, Maharsi Manu expands domain of the contemplation deeper into the roots of enactment of regressive Karma itself. Ways and means have been suggested so as to stay away from the propensity of committing such Karma-s at all. These measures are dedicated to eradication of Samskara-s through prevention of indulgence. All these ways and means have been pursued by Maharsi-s, Rsi-s and scholars of various hues. Accuracy and sanctity of these means have been affirmed by them beyond question.
Etairdvijatayah Sodhya Vratairaviskrtainasaha I
Anaviskrtapapanstu Mantrairhomaisca Sodhayet II XI / 19 II
For unmanifest and manifest Karma-s of Dvija-s, Vrata and Mantra recitation are the means, respectively.
Unmanifest Karma is the one that has not been executed while manifest Karma is the executed one. Till the stage of desire to enact Karma, it remains unmanifest i.e. subtle Karma enacted only on the plane of mind and intellect. Vrata-s as prescribed before and recitation of a dedicated Mantra are the recourse to self-purification respectively.
Yatha Yatha Naroadharmam Svayam Krtvaanubhasate I
Tatha Tatha Tvacevahistenadharmena Mucyate II XI / 21 II
As man confesses to more and more after committing a felonious Karma, he is emancipated progressively like a snake-skin.
Snakes change their skin periodically and move out of their bodies gradually with effort. Similarly, a sinner is gradually emancipated from shackles of Samskara-s of past regressive Karma-s committed if he confesses it before people as many as possible. Such multiple confessions not only gradually purify mind and intellect but also lead to augmentation of acceptability among others by diluting the perception of being a sinner. Acceptance of Karma is a measure of retribution and penitence.
Evam Samcintya Manasa Pretya Karmaphalodayam I
Manovangamurtibhirnityam Subham Karma Samacaret II XI / 24 II
“Karmaphala is inevitable even after demise” be the guiding perception prevailing in mind while enacting Karma-s with mind, speech and body.
Proceeds of Karma enacted are absolutely inescapable. If this cosmic axiom weighs heavily in mind and intellect incessantly, one would be necessarily discreet and wise while selecting Karma to be enacted. Most of the felony would be cautiously avoided owing to the dominance of the cease and desist warning of inevitability of Karmaphala.
Yasminkarmanyasya Krte Manasah Syadalaghavam I
Tasminstavattapah Kuryadyavattustikaram Bhavet II XI / 26 II
Having committed evil Karma, Prayascitta through Tapa be pursued till entire inner being is consecrated.
After regressive Karma is committed advertently or inadvertently, measures of Prayascitta must continue till the moment of complete purity of inner being is re-attained, entire Samskara of the Karma is irreversibly dissolved, sense of bliss and fulfilment occupy entire space on the inner consciousness. Such a sense of fulfilment is a testimony of the exalted state of inner being attained after subtle purification.
Yathaidhastejasam Vanhiha Praptam Nirdahati Ksanat I
Tatha Jnanagnina Papam Sarvam Dahati Vedavid II XI / 28 II
As blaze of fire burns wood, Vedic Jnana incinerates Samskara-s of all evil Karma-s.
Fuels like wood are burnt and charred by fire into non-existence. Similar is the strength of wisdom of Veda-s, pursuit of which incinerates imprints of entire spectrum of Karma-s rendered. Dissolution of Samskara-s from the domain of Citta renders one sanctified, eligible for much higher.
All these injunctions and mandates are entirely Varna-neutral.