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"Dharma is the everlasting friend.  It is essential not only for the individuals happiness but also for the happiness of other individuals who constitute the family and the society," said Justice Shri Rama Jois, the Governor of Jharkhand.  Speaking on his latest book, "The Eternal Values in Manusmriti", at the Indian Institue of World Culture under the aegis of IGNCA - Southern Regional Centre, he elucidated upon the ancient text, regarded as the oldest codification of rules of dharma.  This was the first of the monthly lecture series planned by IGNCA-SRC.

In his talk, profuse with anecdotes, Justice Jois, referred to several provision in Manusmriti that have come in for severe criticism and also to many verses/rules incorporated in the Manusmriti which are good for the entire humanity.  Regarding the authorship of the manuscript, he briefly referred t several doubts discussed time and again.  "Was there a man by name Manu?  Did he live prior to Mahabharata or later?  Why was the manuscript names Manusmriti?"

Eventually, whether as a collation of laws (Smriti) by a single person or the Chakravarti (King) (who is the first Manu according toKautilya Arthashastra) what mattered was that it enabled people to follow 'dharma'.  Manusmriti, according to Shri Rama Jois, is a 'signal contribution for preservation of eternal values'.  He referred here to the commentaries by Kullaka that had attracted the attention of scholars like Max Mueller and Sir William Jones.

Having studies the verses in the twelve chapters of Manusmriti, Shri Rama Jois gave a critical assessment of the text.  According to him, Dharma is not religon but it respects all religion.  Explaining the shlokas he stressed upon avoiding adharma and to "control desires like the charioteer controls his horses".  He referred to the eleven organs - (Janaendriyas - of sense, Karmendriyas - of action and Manas - mind) and said that happiness comes only from contentment.  He spoke at length on observance of dharma for peaceful co-existence and referred to the trivarga concept, which is a harmonious confluence of 'dharma - artha -kama'.  He observed that in present times there remained 'a state of dvivarga' (of only artha and kama) and emphasized that as a canon of universal well-being dharma will protect us only if dharma is protected.

Unravlling The present day misinterpretation of Manu's code for women, Shri Jois quoted shlokas that spoke highly of women.  The import of Manu's discourse could be sensed in his discussions on 'respect for womanhood', 'status of woman', 'unjustified criticism' and 'interests of women'.  Speaking on the dharma of husband and wife and the role of a householder, he hailed the householder as superior to all as 'he is the supporter of all other ashramas'.

He emphasized on the need to obtain the quintessence of what is relevant in Manusmriti for the modern world.  Refuting controversial statements he said that Manu had never mentioned anything on untouchability.  As regards caste it had lost its relevance and existed only in elections and selections.  he felt dharma is a global ethic and is unfortunately equated with religion.

He noted that although varna and ashrama have been coupled, they need not necessarily exist in conjunction.  He said that ashrama is an independent issued different from varna and contributing good citizens to the nation can be done only through a healthy and value based family.  He felt that one could serve society with limited resources and not aspire for higher positions and income just for serving society.

Reading excerpts from the text, he stressed on extracting the best and imparting values to our next generation.  Manu's code he felt, is a perennial source of wisdom and if we failed to notice this and ran behind valueless 'sims', mankind would be destroyed.  He concluded that "in this ephemeral world, what survives for an individual is the Dharma practiced by him during his lifetime."

- Report by Dr. Pramila Lochan


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