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.

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