152. The Laws of Manu (2nd century BC – 3rd century AD)

Contents : An encyclopedic guide to life as an ancient Hindu.

My thoughts : I tried several times to read this work – hoping to see and appreciate some glimmer of Hindu thought. I understood the four castes : priests, ruler/warriors, commoners and servants; I saw how the Laws were couched to rate the priest caste highest by their control of the sacrificial requirements of ancient Indic life and expectations, and how the Laws dictated virtually every aspect of every man’s life – from what he can wear to his choice of wife, and how a man is born again by his knowledge and experience of the Vedas.

And while reading advice to the man in his second quarter of life, who has studied the Vedas and is now living in a household, I reached the sentence “A man who eats while his feet are still wet lives a long life”.  I realized I wasn’t getting enough from this personally to read a further two hundred pages.

Favourite lines/passages:

 Desire is never extinguished by the enjoyment of what is desired; it just grows stronger like a fire that flares up … and burns a dark path.       Chapter 2, [94]

Plus some advice on choosing a wife:

A man should not marry a wife who is a redhead or has an extra limb or is sickly or has no body hair, or too much body hair, or is sallow; or who is named after a constellation, a tree or a river, a mountain, a bird or a snake, or who has a low-caste name, or a menial or frightening name. He should marry a woman who does not lack any part of her body, and who has a pleasant name, who walks like a goose or an elephant, whose body hair is fine and her teeth are not too big.       Chapter 3, [8-10]

Personal rating:  2 (but did not finish)

Next :  A month of Cicero, starting with his Murder Trial speeches.


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