[Advaita-l] kshatriya dharma according to manu smriti and its interpretation today?

Venkatraghavan S agnimile at gmail.com
Fri Jan 12 08:18:57 EST 2018

Namaste Raghav ji,

The book, War in Ancient India, by Ramachandra Dikshitar could be useful in
your quest. The chapter on the Laws of War should be of particular

However, even here, more attention is paid to the manner in which war is
waged, rather than prescribing reasons when war is permissible - perhaps
the view of the ancients was that as war cannot be eradicated from society,
instead of focusing on 'why' wars must be fought (ie in which circumstances
wars are permissible), attention is paid towards 'how' they must be fought.



On Fri, Jan 12, 2018 at 9:18 AM, Raghav Kumar Dwivedula via Advaita-l <
advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:

> Namaste Everyone
> Thank you Venkatraghavan ji for the manu smriti pdf references to kshatriya
> dharma in its 7th chapter.
> https://archive.org/details/ManuSmriti_201601
>  The general sense i get is that the kshatriya king who is committed to
> dharma and protection of shrotiyas is to challenge and wage war against
> unrightoeus kshatriyas who do not become his allies or vassals. This is of
> course quite natural. However i did not come across any explicit shastra
> reference to a 'dharma yuddha'  idea yet. What should be the primary
> *motive* for war for a kxatriya? The smRti seems more intent to look at war
> as an inherent dharma of kshatriya. Will read it a little more carefully
> and get back.
> On a different note,when Sri Krishna declares, paritrANAya sAdhUnAm
> vinAshAya ca duShkRtAm - is that not a fairly good motto forany dharmic
> kxatriya as well, not to speak of an avatara like SriRama or SriKrishna?
>  I get the sense that every kshatriya is enjoined by the smRti to first
> strive to purify his own mind and align his mind with the highest truths of
> the Vedas (the quintessential philospoher-king) and then take initiative
> and claim overlordship over other kings who had better bow down to his
> authority or they invite war upon themselves. In other words, its not
> overtly pacifist in outlook - such pacifism from a kshatriya (read: those
> in power) is just tamas? War is for a kshatriya what
> entrepeneurship/start-ups are for a vaishya. Although it seems like
> needless war-mongering at times, the equally strong injunction for the
> kshatriya king to purify the mind, bring the senses under control etc.,
> indicate that the use of force is only for the larger good of all - to
> establish dharma on a stronger footing - that's implicit?
> The smriti seems to strive for a "Super-King" who upholds the dharma and
> others kings have to fall in line with him or fight him. Rather like, how
> Yudhishthira performed the rajasuya and challenged other kings to either
> accept him as supreme or fight him. There was no 'live and let live' policy
> in the mandate for kshatriya kings. Other dharmik forces like the yadavas
> and vrishnis etc., had no hesitation in accepting Yudhishthira as the
> 'Super-King' (chakravartin?). Although I did not see any specific reference
> to such a mandate either viz., a kshatriya king should submit to a more
> powerful dharmik king and accept him as the Chakravartin who 'moves the
> wheels of dharma' or 'whose chariot can freely move anywhere indicating his
> supremacy over other Kings.'
> The silver lining is that even those kings who were defeated would be asked
> to become vassals of the Chakravartin King or if they got killed, then
> their son or relative who was willing to become an ally of the Super-King
> was enthroned. (Like Vibhishana or Sugriva a la Ramayana). The reference to
> this is there in manu smriti.
> There is no shying away from the use of force when the situation demands it
> and a kshatriya should necessarily bring other kings under his control. A
> bandwagon model of kshatriya kingly power was encouraged where other kings
> bandwagon and line up behind the Chakravartin who is the King of Kings.
> There was no balance-of-power encouraged where several kings who considered
> themselves mutual equals balanced each others' power to prevent any one
> king from becoming too powerful. (I think Samuel Huntington had his take on
> this.) This 'balance-of-power' between equally powerful kings was not
> encouraged by manu smriti.
> Its not surprising that India was stronger to repel invaders when such a
> bandwagon model of kshatriya power obtained under the Mauryas, Guptas etc.,
> and India had one massive kingdom rather than several smaller
> principalities tentatively balancing each other's power.
> Om
> Raghav
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