Latest I have met so many ignorant statements from the side of people – especially from converted western vaisnavas – that Manu samhita is not authoritative, that you cannot touch Manu samhita, that this is outdated, that Prabhupada wanted to give women equal rights contrary Manu samhita, which promotes sexism, casteism (that varnas are only by the birth) and so on.
I am reading Manu samhita almost for 2 years – and more I read, more I get ultimate conviction, that Srila Prabhupada actually promoted Manu samhita, and so many of his statements are actual verses from this great sankhya philosophy work, which by the way is pure vaisnava scripture – distorted, defamed and ignorantly misinterpreted by naysayers and those, who have their own agenda – and not agenda of Supreme.
Let’s look only to one claim. That Manu samhita promotes birth casteism. They often use this verse:
sarvavarṇeṣu tulyāsu patnīṣvakṣatayoniṣu |
ānulomyena sambhūtā jātyā jñeyāsta eva te || 10.5 ||
Among all castes, those only who are born of consorts wedded in the natural order, as virgins of equal status, are to be regarded as the same (as their father).
Interesting is, that we find therm sarvavarṇa already in the second verse of this scripture:
bhagavan sarvavarṇānāṃ yathāvadanupūrvaśaḥ | antaraprabhavānāṃ ca dharmānno vaktumarhasi || 1.2 ||
May Thou, O blessed One, explain to us, in due form and in proper order, the duties of all varnas and duties of all others (intermediate).
Here words “yathāvadanupūrvaśaḥ” is very important.
‘Yathāvat,’ ‘in due form.’—The suffix ‘vati’ denotes propriety; the meaning being—‘in the form in which performance would be proper.’ This ‘propriety’ also includes such details as—‘this is compulsory, that is optional,’ ‘this is primary, that is secondary,’ as also rules relating to substance, place, time, agent and so forth.
‘Anupūrvaśaḥ,’ ‘in due order.’—‘Order’ means sequence;
Besides that – in previous verse it is said:
brāhmaṇaḥ kṣatriyo vaiśyastrayo varṇā dvijātayaḥ |
caturtha ekajātistu śūdro nāsti tu pañcamaḥ || 10.4 ||
The Brāhmaṇa, the Kṣatriya and the Vaiśya are the three twice-born varnas; the fourth is the one varna, Śūdra; there is no fifth.
So – then what actually this verse says? That, for example, Brahmanas are only those who are born from brahmana? NO.
For those, who are bereft of intelligence, and read only grammar:
Āpastamba (2.13.1).—‘Sons begotten by a man who approaches in the proper season a woman of equal varna, who has not belonged to another man, and who has been married legally, have a right to follow the occupations of their varna.’
So, this verse:
“Among all castes, those only who are born of consorts wedded in the natural order, as virgins of equal status, are to be regarded as the same (as their father).”
1. This verse in no connection prohibits anybody to be who he actually is by his qualities or astrological birth.
2. This verse in no case says who you are, because of connection with relatives – yes, you can be regarded, you have certain birth rights – but you must deserve it by education, behaviour and qualities.
3. This verse in no case can be used for legitimization of making varnasrama in to some complicated casteism. THERE IS NO FIFTH.
4. This verse actually gives favor for to keep family tradition.
As we can read in Bhagavad Gita as it is (1.39-40):
— “With the destruction of the dynasty, the eternal family tradition is vanquished, and thus the rest of the family becomes involved in irreligion. When irreligion is prominent in the family, O Kṛṣṇa, the women of the family become polluted, and from the degradation of womanhood, O descendant of Vṛṣṇi, comes unwanted progeny.”
5. Manu samhita is also for “all others”, – because as Prabhupada says – “you must be situated in varnasrama”. As soon as you, being born in ignorance somewhere in a hellish society – and you have got your spiritual awakening, you must realize and get to know your Gods given duty, dharma.
6. Manu samhita is not something from old times – outdated and irrelevant, it always relates to substance, place, time, agent and so forth.
And at the end:
“Manusya means who is coming from Manu. The human race has come from the Manu. Therefore the Vedic followers, they follow the principles, or codes, of Manu-samhita. Manu-samhita is the law, Hindu law, still accepted, although they have made many amendments. But it is not to be amended. Just like in the Manu-samhita there is no divorce. Now our Hindu laws, they have amended, “Divorce is allowed.” That is not according to Manu-samhita.”
From lecture 74/02/18 Bombay, Bhagavad-gita 7.3