The Laws of Manu

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After reading The Laws of Manu I was able to understand the caste system pretty well. The Laws of Manu describes what one must do to be a part of and remain in a certain caste. The rules are straightforward for the most part. After reading The Sacred Canopy, written by Peter Berger, my ideas and understanding of the caste system were improved. Berger explained religion in a way that made me see it in a whole new light. His views on religion in The Sacred Canopy did not deal directly with the caste system, but they tie into religion and the socially-constructed world, which gave me a better understanding of the caste system and its social classes.

In The Laws of Manu the caste system is described in great detail. It explains everything one must do to be a part of their caste. In Hinduism each social class (varna) has its own dharma, or social law. The concept of dharma regulates all parts of life for Hindu’s and outlines their duties. However, there are different levels of dharma for people in the twice-born varnas, which includes the Brahmin, Ksatriya, and Vaisya. The different levels of dharma are based on the stage of life that an individual is at. The four stages an individual can be at are a student, a householder, a forest-dweller, or a sannyasin. A sannyasin is the lowest stage one can be in and one reaches that stage when they have cut all of their ties to society. In the text from The Laws of Manu it is stated that a householder may “never, for the sake of subsistence, follow the ways of the world: let him live the pure straightforward, honest life of a Brahmin” (Smart & Hecht 214). The Hindus believed in living a very simple life and being very honorable. The Laws of Manu states that no Brahmin should “attach himself to any sensual pleasures” (214) and also to “avoid all (means of acquiring) wealth which impede the study of the Veda” (214). In The Laws of Manu the idea of final liberation is brought up very frequently. Final liberation...
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