Learn that sacred law which is followed by men learned and assented to in their hearts by the virtuous, who are ever
exempt from hatred and inordinate affection.
To act solely from a desire for rewards is not laudable, yet an
exemption from that desire is not to be found in this world: For on
that desire is grounded the study of the Veda and the performance of
the actions, prescribed by the Veda.
The desire for rewards, indeed, has its root in the conception
that an act can yield them, and in consequence of that conception
sacrifices are performed; vows and the laws prescribing restraints are
all stated to be kept through the idea that they will bear fruit.
Not a single act here below appears ever to be done by a man free
from desire; for whatever man does, it is the result of the impulse
He who persists in discharging these (-prescribed duties-) in the
right manner, reaches the deathless state and even in this life
obtains the fulfilment of all the desires that he may have conceived.
The whole Veda is the first source of the sacred law, next the
tradition and the virtuous conduct of those who know the Veda
further, also the customs of holy men, and finally self-
Whatever law has been ordained for any person by Manu, that has
been fully declared in the Veda: for that sage was omniscient.
But a learned man after fully scrutinising all this with the eye of
knowledge, should, in accordance with the authority of the revealed
texts, be intent on the performance of his duties.
For that man who obeys the law prescribed in the revealed texts and
in the sacred tradition, gains fame in this world and after death
10. But by Sruti revelation is meant the Veda, and by Smriti
tradition the Institutes of the sacred law: those two must not be
called into question in any matter, since from those two the sacred law
Every twice-born man, who, relying on the Institutes of
dialectics, treats with contempt those two sources of the law, must
be cast out by the virtuous, as an atheist and a scorner of the Veda.
The Veda, the sacred tradition, the customs of virtuous men, and
one's own pleasure, they declare to be visibly the fourfold means of
defining the sacred law. The knowledge of the sacred law is prescribed for those who are
not given to the acquisition of wealth and to the gratification of
their desires; to those who seek the knowledge of the sacred law the
supreme authority is the revelation (Sruti).
But when two sacred texts (Sruti) are conflicting, both are held
to be law; for both are pronounced by the wise to be valid law.
Thus the Agnihotra sacrifice may be optionally performed, at
any time after the sun has risen, before he has risen, or when neither
sun nor stars are visible; that is declared by Vedic texts.
Know that he for whom the performance of the ceremonies
beginning with the rite of impregnation (Garbhadhana) and ending with
the funeral rite (Antyeshti) is prescribed, while sacred formulas are
being recited, is entitled to study these Institutes, but no other
That land, created by the gods, which lies between the two divine
rivers Sarasvati and Drishadvati, the (sages) call Brahmavarta.
The custom handed down in regular succession since time
immemorial among the four chief castes (varna) and the mixed (races)
of that country, is called the conduct of virtuous men.
The plain of the Kurus, the country of the Matsyas, Pankalas,
and Surasenakas, these form, indeed, the country of the Brahmarshis
(Brahmanical sages, which ranks) immediately after Brahmavarta.
20. From a Brahmana, born in that country, let all men on earth learn
their several usages.
That country which lies between the Himavat and the Vindhya
(mountains) to the east of Prayaga and to the west of Vinasana the
place where the river Sarasvati disappears is called Madhyadesa (the
But (the tract) between those two mountains just mentioned,
which extends as far as the eastern and the western oceans, the wise
call Aryavarta the country of the Aryans.
That land where the black antelope naturally roams, one must know
to be fit for the performance of sacrifices; the tract different from
that is the country of the Mlekkhas (barbarians).
Let twice-born men seek to dwell in those above-mentioned
countries; but a Sudra, distressed for subsistence, may reside
anywhere. Thus has the origin of the sacred law been succinctly described to
you and the origin of this universe; learn now the duties of the
With holy rites, prescribed by the Veda, must the ceremony on
conception and other sacraments be performed for twice-born men, which
sanctify the body and purify (from sin) in this (life) and after death.
By burnt oblations during the mother's pregnancy, by the
Gatakarman (the ceremony after birth), the Kauda (tonsure), and the
Maungibandhana (the tying of the sacred girdle of Munga grass) is the
taint, derived from both parents, removed from twice-born men.
By the study of the Veda, by vows, by burnt oblations, by the
recitation of sacred texts, by the acquisition of the threefold
sacred science, by offering to the gods, Rishis, and manes, by the
procreation of sons, by the great sacrifices, and by Srauta rites
this human body is made fit for union with Brahman.
Before the navel-string is cut, the Gatakarman (birth-rite) must
be performed for a male child; and while sacred formulas are being
recited, he must be fed with gold, honey, and butter.
30. But let the father perform or cause to be performed the
Namadheya (the rite of naming the child), on the tenth or twelfth day
after birth, or on a lucky lunar day, in a lucky muhurta, under an
Let the first part of a Brahmana's name denote something
auspicious, a Kshatriya's be connected with power, and a Vaisya's with
wealth, but a Sudra's express something contemptible.
The second part of a Brahmana's name shall be a word
implying happiness, of a Kshatriya's a word implying protection, of a
Vaisya's (a term) expressive of thriving, and of a Sudra's an
expression denoting service.
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.
In the fourth month the Nishkramana (the first leaving of the
house) of the child should be performed, in the sixth month the
Annaprasana (first feeding with rice), and optionally any other
auspicious ceremony required by the custom of the family.
According to the teaching of the revealed texts, the Kudakarman
(tonsure) must be performed, for the sake of spiritual merit, by all
twice-born men in the first or third year. In the eighth year after conception, one should perform the
initiation (upanayana) of a Brahmana, in the eleventh after conception
(that) of a Kshatriya, but in the twelfth that of a Vaisya. The initiation of a Brahmana who desires proficiency in sacred
learning should take place in the fifth year after conception, that
of a Kshatriya who wishes to become powerful in the sixth, and that
of a Vaisya who longs for success in his business in the eighth.
The time for the Savitri (initiation) of a Brahmana does not
pass until the completion of the sixteenth year after conception, of
a Kshatriya until the completion of the twenty-second, and of a Vaisya
until the completion of the twenty-fourth.
After those periods men of these three (castes) who have not
received the sacrament at the proper time, become Vratyas (outcasts),
excluded from the Savitri (initiation) and despised by the Aryans.
40. With such men, if they have not been purified according to the
rule, let no Brahmana ever, even in times of distress, form a connexion
either through the Veda or by marriage. Let students, according to the order of their castes, wear as
upper dresses the skins of black antelopes, spotted deer, and he-goats, and lower garments made of hemp, flax or wool.
The girdle of a Brahmana shall consist of a of a triple cord of
Munga grass, smooth and soft; that of a Kshatriya, of a bowstring,
made of Murva fibres; that of a Vaisya, of hempen threads.
If Munga grass and so forth be not procurable, the girdles may
be made of Kusa, Asmantaka, and Balbaga (fibres), with a single
threefold knot, or with three or five knots according to the custom of
The sacrificial string of a Brahmana shall be made of cotton,
shall be twisted to the right, and consist of three threads, that
of a Kshatriya of hempen threads, and that of a Vaisya of woollen
A Brahmana shall carry, according to the sacred law, a staff of
Bilva or Palasa; a Kshatriya, of Vata or Khadira; and a Vaisya, of
Pilu or Udumbara.
The staff of a Brahmana shall be made of such length as to reach
the end of his hair; that of a Kshatriya, to reach his forehead; and
that of a Vaisya, to reach the tip of his nose.
Let all the staves be straight, without a blemish, handsome to
look at, not likely to terrify men, with their bark perfect, unhurt by
Having taken a staff according to his choice, having worshipped
the sun and walked round the fire, turning his right hand towards it,
the student should beg alms according to the prescribed rule.
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).
Having collected as much food as is required from several
persons, and having announced it without guile to his teacher, let him
eat, turning his face towards the east, and having purified himself by
His meal will procure long life, if he eats facing the east;
fame, if he turns to the south; prosperity, if he turns to the west;
truthfulness, if he faces the east.
Let a twice-born man always eat his food with concentrated mind,
after performing an ablution; and after he has eaten, let him duly
cleanse himself with water and sprinkle the cavities (of his head).
Let him always worship his food, and eat it without contempt; when
he sees it, let him rejoice, show a pleased face, and pray that he may
always obtain it.
Food, that is always worshipped, gives strength and manly vigour;
but eaten irreverently, it destroys them both.
Let him not give to any man what he leaves, and beware of eating
between the two meal-times; let him not over-eat himself, nor go
anywhere without having purified himself after his meal. Excessive eating is prejudicial to health, to fame, and to bliss
in heaven; it prevents the acquisition of spiritual merit, and is
odious among men; one ought, for these reasons, to avoid it carefully.
Let a Brahmana always sip water out of the part of the hand
(tirtha) sacred to Brahman, or out of that sacred to Ka (Pragapati), or
out of (that) sacred to the gods, never out of that sacred to the
They call the part at the root of the thumb the tirtha sacred to
Brahman, that at the root of the little finger the tirtha sacred to
Ka (Pragapati), that at the tips of the fingers, the tirtha sacred
to the gods, and that below between the index and the thumb, the
tirtha sacred to the manes.
60. Let him first sip water thrice; next twice wipe his mouth; and,
lastly, touch with water the cavities of the head, the seat of the
soul and the head. He who knows the sacred law and seeks purity shall always perform
the rite of sipping with water neither hot nor frothy, with the
prescribed tirtha, in a lonely place, and turning to the east or to
A Brahmana is purified by water that reaches his heart, a
Kshatriya by water reaching his throat, a Vaisya by water taken into
his mouth, and a Sudra by water touched with the extremity of his
A twice-born man is called upavitin when his right arm is raised and the sacrificial string or the dress, passed under it, rests on the
left shoulder; when his left arm is raised and the string, or the
dress, passed under it, rests on the right shoulder, he is called
prakinavitin; and nivitin when it hangs down straight from the neck.
His girdle, the skin which serves as his upper garment, his
staff, his sacrificial thread, and his water-pot he must throw into
water, when they have been damaged, and take others, reciting sacred
The ceremony called Kesanta (clipping the hair) is ordained for
a Brahmana in the sixteenth year from conception; for a Kshatriya, in
the twenty-second; and for a Vaisya, two years later than that.
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.
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.
Thus has been described the rule for the initiation of the twice-
born, which indicates a (new) birth, and sanctifies; learn now to
what duties they must afterwards apply themselves.
Having performed the rite of initiation, the teacher must first
instruct the pupil in the rules of personal purification, of
conduct, of the fire-worship, and of the twilight devotions. "
"And the LORD spake unto Moses after the death of the two
sons of Aaron, when they offered before the LORD, and died; And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother,
that he come not at all times into the holy place within the
vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die
not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place : with a young
bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have
the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with
a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired:
these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in
water, and so put them on. And he shall take of the congregation of the children of
Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram
for a burnt offering. And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering,
which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and
for his house. And he shall take the two goats, and present them before
the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for
the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD'S lot
fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat,
shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement
with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering,
which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself,
and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering
which is for himself: And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire
from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet
incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail: And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the
LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat
that is upon the testimony, that he die not: And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle
it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before
the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger
seven times. Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that
is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and
do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock,
and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat: And he shall make an atonement for the holy place , because
of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of
their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for
the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them
in the midst of their uncleanness. And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation
when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place , until
he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for
his household, and for all the congregation of Israel. And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the
LORD, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood
of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon
the horns of the altar round about. And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger
seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness
of the children of Israel. And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he
shall bring the live goat: And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the
live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children
of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting
them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the
hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities
unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the
wilderness. And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation,
and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he
went into the holy place, and shall leave them there: And he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place,
and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt
offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an
atonement for himself, and for the people. And the fat of the sin offering shall he burn upon the
altar. And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash
his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come
into the camp. And the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for
the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement
in the holy place, shall one carry forth without the camp;
and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh,
and their dung. And he that burneth them shall wash his clothes, and bathe
his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp.
And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in
the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict
your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your
own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for
you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins
before the LORD. It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict
your souls, by a statute for ever. And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall
consecrate to minister in the priest's office in his father's
stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen
clothes, even the holy garments: And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary,
and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation,
and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests,
and for all the people of the congregation.And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to
make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins
once a year. And he did as the LORD commanded Moses."
the Torah we read that before the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, God
commanded the people to wash their clothing as a symbolic act of purification
Leviticus 8:6 records the washing of Aaron and his sons when they were
ordained as priests to minister in the holy tabernacle. Again, in Leviticus
16:4, God commanded Aaron to wash himself before and after he ministered in the
Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement.
Numbers 19 gives explicit instructions for purification after defilement by a
dead body. After bathing and washing his clothes, the "unclean" person had to be
sprinkled with fresh water combined with ashes from a sacrificed animal. The
Israelites also used this "water of cleansing" to purify themselves and their
plunder after they battled with the Midianites (Numbers 31:21-24).
Along with the purposes already mentioned in the Torah, another use of
symbolic purification by water became part of early Jewish tradition. This was
immersion or baptism for Gentile converts to Judaism. Though the only Biblical
requirement for entrance into the covenant was circumcision, baptism became an
added requisite. No one knows exactly when or by whom the requirements were
changed to include baptism, but it was before the time of Jesus. We know this,
because debates on the subject of proselyte baptism are recorded between
rabbinic schools of Shammai and Hillel, both contemporaries of Jesus. Whereas
the school of Shammai stressed circumcision as the point of
transition, the Hillelites considered baptism most important
because it portrayed spiritual cleansing and the beginning of a new life.
Ultimately the Hillelite view prevailed, as is reflected in the Talmudic
writings. Maimonides, that greatly revered 12th century Jewish scholar, summed
up all Talmudic tradition concerning converts to Judaism as follows.
"By three things did Israel enter into the Covenant: by circumcision, and
baptism and sacrifice. Circumcision was in Egypt, as it is written: 'No
uncircumcised person shall eat thereof' (Exodus 12:48). Baptism was in the
wilderness, just before giving of the Law, as it is written: 'Sanctify them
today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes' (Exodus 19:10). And
sacrifice, as it is said: 'And he sent young men of the children of Israel which
offered burnt offerings' (Exodus 24:5)…When a gentile is willing to enter the
covenant…He must be circumcised and be baptized and bring a sacrifice…And at
this time when there is no sacrifice, they must be circumcised and be baptized;
and when the Temple shall be built, they are to bring a sacrifice…The gentile
that is made a proselyte and the slave that is made free, behold he is like a
child new born."
From all of the foregoing, we see that the use of water to symbolize
cleansing and consecration is very much a Jewish concept, and a very ancient one
[Source: Ceil Rosen, Jews for Jesus, Issues Volume 2 Number 10
http://www.jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/2_10 , Baptism-Pagan or Jewish?"]
(Author and her research assistants, Bob Mendelsohn
and Rachmiel Frydland).
an credits to jewsforjesus.org