MEANT essentially for indologists and scholars of religious and legal studies, this book provides initial movement towards transcendence of personal consciousness and meaning that makes possible the higher-order coordination of human activity, the vision of meaning in life abstracted and the achievement of ethical, social, political, economic and religious goods. Laws or rules are a key part of every child’s socialisation into a family, a school or a team. The communal rules to which we subject or children and ourselves impart meaning and purpose to the collective of which we become a part.
The Hindu concept of law, as given in the Dharmasastra, emerges from the application of theology to ordinary life. In it, the expansive quality of dharma immediately challenges narrow conceptualisations of law as only connected to state institutions, courts and legislatures. Furthermore, dharma’s connection to the household and family shifts the focus of law from the business of ordinary life.
With the far-reaching notion of dharma, the author examines first the idea of pramana, one of the several terms for the sources of dharma and says the law presents rather a rhetorical ethos, the acceptance of which entails both the restrictions imposed by and the freedoms enabled by a reduction of the kinds of choices we can make in everyday life.
In each chapter the author tries to show how certain key theological conceptualisations and commitments by the authors of the Dharmasastra have been worked out through a reflection on the implications of these commitments in ordinary life. The Hindu concept of law emerges from this application of theology to ordinary life as it focuses first on the idea of rna that human beings owe congenitally and contractually to one another. The various roles of indebtedness are complemented in Hindu jurisprudence by the notion that the material objects that humans use, create and possess embody and concretise human relationships through the recognition of svatva, property and ownership. Then in every sphere of engagement with law, the conflicts and disagreements appear. The idea of vyavahra is the Hindu solution to such problems in the domain of dharma. The result of legal precedence is always danda, punishment, in one of the several forms. Then prayascitta or penance forms the pillar of the full explication of dharma and is essential to the spirit of the tradition.
As an introduction to traditional Hindu law and jurisprudence, the book is structured around key legal concepts such as the sources of law and authority, the laws of persons and things, procedure, punishment and legal practice. It combines investigations of key themes from Sanskrit legal texts with discussion of Hindu theology and ethics, as well as a thorough examination of broader comparative issues in law and religion.
The author provides not only an authoritative reading of the ancient texts, but a challenging view of law itself. The book will interest those interested in Indian intellectual history, study of South Asian religions and comparative ethics and law.
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