ETHICS IN DHARMASASTRAS AND ITIHASAS

The institutes of Manu and other Dharmasastras are the main source books of both Hindu ritualism and social morality. The Upanishads emphasized the
liberation of the individual, but the Manusmrti subordinated individuality to social structures.

Though individual, one belongs to a family and a sub-caste and he is always taken care by the family in which he is, and so the Hindu social morality is relativistic on several counts. Man’s duties are accepted to be relative to time (Yuga) and place (Desa). The duties of a person are also strictly relative
to his Varna (class) and the stage of Life (Asrama).

Manu has decreed certain virtues as universal. They are, contentment (dhairya), forgiveness (kshama), selfcontrol (dhama), non-stealing (asteya), cleanliness (sauca), coercion of the senses (indriya nigraha), wisdom (dhi), knowledge of the Supreme Atman (vidhya), truthfulness (sathya) and abstention from anger (akrodha). These virtues are common, universal dharma (Sadharana Dharma), which can be called morality.

Thus the Dharmasastras, Epics and the Puranas have their own specific goal but they seem to share more or less a common ‘ethos’ from the point of ethics.