Manu is a post in the management of the universal affairs of creation. There are 14 Manus in one day of Brahma. Each Manu lives for about 311 million years. Currently we are in the age of Vaivasvata Manu. Manus, such a Svayambhuva Manu, are the progenitors of mankind. The Manus are also entrusted by Lord Sri Krishna directly to impart the laws of dharma, the rules and regulations of how society should be governed.
Srila Prabhupad has given so many instructions about following the laws of Manu and the importance of the Manu Samhita. He quoted from it many times. One common reference is how women must remain always dependent, as child under their father, in youth under their husband, and in old age under their sons. This is an injunction from the Manu Samhita. (MS 9.3)
Using the BBT VedaBase Folio we can find 141 references for Manu Samhita and another 33 references for Manu Smriti (Manu Smriti and Samhita are one and the same). There are 968 references to the title Manu.
In the Purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 7.8.48 Prabhupäd explains nicely the importance of applying the injunctions of Manu.
Purport to SB 7.8.48
In many places in Bhagavad-gétä, the Supreme Lord, Kåñëa, refers to the varëäçrama-dharma of four varëas and four äçramas. He teaches people about this varëäçrama-dharma so that all of human society can live peacefully by observing the principles for the four social divisions and four spiritual divisions (varëa and äçrama) and thus make advancement in spiritual knowledge. The Manus compiled the Manu-saàhitä. The word saàhitä means Vedic knowledge, and manu indicates that this knowledge is given by Manu. The Manus are sometimes incarnations of the Supreme Lord and sometimes empowered living entities. Formerly, many long years ago, Lord Kåñëa instructed the sun-god. The Manus are generally sons of the sun-god. Therefore, while speaking to Arjuna about the importance of Bhagavad-gétä, Kåñëa said, imaà vivasvate yogaà proktavän aham avyayam vivasvän manave präha: “This instruction was given to Vivasvän, the sun-god, who in turn instructed his son Manu.” Manu gave the law known as Manu-saàhitä, which is full of directions based on varëa and äçrama concerning how to live as a human being. These are very scientific ways of life, but under the rule of demons like Hiraëyakaçipu, human society breaks all these systems of law and order and gradually becomes lower and lower. Thus there is no peace in the world. The conclusion is that if we want real peace and order in the human society, we must follow the principles laid down by the Manu-saàhitä and confirmed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kåñëa.
Srila Prabhupad very specifically instructs that if we want real peace and order in society, we must follow the principles laid out in the Manu Samhita.
Srimad Bhagavatam 4:18:3
"To benefit all human society, not only in this life but in the next, the great seers and sages have prescribed various methods conducive to the prosperity of the people in general."
Excerpted form Purport...
Vedic injunctions are known as çruti, and the additional supplementary presentations of these principles, as given by the great sages, are known as småti. They follow the principles of Vedic instruction. Human society should take advantage of the instructions from both çruti and småti. If one wants to advance in spiritual life, he must take these instructions and follow the principles. In Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Srila Rupa Gosvami says that if one poses himself as advanced in spiritual life but does not refer to the srutis and smrtis he is simply a disturbance in society. One should follow the principles laid down in srutis and smrtis not only in one's spiritual life but in material life as well. As far as human society is concerned, it should follow the Manu-smrti as well, for these laws are given by Manu, the father of mankind.
In the Manu-smrti it is stated that a woman should not be given independence, but should be given protection by her father, husband and elderly sons. In all circumstances a woman should remain dependent upon some guardian. Presently women are given full independence like men, but actually we can see that such independent women are no happier than those women who are placed under guardians. If people follow the injunctions given by the great sages, srutis and smrtis, they can actually be happy in both this life and the next. Unfortunately rascals are manufacturing so many ways and means to be happy. Everyone is inventing so many methods. Consequently human society has lost the standard ways of life, both materially and spiritually, and as a result people are bewildered, and there is no peace or happiness in the world. ...
We are to apply follow the principles laid down in the srutis and smrtis not only in spiritual life, but material life as well. Just see, Prabhupad says the same thing that the sages 1,000’s of years ago said, and millions of years before then. Over 120 million years ago Krishna instructed the Sun-God Vivisvan in this science. And he in turn instructed his son Vaivasvata Manu. Manu has written the social laws down in the form of the Manu Samhita. It is a very old and ancient science, yet it is completely practical in all places and at all times. It is coming directly from Lord Krishna Himself. And Prabhupad is instructing that it is to be followed by all of human society, including right now at the present time. Several times Srila Prabhupad has referred to the laws of Manu, varnasram-dharma and sanatan-dharma as being one and the same. The laws of Manu are sanatan-dharma. Our eternal duties in life. Of course, normally devotees speak of sanatan-dharma to mean our eternal occupation, which is transcendental loving service to Krishna. However, it also means is used in a more mundane sense to mean the non-changing eternal duties of society. The goals of the laws of varnasram are to guide and engage society in the service of the Supreme Lord.
Purport to SB 3.13.12
The whole administrative system is arranged for the purpose of going back home, back to Godhead. Brahmä is the representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and Manu is the representative of Brahmä. Similarly, all other kings on different planets of the universe are representatives of Manu. The lawbook for the entire human society is the Manu-saàhitä, which directs all activities towards the transcendental service of the Lord.
In Prabhupad’s purport to SB 2.1.36 he says:
…The Manu-saàhitä is the standard lawbook for humanity, and every human being is advised to follow this great book of social knowledge.
Manu Samhita directs all activities to the transcendental service of Lord Krishna. Srila Prabhupad advises every human being to follow this great book of social knowledge. He made no discrimination between devotee and non-devotee. We are all under the laws of varnasram-sanatan-dharma.
To follow these instructions by Srila Prabhupad means that we must follow the Manu Samhita. Unfortunately Srila Prabhupad didn’t translate it into English. My desire for some time has been to do this. However, until then the most widely known English translation was done by a German scholar, G. Buhler, many years ago (I think in the 1800’s). Although Buhler is mostly an impersonalist, the Manu Samhita does not deal so much with Bhagavat philosophy directly. I have asked several devotees and they felt, although it isn’t best, it is fairly benign to reference this work. Yet, milk touched by a serpent has poisonous effect. I have the Sanskrit text and do plan on translating it myself soon giving commentary inline with Prabhupad’s instructions.
However, since varnasram-dharma is based on the laws given by Manu, and because these injunctions are important in understanding what I am presenting here, I felt it was needed to reference Manu’s works, even if I have to quote from Buhler’s translation for the time being. (A few verses I have rephrased so as to make them more comprehensible).
Some devotees have argued that ISKCON is above the laws of Manu. We are a spiritual society, and devotees are above the Vedic injunctions regarding social life. They say we should more forcefully preach detachment from family life, rather then preach perfection of family life. We are not above the laws of Dharma. At least most of us are not on such an elevated platform. Srila Prabhupad set the personal example. He was a most responsible householder. He had his mission in life and the orders of Bhaktisiddhanta to fulfill, but he did not take it up fully until his householder duties were complete. But, more than that, he created a Society of devotee. A society means there must be social activities and social injunctions. He encouraged marriage and family life as well as encouraged renunciation. And he taught us what is required to make a peaceful marriage and peaceful society, one that can advance in spiritual life, and well as material life. And, most of ISKCON now consists of householders and second generation children who are now starting the third generations. This means family. If the families break up this adversely affects the Krishna Consciousness of the children who suffer in such broken homes. No, we are not above the social dharmas. Rather it is our duty, as Prabhupad told us, to take up a life based on varnasram-dharma and to teach it to the world.
Çréla Prabhupäd has said that Hindu Law was based on Manu Samhita, but was now being replaced by the Godless laws of modern industrialized society. One Indian devotee told me that in Bengal they have one large building and in it they have murtis (statues) of many of the ancient rishis and teachers. They also had murtis of several of the Manus until the Communist Party came in and took the statues of Manu out and threw them in the Ganges. The point they were making is that the law of Dharma is dead. Bengal was no more ruled by Manu Samhita, and they didn’t want any reminder of it’s past. Dharma was dead. This is so sad. The Laws of Manu and the Laws of Dharma are for all of human society. As man becomes more and more degraded and influenced by the darkness of Kali Yuga, more and more they want to throw dharma, religious principles, out. They want to kill dharma. Srila Prabhupad wanted us to re-establish it.
Çréla Prabhupäd gave his followers the mission to re-establish the principles of dharma by re-establishing varnasram-dharma. To do this all of human society must follow the principles laid down in the Manu-Samhita. Doing so will direct human society towards it’s ultimate goal of engaging in the devotional service of the Lord. This is our goal, and is the mood that this book has been written.
Om Tat Sat.