Even were he to die with him, a kinsman is unable to follow his dead relative: all excepting his wife are forbidden to follow him on the path of Yama [the god of death]…. Of existing beings the beginning is unknown, the middle of their career is known, and the end again unknown; what reason then for you to complain? As the body of mortals undergoes the vicissitudes of infancy, youth, and old age, even so will it be transformed into another body hereafter; a sensible man is not mistaken about that. As a man puts on new clothes in this world, throwing aside those which he formerly wore, even so the self of man puts on new bodies, which are in accordance with his acts in a former life.

The Vishnu Smriti is one of the latest books of the Dharmaśāstra tradition in Hinduism. It does not directly address the means of knowing “dharma” — that is, one’s responsibilities and duties to others. This anonymous text is notorious for advocating the controversial “sati” — or burning of a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre. Estimates of the time of composition vary widely — anywhere from 1000 to 300 BC.


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