Why are our scriptures contradicting so much? A Bramhana can beat anyone as he wishes?


Firstly as rightly said by RickRoss and Ikshvaku, the verses are talking about punishment inflicted by kings for certain acts. Nowhere does scripture sanction Brahmins to beat lower caste people.

1. General view:
The general majority view of the Smritis (See other comparative notes to Manu 8.279 as well) seems to be only the injuring of a Brahmin being punishable by censuring the aggrieving limb:

That limb of a non-Brāhmaṇa with which he hurts the Brāhmaṇa should he cut off. If he raises a weapon to strike him, he shall pay a fine of the first degree; if he only touches the weapon, then only half of that.
Yājñavalkya Smriti 2.215

Manu 8.279, cited in the question, too seems to make a similar indication, if one reads the actual Sanskrit verse:

येन केन चिदङ्गेन हिंस्याच्चेत्श्रेष्ठमन्त्यजः । छेत्तव्यं तद् तदेवास्य तन् मनोरनुशासनम् ॥ २७९ ॥

The words ‘śreṣṭha’ (emboldened) is the superlative form meaning the highest, which in the case of Varnas again points towards Brahmins and not any superior caste. (If we don’t accept this view read point 3 below)

2. Explicit protection to Brahmins:
Firstly we can see that among the different types of sins, even injuring of a Brahmin is a serious sin, as also stated in the question. Probably the reason for this is the fact that Brahmins through great sadhana acquire great merits and are in possession of the most holy Vedic knowledge.

As per Manu 7.18 (citing half verse):

Punishment governs all creatures; Punishment alone protects them

To which Medhatithi’s Commentary states that ‘Punishment alone protects’— the weak against the strong.

Also, Brahmins not being accustomed to arduous physical exertion are comparatively physically weaker than the lower castes (well at least warring Kshatriyas and labouring shudras). As a result to protect the physically weaker from the stronger as also for a king to deliver appropriate punishments against shastric sins, anyone (not being a Brahmin) attacking a Brahmin is to be punished harshly.

3. Not accepting the above view of ‘śreṣṭha’ being only Brahmins in Manusmriti
The commentary of Mitakshara 2.215 says:

inasmuch as this lays down the cutting of the limb of a Śūdra who strikes any twice-born person, it follows, from the parity of reasoning, that this same punishment is to be inflicted upon the Vaiśya striking the Kṣatriya

So we can see that it is not strictly restricted to only Shudras injuring Brahmins. It talks of punishment to relatively lower caste for injuring any relatively upper caste as per Manu (not other Smritis)

4. Why such a harsh punishment?
We have to remember that hitting Brahmins is a sin as stated above and as such we also have to remember that it was the other person who harmed a physically weak holder of the most sacred knowledge. Before harming a Brahmin (who also has like everyone else has god in him) he should’ve thought that injuring a Brahmin is like injuring god. If injuring him by cutting his limb is injuring hari then so also is injuring a Brahmin. Who can stop Hari’s law of Karma from playing, especially through a king who has been entrusted with the task as such? If he hadn’t harmed the Brahmin such a punishment wouldn’t have been inflicted. Would it have? It is thus advisable for no one to hit anyone and in turn no one should be the first one to hurt god.

Further not holding the ‘śreṣṭha’ as Brahmin view, a harsh punishment prescribed by Manu (besides the verse for protection cited above and also those cited by Rickross) also because:

All the castes would become corrupt, all barriers would be broken through, and there would be disruption among all the regions,—if there were any mistakes in regard to punishment.—(7.24)

Then again as Rickross said

we only have the option to either follow the scriptures or not follow them. With our limited understanding of things we are not in a position to question them.

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