Women and vedaas

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Tue Jan 20 13:31:58 CST 1998

On Tue, 20 Jan 1998, Gregory Goode wrote:

> But nowhere does the text of the Veda say that women and shudras are
> *prohibited*.  Is there a line of text that says

This kind of thing is extensively discussed in the Mimamsa Shastra.
Actually there is one section where it is discussed whether the Devas are
allowed to study the Vedas and surprisingly the answer is no.  Because
like Shudras, and women the Gods are not mentioned in the Vedic text as
being eligible.  What they know of the Vedas is due to their inborn nature
not the result of learning.

> By your comments, you are sort of implying the Vedas are like (1) below and
> not (2).
> 1.  All actions that are not required are prohibited.
> 2.  All actions that are not prohibited are permitted.

Actually it's a bit of both.  The Yagnavalkya Smrti mentions the sources
of Dharma as fourfold.

1. Shruti -- The Vedas.
2. Smrti -- The shastras based on the Vedas.
3. Shistachar - The opinions of those learned in Shruti and Smrti
4. Ones own wish not in contradiction of Shruti, Smrti and Shistachar.

In many places the shastras explicitly give the option of doing a thing or
of choosing to do several things.

> Under (1), any possible action is either required or prohibited.  No
> latitude in life.  This is usually the interpretation given to scripture by
> fundamentalists in all religions, and gives rise to superstition and
> legalism.  In one Christian denomination for example, Church of Christ, it
> is prohibited to play musical instruments in worshipping God simply because
> no musical instrument is mentioned in the New Testament (they are mentioned
> in the Old Testament).
> Under (2), much more reasonable, there is much latitude in life.

I think you are confusing fundamentalists and literalists.  You do not
need to be a literalist to be a fundamentalist and in fact I would argue
most fundamentalists of any religion are not.  (For instance in Islam the
words of the Koran are interpreted in the light of the Hadith or saysings
of Mohammed.)  Vedic religion is fundamentalist in that it accepts the
words of the Shruti as being infallible but the reading of those words is
far more subtle than just (1).  and it offers just as much latitude as (2)

> Is there a statement in the Vedas that establishes (1) and not (2)?

The arguments I am making are based on the Mimamsa shastra which is the
universally acknowledged method of Vedic interpretaion.  The verb
mimamsate occurs in the Vedic texts in the sense of "discussing the
meaning of the Vedas" so there is no reason not to believe its authority.

You are making an assumption here that the Vedas are some sort of court of
appeal that can override lesser shastras but that is not the way Hindus
see things. Yes Shruti is impersonal whereas Smrti is the product of
humans therefore subordinate but in practial terms the difference is not
important.  The same Rshis who saw the Shruti, wrote the Smrtis.
Shistachar is also not that different as it is produced by people who were
disciples of the Rshis, and their disciple and their disciples and so on
up to the present day.  Rather than discreet parts we see them as a
continuum.  So the paramaount question for us is not "which book allows us
to do this?" but "what did they do in the past?"  As we have seen, my
opponents are unable to come up with much evidence to show the giants of
the past did anything any differently than what I'm saying.

> Not in the culture, but in the text.

Again an assumption.  What makes you think text and culture can be
seperated?  Anyway Vedic religion doesn't make that assumption so if you
do, we are now discussing a completely different thing.

> If not, then why not accept (2) as just as
> reasonable?  Then women CAN study the Vedas.

Because it isn't any more reasonable than what the Vedic position already

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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