Question on Advaita (Women in Advaita Vedanta)

T Swaminarayan tvswaminarayan at YAHOO.COM
Mon Jul 24 21:01:29 CDT 2000

Dear Shri Agarwal,

Your posting on the role of women in Vedanta is very
well researched and I will have to read it a couple of
more times to appreciate, assimilate  and understand
the coverage.It is thoughtful of you to have posted
your response to the List.

Kindly expand i.b.i.d. please for me?

Regards ,

--- Vishal Agarwal <vishalagarwal at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:
> Dear Dennis,
> I apologize in advance for this hurried unstructured
> response. The best way
> to get scholarly answers to your question is to join
> the Advaita Mailing
> list. I will foward your questions to the list
> members but you could also
> joint the list by going to the following URL
> Advaita Vedanta is primarily a philosophical
> tradition and therefore does
> not have an extensive discourse on men-women
> relationships. Some writings of
> Shri Shankaracharya however betray his negative
> views towards women (see
> below). For instance, he held that women are
> debarred from the study of
> Vedas, although he granted them the possibility of
> Moksha via the
> Itihasa-Purana literature. Note however that the
> texts on which his
> commentaries make these observations themselves do
> not have anything to say
> in this regard. Rather they say the opposite.
> The authoritative Upanishads, the Geeta and the
> Sutras do not contain any
> disparaging
> remarks against women although the commentaries on
> them by Shamkaracharya
> etc. do. An
> exception to this might be the following statement
> in the Brahadaranyaka
> Upanishad- "If she
> does not grant him his desire (for coitus), he
> should buy her (with
> presents). If she still does
> not grant him his desire, he should beat her with a
> stick or with his hand
> and overcome her
> with power and glory." Br. Up. 6.4.7.
> This passage is a part of the Khila Kanda
> (supplementary portion) of the
> Upanishad and does
> not form the text proper, being a later addition.
> This opinion is held
> unanimously by Hindu
> scholars (refer to Shankaracharya’s commentary).
> Such passages are ‘Angirasa
> Vidhi’ and
> are considered obnoxious by Hindus.
> On views of Shri Shankaracharya, we have the
> following examples--
> 1. On Bhagvad Gita 9.32, Sri Samkaracharya comments
> that women and Sudras
> are not
> entitled to the study of Vedas. There is not even a
> trace of this thought in
> the orignal verse
> of the Gita.
> 2. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 6.4.17 reads: "Now if
> one wishes to beget a
> daughter who is
> a scholar (Pandita), and that she should live her
> full life, then they
> should eat rice cooked with
> Sesame along with some Ghee. Thereby, they will
> beget her." On this, Sri
> Samkaracharya adds-
> " The scholarship of the daughter is restricted to
> proficiency in household
> affairs only, because
> she is debarred from the study of Vedas." Again, we
> see that this is the
> Acharya's personal view,
> colored by the prevalent notions of his times.
> However, we must also note that the Acharya has also
> written beautiful hymns
> to female deities.
> The 4 Vedas (Mantra Samhitas-Rig, Yajur, Sama,
> Atharva) indeed do not have
> any degrading
> references of a general nature towards women.
> Infact, the Rigveda counts 21
> ladies amongst its Sages. However, the old
> commentaries on them, called
> the Brahmana texts, contain some uncharitable
> remarks against women (which,
> being opposed to
> the Vedas are not authoritative for Hindus). A few
> examples-
> 1. "Women, shudras, black crows and dogs are indeed
> false (evil)."
> Shatapatha Brahmana
> This statement occurs in the context of the
> Pravargya ritual which requires
> the performer to remain
> celibate, meditate for perfection and shun all
> falsehood. Therefore, the
> statement is made (in the
> typical literary style of the Brahmana texts) to
> dissuade the performer of
> the ritual to cohabit with
> his wife or interact with ignorant men (Shudras) by
> comparing them to dogs
> and black crows).
> 2. "Three are indeed evil-....., women and ...."
> Maitrayani Samhita 3.6.3
> This statement again occurs
> in the Brahmana portion of the text, not the Mantra
> portion.
> 3. "Women cherish meaningless conversations and go
> after singers and
> dancers." Shatapatha Brahmana
> 4. "Therefore, women desire singers." Taittiriya
> Samhita (again,
> this is in the Brahmana
> portion, not in the Mantra portion)
> 5. "The husband alone is a wife’s honour."
> Shatapatha Brahmana
> 6. "A wife should seek to reside in her household
> alone." Shatapatha
> Brahmana The last
> two statements are to be understood in the light of
> the reply that Sukanya
> gave to the handsome
> twins Ashwin Kumaras, who teased her for having an
> old and blind husband and
> asked her to
> marry one of them- "My father betrothed me to my
> Husband and I will not
> leave him as long
> as he lives." Shatapatha Brahmana
> 7. "The Brahmana texts say- Do not eat food cooked
> by a woman in her
> menses."
> Vasishtha Dharma sutra 5.8
> The Brahmana texts however, also contain statements
> praising women. For
> instance:
> 1. " He who does not have a wife is not entitled to
> sacrifice to the Devas."
> Taittiriya Brahmana
> 2. "A wife is indeed one half of one’s Atman."
> Taittiriya Brahmana
> 3. "Women verily are an embodiment of splendour."
> ibid
> 4. "A woman never kills" Shatapatha Brahmana
> In the Shanti Parvan
> of the Mahabharata,
> Bhishma Pitamaha clarifies that women are not
> naturally inclined to commit
> sins, but their neglect
> by bad husband forces them to commit evil acts in
> order to survive.
> Therefore, women never sin
> on their own and are always pure.
> Coming to the Puranas, I referred to the Vayu,
> Brahma, Vishnu and portions
> of the
> Srimadabhagvat Puranas but could find only the
> following famous verse:
> "Since the three Vedas cannot be learnt by women,
> Shudras and the twice born
> (by mere birth,
> not learning), the Sage Veda Vyasa composed the
> story of Mahabharata out of
> compassion
> for them." Bhagvata Mahapurana 1.4.25
> Contrarily, I found several tales in the Puranas in
> praise of women. For
> instance, the Vishnu
> Purana records a tale in which the Sages assemble on
> the banks of a river,
> waiting for Veda
> Vyasa to come out of water after completing his
> meditation. The reverend
> sage comes out
> and utters: "In the Kali Age, women will be superior
> to men" and goes into
> water again. After
> a while, he emerges again and utters: "In the Kali
> Age, the Shudras will be
> superior to the
> twice born." and goes into water again. He finally
> completes his meditation
> and emerges from
> the river, whereupon the Sages ask him the meaning
> of
=== message truncated ===

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