Question on Advaita (Women in Advaita Vedanta) (fwd)

S. V. Subrahmanian svs_shankara at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Jul 27 09:59:59 CDT 2000

Shri Dennisji wrote:

         Yes, I believe it can change, and I ask all teachers to consider in
hearts what ill effect would there be (and what great benefit to the world
there could be) if discouragement of female disciples were to cease now.  If
anyone seriously feels that there would be a negative effect of allowing
women the discipleship and study opportunities equal to that made available
to men, please advise the basis for same, i.e., why you think it would be a
mistake according to Advaita Vedanta wisdom.


One input that might be needed inorder to think on the suggested lines,
would be as to why none of the jnAnIs in the past have tried to correct it,
even giants among them like Krishna and Sankara.

Krishna said in the gIta, that he incarnates age after age to correct
mankind from the path of adharma.  None of Vishnu's incarnations have ever
addressed this problem.  Is it because that they never perceived this as a
problem at all ?  Are we suddenly discerning a problem that is really
non-existent ?  Or are we creating one ?

One more input to the thought process is that, traditionally Bharatiya
Samskruti (culture), was a duty-based society.  People were taught what
their duties were.  Very little was taught as to what their rights were.
For eg., in TaitrIya upaniSad, the teacher exorts the disciple to treat
mother as God, father as God, keep learning, give appropriate dakSiNa to the
teacher etc.  There is no mention of what the rights of student are.  So
also women were taught their duties.  Each was happy (or was busy) doing
their duties.  Their thoughts must have hardly anytime to fight for rights.

But today, thanks to the secular education, the students are first taught
"fundamental rights".  What is first engrained in the minds is "What is my
right as a citizen ?"  "What is my right as a student in a college ?", "What
is my right as a woman ?" etc.  There is very little focus on what is my
duty as a citizen.  Whereas the Vedic culture emphasized the duties.

Since the prevalent culture was duty-based and they looked to the Sruti to
guide them as to what their duties were, they accepted whatever the Sruti
said and followed it.  Following what the Sruti said was the highest dharma
then.  If the Sruti asks one to pick up stones and another to learn
vyAkaraNa, both are equally contributing to one's spiritual progress, since
both are injunctions of the very same Sruti.  The person who picks the stone
is doing as much merit as the one who is learning vyAkaraNa, since both are
injunctions of Sruti.

May be if we have that attitude in these "modern" times, we may not have
these confusions.

S. V. Subrahmanian.

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