[Advaita-l] RE: Advaita-l Digest, Vol 22, Issue 8

Navin Rajaram navinr at moschip.com
Thu Feb 10 08:23:07 CST 2005

Hari Om,

Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:

> Personally, I would say upanayana is a prerequisite for learning to 
> chant the veda, because that would be a sign of respecting the 
> tradition. However, also personally, for people who show interest and 
> sincerity, I would not restrict upanayana according to birth. I 
> realize there will always be differences of opinion on this matter, 
> depending on one's conviction. Gender is a little more complicated in 
> this regard, primarily because of issues of ritual purity at the 
> physical level.

In an earlier discussion with Jaldharji, I was of the opinion that Veda 
chanting is not to be restricted by gender at all. In some way, I find 
myself reconciled to the other view. The way of life prescribed for a 
male by the shastras seems to have been a much more rigorous and 
disciplined life. The path to realization for males was streamlined 
using the ashrama system coupled with rigorous study and practice of 
rituals. In the case of women, Sri Periawal quotes

"If brahmacarya prepares boys [or young men] to live according to 
dharma, what about girls? A girl has neither Upanayana nor 
Brahmacaryasrama. Should not a woman's mind also be disciplined like a 
man's. If you echo the criticism of reformers and say that injustice has 
been done to woman by denying them the Brahmacaryasrama and Upanayana, 
my answer is "No".

Men marry after their Upanayana and student-bachelorhood. Now for women 
marriage itself is Upanayana. Just as a boy dedicates himself to his 
guru, a girl must dedicate herself to her husband from her childhood 
until the start of their conjugal life and beyond. The Manusmriti says: 
"Strinam upanayanam-sthane vivaham Manurabravit" (Manu says that for 
women marriage is in place of upanayana). If you ask for an external 
sign of this like sacred thread worn by the men, we may at once point to 
the married woman's mangalasutra.

I said that "Upanayana" means "taking near", taking a boy near his guru 
for his brahmacaryasrama. A woman's guru is her husband. Being joined to 
him in wedlock is her upanayana."

"It is not that the girl is considered inferior and asked to surrender 
to a man, that is her husband. The boy too is asked to surrender as a 
child to the guru. It is the view of the sastras that the age at which 
the girl is married and surrenders to her husband must be the same as 
that at which the boy surrenders to the guru.

Talking of the husband and the wife, the question whether the one is 
superior to the other or inferior is of no consequence. Equally 
unimportant is the question of rights and status. If this is realised 
surrender will be seen to be of the utmost importance. We must 
appreciate the fact that it is in keeping with this view that the 
concept of upanayana has taken shape in the case of boy's and marriage 
in the case of girls."

This seems to have been the path ordained by the shastras for women, in 
comparison to the study,sadhana,tapas path for men. In the same breath, 
I wonder if one could follow this path to the fullest in this time and 
age. Do the shastras ordain an analagous path in Kali-yuga?

Jaldharji, any misinterpretations or questions I raised were definitely 
a consequence of my own ignorance. Apologies for the same.

Hari Om,

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