[Advaita-l] Women and Vedas

Siva Senani Nori sivasenani at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 3 01:21:21 CDT 2006

--- Aditya Varun Chadha <adichad at gmail.com> wrote:

> The first step is to call a spade a spade. only then can you start
> justifying that well the spade is also wood and metal, and both are
> just matter, etc. etc. Let's not make distortions while trying to
> justify the controversies of our books. Nowhere in the scriptures is
> it stated that womanhood is not meant in its usual way, but in some
> esoteric idealistic denigrating way.

Should loyalty to one's tradition be blind? No, I think. Should honesty count
more than confirmity / orthodoxy? Yes, IMO.

Such being the case, what should our response be? To me from first principles,
exclusion of women and SUdrAs poses some contradictions. If everything is
brahman, how can you deny brahman anything, much less eligibility to realise
oneself? Some of the mantra drashTAs are actually women - gArgi being an
example; then we have maitreyI, the wife of yAj~nvalkya learning brahmavidyA
from the great rishi himself, and that episode is itself a part of the vedas. I
know that these are the standard remarks of feminists and others, but till now,
I don't know how to address these within the orthodox framework.

The traditional answer given was that the general rules were for the sAmAnya,
and the extra-ordinary always have exemption. In certain examples, this rings
true, but on further analysis it gets uncomfortable. This traditionally is
supposed to mean that all the rules - the entire karmakANDa to wit - are for
the ordinary; and that they need not be adhered to by the extra-ordinary, or
the j~nAnin, and that is exactly the case with sannyasins. But another way to
look at it is from the point of view of a woman or a Sudra: "Oh! wonderful, we
have this great knowledge that would lead to everlasting bliss. Could I please
be initiated?" Such a person would be initiated only if she already Knows, in
which case initiation is perfectly unnecessary; and if she doesn't already
Know, well, touch luck, do good, accumulate merit, and be born in next life as
a caste man. This doesn't sound fair. And I don't want to believe that my faith
is such an unfair one.

So, where do I stand? Generally speaking, I am orthodox - but try to be
conscious of inherent complications such as above; and in such cases without
attributing too much importance to my own alpa buddhi, I try to believe and do
what that buddhi says. 

In the case of women, children and vedas - my wife picked up some part of
purusha sUktam as I offer my daily ablutions; I reminded her that she is not
supposed to recite that without due care and respect. By this she understood
that she needs to get into a regular routine and not be as liberal as she is
with other stotras like Adityahridayam or the sahasranAmams and desists from
reciting the part she knows (at least in my presence); my interpretation is
that she needs brahmajij~nAsA before she gets into it. The day I know she is
keen, I shall not hesitate in teaching her what I know, or introducing her to a
teacher (more likely, given her estimate of me!), but till I am not convinced,
this duplicity at least keeps marital peace :-) 

My son (2) and daughter (four and a half) regularly fool around imitating
Achamanam, mArjanam etc., and the daughter even knows gaNapati stuti,
sarasvatIvandanam, and a couple of SAnti matras. In this case, I indulge them,
and didn't prohibit her yet as she is too young to understand and by the time
she is 5 (the age after which her karma-account is supposed to start), I hope
to wean her away from this - by example of her mother, or take care to complete
my ablutions before she wakes up in the morning.

So, each one in his limited capacity should be the judge of sAmAnyatA, and any
teacher who is convinced of a viSeshatA of a seeker, should teach without
hesitation, as in the case of satyakAma jAbAli.


PS: I had to quote personal life to discuss a concrete situation - and I know
of no other woman seeking knowledge or connected with vedic recitation.
However, the above might be construed a Damba-pradarSana on my part. The
complete truth is that I was an upanIta at 8, regularly worshipped sandhya
twice a day till I was 18, stopped then, and started again at 33. Then, I
wanted to learn the pancha suktAs and pancha vallis if possible. I learnt
purusha sUktam about six months back, but am unable to continue the process due
to certain difficulties. And as a beginner, I had to recite aloud to ensure
that I internalise the svaras properly.

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam?  Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around 

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list