[Advaita-l] Women and Vedas

Siddhartha Annapureddy annapureddy at gmail.com
Fri Apr 7 04:35:04 CDT 2006

Shree Jaldharji and others too,
         I have a few questions and comments with regard to women and the

-- Are there any internal references in the Vedas that bar women from
learning the Vedas? Could you give me a couple of references and tell me if
they form part of the Samhitas or Brahmanas or Aranyakas or Upanishads.

-- What is the reason the Vedas asserted the lack of Adhikara for women to
recite the Vedas (if indeed there was such an assertion)? Have any of the
commentators given any reasons? What is their position for such statements?

-- And if we treat Vedas as texts that point towards realization in the
sense of perception of Brahman (which is what I guess the Advaita stand is),
why did they even indulge in discussing cultural issues about women's
Adhikara? Could it signify that such Vedic statements ought to be
reinterpreted accordingly?

-- Jaldharji said
pratyaksha is no foundation for a system of ethics.  If while I'm walking
I perceive that someones wallet is sticking out of his pocket and I can
steal it without him or the police or anyone else noticing does it now
become an acceptable thing to do?

I thought Advaita treated Veda as a means for Moksha, and not as a text for
ethics. I mean,
the teachings of the Vedas definitely help ethical behaviour (when you know
the other person
is also your Self, you will not be so fain to hurt the other person), but I
feel the issue of ethics
was the domain of smritis like that of Manu. I am presuming though that we
are not considering the
karma kanda of the Vedas.

-- Jaldharji said
Um I'm not sure Gargi was a Rshi however it is true that of the 400+ Rshis
of the Rgveda, there are about 20 or so with arguably feminine names.
Even if taken at face value (and it need not be.  Read on.) that's a
whopping 4%.
But does that mean she was taught the Vedas or taught Brahmavidya? with
reference to Maitreyi.

But the point is there were these 4% women who were capable of
reciting/understanding the import
of the Vedas. One exception is sufficient to invalidate the rule. And even
if we assume that
these names were likely literary characters, the fact remains that the
society of those times
didn't consider it heretic. Potentially, we can claim that the Vedas didn't
originate from any
person (which precludes the possibility of a society that could have
considered women to have
the Adhikara). But then, in that case, we have the divine voice endorsing
the Adhikara of women.
On a separate note, I do have a question on Apaurusheyatva, which I will
send as a separate mail.

-- Another argument that Jaldharji gave is that spirituality has got nothing
to do with the Vedas,
which I totally agree with. For example, a Buddha or a Socrates or a
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa might have never read the Vedas, and yet they were
"big people". But on the same note, why this insistence on barring women
when someone wants to read it? The worst that could happen is she will waste
this life of hers (in terms of liberation). But by barring her now and
asking her to wait till a janma when she could be born into the three upper
varnas, you are anyway wasting her life (assuming she does not attain
liberation in this janma, which is most probably the case). Also, I am
assuming that there are no ill-effects of women reading the Vedas, for
example, like she will be born as an animal. I am assuming that good things
like reading the Vedas do not have ill-effects (vide BG 6.40). Is there any
internal evidence to the contrary in the Vedas itself?

As I am relatively new to this group, please point me to other threads if
some of the issues
have already been discussed. Thanks.


More information about the Advaita-l mailing list