[Advaita-l] Prasna regarding Aruna Prasna

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Thu Nov 7 00:36:46 CST 2013

On Wed, 6 Nov 2013, Venkatesh Murthy wrote:

> Namaste
> I have a question regarding Aruna Prasna. In one place they say
> 'Apakraamata Garbhinyaha' and after some Mantras they say 'Yathaasthaanam
> Garbhinyaha'. Pregnant ladies must leave that place and come back after the
> mantras are finished.
> This Aruna Prasna is coming from Taittiriya Aranyaka. The Aranyaka portion
> is for forest living people in ancient times. They lived like Sanyasis in
> the forest and they studied Aranyakas. If living like Sanyasis why they are
> saying pregnant women have to leave and come back after some mantras? Why
> they were sitting with pregnant women and saying mantras?

A vanaprastha still remains married (with all the duties and obligations 
that entails.)  Although because it is typically resorted to in old age it 
is unlikely, it is not impossible that a a vanaprasthi could be pregnant. 
Furthermore the vanaprastha does not live like a sannyasi in that he is 
still a member of society.  Do we not read in itihasa-purana about 
householders visiting the forest or students going to learn there? Why 
could not a visitor be pregnant?  It's a moot point really because 
according to dharmashastras, vanaprastha ashram is varjya in the Kali 

Another thing to consider is that there are no neat and tidy divisions 
between karma kanda and jnana kanda in the vedic literature.  Yes by and 
large karma is found in the samhita and brahmana portions and jnana in the
aranyaka and upanishad portions but there are exceptions.  For example 
IshopaniShad is part of the samhita of the shukla yajurveda.  The 
aranyakas contain a mix of material.  For example This aruna prashna is 
used for karma and taittereyopaniShad which is part of the same aranyaka 
is used for jnana.

So what is the reason for the warning?

On Wed, 6 Nov 2013, Subramanya Uchangi Hiriyannaiah wrote:

> There is chance of miscarriage during the chanting of mantras on 
> martanda> sun

It's as simple as that.  (Note that the etymology of mArtaNDa is "born 
from a dead egg" referring to the ancient belief that the sun is 
miraculously born every day from the 'dead' earth.)

On Thu, 7 Nov 2013, Bhaskar YR wrote:

> IMHO, just because there is an instruction to  the 'garbhiNi' in this
> mantra, we should not assume that vedic seers used to sit next to pregnant
> women and reciting these veda maNtra-s.  apakrAmata and yathAsthAnaM just
> an instruction for the pregnant, if she is there during aruNa parAyaNA,
> she has to avoid listenting to these maNtra-s..

Exactly.  It is like a warning label on an x-ray machine saying pregnant 
women should not stand near it.  That doesn't mean pregnant women are 
regularly standing near x-ray machines.

On Thu, 7 Nov 2013, Srirudra wrote:

> We can only speculate as to the reasons for asking pregnant women
> to leave the assembly.

Why?  The answer is as plain as daylight.

> But one thing is certain that women actively
> participated in such assemblies and there was no gender bias.

Let's not let modern political correctness distort our understanding of 
the past.  Yes there was no outright ban on women participating in sabhas. 
For example Gargi Vachaknavi is a princess of Videha who asks pointed 
questions to Yajnavalkya. (Brhadaranyaka 3.8)  Shankaracharya refers to 
her as a jnani.  But she asks the assembled brahmanas for permission to 
ask.  Maitreyi the wife of Yajnavalkya is called a brahmavadini but is 
specifically contrasted with her co-wife Katyayini who only has "stri 
prajna"  It would be more accurate to say that women did not by and large 
participate in such discussion but when they did, their questions 
were taken seriously not dismissed.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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