[Advaita-l] Women and Vedas
Jaldhar H. Vyas
jaldhar at braincells.com
Wed Apr 5 23:09:51 CDT 2006
Here are some short responses to a couple of posts.
On Sun, 2 Apr 2006, Viswanathan N wrote:
> Sure that quoate is picked out of some other context and doesnt have any
I'm afraid wishing thaat something was true doesn't make it so.
> Basically you are a man/ woman or child / grownup or brahman/sudhra,
> based on condition of your mind
Good. Tomorrow I won't go to work. I'll send my daughter instead. And if
she complains that she is only 4 I'll tell that its just a state of mind.
On Mon, 3 Apr 2006, Aditya Varun Chadha wrote:
> I don't think any consciencious modern thinker will try to prove that
> women are unfit to gain knowledge directly from the Vedas.
Well I consider myself to be modern (and a thinker even :-) and that's
precisely what I'm saying. But is what I mean by "fit" the same as what
> All I am saying is that, we do not need scriptural sanction ultimately
> to rule over our daily Acharan. The path of j~nAna yoga requires us to
> question even the scriptures if they clash with the pratyakSa.
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?
Shruti is a seperate pramana precisely because its injunctions and
prohibitions are _not_ amenable to outside perception or inference. The
claim is being made that women should not recite not because they are
frail or mentally deficient but simply because they can't. No further
explanation is needed because shruti is its own authority.
On Sun, 2 Apr 2006, Siva Senani Nori wrote:
> Should loyalty to one's tradition be blind? No, I think. Should honesty
> count more than confirmity / orthodoxy? Yes, IMO.
No argument from me there. But the same also applies to would-be
reformers too. Unfortunately too many of them are less than honest in
their interpretations. As an aside, a big reason I am so orthodox today
is because of my perception that "modern" Hindus are largely fools and
> Some of the mantra drashTAs are actually
> women - gArgi being an example;
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%. Hardly an endorsement of equality.
> 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.
But does that mean she was taught the Vedas or taught Brahmavidya? Those
are not the same thing especially from the Advaita point of view.
Also what evidence do we have that Maitreyi or Yajnavalkya actually
existed? Yes we believe they did but from the Mimamsaka perspective it is
also quite possible they are just literary characters. The Mimamsakas
went to great length to deny personality to the Rshis precisely to avoid
this kind of second-guessing.
> 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;
If it is unecessary why would she even want it and why would anyone bother
to give it in that case? Initiation is a means to an end not an end in
itself. If the result has been acheived, it is no longer relevant. This
is the precise reason why Sannyasis in the Advaita traditions give up the
yajnopavita (the symbol of Vedic initiation) etc. It is not that they are
against it, but if they are no longer in the sphere were Vedic commands
hold true, what is the point?
> 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 to be fair, their are puranas, itihasa, Gita, Yogavasishtha etc. by
which one can know. Which in fact are more well known than the Vedas.
There are also innumerable people who will tell you. So where is the
> 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,
You have inadvertently revealed the hidden sexism that underlies a lot of
the "women should learn the vedas" talk. Why is reciting adityahrdaya or
sahasranamas not evidence of keenness or seriousness? What about women
who don't know Sanskrit at all but recite e.g. sundara kanda? Are they
too to be deemed not serious. Why should a woman have to copy a man for
brahmajijnasa? Especially when we Advaitins believe karma and jnana are
as seperate as the north and south pole?
> 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.
My wife who is an educated woman is also probably quite capable of
reciting having heard me or others countless times. My children also like
to play puja and in the process they repeat what they hear. This is
inevitable unless you lock yourself into an airtight soundproof box when
you pray. But as children grow in understanding and mature into adults
they should be taught what is right and wrong. My 16 month old son
doesn't mind taking off all his clothes and running around the house
screaming. I don't condemn him for it. But if he is still doing that at
35, you bet I will!
> 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.
Incidently, the story of Satyakama does not prove what people think it
On Tue, 4 Apr 2006, hemang Chamakuzhi Subramanian wrote:
> All quotes/unquotes mentioned by acharyas and attributed to great
> teacher's are really matters avoidable by debate. Many of these words
> and sentences may be circumstantial(bound by time) and also
You know that bit about murder being bad? Well based on debate I have
decided it no longer fits in with the times so as of...um...April 15,
readers may feel free to kill anyone they like without burdening their
> We could go on debating about these aspects...and still not come to a
> conclusion. There are normally 3 ways by which you could confirm the
> truth yourself. a) Written in the scriptures
Remember, the source of authority in Advaita Vedanta is not only texts (a
superset of "books") but also shistachara. A proper analysis includes
history and anthropology as well.
> b) Listen to the words of
> someone with authority(if you are blessed indeed, this person would be
> your Guru).
This shades into a) A person has authority only if he is familiar with
texts and tradition. Texts and traditions get chosen because of their use
> c) Personal Experience. (if in your experience you have
> confirmed (a) and (b) then it could be safe to connote that this is the
> truth). There is no fourth way...here
Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
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