[Advaita-l] Women and Paramahamsa sannyasa

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Sat Mar 17 07:26:32 CDT 2012

2012/3/17 श्रीमल्ललितालालितः <lalitaalaalitah at lalitaalaalitah.com>

> *श्रीमल्ललितालालितः <http://www.lalitaalaalitah.com/>
> lalitAlAlitaH <http://about.me/lalitaalaalitah/bio>*
> Even unavailability of niShedha is not needed to bar women from saMnyAsa.
> Why ?
> Because, women can't shun karma.
> Why ?
> Because, they are not in possession of karma. By karma I mean vaidika karma
> here.

A married woman is a part of almost every vaidika karma the husband does.
In fact a man becomes eligible to do most of the karma-s only by marriage.
There are specific roles for the wife in specific karma-s.  'AjyavekShaNam'
is one such ritual where the wife is to look into the ghee vessel before
the Ahuti is given.  In fact when the wife is dead and the husband has no
other wife, he becomes ineligible to perform agnihotra.  He is a vidhura
and no such karma is possible for him.

> A special type of saMnyAsa is accepted for women and anyone else, which is
> marked by uparatI from kAmya-karma and it gives them time for shravaNa,
> etc. It is accepted by shrI-vidyAraNya.

In the jivanmuktiviveka Vidyaranya says soon after detailing the two types
of vividiShA sannyasa: tyaagashcha taittirIyadau shrUyate: 'na karmaNA na
prajayA dhanena tyAgenaike amRtatvamAnashuH' iti. asminscha tyAge
stryo&pyadhikriyante. [after this comes the quotation about 'bhikshukI'.]

The sAyaNa bhAShya for the above quoted shruti gives meanings for each:
karma, prajA and dhanam in terms of vaidika karma and says in conclusion:
किं तर्हि? कर्मप्रजाधनादीनां लौकिकवैदिकव्यापाराणां त्यागेनैके
केचिदेवान्तर्मुखा अमृतत्वमानशुः प्राप्नुवन्ति । From this it is clear that
what is thought of as kAmya is not outside the gamut of vaidika viShaya.
So, even women who are renouncers of karma/prajA/dhanam can be brought into
the fold of लौकिकवैदिकव्यापाराणां त्यागः .  In fact in places like vArANasI
and gayA women too are allowed to perform shrAddha, etc. for their departed
husbands in case there are no sons to perform it.

> She may not be outsider regarding philosophy, i.e. vedAnta. But, her
> tridaNDa shows that she was not following norms of vaidika-s.

Veda VyAsa would not be presenting someone who is outside the norms of
vaidika-s and of questionable credentials (by taking to danDadhAraNA type
of sannyasa) to determine the conduct of a King who has considered himself
to be a mukta.  She hears about this king and gets a doubt about the truth
of his moksha and comes personally to determine for herself.  And this is
what she pronounces at the end of the dialogue with the King:

स गार्हस्थ्याच्च्युतश्च त्वं मोक्षं चानाप्य दुर्विदम्।
उभयोरन्तराले वै वर्तसे मोक्षवार्तिकः॥ 12-320-175
Her concern for the varNAshrama observance is amply demonstrated by the
above verse and her other utterances.  So, it is wrong to say that she was
operating outside the veda-based varnAshrama dharma.

That's what I just said. She was a brahmavAdinI, a knower of philosophy of
> vedAnta, but not respectful to other aspects of veda-s.

The utterances of sulabhA do not support the view that she was not
respectful to other aspects of Veda-s.   In fact just before mentioning
sulabhA, shankara in that BSB 3.3.32 says this:

सकृत्प्रवृत्तमेव हि ते फलदानाय कर्माशयमतिवाहयन्तः स्वातन्त्र्येणैव गृहादिव
गृहान्तरमन्यमन्यं देहं संचरन्तः *स्वाधिकारनिवर्तनायापरिमुषितस्मृतय* एव
देहेन्द्रियप्रकृतिवशित्वान्निर्माय  देहान्युगपत्क्रमेण वाधितिष्ठन्ति । It
is understood that 'AdhikArika puruSha-s' are those aparokSha jnAni-s with
extraordinary upAsanA/karma at their stock that they are 'called upon' to
discharge important cosmic roles by Ishwara. In this Ishwara-managed scheme
we cannot say that someone selected for a chosen role of authority is not
within the varNAshrama-compliant mode.

Or, It may be : that she didn't do rituals to shun karma-s, she vowed to
> renounce kAmya-laukika-karma without ritual and her tridaNDa-s, which are
> signs of vAg-daNDa, etc., were also taken without ritual. In this case,
> I've no problem. I accept that anything in this world can happen without
> mantra-s and ritual-s.

In that commentary to the Mahabharatha, nIlakanTha has given some details
about the 'bhikShukI'.  That he has not cited any smRti authority for his
comments does not let us conclude that there is no such authority.  Only
that we do not know what it is.

> > In practical contemporary terms, there are quite a few examples of women
> > who have been invested with the external symbols of saMnyAsa by some of
> > the most orthodox and learned leaders of the vedAnta traditions.
> Those who gave saMnyAsa in such manner are subject to the doubt of
> orthodoxy.

The Veda-vyAsa mentioned case does not raise such doubts.  For he is
reliable in matters regarding varna-Ashrama vyavasthA proven by the
extensive discussion on such matters found in the mahAbhArata.

> Here are some verses (uttered by sulabhA) that are worth studying from
that sulabhA-janaka dialogue:

नियमो ह्येषु वर्णेषु यतीनां शून्यवासिता। शून्यमावेशयन्त्या च मया किं कस्य
दूषितम्॥ 12-320-168
ब्राह्मणा गुरवश्चेमे तथा मान्या गुरूत्तमाः। त्वं चाथ
गुरुरप्येषामेवमन्योन्यगौरवम्॥ 12-320-171
स गार्हस्थ्याच्च्युतश्च त्वं मोक्षं चानाप्य दुर्विदम्। उभयोरन्तराले वै
वर्तसे मोक्षवार्तिकः॥ 12-320-175
पृथक्त्वादाश्रमाणां च वर्णान्यत्वे तथैव च। परस्परपृथक्त्वाच्च कथं ते
वर्णसङ्करः॥ 12-320-180
नास्मि वर्णोत्तमा जात्या न वैश्या नावरा तथा। तव राजन्सवर्णास्मि
शुद्धयोनिरविप्लुता॥ 12-320-181
प्रधानो नाम राजर्षिर्व्यक्तं ते श्रोत्रमागतः। कुले तस्य समुत्पन्नां सुलभां
नाम विद्धि माम्॥ 12-320-182 द्रोणश्च शतशृङ्गश्च चक्रद्वारश्च पर्वतः। मम
सत्रेषु पूर्वेषां चिता मघवता सह॥ 12-320-183 साहं तस्मिन्कुले जाता
भर्तर्यसति मद्विधे। विनीता मोक्षधर्मेषु चराम्येका मुनिव्रतम्॥ 12-320-184 नास्मि
सत्रप्रतिच्छन्ना न परस्वापहारिणी। न धर्मसङ्करकरी *स्वधर्मेऽस्मि धृतव्रता*॥
मोक्षे ते भावितां बुद्धिं श्रुत्वाहं कुशलैषिणी। तव मोक्षस्य चाप्यस्य
जिज्ञासार्थमिहागता॥ 12-320-187

The entire dialogue between sulabhA and janaka as told by BhIShma can be
read here:


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