Should women not chant Vedas? (part-4)


The analysis of the verse 10-34 of Gita is continued
to probe into whether there exists some other meaning
to this verse.


Krishna says, 'Among women, I am fame (kIrthi), prosperity
(srI), speech (vAk), memory (smrti), intelligence
(mEdhA), endurance (Dhrti) and forgiveness (kshamA)."
All the qualities required for learning karma khanda
and gyana khanda as well are to be found in these
qualities in women.


A unique feature of this verse is that

after saying this he describes Himself as Death!!

The relevant verse is as follows:

"I am also Death which snatches all away.
I am the origin of all that shall be born",

The Lord as being the origin of Birth in this context
is easy to understand. But why does He tell about
Himself as being Death in the context of telling who
He is among women?

Thinking about the two great epics, we seem to get
closer to the core idea. Is it because the Lord swung
into action as Lord of Death when the women were
wronged?
When Sita was abducted, Valmiki merely goes about
narrating how the incidents had happened and how Sita
was distressed. Then Jatayu enters the scene and is
badly wounded.


She goes near him, holds him and wails inconsolably

saying so many words.

Ravana then lifts her up by her hair…

At this juncture Valmiki says that

“that demon whose shine is similar to the Death

has clutched her hair loosened from her bun,

as death loomed large on him.” (3-52-8)


When Ravana did this act (of holding her
aloft by her hair), Brahma deva remarked with delight,
"kaaryam kRitam iti" (the deed is done),

implying that Ravana's fate is now sealed.

The other other-worldly beings such as kinnara etc

also rejoiced that Ravana's end had come.

They didn't seem to comment like this
when Sita was abducted. At that time everyone was
watching in stunned silence.

But the act of touching
Sita's hair and lifting her by holding it

seems to be an act of grave offence

to signify that Ravana's fate is sealed.


It is note-worthy that Rama let go Kakasura who harmed her
mortally in her private part, but he didn't do that to
Ravana whose committing of an affront on Sita's
dignity was a shade physically lesser than what
Kakasura had done. The sookshumam seems to lie in
hair!

Why I am led to think like this is because similar
dreadful end was foretold by Draupadi when she made a
vow of not tying up her hair till the Kauravas were
vanquished and Dhuryodhana's blood was smeared on her
hair.


Probably there is more than what we know

about the importance given to women's hair

because I have heard elders raise objection to letting the hair untied.

There is some sanctity attached to woman's 'aLaga-bhAram'.



The purpose of the above narration is to stress the
point that the Lord does not take kindly on acts that
affect woman's dignity, safety and (probably) the 7
qualities that have found mention in His own song.
Whenever such qualities (mEdha, vAk, speech etc) are
exhibited, there has been no hindrance to their
seeking of lofty Principles. To substantiate this, let
me quote what sage Yajnavalkya said to his wife.

Yajnavalkya was too happy to hear Maitreyi ask him
what leads to deathlessness.

He says, "you have always
been very dear to me and what you say now makes you
dearer still", and continues to unravel the Eternal
Knowledge to her.

If it had been mandatory for anyone
to learn Vedas as antecedent to inquiry into
Eternal knowledge, how could Yajnavalkya had given it
to his wife? Of the different pramanas that Bhagavad
Ramanuja had quoted, why did he not consider this one?
In practice, this antecedent clause bars not only
women, but also men from taking up direct inquiry –
something what we all do today.


With advancement of kali yuga, the first notable
casualty is vedadhyayana. One can count the number of
persons learning the karma khandam as Ramanuja thinks
is required for further abhyasa. If he has meant it to
be a strict rule, then not many men, leave alone
women, are entitled to do the meditation on Brahman.

On arriving at this thought, I felt I need to know
Ramanuja's mind better.

Elsewhere - in 3 places in
brahma sutra-bhashya to be precise - Ramanuja had said
something, but practiced something else in his own
life. (I request the readers not to consider my
language as an affront on him. This is an intellectual
exercise which I took to Ramanuja in Melkote when I
was not convinced why he chose to give an explanation
like this, while he could have as well spoken like
Shankara in his interpretation of the sutra.)

 

 

One area is the interpretation on who a shudra is.
Though Ramanuja defines a shudra as one 'who is
grief-stricken', he preferred to fall in line (in sri
bhashyam) with the sutrakara who said that shudrahood
comes by caste. ("shudras by caste are not entitled to
Brahma vidhya" - 1-3-33) But in practice, Ramanuja
never barred anyone from learning / knowing
Thirumanthram or sat vishayam.

 

 

Another area where he wrote something and preached
another is in determining whether the jiva has any
freewill.

The life of a person is a series of action and reaction

leaving little scope for own volition.

But there must a beginning of this cycle.

At that time what caused the jiva to do an action?

In his commentary to Brahma sutra, he does
speak about jiva's own 'volition' at the initial stage
– only as a logical consequence in the context without
producing any pramana to substantiate this. For,
theoretically, vedopanishads do not support the idea
of freewill to the jiva.
There is no case built for
the conditions that can determine what this initial
stage that he has in mind. He does not explain what
defines the initial stage and what factors contribute
to spontaneity of will of the jiva.

 


But this ideological dilemma is tempered down

in Vedartha sangraha (124)

where he talks about god conferring on the jiva
'spontaneously a holy disposition of will and
intellect'
. Further later, the granthas like
Srivachana bhooshanam and Mumukshuppadi which reflect
his grooming and thought harp on the virtues of
shedding 'swa-shakthi', that is shedding of freewill
and glorification of absolute subservience to god.

Thus we find him deviating from what he wrote earlier.


Yet another area where the transformation in thought
is found, is in his composition of Vaikuntha gadhyam
glorifying the Lord in Form.
But all along his Sri
bhashya, he had heavily relied on pramanas on formless
god (Brahman). There was a heavy accent on the
metaphysical aspects of the inquiry, than on a god of
form. It strikes the attention of the reader of
Vedartha sangraha, that wherever he speaks about a god
with form, he relies on quotes by telling that the
Sutrakara says like this. But later he seems to have
been so convinced about propagating the idea of God
with form, for the sake of common man to worship.


So that leaves only with this chanting of Vedas.

According to Ramanuja learning to chant Vedas is

a pre requisite for learning Gyana khanda (inquiry into Brahman)

because the scriptures say so.

Did Ramanuja foresee that a time would come when the
ashrama dharma would collapse at least with reference
to learning Vedas formally at a gurukul?

Probably not, considering
the fact that it was only with the advent of Macaulay,
the education system changed in this country. But he,
with far-sight must have made some amends somewhere –
to suit the changing conditions.


Thus my concern about the bar on women to chant to
Vedas got transformed into a larger concern, as his
notions seem to affect men also who do not take
up Vedic learning. Then what is his prescription for
people of our times and of future?

He changed his stance on 3 issues (as stated above –

on Shudras, the initial freewill for the Jiva and God with form)

What is his stance on learning Vedas as a pre requisite

which is not possible even for men in this current Age?

With this thought in mind,

I was standing in front of him in Melkote
with my eyes closed.

"Is it right to say that women should not recite
Vedas?

By saying so, are we women barred from learning

the nature of Brahman (Gyana khanda)?
Is it right to de-bar countless people like me

who are willing to learn about the nature of Brahman,
mainly because

we have not had formal Ashrama-type training?

Please tell me, please tell me"

(to be continued)

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