Should women not chant Vedas? (Part-5)


Standing in front of Ramanuja in Melkote
I was pouring out my thoughts.
“Please tell me.
Neer sollum. Neer vazhi nadatthum. 
You are one who did not discriminate on the basis of
caste, gender, or possessions.
You have been exceedingly impartial to all.
But how can our God be impartial to the seeker?
In what way it makes a difference if the seeker has
learnt to chant Vedas or not?
Should we not cling to
whatever little of Vedas or Upanishads
that are at our reach? Tell me.
Have you made any amends to this
mandatory clause (of ashramas) anywhere else? Tell me.
If you don’t show me the way, I would have to
re-interpret what I thought Raman indicated me on the
other day.
Therefore tell me.
Raman would not say anything twice.
You too would not say anything doubtful.
Therefore tell me.” 
So saying I opened my eyes,.
At that very moment all lights went off suddenly,
but an indescribable glow surrounded
the Thirumeni of Ramanuja and
the garbha gruham glowed in beautiful splendour
in the light shed by the Thoonga ViLAkku (oil lamp)
Simultaneously I saw the bhattar taking the
deepaaraadhana near his thirumeni.
The immediate thought that flashed in my mind was
‘INNER GLOW’.

 

The whole area presented a surreal picture of a
pleasant glow inside the garbha gruha where I was
able to see clearly the smile on the face of Ramanuja
glow in shantham, consolation (don’t worry
kuzhandhaai), karuNyam and an alAdhi prIthi.
Tears were streaming down my eyes.
Yes I have understood your message, swami.
It is the inner glow that matters.
It is the mental feeling that matters.
If that is what you wish to tell me, I am very much sure
that you would have somewhere indicated that. Bless me
to grasp it soon.”
As I was readying to leave, the bhattar started
telling on his own volition (?) that Ramanuja stood for free inquiry.
"One must cultivate absolute faith when young.
But as one grows up, one must go about
searching, discussing, debating and inferring the
salient aspects of Knowledge.
Avaravar arivukku-th-
thakkapadi avaravar purindu koLgirArgaL.
That was what
he wanted everyone to do.”
I recalled the first commandment of Ramanuja.
Yes he wanted every one of us to study 
some part of Brahmasutra every day.
If chanting the Vedas is a pre requisite for learning Brahma sutras,
he would not have made reading Brahma sutra a mandatory one. 
Like the 3 issues discussed in the last post,
Ramanuja deviated from the olden stricture and
recommended the study of Brahma sutra by all. 
There is nothing that has not been
said in his commentary to Brahma Sutras.
Even for the questions that arise in different ages,
like how I am asking now,
Ramanuja must have given some clue somewhere in his commentary.
If we have questions phrased in different ways,
we have to look at his bhashyam
again and again.
Somewhere he would have certainly
indicated his reply.
The pramana for Inner glow must
be somewhere in Brahma sutras.

I began to look for the answer and it didn’t take long
to identify them. Sutras 46, 47 & 48 in chapter 3-3
shed light on ‘mental fires’. He talks about the
glory of meditation (of mental nature) in the context
of sacrificial fires. The sacrificial fires are aimed
at certain fruits. Texts speak about different
ingredients that go into the conduction of sacrifices
of mental fires. “The altars made of mind may be
equivalent to the altar made of bricks in some
aspects. This similarity does not authorize us to
connect mind-made altars with the actual sacrifice.
The point is that the fruit of both the performances
is common.”

He draws pramana from Satapatha Brahmana to establish
that the passages that speak about mental fires on
brick altars cannot be taken as literal sacrifice but
as meditation. To transfer this to reply our query,
“each one is as great as the previous one’ (sat
X-iv-1.3) meaning that each type of meditation, one by
way of ‘works’ as prescribed by karma khandam and the
other by way of knowledge are independent of each
other and as great as each other.

Further we find in sutras 3-4-14, 16 &19 it is
established that knowledge is not subsidiary to works.
“Permission to perform work is for the glorification
of knowledge. Indeed, one may work all his life, still
he is not tainted by the greatness of knowledge.
Therefore knowledge is not subsidiary to works.”

To present all this in a nutshell, Ramanuja says like
this in his commentary for verse 3-4-26.
“ Knowledge is something absolutely different from
the knowledge of the textual meaning. It is denoted by
words such as dhyana (meditation), upasana (worship)
etc. It is of the nature of remembrance, which has
attained the form of direct and clearest perception.
By practicing day by day, it attains excellence, and
being continued up to final departure, it becomes the
means of attaining final release.’

 

What is this dhyana, manana, shraddha? “it is of the
form of a succession of memories which is unbroken
like a stream of oil.” Elsewhere he regards this
stream of oil (thaila dhaaravathu) as bhakti. He
regards this non-stop remembrance as bhakti.

In simple parlance Ramanuja comes to regard bhakti as
the result of works and knowledge as the result of
inquiry into Brahman.
He talks about karma khandam and the scope of
sacrifices not with a purpose to glorify them. He
instead highlights the limits on the nature of fruits
given by those sacrifices.

Texts of yore insist on doing ‘works’ (Vedic chanting / karma khanda)
because they help in constant remembrance and faith (shraddha).
The substituting term for this is bhakti.
In today’s condition, these ingredients of sacrifices
help one in growing in bhakti. 
Without sacrifices,
texts say, that knowledge can not gained.
Without bhakti, knowledge into the nature of Brahman
or god cannot be gained.
Texts say that vedic chanting (‘works’) is the
antecedent to knowledge.
Similarly, bhakti is antecedent to knowledge.
Without bhakti, knowledge cannot bloom.
But at the same time knowledge is not subsidiary to
bhakti.
Gyaana khnadam supported by karma khandam was the
path way to salvation. Similarly, knowledge in the
nature of Bhakti is the means of attaining the
Bhagavan (VS- 251)

Bhakti leads to knowledge just as how ‘works’ lead to
inquiry.
Knowledge without bhakti is wasteful just as how gyana
khnadam without karma khandam cannot give results.
Bhakti leading to knowledge is like how karma mimamsa
study leads to the study of gyana mimamsa.

Ramanuja has given the prescription. So grieve not, my
mind whether you have sanction to recite vedas. Any
such recital that leads you to bhakti-marga is
accepted.
Without such recital you can not realise the
glory of Knowledge. Like without karma khanda, one can
not pursue utthara khanda. The recital though very
insignificant in today’s condition is aimed at
hastening your interest in gyana marga.

 
Bhoothathaazhwar had shown the way in lighting the
lamp of knowledge by ‘inburugu sindhai’. The urugum
inbam shows the preethi by name bhakti. The sindhai
stands for knowledge. So grieve not, my mind, grieve
not.

To get sanction for this, I again went to see Kembal
Raman. With eyes closed with a viNNappam (request)

that He has to give approval for my thought on INNER GLOW,
I was mentally concentrating on my favourite ‘Senniyongu
paasurams
.’ (The last 10 verses in Periyaazwar Thirumozi
the songs that show the path to Union with Lord or Moksha)
When I was chanting the line
vunnai-k-kondu ennuL vaitthEn,
ennaiyum vunnil ittEn’,
உன்னைக் கொண்டு என்னுள் வைத்தேன்,
என்னையும் உன்னிலிட்டேன்
( I put you inside me and myself inside you)
I opened my eyes to see Him.
The bhattar was inserting a flower in Raman’s nenju (chest)
when I was saying ‘ennaiyum vunnil ittEn’.
Raman has accepted this!
It is what springs in our mind that He takes as our
offering.
It is the inner thought, inner glow, inner bhakti
that is the ultimate outcome of all this inquiry – no
matter whether it comes from a man or a woman.
Thank you Rama.
I don’t forget the symbolism of your role in
Ramavathara.
You are all the more concerned that you must get back
your Sita who is none other than us, the jivas.
You are the Creator who craves to get back His dear
ones - us.
You cannot bear the loss of your dear ones into the
vicious cycle of birth and death. You always think of
ways and means of getting us back to You.
So it wont make an issue whether I am a woman or not,
whether I chant Vedas or not. It is enough to know
that you are waiting for me!!

(Concluded)

Epilogue
Certain recitals enthuse me.
They give me alaadhi tranquility, lightness and a feel-good
which I only can enjoy, which I cannot describe.
Sri Sooktham is one, Taittriya Upanishad is another!!
There are others also like Govindhasthtakam, Raghavashtakam and SriRanga Gadhyam.
Then Senniyongu by Periyaazwar!
There is complete loss of feelings, of even my existence when I recite them.
That is a fantastic feeling.
It will take a while for me to come back to normal self after I recite them.
I have no thoughts of even God when I recite them.
The recital itself does something in me which I enjoy. I am addicted to it.
So I continue to recite thinking that
Ramanuja has given sanction to the recitals that lead you to Bhakthi.
I don’t ask for reciting Vedas like men do.
I have no intention to do that.
But the recital of Sri Sooktham, sometimes in mind and
sometimes as a chant to my Perumal
(Raman in Pattabhisheka kolam) satisfies me enormously.
I don’t join others when I hear them recite it in temples.
For me that recital is an offering as a Vedam.
But what I do in my private communication with God is beyond rules.
This is my understanding!
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