Monday, July 22, 2013
DEIVATHIN KURAL # 14 (Vol # 7) Dated 21 July 2013
DEIVATHIN KURAL # 14 (Vol # 7) Dated 21 July 2013
(These e-mails are translations of talks given by PeriyavãL of Kanchi Kaamakoti Peetam, over a period of some 60 years while he was the pontiff in the earlier part of the last century. These have been published by Vanadi Padippagam, Chennai, in seven volumes of a thousand pages each as Deivathin Kural. Today we are going ahead from page No 94 of Volume 7 of the Tamil original. The readers may note that herein ‘man/he’ includes ‘woman/she’ too mostly. These e-mails are all available at http://Advaitham.blogspot.com updated continually)
128. By the fact that the end portion of Brihad ÃraNyaka Upanishad contains a whole lot of the names of the Rishis of yore, along with the names of their respective Mothers, we are not to misconstrue that they were their respective Gurus and taught them Brhma Vidya or some such thing. Neither in the main Upanishad nor anywhere else is there any such mention that they gave them any Upadesa in any field but only that the Mother was automatically responsible for their good character. It is true that we learn from those Upanishads that in their times, there have been ladies who have participated in discussions and debates in deeply ('Ãdhyãtmic') philosophical matters with highly accomplished Vedic scholars of those times. Similarly except for the one place where Yãgnyavalkya is said to have talked about Ãtma and related matters with his Patni (wife) sitting beside him, there are no description anywhere of a Sthree (woman) getting Upadesa from any Guru. May be there were some women who were interested in philosophical matters due to such environment as obtaining in a Guru-Kula. When I say environment, I mean the very company of such highly read scholars and Ãtma Gnãnis whose wife they happened to be as the Guru-Patni and the constant radiations they were subjected to. More than anything else, due to their own internal aspirations some of them must have been so motivated towards such subjects of interest. But there is no evidence whatsoever of their being either disciples of any Guru or their having taken the role of a Guru, anywhere in the Vedas or Upanishads or Sãstrãs or PurãNãs!
129. Maximum that we get to know about this subject is that, from the time of Vedas and Upanishads, till some Yugas prior to the Kali Yuga is that, some Mantras and some Upãsana methods and procedures have been conveyed to the women folk by the elders at home at times. Mostly like some of the Upanishads, later day Darsanas and some not too abstruse Upãsana procedures and some Vidyas, Arts and Handicrafts; and some worldly subjects useful in this day-to-day life are the sorts of subjects that seem to have been taught to the women in general. Rarely some Veda Mantras might have been taught to some who were keen for Japa, Tapas, Dhyãna and Pooja and some very keen on philosophical subjects might have been instructed on such matters, but rarely as we can guess. But unlike all the boys being taught the Vedas, Upanishads and Darsanas, only some keen girls exceptionally brilliant seem to have been taught some of these subjects. We notice that the subjects taught to the students in a Guru Kula were starting from the Vedas to some of the later day literature covering many subjects. There were also some girls not necessarily of that very house-hold, but the percentage of such students were one or two only. What I am saying is all intelligent guess work only.
130. In that Brihad ÃraNyaka Upanishad that I had quoted a little earlier, in a slightly earlier portion than the last one with the list of names of Rishis and their respective Mothers; there is a mention of what rules and regulations of Do's and Don'ts one should follow to get an off-spring with certain desirable character qualities. Here there is a mention as to what are the rules of discipline one has to follow if one wishes to have a girl child who will be a 'Punditai' – 'पण्डितै'! From this, one can discern that there were such parents in the society then who wished to have knowledgeable, erudite scholars as their girl child! But here, our ÃchãryãL in his Bhashyam clarifies that this word 'Punditai' does not necessarily mean a girl highly qualified in esoteric and abstruse philosophical subjects, as the parent would have wished for intelligent girls to be born to them so that they may be experts in 'Gruha Tantram', which should be something like what is called 'Home Science' or Internal Domestic Management! Well for that matter, running a house-hold efficiently is no joke and is a highly complicated art! If every organization needs an Internal House-Keeping Department, so does every house-hold needs efficient management if the society is to thrive and prosper! So, our ÃchãryãL has felt about it.
Women's Expertise or 'Pãndityam' Then and Now
131. In the olden times, In the Vedic ways of life revived and rejuvenated by our ÃchãryãL, men did not go to an office to earn a living. Staying at home, from the time of getting up early in the morning, they had their rigorous schedule of continuous engagements of Anushtãna-s wholly occupying all their time. But they had enough income through Sambhãvana (gratis), Guru DakshiNa and Mãnyam (or endowments as given by the local rulers). When the men were so busy, the ladies of the house-hold, in addition to running of the house helped their menfolk in the conduct of various duties and rituals. In that sort of an environment their deep knowledge in any subject was not a required thing at all. So their 'Pãndityam' (erudition) was neither very necessary nor useful!
132. But in our times menfolk spend all their time in hours of work in office and in commuting between the home and work place. Then if they get some spare time, it is spent in gossip, news-paper and in finding various means of entertainment! So they remain uninformed of our religion and connected subjects including good literature. When we look at all this, it seems that the relief to this lies in going somewhat against the directions as given by our ÃchãryãL. By saying this I know I am committing a sin and it is not very correct that, quoting the changed times as an excuse, I have any right to advice you against what he has said. But looking at the state of affairs in which; to earn a living, when the men folk have to go to an office and have no time to do justice to all their responsibilities of even Nitya Karma Anushtãnãs (daily rituals as ordained in the Sãstrãs,) I keep questioning myself as to what would have been our ÃchãryãL's own reactions, had he been present in the conditions existing in the society to-day. After much deliberation, questioning myself and self-criticism I am saying what occurs to me as the alternative.
133. To-day the women who remain at home, have spare time available after cooking, cleaning and washing; and after the children have gone to school and the husband has gone to the office. They have spare time available that would have been spent on the preparatory work and conduct of Karma Anushtãnãs that the husbands are not carrying out any more. So now, after some rest, if their time is to be made use of instead of being wasted in gossip and so called 'time-pass', I am suggesting that our ladies at home should make a serious study of our Kãvya-s (religious literatures), Itihãsãs (of stories of history) and Purãnãs. It will not only be a useful way of spending their time but also save us from the ignominy of being held responsible for the death in our life time, of our ancient gems of literature, which have been like a life line for our wonderful culture not for decades or centuries but for hundreds of thousands of years!
134. At least our ladies should read, study, discuss and resurrect those literary master pieces from oblivion, enhance their own knowledge and thereby protect them from extinction! They should share the knowledge so obtained with their husbands and children so that there is a revival of interest on such subjects. Men who are otherwise not reading any of these things and not believing that we could be bestowed with so much of sense, will at least believe what she tells must be true, since it is coming from their wives mouth! This would only happen if the ladies become very knowledgeable and authoritative in their expertise. So they have to become so conversant that they will truly come to be called 'Punditai' as our ÃchãryãL said! Till their 'Pãndityam' was thought to be in knowledge of the Vedas, there was some reluctance, as to how to call the women by that epithet, as the women are not entitled to study the Vedas! Even now, I am keeping my hands off the subject of Vedas! Other than the Vedas, (requiring some 12 to 18 years of daily grind, learning and using various methods of Adhyayanam,) let them learn all other religious subjects such as, Purãnãs, Itihãsãs, chanting of Mantras and Japa, Slokas and Stotras; and various other Kãvya-s! I hope and pray that this suggestion of mine may not be considered as a sin or anathema but will have the approval of our ÃchãryãL!
135. This Matam which runs in the name of our ÃchãryãL will be ready to extend all possible help to the society to enable women to learn and attain the expertise, by way of providing teaching staff, facilities for learning in their own respective areas and make available incentives, with our ÃchãryãL's blessings! In summing up I have to say that instead of going to the office, to take care of the home affairs is the rightful duty of women which is also the 'Sthree-Dharma' as per Sruti, Smruti and Purãnãs, as family is the basic unit on which the whole edifice of the society depends for all value systems and socially acceptable attitude and behaviour. That will recover our cultural heritage to some extent which has been permitted to go by default by the men of this country especially in the Brahmin community!
The High Pedestal in Which Our ÃchãryãL Holds Women
136. We should never carry away the impression that our ÃchãryãL had in any way thought any less of the position of the women in our society. Though in the traditional order they did not have the privilege of learning and teaching of the Vedas, our ÃchãryãL had fully understood the very important role that women had to play in maintaining the disciplined attitudes and behaviour of the children and fully endorsed the same. In this informal manner itself, he has said that women could attain to Brhma Gnãna too. Gowda Pãda, our ÃchãryãL's Parama Guru has written a Kãrikai (Commentary) on MãNdookya Upanishad, which is considered as a 'Pure Adwaita Classic'! In it there is a place wherein it is said that 'only some rare individuals have a clear conviction that Brhmam is the only truth that is never born, is without any variation as this and that due to time or space. Only those rare persons can be considered to have attained to the ultimate knowledge of Brhma Gnãna! But generally it is not comprehended by this Jiva Loka (world of birth and death).' Here while explaining a phrase 'ye kechid' – 'ये केचिद्', our ÃchãryãL says these some rare individual includes women also – 'sthreeyãdyorapi' – meaning amongst women too – some rare individuals could attain to such intrinsic knowledge of certainty about the Brhmam!
138. Our ÃchãryãL who says that a woman can attain up to Brhma Gnãna has also held them in very high esteem otherwise also. Not only that, she is in the same status as the husband and Guru for her children, for her husband also she is the best friend, says our ÃchãryãL. He has authored a poem of questions and answers known as, 'Prasnottara Ratna Mãlika' – 'प्रश्नोत्तर रत्न मालिका'. In it he raises a question as to who is the best friend for a house-holder and the answer as suggested by our ÃchãryãL is – 'Baryã' – 'बार्या', meaning the wife!
(To be continued.)