Saturday, August 19, 2006

Women are'nt dragons!

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

I was reading an article in the Hindu earlier today where it was mentioned that some women lawyers were challenging the Sabarimala Devoswom boards decision to not allow women between the age of 10 and 50 to enter the temple for worship. This is something that I have been trying to work out for quite some time - the attitude of the Hindu scriptures with respect to women. Even though the vedic texts give equal importance to the woman when it comes to the performance of the various rites and rituals (which is evident from the rule that the grihastha or householder is allowed to perform the various ceremonies only when his wife is by his side during the performance). This point is highlighted by the story where even Brahma had to marry Gayatri (a milk maid) to successfully complete a yaga within the stipulated muhurtha, when his wife Saraswati was taking too long to get 'ready'.

But somewhere along the line, there has been a negative attitude developed with respect to women in Hinduism. Most of the puranas and other texts are forever warning the sadhaka about the dangers of association with women. The yogis or people following the path of yoga and jnayana etc get hysterical when it comes to women, sexuality, etc. Why is this so? Do you really believe that the Gods have advised man to stay away from women? And if they did ordain so, why are all of the Hindu gods manifest with their own wives or shaktis? Sometimes the Gods have more than one wife, I am sure that would not be necessary if women were to avoided by those seeking enlightenment. What then is the reasoning behind such an obvious contradiction?

It seems to me that such a confused attitude is a result of their 'fear' of life. That is to say, the Hindu (who is in the pashu bhava or who like cattle does not question and just follows blindly) unfortunately, perceives only pain and endless suffering in life. I don't have to tell you how many saints and great beings have repeatedly warned against samsara or the cycle of life and death. They have often said that this ocean of samsara is impossible to cross over safely and that there is only pain and more pain to be gained as a result of being born. They see birth as an effect of 'bad' karma previously committed. They have after much speculation and discrimination arrived at the conclusion that life is full of pain (as against the superior state of Bliss that is achieved through union with the formless and attributeless Brahman. And because of this attitude towards life, they fear the woman, who is the very birth place of new life! Thus when they see the woman, they see the incredible power, the mysterious power really, that she possesses to give birth to new life. Perhaps it is this fear of life and their inability or dislike to participate in this life on earth that makes them fear women and wealth (material) as one would a deadly serpent.

It goes without saying that such fear is unfounded and actually 'ridiculous'. If it is true (which most agree) that this universe is the manifestation of the supreme Brahman, then how could pain, suffering, hell, women or anything else be any different to the nature of this Brahman - which is really Sat, Chit Ananda? Aren't the women of this world to be held equal to the Devi Herself, who using Her inherent power of Maya 'manifested' as being separate from the Brahman? It is my belief that we have to look deeper and repeatedly question (both ourselves and those who claim knowledge of the sastras and other texts) till we arrive at the 'real' reason why all our Gods and great rishis live the life of a house holder, with great enthusiasm and a lot of love for their wives!

The great God Siva, it is clear, loves His wife to the highest degree that He has shared half His body with Parvati (Ardhanari). Vishnu has Mahalakshmi residing in His heart and Brahma is forever united with Saraswati. Muruga (Shanmuga), who is always one step ahead and 'better' than most of the other Gods, has two wives! Krishna not only has wives but many lovers too. Indra has Indrani, Manmatha (Cupid) has his Rathi devi, Soma (Moon) has 27 wives and so on and so forth. If women were to be avoided at all costs, why would the Gods be 'tied down' in such a way. Moreover, if we do go with the argument that women are only distractions and are the root cause of trouble, the reason that is given by the so called 'great men' to avoid such trouble is further proof of the ridiculous premise their own argument is based on.

They advice us to have chaste and celibate lives and to keep our minds steady and free from the pull of this samsara cycle - and what may we ask is the fruit of such labour? They promise a great after life in Swarga (Heaven) or the many lokas like that of Vaikunda (Vishnu's realm), Kailasa (Sivas realm) and Brahma Loka (satyaloka or the realm of Brahma). There we are supposed be resident (after death of course) shining like gold along with the illuminous gods and goddesses. And then comes the ironic part - what do we do there in these great golden lokas? We will be engaged in amorous sport with damsels of divine beauty that will stop your heart, the gandharvas or the celestial musicians will play divine instruments and there will be a sweet scented breeze plying while we enjoy in the arms of 16 year old virgins on the banks of stunning lakes (filled with nectar, nothing less) and in glades and forests!! Doesn't make any sense does it?

I am reminded of a verse that says '' what is every where else (meaning in all the other worlds) is here (in earth) and what is not here (in earth) is not there anywhere else.'' So it might be a better bet to have a good and happy life here in this world while we have the chance, instead of not being able to see or find any happiness here as a result of the hope to find it elsewhere (in the other lokas after death). That would be like one suffering from thirst on the banks of the Ganges, yet thinking of digging a well on top a mountain far away to quench that thirst. I for one belive that women or wealth or anything else like that is not the cause of this 'pain' of samsara - the actual cause of that pain is the apparent 'perception' of pain and suffering when there is actually nothing but Sat Chit Ananda.


Kanna said...

Beautiful, beautiful post as ever. A very fascinating and credible theory indeed that the so called "great men" fear the source of birth and hence samsara, and hence the fear and the subsequent isolation of women in the so called modern times.

The ridiculous idea of giving everything up in your current life so that you may get to paradise and enjoy the very same things you gave up to get there is such an obvious irony that it boggles the mind to think that it is not obvious to the practictioners of this irony.

I am reminded of the story of this American businessman who went to vacation in a little fishing village in Mexico and lectured the boatman who was lounging about on his boat with his woman, sipping a beer and playing the guitar, that should he forsake those indulgences in the prime of his youth to run behind building a big fisheries business, he could retire with enough money to lounge about in a boat with his woman, drinking beer and playing the guitar :)

mooligai sidhan said...

@Kanna, thank you for the kind comment! The fear of the ills of samsara leads to the fear of women in general and there are a couple of other factors that contribute to this position of discrimination and spiritual isolation of women. though I will have to explore them in a seperate post to do them justice. Iam sure you will hear more from me about those other factors soon.
And as you say, it does indeed boggle ones mind to think that we thoughtlessly practise such practises. There you go, that is karma mimamsa for you - and I am guilty of belonging with other brahmins of today, to this division/branch of hindu thought. However, I refuse to take it lying down and would only accept what holds true even after much analysis and deliberation.
Your story of the american businessman sums it up exactly!

Srividya Srinivasan said...

The vedic period had perfect equality and was the great age of all true knowledge and robust social fibre where even varna has it's true place. More the saptarishi's domain!! And across world cultures there are glimpses and records of the same thing.

The Puranic age was the dark age where myth took over, and knowledge became half baked. There are glimpses of some truths during ths period too but relatively a dark age and the manus took over and the downfall of women!!

We are yet to recover!!!