You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : January 1998

Men and Women...

From: Vijay Triplicane (vijayt_at_acuson.com)
Date: Mon Jan 26 1998 - 18:49:13 PST

	Regarding this discussion about whether women can recite
something or not? what 'caste' do they belong to or whatever... I
somehow feel that we are losing the objective here. 

	I read an interesting viewpoint of Sri parAsara bhattar on
bhagavan nama sangeerthanam. His sishya asked him the kramam
(method/rules) for reciting bhagavan's names. The sishya wanted to
know the kala (time), dhEsa (place) restrictions for the recitals.
Sri bhattar laughed and said something close to this: "puNya jalamAna
gaN^gaiyil theerththAmAdach chellumun, udalaich chudhdham seydhu koLvEn
enRu kadal n^Iril kuLippAruNdO? "
(Would somebody who is going for a divine dip in the sacred waters of
the river Ganga, stop for cleaning his body with the salty sea water?)

	The point is, bhagavan nama sangirthanam is the greatest
service. He feels very happy listening to His adiyArs recite His
name. ANdAL stresses this by saying "uththaman pEr ugan^dhu pAdi" 
Our thirumaN^gai mannan says, "pErAyiramum pidhaRRi" and
thoNdar adippodi AzhvAr talks so much about the importance of the
bhagavan nAma. Having understood this importance, why would one want
to deny this to our dear sisters, mothers... 

	In my humble opinion, the whole idea of classification of 
'rahasyam' (esoteric works) or for that matter, any restriction was
introduced in a socially practical perspective. In order to
understand such esoteric works one has to have a certain level of
faith. Otherwise, he/she will not only misunderstand but also spread
cheap criticisms and will end up in bringing down the greatness of these
works. So in order to protect these works our sAstrAs and AchAryAs
would have laid down such restrictions. By reciting a collection of
His names, there is no such danger, i think. In fact the sahasranAmam
being so musical and immediately appealing to our hearts, would
create the necessary inclination towards him easily. 

	While discussing the men Vs Women issues, i wish to share one
of the interesting n^irvAhams of bhattar. (I might have already
written about this before. If so, please pardon me for repeating it.)

	Sri Bhattar was delivering a discourse on bhagavadh vishayam.
He recited the 2.5.10 pAsuram from thiruvAymozhi which starts as 
"aaNallan peNNallan allaa aliyumallan,"

	Sri n^ammAzhvAr describes the qualities of the Lord and says,
"He is not a man, not a woman, not a neuter either...". 
On listening to this, a local thamizh vidvAn raised a doubt. 
"ANallan" - AzhvAr talks about a man. Hence it ends with "an",
"peNNallan" - He talks about a woman and so it should end with "aL".
It should have been "peN allaL" and the next one should be "aliyum
alladhu" (akhRiNai). So this usage of "an" at the end of both the
genders and the neuter is gramatically wrong, he said. 

	Our bhattar gave a sampradhAyic explanation to this question.
One should not just look at the dhivya prabhan^dham verses as a mere
collection of thamizh words. It is much more than that. One has to
have an understanding of the srivaishNava sampradhAyam and the
correct context to understand and appreciate these nuances.

	According to our sampradhAyam, the Lord is considered to be
the purushOththaman. He is the Only Man, the highest of all. All of
us are women. In our relationship with Him all of us, even the so
called men of this earth, are women. Our dependence on Him and Him
alone is being stressed here which comes naturally for women. These,
so called men, 'think' that they can take care of themselves because
of their svAthanthram (being independent). This essentially destroys
the nature of our relationship with Him. We are all His servants. So,
He being the only man, the "an" vigudhi (suffix) is used in all the
three places. It should be read as, "He is not a man (of this earth),
He is not a woman (of this earth) and He is not a neuter either (of
this earth). What a nice interpretation!!! 

	If we realize this, then where is the question of men and
women and the restrictions esp on reciting the divine names of the
Lord? 

	I am not learned at all. I don't know the intricacies of the
sAstrAs. I cannot claim that i have fully understood the Bhagavad
Gita. But these classic interpretations and expressions of His love 
towards us tie me down. He is eagerly waiting for us, to enjoy us. By
imposing such restrictions on a jAthi, sex, or for that matter any
class, aren't we denying Him something? Can we? Esp the restrictions 
just on reciting His names...

	Please do not mistake me if i have hurt somebody's beliefs.
That is not the intention. Consider this as a question from a novice.

Thanks 
adiyEn
-Viji
(Vijay Triplicane)