Women's Dharma-Past and Present #2

Letter to my Children:
From a Hindu in the USA

*Omanand Kaul

To read Part-1 please click here
To read Part-2 please click here
To read Part-3 please click here

Women’s Dharma-Past and Present #2.

1 Bharati- the Ideal of a judge: (8th century A.D.).
Bharati was appointed to judge a debate between Mandan Mishra and Shankaracharya. The topic of the debate was to ascertain superiority of either the spiritualistic path of Shankaracharya or the ritualistic path advocated by Mandan Mishra. Hinduism at that time, had fallen into rigid ritualistic routines controlled and prescribed by the Brahmins. According to that path, Mokhsha was attainable only by performing these rituals. Shankaracharya, the rebellious philosopher, however held that mere rituals without an underlying spiritual understanding were not enough for salvation. According to him, there was an urgent need for retrospection and Self-discovery and a thorough contextual understanding of man within the cosmos to attain the final goal. Shankaracharya propounded the Advaita Vedanta-Non-dualistic system wherein everyone has the potential to attain and mingle with the Brahman of the Vedas. Mandan Mishra, proponent of the rituals, was a great Vedic Scholar. His esteem can be gauged by the saying that in his locality (of present day Bihar) even birds sang in Sanskrit.

Bharati was a scholar and wife of Mandan Mishra. She was chosen for her intellectual rigor, integrity and objectivity. She practiced them dispassionately with utmost caution and without prejudice. Shankaracharya argued against the dogmatic system and used his intellectual prowess to trounce any and all debaters who were in favor of such a system. Mandan Mishra proved no exception. Bharati, the judge, after listening to arguments by both parties for over a week, gave her verdict in favor of Shankaracharya. She argued against the rigid system since the law to her was highly dynamic, and Shankaracharya overwhelmingly proved his point. Delivery of the verdict against own husband demads tremendous courage and a deep sense of truth. There is our ideal of an objective judge.

2. Now moving on to the present (and in celebration of the upcoming Mother’s day).
In Kashmiri we have a saying that summarizes the relationship between child and the mother.
“Goda zayi tsu tu bu, adha zav bubb,
Doh panch dub gayi zav buddi bubb”.

“First you (mom) and I (child) were born,
Then came Dad, then after a lull Grandpa was born”.

In spite of the philosophical trappings, the couplet identifies the sequence in which babies recognize their world. Significantly, mother is recognized first, and then everybody else. A mother not only carries the child inside her, but also assumes the role of the first teacher. A child thus owes an immense amount of gratitude to the mother and in Hindu culture this is dubbed ‘the debt to the mother’-the debt a child can never repay.
Thus a woman’s dharma affirms her greater role in shaping our society.

Subscribe to USA TODAY - 8 weeks for $14 *Omanand Koulis a Kashmiri from Anantnag, a graduate of the Banaras HinduUniversity, and a professor at the University Of Massachusetts,Worcester(USA).

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