What is the position of a woman in the scheme.
This is a very important question. We cannot discuss this in isolation. The dharma, be it for a man or woman is dependent upon the circumstances of the period we live in. The dharma cannot be fixed for all the periods, that is, it cannot be the same for all the periods. For example, we see around us many cases of divorce, we cannot out rightly ban this. Since there can be hundreds of valid reasons for a woman to divorce a man and there can be very good reason for the man to divorce a woman, too. These dharmas were decided in a satra – group of saints come together and without bias decide on the dharma for that period.
I hear from the corner house uncle, who always complain, that the woman should be kept under control and should not be left free as you do.
This is again another phase of the ignorance of the true meaning of the shastras. The shastra says, the woman should be looked after in childhood by her father, in her young age by her husband and in old age by her son. But in reality it means she should be served by them, she should be respected as a lakshmi – god of wealth, and that is why she is give as a dhana (kanya dhana – giving away virgin bride as alms) in the marriage. It is said that, a house where her tear drops fall in the ground that house will not flourish. And have we not heard, Mata Pita Guru Daivam, what do you thing it means.
First mother, then more to father, then even more to the guru and finally the god, the respect should be showed.
No Govinda, this is how people misunderstand this. It is like this, have we not heard the saying, if the guru and the god stand first we should salute the guru and only with his permission to the god. Because, it is the guru who showed the existence of god, and only through him we realize god. So, from this we can deduce, first the mother should be respected and only after that the father should be respected and so on.
But she is not given a sacred thread or the rite to chant Vedas.
Oh that, to study Vedas she needs sacred thread, she is not given that rights because the physique of the woman is not suited to chant Vedas. The air should be taken from ones belly, and that is what should be used to chant the Vedas. And it is not music, to be sung. And in the other forms of Vedas, gandarva Vedas – music, dance etc. she is definitely given the first rights. And not just that, she can study shastra, and there seems to be no restrictions upon it. Though some differ, maybe due to the influence of the other dominating sects, we can see Maitrayi, Gargi, Ubhaya Bharati etc as example from shruti and smriti.
But, without performing the karma how will she gain punya.
Shastras are very generous in this aspect. It is said, half the punya – virtue, of the husband to husband and his papa – sin does not, but half the sin she does goes to the husband but her virtues do not.
Is sati accepted by the scriptures.
Sati means, the wife deciding to be burnt along with the husband. As we saw in the earlier question, the dharmas were decided based on the period. The sati has no direct link to the Vedas directly. The smriti texts, discuss about this. And the smiriti texts are written by great sages, and are accepted as the code of conduct book by and large. There is no compulsion here, if the woman decides on dong a sati, she should be given her freedom. It should not be like the political suicides, which are really genocide. Every culture had a form of this practice. It may seem to be cruel, but the saint gave acceptance to this because of a fad which came into from the other culture, to protect the rights of the woman wishing to do sati.
Is the state of the widower too same.
No. If there is no progeny, to continue the lineage, he may get married. But, otherwise, he too has some rules of dos and donts, as the woman.
Enough for today, we will discuss the ashramas some other time.