The dharmasastras, including the Manusmrti, mention eight forms of marriage.
----Manusmrti, 3. 21
The eight types are: brahma, daiva, arsa, prajapatya, asura, gandharva, raksasa and paisaca.
After the student bachelor has completed his gurukulavasa, his parents approach the parents of a girl belonging to a good family and ask them to give away their daughter in marriage to their son--to make a gift of their daughter (kanyadana) to him. A marriage arranged like this is brahma. In it this girl's family does not give any dowry or jewellery to the boy's family. There is no "commercial transaction" and the goal of a brahma marriage is the dharmic advancement of two families. Of the eight forms of marriage the dharmasastras regard this as the highest.
Marrying a girl to a rtvik (priest) during a sacrifice is called "daiva". The parents, in this type, after waiting in vain for a young man to turn up and ask for their daughter's hand, go looking for a groom for her in a place where a sacrifice is being conducted. This type of marriage is considered inferior to brahma. In the sastras womanhood is elevated in that it is the groom's family that has to seeking bride for their son.
The third form, "arsa" suggests that it is concerned with the rsis, sages. It seems the marriage of Sukanya to Cyavana Maharsi was of this type. But from the dharmasastras we learn that in arsa the bride is given in exchange for two cows received from the groom. If the term is taken to mean "giving away a girl in marriage to a rsi", we must take it that the girl is married off to an old sage because the parents could not celebrate her marriage according to the brahma rite at the right time. The fact that cows are taken in exchange for the bride shows that the groom does not possess any remarkable qualities. According to the sastras, in marriages of noble kind there is no place for money or anything smacking of a business transaction.
In prajapatya there is no trading and kanyadana is a part of it as in the brahma ceremony. But from the name prajapatya it must be inferred that the bride's menarche is imminent and that a child must be begotten soon after the marriage. For this reason the bride's father goes in search of a groom, unlike in the brahma type. The brahma type is a better type of marriage than prajapatya since, in it, the groom's people go seeking a bride who is to be the Grahalaksmi of their household.
In the asura type the groom is in no way a match for the girl, but her father or her relatives receive a good deal of money from the man who forces them to marry her to him. In arsa in which cows are given in exchange for the bride there is no compulsion. Nor is the groom wealthy or powerful like his counterpart in the asura type. Many rich men must have taken a second wife according to the asura type of marriage.
The next is gandharva. The very mention of it calls to mind Sakuntala and Dusyanta. The gandharva type is the "love marriage" that has such enthusiastic support these days.
In the raksasa form the groom battles with the girl's family, overcomes them and carries her away. It was in this manner that krsna Paramatman married Rukmini.
The eighth and last is paisaca. In asura even though the girl's willingness to marry the man is of no consequence, at least her people are given money. In raksasa, though violence is done to the girl's family, the marriage itself is not against her wish. Rukmini loved Krsna, did she not? In paisaca the girl's wish does not count, nor is any money or material given to her parents. She is seized against her wish and her family antagonised.
We have the brahma type at one end and the paisaca at the other. There cannot be the same system or the same arrangement for everybody. Our sastras have taken into account the differences in temperament and attitude among various sections of people and it is in keeping with the same that they have assigned them different rites, vocations, etc. All our present trouble arises from the failure on the part of men, who advocate the same system for all, to recognise this fact.
There are tribals living in the forests who look fierce and have a harsh way of life. But at heart they may be more cultured than townspeople, not to speak of the fact that they are useful to society in many ways. They have frequent family feuds. In consideration of this raksasa and paisava marriages may have to be permitted in their case. After the marriage, they are likely to forget their quarrels and live in peace with each other. Ksatriyas who are physically strong and are used to material pleasure are allowed the gandharva form of marriage and their girls have even the right to choose their husbands as in the svayamvara ceremony.
It is for these reasons that the dharmasastras, which are based on the Vedas and which constitute Hindu law, permit eight forms of marriage. In all these eight, the bride and groom have the right to be united in wedlock with the chanting of mantras. But brahma is the highest of the eight forms. In it the bride must not have attained puberty. "Pradanam prak rtoh": -- this statement is in the dharmasastras themselves. A girl's marriage, which has same significance for her that the upanayana has for a boy, must be performed when she is seven years old (or eight years from conception)
Unfortunately, in the case of some girls, a groom does not turn up in time for a brahma marriage to be performed. Meanwhile, they grow old and their marriage is conducted in the arsa, daiva, or prajapatya way. Only these types are permitted for Brahmins. But for the rest other types are also allowed. They may marry a girl who has come of age either in the gandharva way or in a svayamvara.
The marriage mantras are intended for all the eight forms. It means that they are employed even in the marriage rite of girls who have attained puberty. The two mantras quoted above are recited in all the eight types of marriage. They are addressed by the groom to the bride who comes to him after she has attained puberty and after she has been under the guardianship successively of Soma, gandharva and Agni. The mantras are chanted not only in brahma marriages but also in all other forms. The same are addressed by the groom to his child bride also. Though his marriage is being solemnised to the child bride now, he will start living with her only after she comes of age, after she becomes a young woman. He will bring her home to live with him only after she has come successively under Soma, gandharva and Agni. So he chants the mantras in advance.
Nowadays we sometimes perform a number of samskaras together long after they are due according to the sastras. For example, we perform the jatakarma if a son as well as his namakarana and caula during his upanayana when he is 20 or 22 years old and not long before his marriage. Similarly, instead of such postponement of the rites, in the brahma marriage the mantras mentioned above are chanted in advance.
I will give you an example in this context. When the brahmacarin performs the samidadhana he prays before Agni to grant him good children. How absurd would it be for our reformers to argue, on the basis of this prayer, that a young boy must have children when he is yet a celibate-student and that he may become a householder only later. The point to note is that the boy prays on advance for good children. The Vedic mantras cited by reformers must be seen in the same light.
The mantras [quoted by reformers] are appropriate for the marriage of a girl who has come of age also.
This is our reply to the school of opinion represented by the Rt Hon'ble Srinivasa Sastri. If the mantras in question are chanted at the time of the marriage of girls who have come of age, it does not mean that all marriages are to be celebrated after the girls have attained puberty. According to the brahma form of marriage, the girl must not have had her menarche. There is incontrovertible proof for this in the Vedic mantra chanted at the end of the marriage rite. .
I told that a girl is under the sway of a gandharva between the time she is able to wear her clothes without anybody's help and her menarche. His name is Visvavasu. The mantra I referred to is chanted by the groom addressing this demigod. "o Visvasu, " it says, " I bow to you. Leave this girl and go. Go to another girl child. Have I not become the husband of this girl? So give her over to me and go to another girl who is not married and lives with her father. " During the wedding the groom performs a puja to this gandharva and prays to him to free the girl from his control. Here is proof that the bride is not under Agni and has not had her menarche
The question now is about the verse (from the Manusmrti) cited by the reformists. According to it, a girl may wait three years after her menarche and then seek her husband on her own.
There is an answer to this. The general rule according to the dharmasastras is that a girl must be married before she attains puberty: "Pradanam prak rtoh. " What happens if this injunction is not followed? If groom does not come on his own, seeking the girl's hand, her father or brother must look for a groom and marry her off. But if they turn out to be irresponsible or otherwise fail to find a groom? Or if the girl has no guardian, no one to care for her? The lines quoted by the reformers from the Manusmrti apply to such a girl. She may look for a husband on her if none of her relatives, neighbours or well-wishers take the trouble of finding her a groom even after she has attained puberty.
Though the reformists quote from the Vedas and sastras in support of their view, they fail to take into account the context in which the relevant passages occur. They see them in isolation. That is why they keep arguing that the customs followed by people steeped in our traditions are contrary to the sastras.
In the Chandogya Upanisad there is mention of a sage called Cakrayana Usasti whose wife had not come of age. The reformists do not examine such references in our ancient texts with a cool head but are carried away by their emotions.
In the past the common people did not know how to counter the arguments of the reformists. Even so they did not accept their views thinking it best to follow the practices of their elders, of great men. That is why the bill brought twice by the Rt Hon'ble Srinivasa sastri before the legislative council to amend the marriage act (with reference to the age of marriage) did not receive enough support. Later (Harbilas) Sarda introduced the bill which [on its passage] came to be called the Sarda Act. Many people (in the South) think Sarda was a women and call the law named after him the "Sarda Act". The Central legislative assembly was equally divided on the bill -- 50 percent for and 50 per cent against. Then the British asked one of the nominated members to vote in favour of the bill; and thus the minimum age of marriage for girls was raised by a legal enactment. The bill was passed not on the strength of public opinion but because if the government's intervention. The mind of our British rulers worked thus: "The Congress has been demanding svaraj but we have refused to grant it. Let us give it some satisfaction by being of help in inflicting an injury on the (Hindu) religion. "
Now things have changed. There is no respect any longer for old customs and traditions. When the Sarda Act came into force in British India, some Sanskrit scholars returned the "Mahamahopadhyaya" title conferred on them by the government. Among them were Pancanana Tarkaratna Bhattacarya of Bengal and Laksmana Sastri Dravid. The latter was settled in Kasi and had the "Dravid" tagged on to his name to make it known that he belonged to the land of the Tamils. How many people today are inspired to rise in protest against the changes introduced by our government in our sastric observances.
Our children must be taught the substance and meaning of the sastras in a comprehensive manner. To speak to them about one aspect here and another there will lead to a haphazard and confused view. The half-baked research carried on in the Vedas has given rise to the opinion that the scriptures favour love marriage. The canonical texts must be seen in their entirety. When a subject is examined, its underlying meaning and purpose must be grasped. Also they must be seen in the light of other relevant passages occurring elsewhere. A conclusion must be arrived at only after a thorough inquiry into all points.
The brahma marriage is for all castes. Other forms of marriage are also permitted for non-Brahmins, also post-puberty marriage. If the idea is to give importance to carnal pleasure these other forms may be permitted. But brahma is the best if the purpose of the marriage samskara is the advancement of the Self.
Our Duty Now
Let the authorities take their own time to change their mind. What is our immediate duty? If the limit fixed by the law for a girl's marriage is 14, 16, 18 or whatever, let us celebrate it immediately on her attaining this age. We must prepare for the day in advance, deciding in the groom and making all other arrangements for the wedding. It would be reprehensible on our part to prolong the period of waiting after a girl begins to feel the biological urge and the consequent emotional disturbance. It is one thing if the marriage gets postponed owing to circumstances beyond our control, but quite another if we do not exert ourselves sufficiently to conduct it in time.
Make Marriages Simple
Girls today are sometimes married at the age of 25 or 30, far beyond the limit fixed by the law. The inability to raise the money required for the wedding is one reason for this. All the ostentation at weddings, dowry and other gifts given to the groom's people have no sanction in the sastras. To demand a suit for the groom or a pair of boots, an expensive wrist-watch or other luxury articles is nothing but extortion. It is as good as milking the bride's party dry. This kind of plunder is not approved by the sastras. So too the procession called "janavasam", with all its glitter, taken out on the eve of the wedding as though it were an essential part of the ceremonies.
In the past, when the bride and groom were very young, the wedding included functions to keep the couple in good cheer since they would perhaps have felt uncomfortable before the smoke of the sacred fire. There were elements of play like nalangu and also the procession.
"Kanyam Kanaka-sampannam" (the bride adorned with gold): these words occur in the sastras relating to the marriage rites. Gold symbolises the grace of Laksmi but a mangalasutra with a grain of gold as part of it is enough. There is no need for other types of expensive jewellery, diamond studs, and so on. No silks are required. A cotton sari will serve the purpose of the kurapudavai. Above all the custom of dowry must be scrapped. There is also no justification on holding a lavish wedding dinner for the whole neighbourhood. Nor is a music or dance recital needed. A big pandal too is not necessary.
Duty of Motherhood
Our women must give up their fondness for diamonds and silks. This will be great help to our family and social life. Indeed womanhood itself will stand to gain and stridharma will flourish. Woman should think of the millions of silkworms killed to make the sari with which they drape themselves. They claim that they are vegetarians. So should they not feel remorse about being indirectly responsible for the destruction of countless silkworms because of their love of silk saris. If women of well-to-do families realise this and stop wearing silk, they will no longer set a bad example to their less fortunate sisters. It is because if the example of the wealthy that the poor too hanker after silks and diamonds. Then the groom's people bring pressure on the bride's parents for silks and diamond studs. This is one reason for the marriage of girls being delayed.
It is a crime to have turned the marriage samskara into an economic problem. After all, we too have daughters. That being so, merely because we belong to the groom's family, we cannot take an arrogant attitude and dictate terms to the bride's family, demanding this and that. We should not lay down conditions like Shylock and tell the girl's parents: "Give us a big dowry, bring us expensive vessels, bring us diamonds and silks". Such behaviour is unpardonable: it is one reason why girls remain unmarried, pining away at home. If you happen to be the groom's parents you must satisfy yourself about the girl's character, family, etc. "This girl will be the Laksmi of our home and she will brighten it": with such thoughts you must accept the bride, without laying down any conditions for the marriage and without insisting that you must receive gifts in the form of money, jewellery and so on.
In this matter women have a special responsibility. They must naturally have respect and sympathy for fellow women. When they celebrate their son's marriage they must conduct themselves in the manner I suggested earlier. The presents given by other parents to their sons-in-law must not be an example for them to make similar demands. On the contrary, they must set an example to the parents of other prospective grooms, telling themselves: "Why should we be guilty of the sort of wrongs that others have committed? We will try to bring about a change and set an example for others to follow". This is how our motherhood must be motivated.
"We gave a dowry to the groom's people when our daughter was married". Or: "My father gave a dowry to my in-laws when I was married, so there is nothing wrong if I accept the same now". You must be warned against taking such an attitude. This evil custom of dowry that undermines our very dharma must be done away with. Someone must take the first step [take the lead] in a spirit of sacrifice. People make sacrifices in this or that cause. If their village is included in a neighbouring district a hundred or a hundred thousand people rise on protest and court arrest. Some of the agitators set fire to themselves. Shouldn't we make a little sacrifice in the cause of preserving the great ideals of our womanhood?
Women come to see me and seek my blessings, saying: "We recite the Saundaryalahari, the Abirami Antadi". What they do is commendable. But they would deserve the compassion of Amba better if they sincerely followed my advice in the matter of marriage. They must not dictate terms regarding dowry, jewellery, gifts, and so on, and must agree to the marriage alliance with their whole heart. There are girls like them, or rather women, who are getting on in years but still remain unmarried. They are emotionally disturbed and nurse a hurt to their sense of honour because of their sad predicament, but may be later they will become so hardened as to have no feelings whatsoever. You must try to change the system that is responsible for the fate of such women. If your hearts melt in sympathy for them Amba will also look upon you with a kind eye.
You cannot justify the acceptance of a dowry and other gifts on the pretext that they are given by the girl's parents on their own. This can lead to others also doing the same and cause a bad chain reaction. If the girl's parents give a dowry on their own, they will expect the same from the parents of their son's bride. You must refuse a dowry even when it is given voluntarily. If the girl's people are wealthy you may tell them: "Don't give us any money. If you wish you may give it your daughter in the form of stridhana. "
The groom's parents spend on clothes, travel, etc, and expect the expenses to be "reimbursed" by the girl's parents. This is not at all justified. They must tell themselves: "Our son is getting married. Why shouldn't we ourselves spend for it? It is shameful to take money from someone else to buy our own requirements. Will it not mean that we can't afford them ourselves?" Unfortunately, people think that they have certain rights and privileges as the groom's parents and fleece the bride's people by intimidating or browbeating them. Whether the dowry is given voluntarily or out of compulsion, it is money stolen. It is all a vicious circle that causes injury to society itself. We must somehow see to it that this evil system of dowry is scrapped.
Arrangements made by the Matha
Girls must be married at least at the age permitted by the law if not at the age of seven or eight. Towards this purpose we have started the Kanyakadana Trust. Daughters of poor parents must not remain unmarried after they have attained puberty merely because they have no money. The Trust extends help to conduct their marriage on a modest scale. Much merit will be earned by contributing towards such marriage expenses.
Other communities have not degenerated to the same extent as have Brahmins. Among non- Brahmins the dowry system is not as oppressive. Their women do not go to college in such large numbers as their Brahmin sisters do, nor do they, like the latter, go about as freely wherever fancy takes them.
The Trust was created to help daughters of poor families. In my opinion, donations for the Kanyadhana Trust and the Veda Raksana Nidhi Trust must be accepted from Brahmins alone. The reason is that others ought not to be made to pay a penalty for the wrongs perpetrated by the Brahmin. The biggest offence he has committed is that of forsaking Vedic learning. By not conducting the marriage of his daughter at the minimum age permitted by the law he commits an offence equally grave. So it is his responsibility to support the arrangements made to remedy the wrongs done by him. Other communities must not be made to pay for the same. To do so would be to add to the list of his sins. After all, he takes up any calling today, does any job so long as it brings him money. He spends lavishly on clubs, on entertainment, and so on. So is it not reasonable that he should be asked to contribute to the two Trusts?
The Kanyakadana Trust meets the expenses of the tirumangalyam (mangalasutra), the 18- cubit sari, the dhoti for the groom, etc. It is ready to help in conducting a simple, inexpensive wedding.
The arrangements made for the Kanyakadana trust have not yielded the same satisfactory results as those made for the Veda Raksana Nidhi Trust. Not much has been done to solve the problem for which the former body was started. I say this with great regret. The little bit we have done for the corrupted Brahmin community is like administering a concoction made of dried ginger to a man who has swallowed a crowbar. Parents do not in the least worry about damming the swollen stream of adharma. So not many come forward to make use of the Trust. They are no longer worried about their daughters not being married at the right time. They take it easy while their daughters work and earn. What do we do with the Trust? Instead of looking for a groom, parents look for a man who can recommend their daughter for a job. Things have become so bad in our land- it is all so unfortunate. We extend help at best to hold some 50 marriages. Every year 5, 000 women go to work. Ten times that number go looking for a job. So only some 50 girls come to us for help to be married at the minimum age according to the law. The only purpose served by the Trust is that of giving me some satisfaction that I have not failed in my duty.
I have spoken frankly, without mincing words, in the hope that, with their sense of self- respect and sense of urgency aroused, parents will take timely steps to celebrate the marriage of their daughters without losing a moment after the girls are old enough for the same according to the law.
The Real Reform
The law has stipulated the minimum age for marriage. I wish it had also stipulated the maximum age considering the attitude of people today. We are not in the least justified in blaming the law if girls aged 25 or 30 remain unmarried. The reason is our own indifference. Take the upanayana samskara. After all, it does not come under the Sarda Act. . Why then do we perform our son's upanayana together with his marriage when he is 30 years or so? It is all due to our indifference to our sastras, our dharma.
Apart from this general apathy, most parents want to celebrate the upanayana and marriage on a lavish scale, indeed like festivities. Both get postponed since the money has to be raised. That even a lifetime's earnings are not sufficient to meet the expenses of a daughter's marriage is preposterous. The result is the samskaras are not performed at the proper time as required by the sastras.
According to our scriptures money has nothing to do with these samskaras. That today it has come to be so is a tragedy- and it is a tragedy that is of our own making. In none of the eight forms of marriage does the groom have to be given any money. Even in the asura type it is the groom that pays money, that is in exchange for the bride. If such a transaction is considered demoniac, what would the rsis who authored our sastras have thought of the prevailing custom of dowry, of the groom's parents telling the bride's people: "Give us your daughter in marriage and also cash." They could not have even imagined that such a custom would ever crop up. There obtained the custom of "Kanya-sulka" - money offered to the bride or "bride price" - which has some support in the canons. But you cannot find an iota of justification in our scriptures for the present dowry system.
Putting an end to this custom- this evil- is the marriage reform that is the true need of the country. Instead of carrying out such a reform, what we have done is to stipulate- in the name of reform- the minimum age of marriage for girls. And this has played havoc with our family and social life. I am referring to the present phenomenon of girls going to work. When it became difficult to find the money for the dowry, for the gifts to be made to the groom's people and for the lavish celebration of the wedding, the Sarda act came in handy by obviating the need to be in a hurry to hold the function.
When the marriage of girls got delayed and they had to stay at home doing nothing, the parents wondered why their daughters should not study, go to work and start earning. The money would also come in handy when the girls were to be married. Thus started the practice of women going to work. At first the parents felt a little embarrassment or a sense of shame about doing something they thought to be improper, that is depending on the daughter's own earnings for her marriage expenses. They were also worried and fearful about the girls being exposed to various risks and temptations. But, in due course, this worry and fear vanished. Also the parents came to think that there was no need to feel awkward about their daughters going to work.
According to the Puranas, even royal sages like Janaka were worried that their daughters stayed at home without being married. They felt so uncomfortable as if they were carrying fire inside them. At first we felt sheepish that our women went to work. But, by and by, we learned to accept it. Now we take it as an advance, a step forward in our civilization. Parents have thrown all sense of responsibility to the winds and are not worried in the least about their daughters going out to work and, indeed, they take pride in it. Our dharma has sunk to such low depths. Working girls come to me blessings for promotion in their office. Turning a blind eye to everything- seeing and not seeing- I have earned the name of being a good Svamiyar.
"That women are receiving higher education and are working is a great step forward", proclaim the reformists. "A great injustice done to them in the past has been undone," they add. My own view is that no injustice was ever done to women in the past and I would go to the extent of saying that, if at all any injustice was done, it was to men. You may be amused by this remark. Let me explain. A male, after his student- bachelorhood, graduates to the stage of the householder. He has now to perform many duties and rituals like aupasana and a number of other samskaras with the ultimate object of finding release from worldly existence. A woman attains the same goal by dedicating herself to her husband and to do so is to go beyond all the samskaras performed by a man. Though reformists think this to be an injustice done to women, to me it appears that the sastras favour women more than they do men. I tell you why. How does a man realise himself? He has to perform many religious works; he has to learn the Truth and feel it inwardly through nididhyasana. In this way alone does he erase his mind.
A pativrata does not need such difficult sadhana, such ardent and intense practice, to reach the same goal and all she has to do is to surrender to her husband. By respecting the wishes of her husband such a wife obliterates not only her own wishes, but all feelings of honour and dishonour and all ego-sense. In this way she comes close to stilling her mind. When the mind is utterly dedicated to another person in and attitude of surrender, should it not be close to being blotted out? Is there any "promotion" for a woman higher than this?
A woman exalted by inner purity occupies a position far higher than another who earns a promotion in her office. This is how many a woman in the history of this land won powers far greater than those earned even by the sages. According to Tiruvalluvar, if such a woman says, "Let there be rain", it will rain, it must rain. If she says to the sun, "Don't rise", it will not rise. Such a woman can retrieve her husband from Yama. Our sastras, our traditions, give these women a place more elevated than that accorded to any sage or deity. We see from Puranas that a woman of lofty character can transform even gods into little children by sprinkling water on them. Our religious texts speak about how a woman may rise to true heights of glory and how she is enshrined in a temple and worshipped. They do not ever condemn her to an inferior position. It seems to me that it is the reformists who do so by preventing her from rising to the heights of glory.
If marriage is one of the many samskaras to render a man pure, for a woman it is the single samskara that gives her the ultimate fruits of all samskaras. Now the essence of this samskara is cast away and what remains, the refuse, is retained. Marriage and the householder's stage of life are not meant for carnal pleasure alone. They constitute a path for liberation. If this truth is understood people will appreciate that the role assigned to women by the sastras is just and proper.
Few seem to have realised the undesirable economic consequences of women going to work. I am referring to the unemployment problem. Until some years ago parents had this excuse for their daughters going to work: "Let her work till she gets married. Otherwise she will have to stay at home brooding over things and being sorry for herself. Going to work will be a way of spending time. Besides, the girl's earnings will come in handy for the dowry and other expenses of marriage." The idea then was to let the daughter work until her marriage and then ask her to resign her job. The groom and his people thought it demeaning for the bride to work after the marriage.
This attitude changed not before long. How? During the past one century or so, the Brahmin community has developed an increasing appetite for money. Owing to this greed that grew with the years, girls going to work even after their marriage became a more widely accepted practice. The result is that the noble duties of motherhood like child care are neglected. It is the same as in Western countries and there is no warmth and sincerity governing relationships involving parents and children and other family members.
On the economic front too the phenomenon of more and more women working has had an undesirable consequence. These days hundreds of young men are unemployed. At the same time, in some families both husband and wife work and earn. If the husband alone worked, the wife' s job would go to a young man who is without work. Unfortunately, husbands no longer take pride in caring for the wife and family with their earnings alone; they want the wife also to earn. At first the parents are reluctant to send their daughters to work. Then the husband did the same perhaps half- heartedly. As for the wife, she is now proud to be working. In fact, she is so used to working outside that she does not like being confined to her home. When she earns on her own she wants to spend as she likes without being questioned by her husband.
To stay at home does not mean to be locked in. There is no shortage of sastras and Puranas in Sanskrit and in other languages. If women develop a taste for them, they will keep reading them for a whole lifetime and find happiness. They may form satsanga groups and read such books by turns at home. There is no need to form a club or some other organisation nor any board. The satsanga may be held at home without any office-bearers like president, secretary, committee members and so on. I suggest this to avoid contests and rivalry for positions. Women may also keep themselves occupied in making pure kumkuma from turmeric and in collecting unbroken rice grains ("aksata") for use in mathas, temples and other religious establishments. To stay at home does not mean being caged in while doing such work. Besides, women will not lose their most precious possession, feminity. Work mentioned above will be a means for the freedom of their Self and for bliss.
For women, surely, this is far better than going to work out of greed and loosing their feminity in the process, not to speak of earning the higher reward of Atmic well-being. It is also in keeping with a woman' s nature. For a woman to work in an office on the pretext that she is otherwise confined to the four walls of her home is the cause of so many problems, so many evils. Though there is much talk of women's liberation, what we actually see is that they have to work under so many people and have too be answerable to so many of them. Is there peace in such a life? In the liberation that is so much talked about, is there the bliss of domestic life? Are working women able to cook at leisure, eat and enjoy the warmth and affection of children?
What purpose is served by all such talk? Each man thinks of his own selfish interests and is least bothered about others. People never pause to wonder whether others suffer on their account. There is no feeling for others, no sense of justice. In some families there is "double income" because both husband and wife earn while in some others even one member does not have a job and so no income. It is a sad state. If women decide not to work after their marriage it is possible that the vacancies thus created will be filled by the unemployed men. Families without any means so far will then benefit. Working women must think about this and those who try to bring equality between men and women and ought to consider the logic behind my observations.
Nowadays people do not know where to apply the principle of equality and where not to. Each entity or aspect of life has its own way of being, its own character; that is how life in the universe is ordained. It is wrong to contend that there must be a sameness about everything, that all things must be equal. To insist on such sameness and equality is to wreck the natural order of life. Each finds its fulfilment and true happiness in being related to another as intended by nature and in promoting the common social life. To pursue an arbitrary kind of equality instead of this means not only the denial of happiness on the individual level but jeopardizing family and social life.
Nature has assigned the job of child- bearing to women. However much we fight for equality we cannot change this fact of life. It is natural dharma of women to care for children and to be Grahalakshmis. They do not lose anything by doing so, nor do they become superior in any sense by refusing to do it. Equality in such matters has no meaning.
Any Use Talking ?
Samskaras such as marriage are akin to making chillies less hot by tempering them with ghee: they serve to tame the natural urges. We add ghee to the chilli so that it does not inflame the intestines. Carnal pleasure and worldly enjoyment are part of life of a householder but they are kept within certain limits so that he is not overcome by them. For a woman a life of chastity and loyalty to her husband, together with the care of the household, constitutes a samskara that is equivalent to all samskaras prescribed for her husband put together. All of us must recognise this fact.
The goal of this nation is Atmic well- being. We must all pray with a pure heart to Isvara that we remain true to this goal. As we pray, we must have also faith in the Lord's grace. If we keep speaking about the ideals of marriage and womanhood, one day perhaps people will see the light. As things stand now, I am afraid that one day our people will be pushed to the wall. That will be the time when they will realise how they brought disaster upon themselves. When they have such an awakening they will recognise the need to find a way out of their predicament. That is why I keep speaking about the path shown by the sastras.
"What purpose is served today by speaking about varnasrama, child marriage and so on? "This is a natural question." This is a natural question. " Three- quarters of it is all gone. Many aspects of our life are governed by the laws of the state and these are contrary to the ordinances of the sastras". This is true. The laws are such as to have our hands tied.
We are called a "secular state". It means, we are told, a state does not concern itself with the matters of religion. It further mans that the government can interfere only in social matters and not in religious affairs. But ours is a religion in which all aspects of life, individual and social, are woven together. So the laws enacted by the state to govern social life have an impact on our religion too. Our rulers do not recognise or accept this fact. They limit their view of religion to certain matters and think that all else belongs to the social sphere and are the concern of the government.
All religions contain features that relate to the social life of their followers. Does the government interfere with them as it does with the social foundations of Hinduism? No. It is this fact that causes pain. Though our rulers swear by the principle of secularism, they do not apply the same standard or yardstick to all religions. The minorities rise in protest against measures affecting their religious life introduced by the government. " These are against the Qu'ran", the cry is raised. Or, if the people affected are Christians, they say: "These are not in keeping with Christian doctrines". Yielding to such pressure, the government exempts the minorities concerned from the scope of the measures.
In spite of its claim to being secular, the government thinks it fit to interfere with anything that has to do with the Hindu traditions. Representatives of the minority communities come forward to speak in protest against acts of interference. But what about the Hindus? Even if a couple of Hindus speak up they are dubbed "reactionaries" or "obscurantists" and the government goes ahead with its measures or laws brushing them aside. Our rulers often proclaim that "a secular state means a state that does not concern itself with any religion, that it does not mean that the government is opposed to religion as such, and that the prosperity of all religions is acceptable to the state"., But in actual practice what do we see? The government's actions are not opposed to any religion barring Hinduism. The Hindu religion has become a no-man's land.
You will wonder why I am harping all the time on sastric matters fully aware though I am of what is happening in the country.
My answer is that, whatever the present situation be, we cannot foresee how things will take shape in the future. In the previous generation we thought dollars grew in the American soil and that people there were not wanting in anything. But what is the situation there today? We now know that no other people experience the same lack, the same emptiness, in their lives as do the Americans. It is only after reaching the heights of worldly pleasure that the realisation has dawned on them that the very pursuit of pleasure has created a void in their lives, an emptiness in the very Self. They realise that, floating as they did in a sea of dollars, they were drawn to all kinds of evil like drinking, loot, murder and prostitution. Now as they have no peace of mind they come to our country in large numbers seeking peace in our yoga, in our philosophy and in our devotional music.
We learn from this that what seemed good two or three generations ago is now seen to be evil. When people realise this they go in quest of liberation. The government, however well intentioned it be, has introduced measures that are against the sastras, thinking that they are good. But some day in the future people will realise that they are harmful. Even today we see signs of such realisation on the part of people here and there. There is a saying: "In the beginning it looked good. It was like a colt but as the days passed. Well, it was seen in its true form". The same could be said about some of the reforms introduced by the government, reforms contrary to the sastras. They look fine now but eventually we will realise that they will lead to a hopeless situation in society. Bhagvan speaks of two types of happiness in the Gita. "Yad tad agre visamiva, pariname' mrtopamam." Here the first type is described. This type of happiness is like poison in the beginning but like ambrosia, amrta, in the end. It is the sattvika or the highest type of happiness, like"halahala", the terrible poison, emerging first and amrta coming up later. The sastras may now seem to be bitter like poison because of the discipline they impose on the individual, the family and society, but in due course they will be seen to be sweet. Now all bonds, all shackles will break and the incomparable bliss of Atmic freedom will be experienced. Here the poison is tasted momentarily but the amrta will be everlasting.
"Yad tad agre' mrtopamam pariname visamiva", here the second type of happiness is referred to. In the beginning this type of happiness will taste sweet like ambrosia but, with the passage of time, it will turn bitter like poison. In America the dollar once tasted sweet like nectar but later turned bitter like poison. In India too, the reforms that are contrary to the sastras "taste" good now but they will be found to be poison in the times to come, when both the individual and society will suffer in the absence of contentment as well as discipline. People will then seek the amrta. Should they not know where they can find it? But by then the poison will have gone to their head and they will be in danger. So it is our duty to tell them where they can find the amrta. It is for them, for future generations, that we must keep speaking about the sastras instead of burying them deep in the earth.
Even though we ourselves do not imbibe the sastric nectar today we must preserve the sastras to help future generations when they will have become spiritually weak because of the poison going to their head. This lamp of the sastras should show the way at least in the times to come.
Nothing can be done now because I have my hands tied. But if I keep speaking to you unceasingly about the sastras it is because I am not yet gagged.
Marriage Expenses and the Sastras
Even if it is not possible for us to celebrate a marriage according to the sastras in respect of the age of the bride, could we not be true to their tenets at least in the matter of expenses? As I have made it clear so often a marriage has nothing to do with questions of money in any sense. Even though we have neither the will nor the courage to act according to the sastras in all matters, we could at least see to it that marriages are not turned into what may be called an economic problem; in other words we could follow the canonical texts at least in conducting weddings more economically.
The marriage ceremony is in fact almost as inexpensive a rite as sandhyavandana. How much is to be spent on it? The newly-weds have to be presented with new clothes(cotton will do), a tirumangalyam (mangalasutra) with a piece of gold attached to it. Only a few close relatives need be fed. At the time of the muhurta an auspicious instrument must be played. This will cost you a small sum. The other expense is the daksina paid to the priest. All this is fully in accord with the sastras. Even a poorly paid clerk can perform his daughter's marriage in this simple manner.
If wealthy people make marriages so lavish or showy affair, it would be a bad example for others not so wealthy. The money they otherwise spend on a music or dance recital or on other items that add glitter to the wedding must be used for marriages in poor families. This means that money that is otherwise wasted is converted into dharmic currency. It should be possible for every affluent man to celebrate the marriage of his daughter economically and save money with which a poor girl can be married and made happy. "Mass marriages" may be conducted in the same way as "mass upanayana".
The rent charged for the pandal itself [or the " hall" or mandapa] takes up half the wedding expenses. You cannot hold a marriage ceremony in a flat even on a small scale. Philanthropists should join together to construct small mandapas in various localities for the marriage of the daughters of less fortunate people.
There was a time when girls blushed when the very word marriage was mentioned. Then came a time when young women waiting to be married pined away at home, cried their hearts out, wondering whether they would be married at all. Now things have come to such a pass that women are on their own, not married and working like men in offices. The very life-breath of our culture, stridharma is being stifled. We hear reports of unseemly incidents happening here and there.
What is particularly tragic is that no one seems to be concerned about finding a remedy for all the unhappy occurrences. What is worse, these happenings are sought to be justified in terms of psychology, this and that. Stories are written on the undesirable incidents and films produced based on them and encouragement given to wrong-doing. If we question the people who give encouragement they turn back and speak to us about freedom of imagination, freedom of art, and so on. In this republican age there is freedom for everything except for the pursuit of the sastras.
I started by saying that according to the scriptures questions of money have no place in the marriage ceremony. Talking of marriage expenses, I must consider the complaint that a wedding lasting four days(which is how it ought to be celebrated) can be very expensive.
The sastras do not ask you to perform rituals likely to impoverish you. The marriage proper, the solemnisation of the wedding, is a one-day affair. The groom must spend the following three days in his own house observing brahmacarya. During these days there is no need for any music, nor any nalangu, or any other celebration. Let those who want to reform the marriage ceremony, think of changing it in this manner.
The groom' s people must tell the bride's parents: The marriage proper will be celebrated in your house. The remaining three days' functions will be held in our house without your having to spend anything". On the day following the marriage the householder( the young man just married) must bring the "aupassanagni" (the sacred fire in which the aupasana is performed) to his home. There are mantras to be chanted as this fire is being brought, as it is placed on the cart, as the bullocks are yoked to the cart, etc. You may do the same nowadays if you go by car or train. In the old days marriage alliances were formed between families living in neighbouring villages. So it was easy to carry the auspicious fire from the bride's to the groom' s house.
The four- day function may be performed in another way also. The place where the marriage is celebrated is to be treated as the groom' s house. Or the three-day function may be conducted in the house of a relative. No one need be invited for food, not even the girl's family. (The sastras do not permit the completion of the marriage rites in a single day. ) The priest has to be paid a daksina-this is the only expense.
According to the sastras, the groom must observe what is called "samvatsara diksa" from the day of marriage(diksa for one year); he must practise brahmacarya during these months. The marriage is to be consummated only later. Such practices have however changed. Until the recent past, the groom observed diksa at least for four days if not for a whole year. Now everything is performed on a single day. One is reminded of the saying: " The donkey is reduced to an ant and the ant itself eventually vanishes into thin air".
During the marriage, Andhras wear cotton clothes dipped in turmeric water. However well-to-do they are they follow this simple custom. In the North too women wear ordinary clothes at weddings. We must try to follow their practice.
One of the marriage rites is " pravesa homa" which is performed when the groom returns to his house. He has to carry the sacred fire of the marriage with him and perform aupasana in his home. It is for the sake of convenience -- and with the approval of the sastras -- that it is allowed to be done where the groom's party stays for the marriage. To perform a marriage in a temple as a one-day ceremony -- and " be done with it " - is not right. Even rich people who spend lavishly on clubs and races follow this practice because of their reluctance to conduct the function according to the sastras. Unfortunately, the poor are likely to follow their example. There is no extra expense involved in performing a marriage in the sastric manner as a four-day function.
How are marriages celebrated today? The bride is one who has already attained puberty and the marriage is gone through in just one day. On the following day the bride is taken to the house of her in-laws. Another unsastric practice is that of consummation on the same day as the marriage.
The groom is expected to observe brahmacarya at least for three nights after marriage. There are eight types of brahmacarya. Even though a man cannot be continent throughout, he must remain chaste at least on certain days. The least that is expected of him is celibacy for a minimum of three days after the marriage. This rule is no longer observed. Worse, the consummation, as mentioned before, is on the same day as the wedding is solemnised.
The undesirable practices now associated with the marriage samskara are due to the anxiety to curtail expenses. If all rites are performed on the same day there is a saving in the matter of feeding the guests, the music, etc. Curiously enough, despite such an anxiety to curtail expenses, there is a great deal of ostentation in our weddings. To obviate the expenses incurred thus, parents perform the upanayana of their son along with the marriage of their daughter.
We must try to reduce the unnecessary expenses incurred in performing Vedic samskaras. Friends and relatives can help much in this respect. They need not attend a marriage or upanayana even if invited. Instead, the money that they would otherwise spend in travel may be presented to the bride's [or the brahmacarin's] father. The fewer the invitees present at a wedding the less expensive will it be to feed them
Three Ways to Economy
I feel that the marriage expenses could be reduced in three ways. First, both men and women must discard silks and other costly wear and use clothing of the lowest quality. Second, coffee must be given up; instead wheat kanji or buttermilk may be taken as a substitute. I say this because coffee has become a habit and a substitute may be needed for those who find it difficult to give it up. According to medical science buttermilk is as good as amrta( ambrosia). Expenses will be reduced by 60 per cent this way. If you check on the money you spend on rice and on milk and coffee, you will find that you spend more on the last two items than on the first. Third, you must refuse to take a dowry. If this advice of mine is taken there is no room for ostentation and vanity in our life. At the same time, apart from better physical health, there will be inner advancement. Above all, sastric life will be revived.
Ideals of Marriage
The Vedas are learned during the years of student-bachelorhood. Then the "theory" taught has to be put into practice; in other words the rites prescribed in the Vedas must be performed. For this purpose a man has to take a helpmate after he has completed his brahmacaryasrama. This helpmate is a "property" that can never be separated from him. She is not meant not only to be a cook for him, not only one to give sensual gratification. She is called "dharma-patni" and also "yajna-patni". She has to be with her husband in the pursuit of dharma and has also to be a source of encouragement in it. As a dharma patni, she has to be by his side during the performance of sacrifices; she must also play a supportive role in all those rituals that have the purpose of making the divine powers favourable to mankind.
It must be noted that a wife creates well-being for the world even as she does the work of cooking or as a source of sensual gratification for her husband. I will tell you how. It is not that she cooks for the husband alone. She has to provide food every day to the guests, to the sick and to the birds and beasts and other creatures. This is how she serves the purpose of "atithyam" and "vaisvadevam". The children born to here are not to be taken as the product of pleasure she affords her husband. She gives birth to them to perpetuate the Vedic dharma. Yes, even the raising of sons is intended for the dharmic life of the future. No other religion has before it such a goal for the marriage samskara.
In our religion the man-wife relationship is not concerned with the mundane alone. It serves the Atman as well as the good of mankind. In other religions too marriages are conducted, say, in a church with God as witness. But ideal of marriage is not as lofty as ours. The purpose of marriage in our religion is to purify the husband further and to impact the wife fullness as his devoted and self-effacing companion. There is no such high purpose in the marriage of other religion. In other countries the man-woman relationship is akin to a family or social contract. Here it is an Atman connection. But this very connection is a means of disconnection also - of freeing the Atman, the self, from the bondage of worldly existence. There is no room for divorce in it. Even to think of it is sinful.
[To sum up and further explain] the three objectives of a samskara of so elevated a character as marriage. The first is to unite a man with a helpmate after he has completed the study of Vedas. This helpmate is expected not only to run his household but assist him in the practice of the Vedic dharma. The second is to bring forth into this world children of noble outlook and character who are to be heirs to the great Vedic tradition, citizens of the future who will be the source of happiness in this world. The third is to create a means for women to be freed from worldly existence. A man who is not yet fully mature inwardly is assisted in his karma by his wife. By doing so, by being totally devoted to her husband, she achieves maturity to a degree greater than he does. The fourth objective is the subordination of sensual gratification to the other three.
We have forgotten the first three important objectives. All that remains is the fourth, the enjoyment of carnal pleasure. If people take my advice in respect of the noble ideals of marriage as taught in the sastras a way will open out to them for their inner advancement. May Candramaulisvara bless them.
Hindu Dharma: Grhasthasrama
Grhastha and Grhini
After a young man has to completed his gurukulavasa and performed the samavartana he has to wear a "double sacred thread". He must discard the marks of his student-bachelorhood - the staff, the antelope skin, the girdle - and wear the pancakaccha and an upper cloth. As a celibate-student he was not permitted to use any footwear; he could not also adorn himself with sandal-paste, ear-studs and flowers. He may now even darken his eyes with lampblack. Adorning himself and putting up his umbrella he must approach the king or a royal representative. The latter must be impressed by his learning and the quality of his brahmacarya. The young must acquire [from the king or the royal representative] money and material as a gift for his marriage, so say the sastras.
One point that emerges from this is that the marriage expenses are to be borne by the groom or his parents. A second point is that a young man who has had samavartana must wear the "double sacred thread" and pancakaccha even if he remains single. One's strength or potency is preserved by wearing a cloth whose ends are pleated, or made into folds, and tucked in. Muslims have the end of the cloths sewn together. Even people who do not belong to the twice born caste - except in Tamil Nadu and Kerala - tuck in their dhotis or vestis, not to speak of pancakaccaha. (Today even when they come to see me people come in trousers. That being the case it is ridiculous or meaningless to speak of differences between the two types of wears).
In these days there is neither gurukulavasa nor samavartana nor the pilgrimage to Ganga. But there is an extra "item" in weddings called "Paradesi-k-kolam" just to extort money or gift from the bride's family. The groom is presented with an umbrella, a pair of sandals and a walking stick. A ceremony called "kasiyatra" (the pilgrimage or journey to kasi) is conducted in which groom darkens his eyes with lampblack and wears a gold chain.
Those who do not marry and remain "naisthika brahamacarins" (lifelong brahamacarins) are exceptions to the rule that no man ought to remain even a single moment without belonging to one of the asramas. That is after the proper conclusion of his student-bachelorhood he has to prepare to become a householder.
The Brahmin is born with three debts: he owes a debts to the sages, to the celestials and to the fathers. He repays the first by learning the Vedas as a student-bachelor; the second by taking a wife and performing sacrifices; and the third by begetting a son. So without marriage he cannot repay the second and third debts.
Sons are primarily intended for the repayment of the debts to the fathers. Performing the sraddha ceremony is not enough. Forefathers of the past three generations are to be made to ascend from the manes. So even after a man dies, for two generations the daily libations must be offered to him. That is why the birth of a son is considered important. (The case of the naisthika brahmacarin and the sannyasin is different. Because of their inner purity and enlightenment, they can liberate, not just two generations, but twenty-one generations fathers without performing any sraddha ceremony).
Panigrahana (the groom taking the hand of the bride in his), mangalyadharana, saptapadi (the bridal pair taking the seven steps round the sacrificial fire ) are important rites of the marriage function. There is a controversy about whether or not mangalya-dharana is a Vedic rite. It is an unnecessary controversy. Mangalya-dharana is a custom that is thousands of years old and it is an essential part of the marriage samskara.
As I said before, after completing his student-bachelorhood a young man must take a wife for the pursuit of dharma. The latter should dedicate herself to him so as to become pure within. The purpose of marriage is a life of harmony and the procreation of virtuous children.
Grhasthasrama is called illaram in Tamil and it is extolled by the wise in the Tamil country also. "Grha" means a house. A young man who returns to his house from the guru's and practises dharma is a "grhastha". One who resides in a house, a grha, is a grhastha. The Tamil wife calls her husband "ahamudayan", "ahattukaran", "vittukaran": these terms have to do with the house or the home. Only the wife can refer to her husband thus, not others. She herself is called "grhini", not "grhastha". The latter would mean no more than "one who resides in a house". But "grhini" means the house belongs to her (the wife), that she manages the household. The husband is the illaratan in Tamil and it means one performs the dharmic rites in the house, "il-arattan". The wife is "illal", one who owns the house.
The husband is not called illan (illan, as it happens, means one who does not possess anything or one who is indigent). The wife is also called illattarasi (queen of the house), "manaivi"(owner of the house), or "manaiyal"; but the husband does not have similar appellations like "illattarasan"(king of the house), "manaivan" or "manaiyan"(owner of the house). In Telugu the wife is called "illu" (corresponding to the illal of Tamil).
Panigrahana, mangalya-dharana, saptapadi and other rites are performed on the day of the wedding. Aupasana begins with marriage and is performed every day until one becomes a sannyasin or until one's death. The sacred fire that is witness to the marriage is preserved throughout and aupasana performed in it every day.
The sacred fire has an important place in the Vedic religion. The student-bachelor performs samidadhana twice a day offering samidhs (sticks of the flame of the forest or palasa ) in the fire. This rite is not continued after his marriage. When a person becomes a householder he has a number of rites to perform in the sacred fire. In place of samidadhana he now has the aupasana. The latter word is derived from "upasana" which term is used in the sense of puja, chanting of mantras, meditation, etc. But, according to the Vedas, aupasana is a rite performed in the sacred fire by all Hindus.
Though members of the fourth varna do not wear the sacred thread they have the marriage samskara and, along with it, aupasana. Dharmasastras like the Vaidyanatha-Diksitiyam describe how sudras are to go through the jatakarma and namakarana ceremonies. The work deals with how the fourth varna should perform puja, the sraddha ceremony and apara-karma (obsequies). Reformers ignore all these and allege that members of the fourth varna have no "right" to any rituals. Instead they must try to persuade people of this varna to perform the rites they are enjoined upon. Aupasana is one of the "rights" of this caste and it is to be conducted every day with the recitation of certain verses
Can a new Brahmin Caste be Created ?
The fact that aupasana is to performed by all castes gives rise to the questions : "Why only aupasana? Why should not all castes have the right to learn the Vedas, chant the Gayatri and perform sacrifices?". On the other hand, we have atheists who want the Vedas to be consigned to the flames and the idols of Gods like Ganesa to be broken and, on the other, we have people calling themselves reformist who want to extend to all the right to perform Vedic rites.
Do I not lamblaste Brahmins for having become a degenerated class? Taking a cue from this the reformers argue: "After all, it is the Brahmin who has become debased and it is he who has debased others also. Now, when new life is being breathed into the Vedic dharma, why should Brahmins alone be given the right to it, Brahmins who have failed in their duty? All those castes that believe that the Vedas and Vedic works are essential to the well-being of mankind must be enabled to learn the Vedas and perform Vedic rites. All of them must have the right to wear the sacred thread and learn the scriptures."
Organisations like the Arya Samaj have accepted the right of all to learn the Vedas and perform sacrifices. Here and there a Subramanya Bharati or someone like him imparts Brahmopadesa to a Pancama. The reformists ask why the Vedas cannot be made common to all.
This is not acceptable in the least. I am a representative and spokesman of the sastras. It is my duty to state that this (making Vedic dharma common to all castes) is not permitted by the sages who created the sastras and assigned the duties special to each caste. They (the sages) were known for their spirit of sacrifices and impartiality and they had no interest other than the happiness of mankind.
A man sins in two ways. If he forsakes his hereditary karma, he commits one kind of sin-such a man is called a "karma-bhrasta". But if he forsakes his karma and takes up the karma of another (that is if he practices the religious customs and duties of another caste) he becomes a "karmantara-pravista". According to the sastras he is guilty of a greater offence than the karma-bhrasta.
Why? There are two reasons.
An individual who forsakes his karma because he believes that varna dharma itself is meaningless may be said to act out of conviction and he may be said to be obeying his conscience. In his action we may find some justification. But, in the matter of the sastras, the question is not one of conscience. The question is: what about the man opts for the customs and rites of others? He does so because he believes that the customs and rites to which he is born are not as good those of the latter. To think that one vocation or one type of work is inferior to another, or superior to it, is not in keeping with modern ideas of socialism and the principle of dignity of labour. At the same time, it is not also in accord with the sastras. The karma-bhrasta who discards all varna dharma believes that the sages created a system not suitable to the times. He does not, however, think that they were partial to some castes. But not so the karmantara-pravista who thinks that the sages were partial. He chooses another man's dharma because he believes that it is better for his inner advancement than his hereditary calling and dharma. His action implies that the sages practised deception by creation the division of varnas. So his offence is greater.
It is true that Brahmins have gone astray. But what is the meaning of creating a new class of Brahmins? It amounts to saying, "He (the Brahmin) has forsaken his dharma. Now I will take it over." To take up another man's dharma, apart from forsaking one's own dharma is a grave offence, worse than nearly giving up one's own dharma. I have stated repeatedly that all karma has only one purpose, that of destroying one's ego-sense, ahamkara. What is the foundation of varna dharma? It is one's willingness to follow the vocation and dharma that belong to one by hereditary without any consideration of one's likes and dislikes.
Such willingness is based on the realisation that the vocation and dharma that have come to us are according to the will of Isvara, that they are manifested through the Vedas and sastras and that to practise them is to destroy our ego.
What does it mean to create a new caste, to create new Brahmins? However good the intention behind such a process may be- even if it be the desire that Vedic works must be performed and that the sound of the Vedas must fill the air - the ego-consciousness will obtrude in it like the nut jutting out from a cashew fruit.
Apart from this, however much you talk of equality and rationalism, the newly created Brahmins will suffer from an inferiority complex and will be racked by doubts as to whether they can practise their new dharma and whether they can chant the mantras and practise the rites in the same manner as people who are Brahmins by birth.
The Arya Samaj and other reformist organisations have for their part abolished caste and given everybody the right to learn Vedas. Then how is it that non-Brahmins have not joined these organisations in large numbers or taken to the study of the Vedas? One important reason is a certain hesitation in joining anything new. Another, equally important, is that people believe that it is one thing to become an atheist but quite another for the old Vedic customs to be changed.
So, though a couple of reformers may start a movement to through open Vedic learning to everybody, only four or five percent of the people will join them. The remaining 95 percent or so will continue to be in the old Hindu set-up. Also the few who join the new caste will have at heart a sense of fear and a feeling of inferiority. They will keep doubting whether their actions will yield the desired result. If that be so, how will their minds be pure? It is not only the ego-sense that makes the mind impure but fear, the feeling of inferiority and being racked by doubts. Rites performed in such a frame of mind will not serve the purpose of creating happiness in the world. Besides, members of the new caste are likely to develop conceited thinking that they are doing what Brahmins by birth ceased to do or could not do - there will a spirit of challenge in their action. When they practise what others were practising [or were expected to practise ] there will naturally be a desire on their part to make an exhibition of it. There will no sincerity in their actions. All told, neither they nor the world will benefit from their works.
We must recognise facts for facts and not be carried away by emotions. Have I not you about the power of the sound of the Vedas? This sound is not produced easily by everybody in the right manner. What I say applies not only to the sound of Vedas or the Vedic language but also to other languages and their sound. Take the case of German or Urdu. Some words in these two languages are tongue-twisting. Telugu is spoken in our neighbourhood but we find it difficult to vocalise some of its sounds. Suppose a German child or a Muslim or Telugu child were to be born in Tamil Nadu. These children would be able to pronounce such words easily -that is German, Urdu or Telugu as the case may be- because to them they would come naturally.
However vehemently you may deny the existence of hereditary factors, you find evidence of the same every day in all spheres. Those who have been the custodians of the Vedas all these centuries will find it easy to learn and chant the Vedas despite the present gap of two or three generations in their tradition. The same cannot be said of other communities. The mantras will serve no purpose if they are wrongly enunciated. However well-intentioned the new class of people studying the Vedas maybe, their efforts will not be fruitful.
Another point. Here we have a class of people born into a dharma and practising it hereditarily for thousands of years and acquiring in the process certain qualities. If such people forsake that dharma, how would you expect others who are strangers to it to take their place especially in the present new circumstances.
There are today two unfortunate developments in the country. One is that of the Brahmins giving up Vedic learning and Vedic works and the second that of other communities wanting to practise the Vedic dharma. It is difficult to say which of the two is worse. Not performing the duty that belongs to us by birth is an offence. But, as the Lord says in the Gita, to take up the duty of another is a greater offence.
"Svadharme nidhaman sreyo paradharmo bhayavahah". It is better to die within the sphere of one's own duty than to take up another's duty. Perilous and fearful is the duty of other men. Since death is certain anyway, if we carry out the duty that is properly ours there will be no rebirth for us. What do we mean by saying that another man's dharma is fearful? If a person practises another man's dharma he will be pushed into hell. Suppose such a man does not believe in a certain place called hell, we may then take it that he will suffer infernal sorrow in this or next birth. Apart from this, not being an atheist, he will be eaten up by the fear that he is perhaps committing a sin by pursuing another man's dharma. Were he not a non-believer he would not have faith in the Vedas and sastras and would not in the first place take up the Brahmin's vocation. So the one who has faith in the Vedas would be constantly nagged by the worry: "The sastras proclaim that the sound of the Vedas will bring good to the world. But the same sastras proclaim, don't they, that the pursuit of another man's dharma is fearful? "
The point to noted is that if you believe in the sastras you must believe in them fully. If you are an atheist you could of course reject all of them. But to make a show of being very clever and twist the sastras as you like, accepting some parts or rejecting or changing some others, is an offence more grave than that of being an atheist. To think that Mother Veda should dance to our tune is also a great offence. Learning the Vedas in such an attitude is tantamount to ridiculing them.
I am not angry with reformists, nor do I suspect their motives. They go wrong because of their ignorance or thoughtlessness. If they wish to pull down the fence to go to the other side, they must think of the possibility of the few still remaining there walking over to this side.
If people truly feel that their present vocation is as honourable as the practice of Vedic dharma, they will not think of taking up some calling other than their own. "Brahmins have forsaken the Vedas. So the world is not filled with the sound of the Vedas which is so essential to its well-being. To fill this vacuum a new Brahmin class must be created. "Those who want to take the place of the Brahmins, who are traditionally duty-bound to follow the Vedic dharma, will have a feeling of conceit, not to speak of a spirit of challenge and a sense of inferiority also. If you really want to work for the goal of making the Vedas a living reality again, your efforts must be directed towards turning those who were engaged in the preservation of the Vedic heritage back to the dharma to which they hereditarily belong.
If I criticise Brahmins it is not because I feel that they cannot be corrected or that I have washed my hands of them. Nor do I feel that Brahmins alone as a caste are responsible for all ills of today. If I administer them a reproof now and then for their having given up their dharma during Islamic and British rule and for being lured today by the glitter of modern civilization, it does not mean that they are to be wholly blamed for everything. Placed as they are in today's circumstances any caste or class would have done the same. Those who find them guilty now think that they would acquit themselves better if they were in their place. But they too would have been compelled to make the same mistakes by the force of circumstances. If people hereditarily engaged in intellectual pursuits find themselves unable to apply their minds to Atmic matters and instead find themselves in involved in mundane affairs, it means a topsy turvy slide-down.
I do not justify such behaviour nor the descent into worldly affairs from the heights of spirituality. Nowadays reformists try to justify even prostitution on psychological grounds. Similarly, I wish to point out that they is a psychological explanation for the degeneration of Brahmins also. If I criticise Brahmins, it does not mean that others should join in the attack, thinking that they (the Brahmins) alone are worthless people. It is the duty of these others to make Brahmins worthy of their caste. After all, during the past forty or fifty years, Brahmins have been an easy target of attack and ridicule. How silently they have suffered all this, also the humiliation at the hands of their detractors. Until some four or five generations ago, Brahmins were the guardians of all our Atmic wealth, all our arts. Considering this, is it not the duty of others to bring them back to the practise of their true dharma? They must be tactfully reminded of the high dharma they had once pursued and the spirit of sacrifice for which they were known.
It is likely that in the past a few ignorant Brahmins treated other communities harshly. This is no reason why their descendants today should pay for it and be maligned and harassed in a spirit of vengefulness. It must also be borne in the mind that Brahmins themselves have been in the forefront in the fight against "the old unjust practices" and in giving other communities a high place in society. So there is no point in fuelling the flames of hatred. Nor can it be claimed truthfully that such hatred is part of "Tamil culture".
Unfortunately, what Brahmins did in the name of reforms resulted in the wrong kind of equality for, instead of raising people belonging to the lower strata to a higher level, it had the effect of bringing the upper classes downward. Equality can be of two types: in the first all occupy a high level in society; in the other all occupy a low level. To carry a load uphill is difficult but it is easy to push it down. Quality has suffered in the attempt to create equality. It is not desirable to have that kind of equality in which everyone does the same kind of work. Nor should it be thought that they is no equality in a system in which the various vocations, the various types of work, are divided among different groups of people. I have already spoken a great deal on the subject. Our endeavour must be to create unity in diversity, nor uniformity.
It is important to remember that neither hatred of Brahmins nor dislike of Sanskrit has ever been a part of Tamil culture and civilization. Sanskrit is the repository of Atmic and religious sastras, a storehouse of poetry and works on arts. Everyone must learn to regard it as "our own language". The need for the existence of "Brahmanya" as a separate entity must be recognised. This is essential to the preservation of the Vedas, the performance of sacrifices, etc, whose purpose is the good of mankind. Today the Vedas, the Upanisads and so on are available in print. Anybody can read them and try to understand them. But everybody need not learn to chant the Vedas; it takes many years to do so. Everybody need not also perform sacrifices.
There ought to be an element of humility on the part of those who wish to carry out reforms; there must be sincerity of purpose. Then no need will arise to go contrary to the sastras.
Aupasana and Women
I said [in an earlier talk ] that members of all castes must perform aupasana. The husband and the wife must do it together. Even when the husband is away the wife must perform it by offering unbroken rice grains in the sacrificial fire. The Vedas themselves have given women such a right.
Aupasana is the only Vedic right that a woman is entitled to perform on her own. Of course, there are so many pauranic vratas and pujas that she can perform according to the sastras, but these belong to a different category. Besides, she has naturally a share in all the works of her husband. Apart from caring for the household, she does not have to perform any rite (other than aupasana). Even if she does, it will not yield any fruit, for such is the rule according to the Vedic dharmasastras
We hear people talk of "rights". It is my wish to create an awareness among women about their right, the right to aupasana. I should like every home to become bright with the sacred aupasana fire. Women should fight for this right of theirs and impress upon their husbands the importance of performing aupasana. "Even though you have given up all scriptural karma, you at least do the Gayatrijapa to retain your tenuous connection with the Vedic dharma. If you do not do this japa or even forget the mantra, one day you will feel repentant over it thinking of the upanayana samskara you had", women should tell their husband. "As for me I have had no upanayana, nor am I entitled to mutter the Gayatri. If at all I have any right according to the Vedas, which are the source not only of our religion but of this world and of creation itself, it is this aupasana. If you refuse to perform it I will be denied my Vedic right. " In this manner women must fight for this sacred right of theirs and make their husbands perform aupasana. Aupasana is indeed their one great Vedic "property".
Women must bear in mind the importance of aupasana and agnihotra (like aupasana, agnihotra must also be performed twice a day). "So many fires are burning in the home", they must tell themselves. "We make coffee on the fire and cook food or make the water warm to bathe. By not performing aupasana we will be extinguishing that fire which was witness to our marriage."
The sacred fire must be kept burning by adding rice husk to it now and then. In many ways it is advantageous to pound rice at home for, apart from the husk, we will have nutritious hand-pounded rice to eat. Also the poor labourer who does the pounding will get a little cash or a few handfuls of rice for his or her sustenance. (For the unbroken rice grains offered in the fire the housewife must pound the rice herself. This is a piece of work done to the accompaniment of mantras).
It does not cost much to perform aupasana nor does the rite take long to go through. All you need is the will to do it. Hand-pounded rice is also good for your health. Milled and polished rice is not good. Besides in hand-pounding there is something of the Gandhian ideal too.
The aupasana fire will keep away all evil spirits and afflictions of all types. Many Brahmins today have exorcist rites performed by others with neem leaves or bamboo sticks. They go to a mosque for relief, or they come to me praying for help. Aupasana is a remedy for all ills and wearing the aupasana ashes is a great protection.
Agni and the Vedic Religion
The householder has the duty of performing a number of rites in the sacred fire. Aupasana is the first of them. Agni is of the utmost importance to the Vedic religion. This deity is called "Agni-Narayana". The hymns to Rudra also show that he has a connection with the god of fire. In Tiruvannamalai (in Tamil Nadu ) Isvara revealed himself as a mountain of fire. In Kerala there is the custom of worshipping Amba [the Mother Goddess] in the form of light (in the flame of the lamp); the idol or yantra is not important. The goddess is invoked in the lamp itself. We speak of Subrahmanya who originated from Siva's third eye as fire incarnate. Thus Agni is of great importance to us. According to researchers, the term Aryan means fire-worshipper. Fire worship is the dominant feature of the religion of Zoroastrianism which is a branch of Vedism.
The sacred fire should keep burning and glowing in home after home. Ghee, milk and other oblations offered in it will produce the aroma that will bring health and mental uplift to all.
I have already stated that whatever the deity invoked in a sacrifice, the oblation must be placed in the sacred fire.
Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to the lotus feet of Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Mahaswami ji and my humble greatulness to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and great Devotees , Philosophic Scholars, for the collection)