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Rape in the Brhadaaranyaka Upanishad

Discussion in 'Hinduism DIR' started by Kirran, Mar 26, 2015.

  1. Kirran

    Kirran
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    In reading the Brh Upa, I've come across this quote, which many of you may have seen before.

    "When she has changed her clothes at the end of her menstrual period, therefore, one should approach that splendid woman and invite her to have sex. Should she refuse to consent, he should bribe her. If she still refuses, he should beat her with a stick or with his fists and overpower her, saying: 'I take away the splendor from you with my virility and splendour.' And she is sure to become bereft of splendour." - Brhadaaranyaka Upanishad 6.4.6-7

    Of course, I've come across various other examples of misogyny in Hindu scripture around the place (for example, only those who have gone through the male-only Upanayana ceremony may study the Vedas - Brahma Sutra 1.3.36), but this strikes me as the most extreme.

    How do people take this? Particularly those astikas out there.

    Sorry if this has come up before.

    EDIT: Another, from the Rg Veda, no less - "Lord Indra himself has said, 'The mind of woman cannot be disciplined; she has very little intelligence.'" - Rg Veda 8.33.17.

    I'm not trying to defame the scriptures here or anything. I am just honestly at a loss as to how people who think of them as infallible interpret these verses.
     
    #1 Kirran, Mar 26, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2015
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  2. Orbit

    Orbit I'm a planet

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    Well, I don't think of ANY scripture as infallible, so I would interpret is as just a sad commentary of society's view towards women when they were written.
     
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  3. shivsomashekhar

    shivsomashekhar Active Member

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    That is not hard. Here is how it works -

    1. If the literal meaning is not consistent or is undesirable, then reinterpret it to mean something else. Many Sanskrit words have multiple, unrelated meanings and - with some ingenuity - scholars have created wildly different interpretations of the same text.

    2. If 1 does not work, then dismiss these verses as interpolations

    3. If these verses cannot be dismissed away as interpolations, then plead ignorance. Claim that the text has a hidden meaning and we are not competent enough to know it.

    And the text is back to consistent and infallible again!
     
    #3 shivsomashekhar, Mar 26, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2015
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  4. Poeticus

    Poeticus | abhyAvartin |

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    Dharmakirrana, if you'll allow me:

    I am of the exegetic view, using various Indian narratives, that the term, infallibility, in its common religious application, is a misleading term for the Astika viewpoints of svatah pramanya ("intrinsic validity"; knowledge is dependent rather than independent of origin) and apaurusheyatva (the non-authored svabhava, or nature, of that which is collectively held as Shruti). In other words, the Shabda, or words and sounds, that makes up Shruti is not infallible in the sense that this is, say, "the word of the Almighty, the One True God". Many Hindus use the phrase "the Vedas are infallible" for lay-purposes, because such a phrase is the closest English equivalent they have to denote the supra-natural state of the Vedas (if I recall correctly, the Nyaya darshana articulated the hypothesis that the Vedic sounds are the body of Ishvara). However, I should admit that such a phrasing is misleading. Instead, that which is found in the Vedas, both the karmakanda and jnanakanda (the four Vedas and the Mukhya Upanishads and their associated commentaries, respectively), is of non-authored origin. This does not mean that it is equivalent to, say, the textualistic nature of, for example, the Bible being seen as "the word of God". Meaning, the sayings are the insights the Rishi-s "heard".

    In regards to the upanayana ceremony, I would like clarification on how that is misogynistic. Misogyny is the hatred of women, therefore can you clarify how the upanayana ceremony is an example of the hatred of women? And in regards to the Lord Indra verse, that's actually Lord Indra talking as a female in disguise. In that whole sukta, he comes down as a female in disguise pretty much taunting the bard eulogizing. Either way, these two examples are not textual commandments. If, say, a Hindu is going to engage in misogyny (which, mind you, many Hindus in Delhi have a PhD in; no argument from me there), he's not going to say "Look! I can do this because it's written here so and so!" There would be no way to Hinduaically compute such a reasoning because that is not how pramana-s, or warrants of [scriptural or logical] understanding, work.
     
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  5. Kirran

    Kirran
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    Thankyou Bidala, this was very useful, and a great clarification on views of scripture.

    When you say that the Rishis "heard" these insights, where do you think the insights were coming from? If anywhere in particular.

    Disclaimer: I read the Brh. Upa. quote in my copy of the Upanishads, and have read around half of this Upanishad, so I have some context. The other two, I have none. I googled to find more. Hence why I misunderstood this quote from Lord Indra.

    But r.e. the Upanayana ceremony - if it is in fact so that only men can go through this ceremony, and that only those who have gone through this ceremony may study the Vedas (as I understand is promulgated by Brahma Sutra, correct me if I am wrong and have read a distortion), then only men can study the Vedas according to this scripture. I've probably missed something.
     
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  6. Poeticus

    Poeticus | abhyAvartin |

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    I would like to invite @तत्त्वप्रह्व to answer this question, because I believe a Dvaitic answer will provide better clarity than any answer that I could give. Also because this is a fantastic question that I want to see answered by someone with immeasurable shastra-jnana.
     
    #6 Poeticus, Mar 26, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2015
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  7. Fireside_Hindu

    Fireside_Hindu Jai Lakshmi Maa

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    It is either meant to be take non-literally, or that (more likely) it's a reflection of the society from which it came. I have never read the Quran but I can guarantee you you'll find this kind of thing in the Christian bible too. Nothing written by fallible humans can be infallible. That's my opinion.

    As for thread ceremony, the "boys only" aspect is swiftly disappearing in western temples. Many girls go through the ceremony now too.
     
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  8. Kalibhakta

    Kalibhakta Jai Maha Kali Ma!

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    As for the rape comment, my teacher firmly planted in my mind that any teaching that seems abhorrent can be rejected.

    If there is no deeper meaning I am missing, I can free to say it is not "valid".

    The Kalika Purana has a verse on human sacrifice. No way on earth I am going to take that as anything other then a metaphor.
     
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  9. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    My teacher AND my own common sense said the same thing.
     
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  10. Kalibhakta

    Kalibhakta Jai Maha Kali Ma!

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    Well yes. The thing about Hinduism is that it is doctrine that bad scripture is to be rejected and not merely common sense that says so :cool:
     
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  11. SomeRandom

    SomeRandom Still learning to be wise
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    Ahh the beauty of Hinduism is that it quite literally encourages people to pick and choose what to follow. I doubt scripture would be any different. I'd say any Scripture that does not offer a deeper, profound or beneficial lesson is to be rejected.
     
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  12. Chakra

    Chakra Well-Known Member
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    This is Shruti, so definitely a wrong interpretation or that we are getting the entire picture. I've never really read this Upanishad, so Tattva may know. May as well ask the Vedantins, as this is their domain.
     
  13. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    I replied to this question in some forum. This about a man and his wife and not an unknown woman. After the verses mentioned here, it goes on to say that after having sex both the man and woman obtained glory/splendour/satisfaction. Surely, I am against overpowering of any sort but I doubt if all men have sex with their wives only after getting their written consent. It relates to a certain time period and is perhaps mentioned here out-of-context.
     
    #13 Aupmanyav, Mar 27, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2015
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  14. Kirran

    Kirran
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    Yeah, I've read quite a lot of the Bible, and bits and pieces of the Qur'an. Massive amounts of stuff which is ignored by many adherents. And stuff they follow, with unfortunate results. And, of course, great stuff too.

    I suspected as much, and am glad to hear it.

    That is a wonderfully honest doctrine.

    Written consent is not the same as consent. I'm going to come out and say that I think consent is necessary in every situation. Rape doesn't become OK because you're married to the woman involved.

    It says that both the man and the woman gain glory if the woman consents, but that if she doesn't consent the man takes her glory from her. i.e. if you don't agree to have sex, thereby fulfilling the man's sense of entitlement, then you are sullied.
     
  15. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    Both men and women have their entitlement in marriage. A person cannot choose to be a brahmachari in a marriage on his own. Remember 'kama' is one of the purusharthas, the done thing. The wife also has a responsibility towards it. I am sure it is one of the vows of marriage, to satisfy each other sexually according to dharma, which means a man cannot demand what is not dharma and just lust. Hinduism will not like the person to visit prostitutes.
     
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  16. Kirran

    Kirran
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    OK. I think we basically agree with each other, but are just phrasing it in ways that make it seem like we don't. To be clear, do you think it's acceptable for a husband to bribe, and following that beat and rape, his wife, if she doesn't want to have sex with him? Be that with a stick or with his fists.
     
  17. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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  18. Kirran

    Kirran
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    Giving a present in exchange for sex still seems pretty dodgy to me. One should give a present for the sake of giving. And have sex because both people involved want to have sex, rather than one does and the other feels obligated. IMHO, anyway.
     
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  19. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    A present is given. Who would say that allow me sex otherwise do not open the package and return it to me, I will give it to someone else? :)
     
  20. Maya3

    Maya3 Well-Known Member

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    It is 2015 now, we have figured some things out that people didn't have the knowledge for back then.

    Yes if it doesn't work anymore then reject it.

    Maya
     
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