The Painful Three Days in the Month

Those three days in the month are all it takes to mark the difference of a woman's life from a man's. Its not an innocent 3 days that are done with and over, it comes with a host of issues that are morally disheartening to women, discriminating them through the ages and the sole reason for men to feel apparently superior. They have defined the restrictions of a woman's life and no matter how open we are in what ever era, when it comes to spiritualism we always seem to lose the battle...somethings just never change. Very few managed to stand up but we don't get to see a Mahadevi Akka or a Karaikkal Ammaiyar or a Mira Bai that easily anymore these days. What's really happening with woman power? And I of course went on my hunt trying to understand why there is such a level of discrimination and I stumbled upon the sacred scriptures and decided to roll my mind over them.

This was like opening a can of worms. Initial shock soon converted to anger which precipitated into a deep sense of need to understand what is in it for women. Hindu scriptures are predominantly addressed to men and they reduce women to either commodity or a different lesser species on this planet or that evil seductress who is going to ruin aspiring spiritual men. That was really the limit. Now I understand where male chauvinism stems from. Something is desperately wrong in the interpretation.

And so it became my journey to seek that truth, for I was certainly not in agreement with the resulting interpretation of the scriptures. Every scripture I picked (which isn't too many), but predominantly Vaishnavaite and the Vedas and Upanishads, for some reasons appear to be a rule book to men and very sparingly address women. Seriously, why wouldn't the male ego grow... though they don't do anything earth shattering when it comes to self-enlightenment!

It has bothered me forever now why women cannot go anywhere near the earthly form of the Supreme during those three days of the month. This further extends to the rules that having being born as women we are denied a lot of other spiritual perks that men are granted. Women never went to the Veda Patashala, they don't perform homams, they are not allowed into the sanctum even after they have crossed menopause for example... we are so restricted to home administration, procreation and being the symbol of pleasure to a man's desire. How fair is that?

It’s strange that I can hand pick less than 10 women who made it to Sainthood through known history. Were we suppressed so much that we couldn't ever rise, or were we brainwashed that such fate doesn't exist or did we never have the will to try hard enough?

My entire love for the Shiva cult and that of Devi rose from the basic realization that there is no such barrier for women in this realm. I have hardly come across a restriction, and much to my surprise I came to learn that women are considered superior and are worshiped, not suppressed. So who is misguiding us?

At some point, I decided no earthly Guru was pure enough, humble enough and wise enough to help me grow in my spiritual path without considering my gender. (I don’t mean to offend anyone, but I have an aversion towards self-made mortal Gurus – just doesn’t work for me). Hence this became a lonely journey of experiment, and I soon came to realize with the grace of the Divine Goddess what those three days really mean.

The reason why women have been suppressed and restricted over these past centuries is because in our world, spiritualism and child birth are opposite ends of the spectrum. If we move towards child birth, we have to give up spiritualism for that period of time. If we move towards spiritualism, we are likely to menopause sooner reducing our chances of child birth. Now imagine if we went down that lane, it would lead to the doom of humanity! And so the great wise men kept us a little away from it, though they granted us the miracle to deliver new life. And the mortal world made us believe that we are not "complete" without child birth. And we got locked down with a very well defined role - our sole purpose of existence turns out to be home administration and of course being the vehicle of reproduction. Is there really no more to this, is it really so blinding?

There is a far more potent reason as well as to why we are discouraged from venturing too far into spiritual activities. Have you ever wondered why some of our bodies break down when we go to powerful Shaiva or Devi shrines? Why do older women post menopause on a Kailash Yatra come back with a period? Why do women who go near Bhairava Shrines break down into period? Why are women not allowed to recite the Gayatri Mantra? Given our lack of training into deep spiritualism, our bodies are not accustomed to the powerful energies at these shrines. Had we been able to do regular intensive puja for a long duration, we would be able to handle the potent powers at these locations. But since we don’t, we are not able to handle it and the result is out of turn periods.

But here is the bright side. If we are regular with puja, if we recite sacred mantras and tune our minds and bodies, we are capable of enduring these powers because we have built up our physical reserves to withstand it, we are energized. And then if we come in contact with powerful shrines, there is a greater likelihood that the body doesn't break down into a period. While we succeed spiritually, and our body is evolving and energized we are likely to menopause sooner than expected.

But there is a silver lining to every cloud. Enjoy child birth, enjoy samsara, but along the way (sooner than 40 years) start the move into spiritualism once you have decided that you are not into child birth anymore. You can move into deep spiritualism. This is not about getting permission from the men, this is about seeking the divine for yourself. Once we have completed our earthly duties of procreation we are free to travel into the world of spiritualism and NO MAN can stop us then. From there divine grace will take us forward.

Our tryst with faith is in our hands. It’s in our hand to choose whether we want to hang in there and dedicate our whole lives to mortality or whether we want to consider the existence of the atman within us that wants to go home to the Supreme Mother. The choice is ours, the effort required is a lot more (since we lost time in child birth) and the results are amazingly fruitful. We need to realize that we can do it, we need to realize that our purpose is way more than what is taught to us, and we are more capable of handling our spiritual journeys because we DONT get seduced half as easily.

Bottom line: The scriptures are addressed to men because they just are the weaker ones in the head, be it in the unwavering persistence of principles which should not be twisted to convenience or be it the clear focus of purpose that they need to have. They need more attention and the scriptures are meant for those with less focus. I believe we crossed that bridge already.


vmanyan said...

Hi Kavitha,

an intriguing topic indeed...that too in this century. We have always confused ourselves between paramarthikam and vyavaharikam, or in clearer terms,between spirituality and religion. Spirituality in the strict sense of the term doesn't involve body or its properties, limitations or whatever.
In this context I recall during my teens, had to accompany my mom and group on a pilgrimage to the Sarada Math, Dakshineswar. While staying there,I had my '3 days', but Mataji, in charge, allowed me inside the shrine to offer worship and do meditation.
However I really love your 'bottom line', since I too am convinced about that...:-)!

Shrinath Shenoy said...

A very interesting and rare analysis of this issue. Thanks for resolving some of my own doubts. If spiritualism is about the spirit, and the spirit is asexual, how could our enlightened rishis distinguish between men and women, when the sole object of human life is emancipation. Your conclusion on this issue is brilliant. Hats off. May we all walk our own respective paths and reach the destination sooner.


Vino said...

Thoroughly enjoyed the read and completely agree. Please continue writing always. I think it would be awesome if you could publish a book with all your writings.

Warm regards,