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Hinduism and menstruation

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  #11  
Old 06 March 2010, 08:48 AM
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Re: Hinduism and menstruation

This is how KAnchi ParamAchArya views women going to office during their menstruation period:

"The same house that assists vratAnuShTAnam--vows and rigours, is also the place for the days when there should be no anuShTAnam at all. I am referring only to the menstruation days. Nowadays in women going to office during those three days, the ashaucha--impurity/adulteration, spreads all over the town. In the name of 'atmospheric pollution' they (the scientists) caution us about many things and ask us to take remedial measures. More vicious than all those pollutions is the impurity of women during that time. Since the harm it does is not visibly seen, no body minds it; and they set part those who mind it as 'AchAra paithyanggaL--obsessed with religious practices'. Whereas in vAstavam--reality, this 'thITTu--impurity' would bring together all the amangala-shaktis--inauspicious energies. If they are thus allowed to be mixed up everywhere, whatever five year plans are carried out, there will only be durbhikSham--dearth/famine, ashAnti--peacelessness and vyAdhi--disease, in the desham--nation." (From the Tamil book 'Femininity should be preserved')

Let us try to get the right perspective about the Hindu prescriptions about the strI-dharma--conduct of women, during their mensturation period:

• Firstly, it is not an insult to women. The prescriptions are based on their health, body conditions and mental frame during that time as the primary reason. These will be at their nadir during that time due to recurring discharge of blood, and this is the reason, women are prevented from toiling with their normal, tough household chores.

• For women in those days, cooking with its attendent tasks of powdering, grinding and serving were all physical exertions, but they helped them have their regular, daily exercises. Apart from these tasks, women in the past used to sweep and mop the house, wash the clothes and dry them out in the hot sun, and with all such tasks also take care of their family comprising their husband and children. Such exertion is totally avoided during the menstruation period, giving the woman complete physical and mental rest.

• Familes were invariably joint familes in the Hindu culture of the yester years. Only men went to work as breadwinners--'udyogam puruSha lakShaNam'. They handed over their income to the women of the house, who in turn maintained the family's monthly expenses and savings. In the circumstances, when a woman was isolated and given complete rest during her menstrual cycle, the other women could easily do the household chores and also attend to the needs of the resting woman.

Even today, where there is only the wife as the sole woman member in charge of cooking, she is freed of that task in many Hindu households, and the husband, who has learnt some rudimentary cooking, does it in those days.

• Yes, isolation of the woman during her menstrual cycle was for reasons of purity. She would not touch anything outside her room where she is confined, and nobody would touch her. Even the utensils she uses for her own meal were sprinkled with water after she washed them. Since there was only one restroom in the houses, she used it, taking utmost care not to touch other household members or prohibitted articles.

• A woman in that time was totally freed of her anuShTAnams, so she was not involved in any rites, vows or pujas that were daily performed in the house.

The Hindu strI-dharma--conduct of women, has lofty ideals of physical and spiritual welfare behind its rigorous prescriptions for women.

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  #12  
Old 06 March 2010, 07:02 PM
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Re: Hinduism and menstruation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ganeshprasad View Post
Pranam

Here is what Manu smriti says in chapter 5

66. (A woman) is purified on a miscarriage in as many (days and) nights as months (elapsed after conception), and a menstruating female becomes pure by bathing after the menstrual secretion has ceased (to flow).

This is strange one as a young lad I could never understand why I could not touch my mother or her bad.
Yes this tradition is still observed in most Hindus in varying degree at least not taking part in religious activities.
I don’t think this should be looked in any way as degrading women but an acknowledgement of their difficult time and may be allow for their mood swings, also they have an enforced break from mundane chores.

Jai Shree Krishna

Pranam

The quote you gave is still an open door on what a women can do and not do on that day. Its not definitive.

As a GV , Manu smirti is not well know to me. And I personally dont know of any GV group who delves into it. We are into The Bhagavad Gita and Srmad Bhagavatam and they are more than enough to last us a lifetime.

I read somewhere this and even Wiki supports this:
Manu Smriti prohibits (caste transgressions) and calls for extreme violence as a punishment. Manu Smriti in it’s current form is horrific and clearly very different from the rest of the Vedic canon in it’s caste consciousness. Many Vedic scholars reject the authenticity of the Manu Smriti because of that, it is widely believed that it was heavily interpolated due to it’s stark difference from other Vedic shastras.


Anyway, In GV we believe that the Gita and the Bhagavatam synthesize the Vedanta. Their wisdom have a universal appeal, it trancends time and location.

Manu Smirti to me is a history of how ancient India was run. Its an important source for sociological, political and historical studies.

But some of its ideas, in its current form, are too out of place in the modern world. I bet even most Indians take moral guidance on the universal principle: Do unto others what you what others to do unto you.
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  #13  
Old 06 March 2010, 09:37 PM
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Re: Hinduism and menstruation

Namaste Jivattatva,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jivattatva View Post
I read somewhere this and even Wiki supports this:
Manu Smriti prohibits (caste transgressions) and calls for extreme violence as a punishment. Manu Smriti in its current form is horrific and clearly very different from the rest of the Vedic canon in its caste consciousness. Many Vedic scholars reject the authenticity of the Manu Smriti because of that, it is widely believed that it was heavily interpolated due to its stark difference from other Vedic shastras.
I also have the same view as you have. Manu Smriti does appear to have been manipulated at many places. Manu Smriti being a Smriti has its status lower than the Vedas in authority & so whatever therein is in contradiction with the Vedas, imho, it has been manipulated there.

VajrashUchikA Upanishad (one of the main 108 Upanishads) disagrees with the Caste system. In fact, Bhagwad Gita is a complete scripture which is purely based on Shruti.

However, it doesn't mean that Manu Smriti has no place in Hinduism today. The basic social structure of Hinduism is based on Manu Smriti.

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  #14  
Old 07 March 2010, 09:16 AM
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Re: Hinduism and menstruation

Pranam

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jivattatva View Post
Pranam

The quote you gave is still an open door on what a women can do and not do on that day. Its not definitive.
Pranam
Impurity of woman when menstruating is implied within same breath as you read the verses 57-65 it talks about impurity due to death or birth within family and I hope you are aware of Sutak that restricts family from performing religious duties, there are certainly rules and regulations.
We may disregard manusmrity because it has surely been extrapolated so has lots of purans but we somehow muddle through it.
But you can not extrapolate age old traditions and that is the ground reality, they must have had that subtle realisation or requirement to execute spiritual sadhna, no one will question the extreme requirements to perform certain experiments in a laboratory. Spiritual is much more subtle than gross material experiment.

I did like EM post what he said makes a lot of sense.




Quote:
Anyway, In GV we believe that the Gita and the Bhagavatam synthesize the Vedanta. Their wisdom have a universal appeal, it trancends time and location.
yes but even in Gita lord Sree Krishna says
tasmac chastram pramanam te
karyakarya-vyavasthitau
jnatva sastra-vidhanoktam
karma kartum iharhasi

Jai Shree Krishna
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  #15  
Old 07 March 2010, 04:23 PM
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Re: Hinduism and menstruation

Different strokes for different folks really.

Some Hindus are more orthodox than others; and it seems like the closer to metropolitan areas families are, the more lackadaisical they become in orthodoxy. Perhaps an 'okay' thing, as Hinduism is not rigid about societal rules like other societies around the world.

However, questioning the validity and then denigrating orthodoxy makes one look dumber than they look. And that is what prompted my truthful statement about families keeping menstruating women aloof. In most cases that I know, the women themselves know how to behave during those times so there aren't any issues. The only "issues" I have seen personally regarding this is a cousin, who studied in an international school in India, rebelled against her parents when she was asked to follow tradition (staying in her room during her periods). The parents left it after a while and although she doesn't follow the traditions strictly, she still doesn't go into the kitchen, pUjA room, and other important places during her menstrual cycle.

The funny thing is, I heard that in some Tantric traditions, menstrual blood is actually used in some rituals! Shocking for us I suppose but after all, one man's food, quite literally , is another man's poison!

Last but not least, whether a woman is kept aloof or not, when she is menstruating, there is a pungent smell that is absolutely disgusting. Nothing against the person per se, but one must have the common sense to be aware that others might be affected adversely. If someone has body odor and refuses to wear deodorant, you are welcome to "hug and kiss" them but I'm staying away! Thank you very much.

Next.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shanti View Post
Really?

I know of not one Hindu women that stays in a room not touching anything for 4 days. How is that even possible in modern society? We don't all have servants that can take care of our children and cook for our families. What about households that depend on a double income?

As far as I know Scott, women simply don't go to temple until after 5 days and a hair washing. I can completely understand why in the past a women on her period could have been deemed 'unclean'. Running water for showers and hand washing, sanitary napkins, and washing machines weren't exactly readily available. Things could get, er, 'messy' for lack of a better word, along with too much information.

Go give your wife a hug and a kiss, don't make her feel like an alien for functioning as God created her to.
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Old 07 March 2010, 04:41 PM
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Re: Hinduism and menstruation

Another important matter that I see a lot of people who are against certain traditions is this: the immediate need to see a verse or quote from the Vedas or other scripture to prove the authenticity and injunction of the tradition(s).

This is quite laughable for two reasons:

1.) Hinduism is not about doing everything by the book, quite literally. Hence, we don't need a verse or injunction from the Vedas to do everything in life. Our scriptures are not about "do's and don'ts". This is the TRUE FREEDOM that Hinduism enjoins! People conveniently forget that fact! This becomes especially important for societal rules and traditions as they are forever changing and adapting.

We are not brain-dead zombies like the abrahamics who do anything and everything that their books tell them to like slaves. We have something quite remarkable, it's called independent thinking.

2.) Just because something is not in the Vedas, for example conversion as discussed before, does not mean it is invalid or untrue. As the inexorable change of universe occurs, not everything can be encapsulated in books. This is also why the Vedas, and Dharmic religions in general, talk about experiencing for oneself rather than following a set of rules laid down thousands of years ago.

Regarding quirky topics like menstruation, the answer is quite simple; examine it in the frame of reference of the three gunas; sattva, rajas, and tamas. Anything that is an excretion from the body, sweat, blood, tears, etc. are toxic and hence classified under "tamas". This is what we call "bad" just in case you weren't aware. Just like eating a nice puppy sandwich may be looked down upon by dog worshipers in the west, eating meat, frolicking with untouchables, touching menstruating women are all classified as tamasic; hence, traditional Hindus don't do it!

On that note, any venture capitalists out there? I have a business plan to start a dog/cat sandwich shop! It will certainly be the first one in the US and therefore I can have a clear sustainable advantage! Supply is great! Demand is great (lots of chinese and koreans here)! LOLOLOL...

End of story.

(On a serious note, this would be a great reason to argue in favor of vegetarianism and I'm assuming any case filed would go to the Supreme Court in the US!!)
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Old 07 March 2010, 06:28 PM
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Re: Hinduism and menstruation

Quote:
Originally Posted by TatTvamAsi View Post

independent thinking.

experiencing for oneself
TTA: You're stealing from my book. I thought some days I was the only one here that thought this way. Glad to know I have some company.

But of course it helps to have a little guidance when necessary, if you need it.

Aum Namasivaya
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  #18  
Old 08 March 2010, 05:30 PM
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Re: Hinduism and menstruation

Quote:
Originally Posted by TatTvamAsi View Post
Different strokes for different folks really.

Some Hindus are more orthodox than others; and it seems like the closer to metropolitan areas families are, the more lackadaisical they become in orthodoxy. Perhaps an 'okay' thing, as Hinduism is not rigid about societal rules like other societies around the world.

However, questioning the validity and then denigrating orthodoxy makes one look dumber than they look. And that is what prompted my truthful statement about families keeping menstruating women aloof. In most cases that I know, the women themselves know how to behave during those times so there aren't any issues. The only "issues" I have seen personally regarding this is a cousin, who studied in an international school in India, rebelled against her parents when she was asked to follow tradition (staying in her room during her periods). The parents left it after a while and although she doesn't follow the traditions strictly, she still doesn't go into the kitchen, pUjA room, and other important places during her menstrual cycle.

The funny thing is, I heard that in some Tantric traditions, menstrual blood is actually used in some rituals! Shocking for us I suppose but after all, one man's food, quite literally , is another man's poison!

Last but not least, whether a woman is kept aloof or not, when she is menstruating, there is a pungent smell that is absolutely disgusting. Nothing against the person per se, but one must have the common sense to be aware that others might be affected adversely. If someone has body odor and refuses to wear deodorant, you are welcome to "hug and kiss" them but I'm staying away! Thank you very much.

Next.
Different strokes for different folks indeed. I don't see this issue as anything to do with orthodoxy, but more tradition. In the past, these 'rules' served a purpose, because as stated previously there was certainly an issue with cleanliness. As far as the "pungent smell" that is "absolutely disgusting", can you honestly sniff up every menstruating woman walking down the street. Maybe if she was bleeding and refused to wear sanitary napkin or tampon, you could then compare to a person with body odor that refused to wear deodorant.

Quite frankly, it's nonsense. I'm supposed to tell my 3 year old son to go into the kitchen and fix his own breakfast, lunch, and dinner and to fend for himself because I'm not leaving my room. That's not following orthodoxy, that's child neglect.

This was a tradition that was imposed at a time that it made sense, the beauty of our religion is that it embraces an evolving thought process.
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Old 09 March 2010, 02:07 AM
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Re: Hinduism and menstruation

I think it is more to do with the physiological and psychological state of the woman's mind during that period! Impurity is not so external is what i believe.

Taking bath alone does not make a man clean...in the same line on the opposite, just going through a natural cycle cannot make a woman impure.

The restriction etc. are not due to some hypothetical physical "impurity" and it will be short sighted view to assume a meaning like that.
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Old 09 March 2010, 06:07 PM
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Re: Hinduism and menstruation

namaste Tat,
Orthodoxy or tradition but I have always seen the women of our family follow the simple rules of not entering the puja room for those four days. The funny part is that not all of them are what you would call orthodox hindu women. In fact, some in our family are not even Hindu by religion (like my wife) but follow these rules so not sure what the big deal is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TatTvamAsi View Post
she still doesn't go into the kitchen, pUjA room, and other important places during her menstrual cycle.
Quote:
The funny thing is, I heard that in some Tantric traditions, menstrual blood is actually used in some rituals! Shocking for us I suppose but after all, one man's food, quite literally , is another man's poison!


Next.
Actually, I think it is the Aghoris that might use this type of thing in their rituals. Have you looked into Aghora? It is quite interesting actually. Read up on it if you find some time.
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Last edited by satay : 09 March 2010 at 06:21 PM.
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