Is there any reason for release of Gayatri mantra to non brahmins and even to women? I think such practice is irregular. Who is responsible for deviation from very ancient practice and making it possible for others to follow this irreligious idea of devotion?
gAyatri mantra HAS TO BE recited by non brahmins also, Kshatriyas and vysyas too have right for vedic initiation/upanayana. Secondly women too have right to study and chant vedas and conduct vedic rites. So it is good that non brahmins too are taking interest in this else the divine knowledge of vedas would keep on reducing among the masses.
Non-brahmins and Vedas :
Today the Indian society is mainly divided on the lines of Brahmins and Non Brahmins. It is not very difficult to understand that such a division of the society is not provided for either in the dharma shAstra-s or the vedas. This man-made division is the height of absurdity considering the fact that vedas do not sanction such a division as the kShatriya-s & vaishya-s are considered to be equal to the Brahmins insofar as the study of veda-s and vedic practices are concerned. Just like brAhman the kShatriya & vaishya are also entitled to upanayana samskAra and gAyatri as is evident from different gRhyasUtra-s for eg, Apastamba says :
“ गर्भाष्टमेषु ब्राह्मणं, गर्भैकादशेषु राजन्यं, गर्भाद्वादशेषु वैश्यम्।। (आपस्तम्बः)”
in the eighth year from conception i.e. the 7th year from birth, the brAhman should be intitiated into gAyatri. Similarly, in the 10th year from birth for kShatriya and 11th year for vaishya
brAhmaNaH kShatriyo vaishyaH trayo varNAH dvijAdayaH saMskRtAshcAnyathA shUdrAH evaM vedavido viduH tasmAdayaM suto me.adyaH shUdravat vartate shishuH upanItaH kriyArhaH syAt iti vedeShu nirNayaH rAjJAmekAdashe varShe sadopanayanaM smRtaM aShTame brAhmaNAnAM ca vaishyAnAM dvAdashe kila (devI bhAgavata 7-7)
“The three varNa-s of brAhmaNa, kShatriya and vaishya are dvija (twice born) only if they undergo the upanayana saMskAra otherwise they are indeed considered to be shUdra in the absence of saMskAra”
How then did the kShatriya-s & vaishya-s came to be grouped as “non-brahmins” ? Grouping of certain varNa-s as non-brahmins is therefore unwarranted and uncalled for. It must also be understood that the words ‘varNa’ & ‘jAti’ stand for entirely different concepts and the word varNa cannot by any stretch of imagination be used to mean a particular caste or jAti. It is therefore worthwhile to understand the true concept of varNa.
Further, a prayer to agni in the beginning of yAga goes thus :
“रुचं नो धेहि ब्राह्मणेषु रुचं राजसु नस्कृधि | रुचं विश्येषु शूद्रेषु मयि धेहि रुचा रुचं |”
“rucaM no dhehi brAhmaNeShu rucaM rAjasu naskRdhi | rucaM vishyeShu shUdreShu mayi dhehi rucA rucaM |” (YV. Mula samhita K.5. P.7 A.6. - 3 and 4)
which is a prayer to the agni to “bestow upon us the radiance of the brAhmaNa-s, kShatriya-s, vaishya-s & shUdra-s”. Had the kShatriya or vaishya or shUdra been inferior to the brAhmaNa-s, would anyone pray for the energies of these varNa-s?
It must be understood that the varNa classification exists among the devas, the gems, the nine planets, in the animals and even in the letters of sanskrit. “vaiDUrya” (cat’s eye) a particular gem is classified as brAhmaNa, kshatriya, vaishya & shUdra based on its variation in color. Among the nine planets, the sun is kShatriya, but shani, the son of sun is a shUdra. Similarly, budha is classified as a vaishya. But budha is stated to be the son born to chandra & tArA. guru & shukra are stated to be brAhmaNa-s. Now which of the nine planets is superior or inferior ? The soil of the earth is also subject to these varNa classification. By mixing different varNa-s of soil, fertility that is lost can be restored. The soil that has lost its fertility, though called by its original name, can never have the original characteristics unless mixed with fresh fertile soil. In the creation of humans also, the varnas are subject to changes arising out of various reasons. Manu smRti says a brAhmaNa can become a vaishya in three days if he resorts to selling milk. By indulging in trade, a brAhmaNa will become a vaishya. Similarly a shUdra can become a brAhmaNa by reciting gAyatri. There are umpteen instances of the so called shUdra-s attaining brAhman-hood. Hence, the varNa-s were never created or conceived as water tight compartments. The difference in the varNa-s was actually meant for evolution of mankind by improving the divine powers of “brahma” “kShatra” & “viT” energies through penance and religious practices as enjoined in the veda-s and definitely not for creating inequality or complexes and animosity in the minds of people. By the increase of divine power, the self and the society as a whole and the nation can attain comfort and happiness.
Women and Vedas :
Vedas don't differentiate among boys and girls in the samskaras or shodasa samskara. Upanayanam ( Yajnopavita ) is one of the major samskara in which the child gets officially initiated into Brahma Gayatri and it is mainly focused on Brahmopadesham which enables him to become eligible to learn vedas and other shastras. After this ceremony he attains the "Dwija" hood or Twice born. Sutras prescribe various age groups for different Varna's for initiation. For example about Brahmin varna, अष्टम्वर्षे ब्राह्मणमुपनयेत् ( Ashvalayana Grhya Sutra 1:19:1 ) , गर्भाष्टमे ब्राह्मणमुपनयेत् ( Varaha. Grhya. Sut.) Similar rules are prescribed for Kshatriyas and Vaisyas too only the age limit is extended for them.
Here Sutra kaara's by brahmana , kshatriya etc mean that both boys and girls of this varna's are to be initiated. The gender is not designated to be masculine alone. Since most of the rituals are meant for boys and girls both hence they have commonly addressed as masculine words which are generally used in any stories or instructions etc.
For example a rule like " ब्राह्मणो न हन्तव्यः" ( the brahmana should not be murdered) it is meant that the ब्राह्मणी also should not be murdered. Similarly "मरणधर्मा मानवः" means man is mortal we mean that women is also mortal. Hence gender is specifically mentioned only where it is required.
As per Haarita dharma sutra, those women who are Brahma Vaadini have right for initiation, Vedic studies , Fire establishment and bhiksha etc. द्विऽविधाः स्त्रियो ब्रह्मवादिन्यः सदीवध्वश्च । तत्र ब्रह्मवादिनीनामुपनयनम्योन्धनं वेदाध्ययनं स्वगृहे भिक्शाचर्या चेति ( 21:23)
As per Yama Smriti,
पुरा कल्पे कुमारिणां मोञ्जोबन्धन मिष्यते । अध्यापनन्श्च वेदानां सावित्रीवाचनन्तथा ॥ पिता पितृव्यो भ्राता वा नैनामध्यापयेत् परः |
In olden times tying of girdle was prescribed for girls. So also study of vedas and uttering of Gayatri ( Savitur) preferably from father , brother or uncle. She is allowed for begging alms within her house limits. Yama refers to existence not only in olden days but during his times as well by his sentence पुराकल्पे ( यथैष्यत) तथा (अधुनाऽपि) इष्यते. The word तथा is specially put by Yama by way of comparison between old time and his own time so he says that during his time girls should learn from father, brother etc and she dont need to wear deer skin, bark etc. If Yama had intended to say that girls should not be initiated in his time unlike olden times he would say something like इह कल्पे तासामेवं न कुर्यान्मतिमान् क्कचित् ॥ As he uses verbs in present tense so we can make out that he prescribed rules for his own days and was the case in olden days too.
Gobhila says that Bride should wear the sacred thread when the bridegroom leads her to the altar. "प्रावृतां यज्ञोपवीतिनीमम्युदानयन् जपेत् सीमोऽदाद् गन्धर्वायेति " ( Gobhila Grhya sutra 2:1:19) यज्ञोपवीतिनाऽचान्तोदकेन कृत्यम् ( Gobhila Grhya sutra 1:1:2)
Like the women are eligible for vedas, they are eligible for brahmavidya too.
(यथाधिकरः श्रोतेषु योषितां कर्म सुश्रुतःएवमेवानुमन्यम्ब ब्रह्माणि ब्रह्मवादिताम् Yama Smriti )
Brahamchari is one who is engaged in the study of vedas. ब्रह्मचर्येण ब्रह्म वेदः तदध्ययनार्थमाचर्यम् Atharva veda sAyana bhashyam
By the tapas of brahmacharya a maiden finds a youthful husband; by brahmacharya the bull and the horse seek their fodder. ----------- (Atharva Veda 11.5.18)
A brahmacharin should be married to a brahmacharini. ब्रह्मचरिणां च ब्रहचारिणीभिः सह विवाह् प्रशस्यो भवति - Pranavavada of maharshi Garga
Without initiated by proper samskara, no one is eligible to utter holy vedic mantras. But women are found to utter them in many of Shrauta and Grhya sacrifices (yajnas).
In the sAkamedha the third of chaturmasa (four monthly) sacrifice the girl uses the Tryambaka's mantra (त्र्यम्बकं यजामहे सुगन्धिं पतिवेदनम्। उर्वारुकमिव बन्धनादितो मुक्षीय माऽमुतः, Shukla Yajurveda Samhita III :60 )
As per Shatapatha Brahmana, The priest and Sacrificer go round the altar thrice from right to left, but maidens go from left to right. While doing so the maidens utter the Tryambaka mantra. ( II : 6 : 2 : 13 ) Yajnikadeva in the "paddhati" says वचनात् कुमार्या अपि मन्त्रपाठः meaning that maidens should too utter the sacred formulas as prescribed.
In Madana pArijAta the author quotes KAtyayana (KAtyayana samhita p.330) to show that if any samskara before the initiation ceremony is left unobserved, it should be performed with offering of oblation.
There was no gender based differentiation in the education in the gurukul as well. AtreyI was a class mate of Lava and Kusha, kAmandakI and SaudAminI were class mates of BhUrivAsu and devarAta in the university. (Uttara Rama Charita) Girls too resided for equal duration like boys in the gurukul for education. Amba stayed at the gurukul of Shaikhavatyas.
Taken from several articles my blog Yamalesha.blogspot.com.
Why are Shudras reciting the Gayatri mantra?
The answer is partly because of adopting Western beliefs, which all Indians are taught in Indian public schooling, such as "all men are created equal" and "anyone can do whatever they want", which contradicts Hindu scripture and the law of karma: people are born into bodies according to their sins and merits in previous births.
Another reason is that many Hindus today follow neo-Vedanta, propounded in part by Swami Vivekananda, who himself was influenced by Western beliefs. This is what he says:
The Rishis were only the discoverers of the Mantras or Eternal Laws; they merely came face to face with the Vedas, the infinite mine of knowledge, which has been there from time without beginning.
This Veda is our only authority, and everyone has the right to it.
यथेमां वाचं कल्याणीमावदानि जनेभ्यः।
ब्रह्मराजन्याभ्यां शूद्राय चार्याय च स्वाय चारणाय॥
Thus says the Shukla Yajur Veda (XXVI. 2). Can you show any authority from this Veda of ours that everyone has not the right to it? The Purânas, no doubt, say that a certain caste has the right to such and such a recension of the Vedas, or a certain caste has no right to study them, or that this portion of the Vedas is for the Satya Yuga and that portion is for the Kali Yuga. But, mark you, the Veda does not say so; it is only your Puranas that do so. But can the servant dictate to the master? The Smritis, Puranas, Tantras — all these are acceptable only so far as they agree with the Vedas; and wherever they are contradictory, they are to be rejected as unreliable. But nowadays we have put the Puranas on even a higher pedestal than the Vedas! The study of the Vedas has almost disappeared from Bengal. How I wish that day will soon come when in every home the Veda will be worshipped together with Shâlagrâma, the household Deity, when the young, the old, and the women will inaugurate the worship of the Veda!
But he is misinterpreting that verse. That verse is not laying down that anyone can hear and recite the Vedas. The performer of the yajna in that verse is praying to the Devas on behalf of Shudras, etc so that they may receive the fruits of the yajna too. He's saying "I address this speech to all," or "I speak for all." It's like if you go meet with the president of China and say "I speak for all citizens of my home country."
Who can actually recite Vedic mantras?
The Gayatri mantra is supposed to be recited by all Dvijas; members of the 3 highest castes: Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas. Not just Brahmanas.
You're also not allowed to chant any Vedic mantra or do any Yajna unless you have done the Upanayanam, and the Upanayanam is only done to members of the first 3 castes
Here is what the Manusmriti says:
In the eighth year from conception one should perform the initiation of the Brāhmaṇa; of the king in the eleventh year from conception; and of the Vaiśya in the twelfth.—(36)
That person alone, and none other, should be regarded as entitled to the scripture, for whom the sacraments beginning with conception and ending with the crematorium, are prescribed as to be done with mantras.—(16)
"That person alone" is referring to Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas. The verse excludes Shudras and in general, women.
Women can get Upanayanam done and become a Brahmavadini, but they aren't required to, and no one does it correctly today.
Today however, cooking food is regarded as tending the fire, and sitting next to the husband is regarded as doing yajnas and reciting mantras.
The Shudra only has one duty:
For the Śūdra the Lord ordained only one function: the ungrudging service of the said castes. (91).
Also, one cannot recite Vedas in the proximity of Shudras:
He shall recite, not indistinctly, nor in the proximity of Śūdras; nor shall he go to sleep again, at the end of night, when he is tired after having recited the Veda.—(99)
It is also a sin for a Shudra to read or hear the Vedas:
The ears of him who hears the Veda are to be filled with molten lead and lac; if he pronounces it his tongue is to be slit; if he preserves it his body is to be cut through.
However, Shudras are encouraged to read the Smriti works like the Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, etc.
This is what the Srimad Bhagavatam says:
Out of compassion, the great sage thought it wise that this would enable men to achieve the ultimate goal of life. Thus he compiled the great historical narration called the Mahābhārata for women, laborers [Shudras] and friends of the twice-born [who are not allowed to hear the Vedas].
Who is responsible for the deviation from this ancient practice and making it possible for others to follow this
irreligious marvelous idea of devotion?
The Hinduism Today article Wow! One Million Join Vedic Rites quotes his son-in-law/disciple, Dr. Pranav Pandya as saying:
Gurudev believed in equality of all human beings, irrespective of class, creed or sex. It was he who began by freeing the worship of Goddess Gayatri (Deity of knowledge) and the Gayatri mantra from the clutches of brahmins and made it available to common people, including women. Gurudev believed that nobody was born brahmin. It is one's actions which determines whether he is a brahmin or not.
Shriram Sharma appears to have authored several books including Gayatri Sadhana - The Truth and Distortions in which he expresses his views on the issue of women and non-brahmins chanting the Gayatri mantra.
Q.3. Do Brahmans have a special privilege to do Gayatri Sadhana?
Ans. The professed proprietary right of Brahmans (by birth) on Gayatri worship is ridiculous. Credit for embodiment and elaboration of mysticism of Mahamantra Gayatri goes to rishi Vishwamitra, who belonged to Kshatriya caste by birth. Thus, even if the caste is considered essential for Gayatri worship, the Kshatriyas should have priority over other castes. The concept of Brahmanism has an entirely different connotation. A Brahman is one who conforms to the wisdom of Brahma (Brahmaparayan) and has an exemplary character. Only such persons of refined character can derive maximum advantage from Gayatri worship. It has been said that Gayatri is Kamdhenu of Brahmans. In several Sanskrit couplets, Dwijs alone have been described as entitled to worship Gayatri.
Traditionally, the words Dwij and Brahman have been considered as synonymous. In this way each Dwij or Brahman was supposed to have the exclusive privilege of worship of Gayatri. Does it mean that individuals belonging to other castes were scripturally prohibited from worshipping Gayatri?
The confusion has arisen because of misunderstanding of the meanings of words like Brahman, Dwij and caste, which are being misconstrued as hereditary distinctions conferred by God on various classes of society. Nothing can be more absurd than considering the Creator as discriminative and partial, making people take birth in a family of high or low caste.
When scriptures declare that Gayatri is kamdhenu of Brahmans i.e. Gayatri fulfils all desires of a Brahman, they mean that any human being who diligently aspires to be a Brahman by following righteousness in thoughts, words and deeds gets an access to the benefits of Gayatri. That is to say, Brahmanism is a pre-requisite for Gayatri worship. As regards the world Dwij it literally means ‘born again’. The initiation to Gayatri is the spiritual birth of a person, who has otherwise taken birth as any other animal. This initiation or Diksha is like ‘Baptism’ amongst the Christians and is akin to admission in the primary class of the school of spirituality. The concept of caste has been grossly distorted, misunderstood and misappropriated by vested interests. In Vedic times, division of civic responsibilities into four classes of people who were given education and training pertaining to their respective assignments was considered expedient. Each of this class was referred to as a varna. In course of time, when successive generations began to follow the same profession varnas got ossified into ‘castes’. With the change in social environment, certain castes assumed greater prominence in the society and in order to retain their supremacy propagated the concept of caste by birth as a God-given status.
Q.4. Are women entitled to take up Gayatri Sadhana?
Ans. For countering the oft-repeated arguments against women’s right to Gayatri worship, let us try to understand the basic principles of ancient Indian culture. It propounds a global religion, for the entire humanity. Nowhere does it support the illogical inequalities based on differentiation of caste, sex etc. The code of conduct in Hindu religion assigns equality of status to all human beings in all respects with unity and compassion as its basic tenets. Thus, the abridgement of natural human civil and religious rights of women is, therefore, not in conformity with authentic Indian spiritual tradition. On the contrary, Hindu culture regards the female of human species as superior to its male counterpart. How could then the wise sages of India deprive the women of practice of Gayatri Sadhana? The spirit of Indian ethos is totally against any such discrimination. Gayatri is accessible to every individual of human species. Any thought or belief contrary to this concept is sheer nonsense and should not be given any importance.
Q.7. Is Yagyopaveet essential for Gayatri worship? What is its significance ?
Ans. It cannot be made mandatory that those alone who put an Yagyopveet can perform Gayatri Jap. However, since Yagyopaveet is an image of Gayatri it is better if its worshipper puts it on. Yagyopaveet is a form of Gayatri. It is preferable to perform worship sitting in a temple in front of a deity. It, however, does not mean that if there is no temple or deity, worship should not be performed. Gayatri Sadhana can be performed even, without putting on the Yagyopaveet.
Yagyopaveet is, in fact, a symbol of Gayatri mahamantra. The nine threads in it represent the nine words of Gayatri Mantra. Three strands indicate threefold achievements. Similarly the three knots (Vyahritis) and the large knot (Om) are also part of the Mantra. In a nutshell, Yagyopaveet is the sacred symbol of Gayatri, wearer of which (across the left shoulder near the heart) constantly remembers the pledge he has taken to follow the doctrine of Gayatri Sadhana. Just as one derives greater benefit by worshipping before a deity in a temple, but can also pray anywhere, Yagyopaveet is recommended but is not mandatory.
What I have learnt in my childhood, gayatri mantra is a top-secret. The mantra which is taught at the time of upanayanam by bramhan purohit is falsifying. "But the upanayanam is very much on record and records are maintained carefully,"The genuine gayatri mantra is accurate and mantra is concealed and protected the coverage of which is full and total.
So religious gift of gayatri mantra, if any, go only to the hindu bramhans. It is a mantra to be recited to himself,not publicly. Those who play gayatri mantra on record players, pcs are free to do so. For two religious gifts are not awarded to the same devotee and purohit would not give his share of punyasanchay. If he/she tries to be smart(members of other castes)even bramhanas, when one gain is already there in their own mantras. He/she will look like a character of"Necklace" a famous story by -guy de maupassant, which means the efforts are pointless.
Gayatri Mantra was seen and given to mankind by Sage Vishwamitra/King Kaushika who himself was a Kshatriya from Kusha lineage of Chandravanshi(Lunar) Kings. It makes no sense, that it was restricted for Brahmins as the mantra's seer(rishi) was no Brahmin but a Kshatriya king who did penance for thousands of years to become one with Brahman unlike other Brahmins of his time.
Brahman Purusha mentioned in Upanishads/Vedas is the highest not the Brahmin caste.