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Most of the saints or rishis we see are male. Are there any female saints (except devotees through Bhakti yoga)?

  1. Why do we find female rishis only rarely? Is there any reason?
  2. Through which yoga females can get moksha? Can they get moksha using yogas other than Karma yoga and Bhakti yoga?
  3. Is self-realization for women easier when compared to men?
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    All yogas are inclusive to all. Anybody can perform them (in fact, everybody IS performing them, knowingly or unknowingly)! Self-realization is neither easy nor difficult based on gender. It all depends on Karma, Guru's Will, Guru's Grace, One's own Will, one's Love of God and of course individual effort. Not based on gender. – Sai Dec 9 '14 at 19:48
  • There were plenty of female rishis in the ancient world. To name some in rigveda, Ghosha, Lopamudra, Sulabha Maitreyi, and Gargi etc. – tekkk Dec 10 '14 at 1:58
  • Sister Nivedita is also one example. – user12458 Dec 11 '14 at 17:35
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    Lopamudra, Gargeyi, Maitreyi, Swayamprabha, Anasuya ... Most rishi-patnis were rishis themselves. – user1195 Dec 17 '14 at 13:14
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Most of the saints or rishis we see are male. Are there any female saints (except devotees through Bhakti yoga)?

We see that many females also follow their husbands, serve them and partake in their tapasya. In Srimad Bhagavatam When Dhrtarastra and Gandhari are missing from the palace Narada Muni tells this to Maharaja Yudhisitira:

SB 1.13.53 — On the banks at Saptasrota, Dhrtarastra is now engaged in beginning astanga-yoga by bathing three times daily, in the morning, noon and evening, by performing the Agni-hotra sacrifice with fire and by drinking only water. This helps one control the mind and the senses and frees one completely from thoughts of familial affection.

SB 1.13.57 — O King, he will quit his body, most probably on the fifth day from today. And his body will turn to ashes.

SB 1.13.58 — While outside observing her husband, who will burn in the fire of mystic power along with his thatched cottage, his chaste wife will enter the fire with rapt attention.

Similarly we also see this in this case of Arci, wife of Maharaja Prthu (incarnation of Vishnu) also:

SB 4.23.19 — The Queen, the wife of Prthu Maharaja, whose name was Arci, followed her husband into the forest. Since she was a queen, her body was very delicate. Although she did not deserve to live in the forest, she voluntarily touched her lotus feet to the ground.

SB 4.23.20 — Although she was not accustomed to such difficulties, Queen Arci followed her husband in the regulative principles of living in the forest like great sages. She lay down on the ground and ate only fruits, flowers and leaves, and because she was not fit for these activities, she became frail and thin. Yet because of the pleasure she derived in serving her husband, she did not feel any difficulties.

SB 4.23.21 — When Queen Arci saw that her husband, who had been so merciful to her and the earth, no longer showed symptoms of life, she lamented for a little while and then built a fiery pyre on top of a hill and placed the body of her husband on it.

SB 4.23.22 — After this, the Queen executed the necessary funerary functions and offered oblations of water. After bathing in the river, she offered obeisances to various demigods situated in the sky in the different planetary systems. She then circumambulated the fire and, while thinking of the lotus feet of her husband, entered its flames.

SB 4.23.23 — After observing this brave act performed by the chaste wife Arci, the wife of the great King Prthu, many thousands of the wives of the demigods, along with their husbands, offered prayers to the Queen, for they were very much satisfied.

Devahuti, Lord Kapila's mother also performed tapasya as explained here

Else where we also hear about the austerities of mother Vedavati, mother Parvati and so on.

Why do we find female rishis only rarely? Is there any reason?

Generally women are considered to be like children who need protection. So they are with father in their child hood, husband in their married life and with children when their husband takes sannyasa and leave home. In some cases as above we see that women follow their husbands for tapasya and give up their body with them. In those cases they go where ever their husbands go. Chaste women share the results of their husbands' austerities.

Through which yoga females can get moksha? Can they get moksha using yogas other than Karma yoga and Bhakti yoga?

While in previous yugas they shared their husbands path, as above, in kali-yuga the only effective ways is by chanting the holy names of Hari (bhakti yoga). Whether men or women this is the most effective way. Below is a verse from Brhan - Naradiya Purana as cited by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

harer nama harer nama

harer namaiva kevalam

kalau nasty eva nasty eva

nasty eva gatir anyatha

“ ‘For spiritual progress in this Age of Kali, there is no alternative, there is no alternative, there is no alternative to the holy name, the holy name, the holy name of the Lord.’ Caitanya Caritamrta Adi 7.76 (http://www.vedabase.com/en/cc/adi/7/76)

Is self-realization for women easier when compared to men? Not necessarily, regardless of who it is if they surrender to Krishna they can attain perfection.

Bg 9.32 (http://www.vedabase.com/en/bg/9/32) — O son of Prtha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth – women, vaisyas [merchants] and sudras [workers] – can attain the supreme destination.

One thing to note is generally women have softer nature, so those who take advantage of it can surrender little easily. My observation is that more women in India do pujas than men but at the same time they may not be as serious as the men who do take up some spiritual path. So it all depends on individual's sincerity.

  • "While in previous yugas they shared their husbands path, as above, in kali-yuga the only effective yoga for spiritual progress is bhakti yoga by chanting the holy names of Hari." Apart from the Chaitanya Charitamrita, do you know of any other scriptures that say this? There are certainly scriptures that say that in the Kali Yuga you can attain Moksha by chanting the names of Vishnu while you couldn't do that in earlier Yugas, but I'm not aware of any scripture that says that Bhakti Yoga is the only path that works in the Kali Yuga. – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 13 '14 at 6:47
  • By the way, one of the major tenets of Sri Vaishnavism is that there is an easier way to get Moksha than Bhakti Yoga, namely Saranagati or Prapatti, which is surrender to Vishnu. In fact, the Sri Vaishnava acharya Vedanta Desikan and his followers believe that the line "give up all dharmas..." in the Bhagavad Gita really means "give up the 32 principles of Bhakti Yoga I've outlined in the Bhagavad Gita and simply surrender to me." In the Sri Vaishnava conception, Saranagati involves simply surrendering to the lotus feet of Vishnu because you've realized you're not able to follow Bhakti Yoga. – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 13 '14 at 6:56
  • @KeshavSrinivasan, the citation by Maha Prabhu is from Brhan - Naradiya Purana. The word bhakti-yoga is my addition to indicate that chanting holy names as primary process is bhakti yoga. – srinivasacarya dasa Dec 13 '14 at 14:45
  • @KeshavSrinivasan, In regards to 'Saranagati', do Sri Vaishnavas not consider it as bhakti? – srinivasacarya dasa Dec 13 '14 at 15:30
  • Prabhupada's commentary doesn't mention the Brihan-Naradiya Purana. Do you know where in the Brihan-Naradiya Purana it occurs. By the way, this is the first time I've heard of this Purana. Is it different from the Narada Purana? – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 13 '14 at 16:38
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To answer the title question

Are there any female rishis?

Yes, there are many. I would like to give one example here of Lopamudra. She was the wife of Sage Agastya. There are verses in the Rig Veda which are attributed to her.

Also, the Tripura Upanishad of the Rig Veda mentions a mantra attributed to her.

Shashtam saptamamatha vahnisarathimasya mulatrikamaveshayantah. Kathyam kavim kalpakam kamamisham tushtuvamso amritattvam bhajante. (9)

Of this [the mantra described in the previous verse], removing the [first] three root syllables, [the letters ha, sa, and ka represented by the words], shashta, six; saptama, seven; and vahni, fire; have to be added [and it will form the Lopamudra mantra]. By praising and praying the Lord—who is described in the Vedas, the substratum of the imagined universe, [and] who is described in the scriptures—they attain immortality. (9)

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please have a look at the link to get an idea of female rishis and their contributions. https://ramanan50.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/compilers-composers-rig-veda-six-major-families/

  1. Vakdevi :composed eight riks of 125 Sukta, Book X and Rig Veda,These riks are known as Devi-Sukta.
  2. Biswavara: She belonged to the Atri clan composed hymns on beauty, loving and gentle ideas of a women
  3. Aditi : Wife of Sage Kashyapa and mother of the twelve devas. Aditi is credited with composing five hymns of R. V.X, 153 Sukta. She has also composed the fifth, sixth and the seventh hymns of R. V., IV and 18 Sukta

  4. Apala:compsed the eight hymns of R.V. VIII and 91 Sukta

  5. Yami: She has written the first, third, fifth, seventh, and eleventh hymns of R.V, 10 Sukta and the five hymns of 154th Sukta.

  6. Lopamudra: She was the Princess of Vidarbha and wife of the great sage Agastya. She has composed the first two hymns of the 179th Sukta of Book I of the Rig Veda

  7. Romasa:composed the seventh hymn of 126th Sukta, Book I, and Rig Veda.

  8. Maitreyi :of the one thousand hymns of RV, 10 are accredited to Maitreyi, the woman seer and philosopher. She also contributed towards the enhancement of her sage-husband Yajnavalkya's personality and flowering of his spiritual thoughts.

  9. Gargi : Vedic prophetess and daughter of sage Vachaknu, composed several hymns that questioned the origin of all existence.

  10. Gosha Kakshivathi :Granddaughter of Dirghatamas and daughter of Kakshivat.She is the composer of Rigveda (10.39-41)

  11. Surya Savitri :composed Sukta 10:85 of RV

  12. Shashvati Angiras- She was the wife of Yadava king Asanga Playogi. Her hymns are present in Rigveda ( 8.2)

  • Thanks for making the change! I'm undeleting your answer. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 3 '16 at 8:23

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