Draupadi And Her Daughters

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Flinders (author of At The Root Of This Longing) writes, ‘Feminism had opened my eyes to a vast web of terrible connections I had been slow to recognize, and feminist spirituality had insisted that I own the anger I experienced when I did recognize it. But I knew feminism alone couldn’t help me transmute that anger,… and I didn’t think the more loosely conceived forms of feminist spirituality could, either. I was reasonably certain that only meditation could do that: meditation supported by all the ancillary disciplines–one-pointed focus, the “enclosure” of consistent practice, the diminution of egocentricity, and the harnessing of desires.’ (233) image from wikipedia.

She looks to Draupadi, heroine of the Indian epic the Mahabharata, and finds she is now thinking ‘in terms of the four issues[:] … silence, self-naughting, restraint of desire, and enclosure, along with their feminist counterparts[:] finding voice, establishing self, reclaiming both desire and freedom of movement. And to my genuine surprise I found that those issues to have been as pertinent to ancient India … as they are to women today.’ (241-242)

In Draupadi, Flinders sees an ancient ecology: ‘Draupadi was born out of the earthen altar … [on which] householders would place offerings…. The gods would in turn feed those who fed them, providing the earth with rain and sunlight. The earth’s fertility was believed to depend upon this cycle of giving, in which all humans must participate…. “Through sacrifice,” say the Upanishads, “life is sustained.” ‘ (244) Importantly, Draupadi (and ‘all humans’) is a vital part of that cycle. Break the cycle and anger is unleashed. image from wikipedia.

Flinders also sees in the Upanishads a vast feminine divinity: ‘It’s difficult for Western women to associate ourselves with a feminine version of divinity–or has been until recently–because the sacred feminine has so little visibility in our culture. The Virgin Mary is about it–and that only if you’re a Catholic.’ But the East Indian tradition has ‘many faces of the Goddess’ and ‘many versions of womanhood’–in the Mahabharata, Draupadi ‘is every one of them.’ (252-255)

Thousands of years later, Draupadi’s joy in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds inspires people, ‘Draupadi’s daughters’, such as Vandana Shiva, a scientist who confronts transnational corporations, which ‘are unconstrained by the various codes of decency and justice that are written into national constitutions.’ For example, she has set out to preserve and promote the genetic diversity of traditional seeds, whereas corporations like Monsanto want farmers to use new, patentable, profitable, genetically modified seeds. image from wikipedia.

She stands ‘on the rock-solid knowledge that by dint of her very womanhood she is charged to take on exactly this sort of adversary. A Westerner who has worked with her remarks, “With Vandana it’s never just tactics and strategies, its never just science and law, it’s always a larger spiritual vision, always a larger, more humane vision…. [Moreover,] somewhere at the very center of her is this lovely laughter.” ‘ (272-273) That laughter comes from the deep confidence and abiding trust in what Draupadi trusted in. It must be like what Julian of Norwich felt, that ‘joyous certainty’.

Speaking of seeds….

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1 Response to Draupadi And Her Daughters

  1. froglamp says:

    From Karen J: I made two comments, one about Vandana, and one about not knowing who Draupadi was.

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