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Their lay supporters benefit from having, within short walking distance, experienced specialists who have dedicated their whole lives to the dharma and are happy to share their wisdom and experience. In periods of crisis when people in the centers of power have lost faith in the way Buddhism has been domesticated in the cities, they have turned to the wilderness monks to spearhead reforms. In this way, these monks have provided a counterweight to the values and economic forces that tend to subvert the dharma to lesser ends. It would be good if a wilderness Buddhism were to take root here in America as well.

Like every other wilderness movement in our country, it would have to lie outside the mainstream, but that would be the whole point. It would always be there in the background to keep American Buddhism grounded, providing an alternative and sometimes a corrective to the market forces that are mainstreaming the culture of awakening. At the same time, a roaming sangha of trained monastic dharma-seekers would add some needed rigor and depth to our homegrown American tradition of wilderness wisdom. For all their insights, our Black Elks, Thoreaus, and Muirs offer no satisfactory analyses of aging, illness, and death, and no recommendations for how to go beyond them.

Think of how much richer our nation would be if our woods harbored people of recognizable spiritual attainment and genuine insight who offered definitive answers to these issues, and who were at the same time on good terms with the people in the towns. Those who remained in the market economy would be able to tap into whatever wisdom their dropout friends had gained from their wilderness experience—wisdom that our current society simply throws away. If people in and out of the market economy could develop a rapport like this, our society as a whole might develop a healthier respect for the wilderness and for the need to keep it wild.

As more wisdom came from the wilderness, our nation as a whole would become more civilized. What would it take for this soq of rapport to take root? A critical mass of two sorts of people: good monastics and laypeople living on the fringes of the wilderness who have come to recognize and value good monastics. How long would it take to develop this critical mass?

Certainly more than ten years. Ten decades might not be enough. Each one takes lots of personal time and energy to train. At present, North America has only seven small monasteries in the Thai Forest Tradition, each a hothouse plant existing in a small bubble of lay support. Monks occasionally make forays outside the bubbles, discovering sympathetic pockets of potential support in different parts of the country, but the whole enterprise still feels tenuous and uncertain. But then, the unforeseeable has a way of happening. One thing is certain, though: as hunters and gatherers, we have to regard everything that comes our way as a gift, so long-term planning is a futile exercise.

All we can do is make ourselves worthy of gifts—which means that the first order of business is right at the breath, here and now. Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! This way, Draupadi was protected from being humiliated in front of the entire congregation. Subversion as a theoretical framework. The Feminist theory of subversion will be employed in the article to further the discussion. Subversion is the act of undermining patriarchal institutions.


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To subvert something is to take oppressive forces and turn them into something that challenges the oppressor. Feminist scholarship Mukherjee , Chaudhary , Chakravorty unitedly refer to the experiences of Draupadi, especially the disrobing incident, as an illustration of the ways in which such a discourse has constructed and perpetrated the idea of the woman's body being the site on which male hegemonic structures operate.

Since a woman's honour is presumed to reside in her violated body, its violation through public stripping means that she loses the honour both of herself as an individual, as well as a group family or even the nation which she belongs. Subversion becomes apparent because first of all polyandry maybe seen as a subversion of patriarchal norm of a patriarchal society; although she is very uncomfortable she gives her consent thinking of a great good Mukherjee In Mahabharata Draupadi's disrobing is a culmination of dishonouring of the Pandavas.


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  8. Her acts upset the oppressors' carefully laid plans for her subjugation. By refusing to acknowledge her 'dishonour' she also refuses to acknowledge their 'manhood'. Her resistance lies in subverting the whole construct of equating feminine honour and purity with an inviolate body. Draupadi articulates the narrative of resistance on many levels, and therefore she becomes no only powerful but also complex.

    She achieves a subversion of a mythical Draupadi story while at the same time endangering the stabilities of the gender hegemonies. She resists her oppressor through defiance, anger and courage because she has suffered outrageous attacks on her body and spirit. She becomes a feminist figure because she is able to subvert the objectification and commodification of women in society. It is her stri-shakti power of woman which is manifested when she comes out unscathed during the disrobing episode.

    Draupadi raises her voice against extreme torture and atrocities inflicted on her, such that at the end she redefines herself. She refuses to remain the object of male narrative, but asserts herself as 'subject' and emphasises the truth her own presence and constructs a meaning.

    Through subversion she becomes that which resists 'counter' male knowledge, power and glory. By so doing Draupadi rejects the binary structures of patriarchal discourses of the political social and ideological forces of the society, hence subverting commodification in the society and foregoing her identity as a human, not a commodity.

    Reading Draupadi's narrative as a paragon of gender and resistance. Draupadi is one of the most celebrated heroines of Indian epic Mahabharata, 4 which together with Ramayana 5 are cultural credential of the so-called Aryan Civilization. Sita, not Draupadi, is one of the best known examples of a Goddess being held up as a paradigm for women in a culture obsessed with marriage, in which 'she is presented as the role model of the ideal, selfless, submissive wife pativrata who is expected to remain faithful and devoted to her husband, no matter how badly she is treated' Kinsley, This article maintains however that Draupadi should also be given the same prominence accorded to Sita, despite being married to five husbands.

    Whereas Sita maintains her silence when ill-treated by her husband, Draupadi does not. She is vocal and laments the despicable treatment she gets from the males in the story. She had grown up to be an aggressive woman who spoke her mind in a world where women would silently suffer than speak. Draupadi, therefore is a force to be reckoned because:.

    If Mahabharata is an intricately women saga of hatred and love, bloodshed and noble thoughts, beauty and gentleness, victory and defeat, then Draupadi is its shining jewel, casting the shadow of her towering personality over the epic poem and the all destroying war described Das Preeti Chaudhary describes Draupadi as "not a human She has firm determination and unbending will, making her "proud and angry heroine of the epic Mahabharata who has remained an enigmatic woman of substance" Chaudhary Therefore Draupadi becomes an image of empowering women because of her strong will power, brilliant intellectuality and pride which mark her as a dignified woman different from other women like Sita who expressed softer feminine qualities.

    It must be noted that there are few women in Hindu mythology who were aggressive and who spoke their mind in a world of men. Draupadi was one of those few. That is why she is considered by many as the first feminist of Indian mythology because of her resilience, and nonconformity to male dominated religious hierarchy Ganguli Her unpopularity, therefore has to do with the fact that her image does not encourage women to conform to the requirements of an Indian patriarchal society. Subsequently, Draupadi becomes a paragon of gender and resistance. It is worth noting that while polyandry was pretty much accepted during the time of Mahabharata, it was regarded with much censure in the era of the epic.

    Hence Draupadi was much looked-down-upon for having married the five Pandava brothers. In fact, Karna during the game of dice had addressed her as veshya or prostitute for having several husbands.

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    She was neither the perpetrator of this social transgression nor did she enter into a polyandrous contract of her own accord. She had given her heart to the noble Arjuna at her swayamvara marriage by self-choice. The intricate web of polyandry that she got entangled in, had been bestowed upon her by destiny. There is no reason, whatsoever to thrust the fault of transgression on her. Incidentally, though the matter of polyandry was so controversial, Draupadi is also regarded as one of the five srestha or the most chaste Naris.

    This in itself is an anomaly and cannot be properly explained. Draupadi within the patriarchal context. The portrayal of Draupadi in the epic leaves so much to be desired that is why she is conceived by most as insignificant. However, it worth noting that Draupadi can be seen as an unsung heroine of the epics. Notwithstanding, there are women characters in both Ramayana and Mahabharata who have not been given platform to exist independently.

    Chitra Banerjee echoes that sentiment very well by lamenting about 'powerful women' in the epics who have remained shadowy figures, and whatever their thoughts and emotions are seen as inexplicable. These women are only brought to the fore when they concede with the lives of the male heroes, ultimately rendering their roles as subservient to those of their fathers, husbands, brothers and sons. In addition, within a masculine and patronymic context, Draupadi is exceptional, indeed single in the sense of cold, unpaired and detached. She provides the occasion for the violent transaction between men, the efficient cause of the crucial battle Spivak Her eldest husband is about to lose her by default in the game of dice.

    He had staked all he owned and Draupadi belonged within that all Mah. Furthermore, even though Draupadi is strong, spirited and an outspoken woman she is still very faithful to the five brothers. Alleyn Diesel compares her to Helen of Troy where she is "regarded by many men as a prize, valuable object to be competed for and squabbled over, and she becomes the central reason for internecine conflict, which brings disorder adharma and devastation to society" Diesel 9.

    By the same token, Draupadi's strange civil status seems to offer grounds for her predicament and non-recognition as well. Since "the scripture prescribed one husband for a woman, Draupadi is dependent on many husbands, she can be designated as 'a prostitute'. Therefore, there is nothing improper in bringing her clothed or unclothed into the assembly' Mah. In the epic Draupadi's legitimized pluralisation as a wife among husbands in singularity as a possible mother or harlot is used to demonstrate male glory.

    Karna for instance, publicly called Draupadi a whore for being a wife of five men. Despite all these horrific experiences, Draupadi is not in the least deterred by the harsh treatment she receives from the males in the story. If anything these experiences of ill-treatment empower her, hence driving her to be even stronger and resilient. She continues to display her individuality, strength and unyielding determination for both justice and vengeance, hence becoming an empowering character. Throughout her life Draupadi had to undergo humiliation, abuse and deprivation. Though unjustly treated and hence a very angry woman, Draupadi draws from her purity, gained over male intimidation and violence, and thus brought healing to communities.

    These "translate the ultimate victor of women's strength" Diesel This does not deter Draupadi to be resilient as she continued to resist male dominance. The resilience is discussed under the themes below:. When the five brothers arrive at the household, they ask their mothers to come and see what they have brought from their outing. The mother without knowing instructs the brothers to share amongst them equally. There is no doubt that there seems to be total ownership over Draupadi as a daughter-in-law, a wife and a mother.

    This is evident in the way even though some might argue that Kunti was not aware that her sons had brought Draupadi that she innocently assumed it was the usual alms her sons brought daily to the homestead. Even so there is no justification as to why the sons decided to follow their mother's instruction without questioning it. The answer is obvious. Draupadi does not have a say in the whole saga simply because she is viewed as a possession. Hence the sons did not see the need to alert their mother that this time around they had brought somewhat different alms to be shared equally.

    Hunting and Gathering the Dharma

    Consequently, Draupadi becomes a possession of five husbands even though she had chosen her real husband during the swayamvara. One cannot but wonder what the purpose of the swayamvara was if at the end of the day it is not taken into consideration. Actually the swayamvara is also doubtful in the way it was conducted. In a proper swayamvara, the kanya daughter gets to choose her husband by herself, yet in the case of Draupadi the father King Draupada arranges the swayamvara because he wants Arjuna his choice to come out of his hiding. It is worth noting that matters affecting women directly are never shared with them or any consent given.

    Significantly, Draupadi questions their behaviour: "is a woman her husband's property? Is she an object that can be gambled? The fact that Draupadi has been given to the five brothers by their mother makes her their property, hence she can be gambled. Draupadi further questions the dharma religious duty of the kings especially those present in the assembly. Her words are not just a plea of a humiliated and helpless woman, but a challenge to the knowledge of right and wrong of the kings. By questioning the behaviour of her husband as well as the dignitaries present, Draupadi is challenging the normative, something which was unheard of during the time of the Mahabharata.

    In other words she was disrupting the order reigning in the Sabha court because she was rebelling against the norm, hence the subversion. This was a step unimaginable for a woman of her time and setting. Das sees Draupadi's question:. Despite Draupadi suffering at the hands of five husbands, the only case of matrimonial polyandry in The Mahabharata , she is expected to service her five husbands without any complaints.

    By being in the company of five husbands, Draupadi becomes a possession, yet the expectation is that she should be a pativrata an ideal wife. Let it be made clear that polyandry was not an alien concept in ancient India because it has been mentioned even in the Vedas Neelakantan Although the practice has been alluded to in the Vedas, the Kama Sutra 6 as well as the sutras 7 and smritis 8 , it is not confined to Hinduism, it was also found in Jain and Buddhist texts confirming that it was not a foreign practice at the time Singh Aarathi Ganesan is quick to point out that simply "mentioning the practice is not analogous to its actual practice in Indian society," for the same reasons that its occurrence "in the Mahabharata is almost innocently incidental and most importantly singular" Ganesan 9.

    She is to be a submissive wife and a mother. By maintaining her silence until a point when she is pushed to a corner, Draupadi is actually upholding not only her honour but that of her family and her community as well. Failure to honour might incur repercussion as a pativrata. On relationship with her husbands, Bhawalkar says "Draupadi was not a dumb follower of her husbands. She had her own individuality. Though soft speaking she used harsh words to her husbands and others when necessary". It is because of this uniqueness that the Pandavas often looked to Draupadi for guidance and approval.

    Motherhood defines a woman in Indian cultures. Therefore, it follows that a woman becomes fully recognised and accepted by the family and community because she has produced a child or an heir. In India there is still an emphasis on producing an heir who is a boy, for various reasons: for example, to keep the family name alive, to perform ritually during his father's cremation to mention, to name but a few. It is because of the importance of having children that it is believed in this culture that children cement the relation between husband and wife and their respective families.

    This explains why Draupadi in the midst of her suffering decides to stay in the marriage rather than go back to her natal home. This is partly because she did not want to shame her natal family by returning, and but most importantly she wanted to be with her five sons and raise them instead of abandoning them. In other words, she had to forgo her freedom for the sake of staying and raising her children.

    This is what I refer to as denied motherhood, lost motherhood.

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    The humiliation, the pain and shaming that Draupadi has to undergo during her stay at in the marriage is beyond comprehension. The highlight of this unacceptable and atrocious treatment comes at a time when she is dragged to her court by her hair and disrobed. She was subject to horrific indignity, being ogled at while wearing a garment stained with her menstrual blood Ganesan She is disrobed in front of a group of men. She is humiliated because she is seen as a "prostitute, a servant of the Pandavas and therefore they are free to do as they please with her". Devdutt Pattanaik maintains that "Karna calls Draupadi a whore, stating that the law only allows a woman to lie with four men and she married five men, [and] is to be treated without dignity, effectively as a piece of public property' Pattanaik If one looks closely at why she has to undergo such unimaginable torture, we are told it is for the glory of men.

    This is unacceptable because Draupadi finds herself in the predicament in the first place because of the men. She had done everything right by marrying a man of her choice, yet she finds herself married to five men and is called names, something out of her control.

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    However, it can be argued that her status after the game of dice facilitated such an incident, and her current societal position placed her in a position of being unable to disobey order Dhavalikar It is worth noting that the very same men who put her in this situation turn around and humiliate her. Despite all the shame and humiliation meted to her Draupadi stood her ground and survives and in fact he tables are turned when the shame and humiliation is diverted to the men in the sabha court.

    Draupadi: war of justice and resistance. Despite the humiliation that Draupadi had to undergo. Seeing that she is at the mercy of the men in the sabha court and seeing that her husbands were not going to rescue her. She calls on Krishna to intervene. By evoking Krishna, Draupadi exercises what could be called war of justice. Her innermost strength and firmness of mind is rooted in the way she vows that she will not tie her hair until she has decorated it with the blood of Dushasana Rajgopalachari Despite being cornered Draupadi defies the odds by denying Dushasana the pleasure of humiliating her.

    Her vows portray her as not only powerful but as a woman filled with vengeance as well as resistance. The humiliation is the worse of its kind but she does not curse the men who are fascinated in seeing her naked clad body. She calls Krishna to rescue her. This is an interesting twist of events because Krishna comes to her rescue and her honour and dignity is restored.

    The notion of women as weaker and powerless is contested throughout the text of Draupadi because her 'vow show[s] the hidden and latent potential of creation and destruction possessed by a woman" Chaudhary Despite all her humiliation Draupadi emerges a victor because "she has her own will, her own determination, her own capacity, and most of all her own existence" Ibid: The injustices meted out to Draupadi, all justified by her marriage are inexcusable, and the legends condemning her sexuality are unreasonable.

    Depending how one reads the story, Draupadi can be viewed as subversive character who emerges a victor. At the end of it all Draupadi uses the same tool that is used to bring her down and instead lifts herself up. It is apparent that men play dice and wage wars in Mahabharata. However, it is the women who wield power and influence. It is the women who take decisions, direct the course of event and decide the fate of men and their generations to follow.

    Draupadi is that woman! Draupadi has the resilience and power that is seen as a threat to men. Draupadi's text highlights abuse of women, particularly within the family. In conclusion, silence disempowers women and because men know that most women would suffer in silence they continue to advance their tyrannical deeds. However, one woman, Draupadi stood her ground and voiced her disgruntlement whenever she felt wronged. That was very brave and impressive of her considering the time, place and the community she lived in. In the midst of the humiliation, torture, suffering and abuse, Draupadi found strength in herself to fight the injustices meted on to her by cruel males in a male-dominated androcentric society.

    It is because of that resilience and valour displayed by Draupadi that transforms her into paragon of gender and resistance. Bhawalkar, Vanamala Eminent Women in the Mahabharata. New Delhi: Sharada Publishing.