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From The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna:
“In the World, ‘women and gold’ is the covering of Maya.”
Acharya Prashant: He is talking to a man. Most of the World’s spiritual literature, is addressed to men, though Truth has nothing to do with gender. But the approach to it, depends upon on who is walking? Because, historically, it is mostly the men who have shown an urge, an eagerness, via the scriptures. So, the scriptures are mostly addressed to men. That has to be kept in mind.
L: Is it right – For women, the condition is, women are helpless, hopeless, in field of spirituality.
AP: When most of the medicines are targeted at men. Does it mean that women are exceptionally sick?
L: But when the discussion was going on earlier, you said that the condition for women is hopeless.
AP: For women, it is not really the scriptures that work so much. Because the world is a lot more physical for them. Hence the path for a woman, is a little different. While scriptures are surely relevant and useful to her, but she also needs a more personal touch. That is changing, because today’s woman is not the woman that she has been, historically.
If you look at the easiest scriptures, there are lots of scriptures of the path of knowledge – Gyana maarg. But relatively few scriptures, of the path of devotion. And even when there are scriptures related to devotion, they are not as systematic, as methodically laid out, as the scriptures related to knowledge. For a woman, the path of devotion is far easier. Far more natural to her being. And in the path of devotion, scriptures do not really carry much weightage. They are useful, but they don’t really carry much weightage. And where the scriptures carry a lot of weightage, there you will not find many women. There you would only find a crowd of men. So, it is obvious that in the scriptures, you only have injunctions, pertaining to men.
L: Isn’t it that by women, he is trying to say that a man can also have a woman inside…
AP: You see, understand the difference between the mind of a man and a woman. A man wants a lot. His urge is quantitative. Numbers matter lot to a man. A woman also wants a lot. Both are conditioned to want. Both are conditioned to desire.
But the woman’s urge is qualitative. She would want one thing, and want it deeply. And by man and woman, obviously I am not referring merely to bodies. I am referring to mental types. You can have a woman in the body of a man and a man in the body of a woman. So, there is a mind that says I want a lot, in terms of numbers. And then there is a mind that says I want one thing, but I want it completely. Don’t you see this happening? There would be the man, who would be controlling a thousand things, and there would be the woman, who would be controlling, just the man. A woman is easily satisfied. If she can get that one, then she is not very ambitious.
The wars of the world, have not been fought by women, she is contented with her man, her kids. If everything is alright there, then she won’t say that let’s go and raid the neighboring state and get some gold. Both are conditioned, but the direction of conditioning, the direction of desires is a little different. So the methods applicable to them, their journeys, have to be different, have to be separate. Because a man is more concerned with this and that, so he must proceed, through this and that. A lot of reasoning, a lot of argument, a lot of explanation.
A woman is more concerned with love. Obviously, because her mind is conditioned. So for the desire for love, becomes distorted, impure, evil, and takes a thousand ugly forms.
But whereas the man would not feel contented without understanding, the woman would not feel contented without love. The woman would not ask, what is God like, what is Truth, it is sufficient for her, if she feels a certain closeness.
So, scriptures that way, have to be man-centric.
Please do not think that I mean that women do not need scriptures. They do. They really do. But man needs them more badly.
The barrier that man faces right in the end, is the woman’s first barrier. That is why for a woman, it is so difficult to begin the journey. That is why you find so few women, who take to the path of Truth. For a man, it is easy to begin. But in the end, he faces a great, great barrier. The woman faces that barrier, right in the beginning. But if she can overcome the barrier, the rest of the journey is very easy.
That barrier is the primitive, fundamental conditioning. That barrier is what you are born with, your deepest Vritti. The body itself.
Man feels restless, he easily quits the house. For a woman, it is very very difficult, she does not quit the house so easily. And that is her journey does not even begun. And the house symbolizes the body.
Do you know what these walls that you see around you are? These are an extension of your body, they enclose you, just as the body does. For a man, it is easy, for a woman it is very difficult. Her body is such that, her identity gets deeply linked to it. So, she does not even begin the journey. If she begins the journey, her first step will be, to challenge the body itself. She will have to do stuff, that challenge her very womanly identity.
Lalla (Lalleshwari), is the most obvious example.
A man has to give up on greed, on this and that. A woman has to give up on the feelings related to the body. On all the assumptions and other stuff related to the body. Leaving the house, for her, is like becoming naked. And then the rest of the journey is very easy for her.
If you have a woman who can drop her physicality, who can get rid of the basic woman-ness, then you have a great saint in front of you.
The man, needs to surrender right in the end. The woman, needs that right in the beginning.
In that sense, something very interesting is evident. The man who seeks the Truth, must avoid women. You just read it in the statement of Ramakrishna. Interestingly, the woman who seeks Truth, must also avoid women; her own woman-ness. That makes that statement applicable to both the genders. The man needs to drop the woman and the woman also needs to drop the internal woman. The man needs to drop the woman, slowly, quietly, because it is a big obsession with him. The woman needs to drop the woman, completely and right at the beginning.
Because, if you are a woman, rest assured, your journey will not only begin. There is enough in your body, to keep you captured for an entire life. The world will keep you reminding of your body, the physical processes will keep you reminding of the body. Then pregnancies will keep you reminding of your body, then kids depend on your body for survival, they will keep you reminding of your body.
Even to take the first step, you will have to get rid of your womanness.
The man has no such obligation. He can continue to be a man, and walk a fair distance. He will have to drop his man-ness in the end. And mostly he will fail. Everything is dropped, but the one who is dropping everything so boldly and valiantly, was a man. Now how to drop this man?
Are you getting it?
Man gets pleasure in attacking, in shredding things down. Which is the process of Neti Neti. The man is born with a sword. So, he can attack and kill. He can be with his sword, his instrument, right till the end. But the end demands, that the instrument itself be dropped. This “I”, this man who dropped everything, now he also needs to be dropped, and there man gets stuck.
If a society can be created in which, it is easier for women, to be freed from their body and from their house. Then you will see many more women in the spiritual dimension. And the more you have a society in which women are treated and taught as objects, and are confined to the boundaries of the household. The less is the possibility of women, emerging spiritually.
L: I am thinking what a spiritual woman would be like…
AP: You have Meera, you have Lalla. They are hardly like women. A woman for you is someone who attract your internal man. A Meera would not attract your internal man. She would scare him. And if Meera does not scare you, go to Lalla. Let a naked Lalla, walk into an assembly of men. And see what happens. Not that they would pounce upon her, that she is naked. No. The assembly would be vacated in no time. You would have men running away, in all directions.
No man can tolerate a woman, who is no longer a woman. If a woman is not a woman, then she is attacking the man to not to be a man. His manhood is in danger. You are the most manly with women, who are most womanly. Are you not?
If a non-woman comes to you, you would have to become a non-man. And that is such a threat. You will run away.
A naked Lalla, beats your manhood out of you. Isn’t it surprising? Your normal household woman, she is clad in fifteen clothes and hiding everything that can be hidden. And yet you look at her and feel sexually aroused. And Lalla is absolutely naked and you look at her and all excitement vanishes. You run away.
You cannot tolerate a naked Lalla.
Now in Kashmir they have this myth, I am told, that she was not really naked. That she had very very long hair and that would cover her entire body, so she was not naked at all. She was wearing, garments of her own hair.
So, what does it mean to drop women, it means to not to look at them as woman. It does not mean that I would not talk to them, or avoid their company. I no longer look at you as a woman. That is what is meant by, real sexual abstinence. I do not look at people in terms of their gender.
We had a lot of rabbits in the office, a couple of years back. We had a visitor and he came to the office and started picking up the rabbits one by one, and started ascertaining, whether they are male or female. This is the mind, that is obsessed with sex. You look at everything in terms of gender. Even a rabbit is not a rabbit for you. It is a male or a female rabbit. And I have heard this question asked by so many people. They would come, look at the rabbits and they would say, male or female?
Now, is that the only thing that comes to your mind when you look at anything?
Next time I show you a stone, you would ask, male or female?
Next time I give you some water to drink, you would say, give me some female water. And horribly enough, all his announcements regarding the gender, went wrong. The ones he pronounced as females, were actually males. The gender obsessed ‘I’, would not know anything. Will not even know the gender.
L: Sir, is it possible for a non-man and a non-woman to be together?
Only a non-man and a non-woman can be together. Man and woman, are never really together. They are all the time trying to conquer each other, to get something from each other, are insecure about each other. Togetherness cannot come with possessiveness, aggression and insecurity. Togetherness is only there, when a man is not a man, and a woman is not a woman.
Is it not evident, you know, you look at the whole history of spirituality? The men that you see there, may be very very bold, infinitely courageous, but they have a feminine look on their face. There is something about them that is not macho. Deep fearlessness sits in their heart. But it is not a fearlessness of a manly kind. Ramakrishna himself is a very good example. You don’t look at Ramakrishna and say, here comes a bold, great man. He is quite feminine.
The spiritual man, gets a tenderness, a softness, which has a feminine touch to it. He becomes a non-man. At the same time, the spiritual woman, gets a directness, a deep understanding, a sense of not clinging, a detachment, which is not womanly at all.
The typical characteristics of women, will not be found in a spiritual woman. She loses her womanliness.
A spiritual man, becomes a non-man; a spiritual woman becomes a non-woman.
That would even be evident in the way they walk, eat, live. Even in the physical characteristics.
There is a group in Bengal, or it used to be, Sakhi-Samudaay. They all live and act as if they are all wives of Krishna. So, even men in that community, act like women. So, it is said that when Ramakrishna, joined that community, even physically he developed, characteristics of womanliness.
The boldness of a Jesus, is not masculine boldness. He does not stand and shout at the top of his voice. He is standing in front of a crowd, and they are killing him, yet he is unfazed. But it is not a masculine boldness, you look at his face, there is a tenderness. His face is not that of an aggressor. He is very handsome. You know when a man looks handsome? When he gets something of the feminine. Test it out. The people you call as handsome, would have something of feminine about them. Without that feminine quality in your eyes, in your mind, you cannot look handsome.
And a woman, rises from being an object of lust, to a deity worth worshiping, when she loses her womanliness.
When a man loses his manliness, he becomes handsome, and when a woman loses her womanliness, an even greater miracle happens. You do not feel like embracing her in lust. Now you can drop at her feet.
Look at a statue of Kali, how feminine is it? The weapon in her hand, her tongue, her eyes, and she is naked. Women are not to be seen naked. Kali is naked. And she has a freshly beheaded skull in her hands, and blood is dripping from it. You can only fall at the feet of Kali. Right? She rides a Lion. Women don’t ride lions. Do they? Women don’t wear necklaces made of skulls. Or do they? That is what happens, when a woman drops her womanliness.
But most women are contented, to be objects of lust. They get a little bit of attention, by being attractive, by being a woman, and that’s it. That suffices the needs of their body. Enough. It is beyond them, to think of Kali. You bring a Kali statue to a beauty pageant, and see what happens. You say, this is a really really beautiful woman, Kali, and see what happens.
In India, you look at most of the depiction of deities, women as deities, they are always carrying a weapon. And they don’t have a womanly look on their face. Their eyes, pierce your mind. They are not seductive eyes. You stand in front of them, and all your falseness is pierced. A Durga, a Chandi, a Mahishasur mardini. And mostly it is men they are killing. The demon they are killing is a man. A woman becomes worthy of worship, when she is no longer a woman. How would you worship a deity acting like your normal women aspiring to have a house, husband and two cute kids?
Look at the face of Rama, or Krishna, don’t you see a certain feminine there? Look at their skin, don’t you see a feminine there? And these soft looking men, beat absolutely masculine looking demons. You look at the face of an Asura, it is very masculine, absolutely masculine. And this feminine boy, would defeat that ultra-masculine Asura.
Strange is India. You have Avatars, male avatars, who look feminine. And you have Devis, who do not look feminine at all. And that has been the case always, across the world.
L: Sir, modern Devis are different…
AP: They are Asuras.
A man who is a lot of man, is an Asura. A woman who is a lot of woman, is a she Asura.
That is the definition of an Asura. Masculinity, taken to its extreme is evil. You have your heroes, all beefed up, very masculine expressions. They cannot be gentle, tender, delicate. And you have women, who must be, so tender, so gentle, so delicate. You feel, you touch them and they will break into pieces. So thin, so frail. Size zero. The entire weight of her body, is less than the weight of his biceps. Your modern model, he must have a lots of weight here and there, and she must have no weight anywhere.
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant on Sri Ramakrishna: Is enlightenment more difficult for women? The transcription has been edited for clarity.
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