'Freedays' are the 'gather our thoughts' days; Q&As; a general review of the week so far…
Having seen so many male Gurus on Story-days and particularly during this Guru-focus month, some readers may be wondering, 'what about the female contingent?' It has to be admitted that there are few Satgurus of the gender. The same is true in all spiritual cultures; majority folk think of 'saints' in terms of the Roman Catholic tradition and it does not take long at all to realise that the ratio of men to women who have been 'canonised' is something in the order of 3+:1. In other words, more than three quarters of the named saints are male.
This is not the place to go into gender politics and the overwhelming inequality of the sexes which has eternally pervaded the human race. What is a little depressing, however, is that there ought to be no call for it in spiritual terms. Here, of all places, ought it not to be found that women might stand on a level with the men?
When one comes to read items of inspiration and teaching from those women who have followed the call of faith, what becomes abundantly clear is that they have strong intellect, sound theological understanding and a crystalline focus on the object of their affection, which is God.
When looked at purely from the point of view of doctrine - ie man-made interpretation of the rulings of religion - it is clear to see that women are considered incapable of being at all spiritual, that they could not possibly rise to the intellectual demands of theological exegesis, or that their only purpose, surely, is to ensure that the menfolk are cared for and left free to be part of this specialist 'club'. Certain passages of the Bible are put forward as the justification - generally well out of context. (If you are interested in the history of the ordination of women in the Protestant Church, then the place to start is, of course, HERE.) Yet there are strong women who have made their mark; probably more so in the Medieval church than at any other time in religious history.
In the Gospel of Thomas (one of the Gnostic gospels - those teachings considered too 'dangerous' to be included in the Bible, for they empower the seeker fully in the same manner as found in Vedanta), the final verse brings to light what is, perhaps, the crux of the matter;
(114) Simon Peter said to him, "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life."
Jesus said, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven."
Do not misconstrue this to mean some kind of gender-bending! When seen in context of the whole of the teaching, (as well as in conjunction with the fact that Mary also provided a gospel), 'being male' here is about the application of logical thinking; it is about the intellect. This, too, is what Vedanta demands. How many countless generations of men and women have declared that they do not understand each others' thinking?! It is well established, for biological reasons, that there are differences. Hormones can, and do, have an effect upon brain chemistry. Ask any woman who has experienced 'baby head', or all women who have traversed menopause. It is due to this biological factor, that women, on the whole, are more emotional and inclined to extreme attachment. However, importantly, if the woman is determined, this chemical disorder can be overcome. Mind over matter as it were. The skill of 'remote attachment' can be learned. This does require that the woman sees a point to this empowerment. This is what Yeshu points to - that with the correct learning from a Master, there is absolutely no reason at all that women cannot equal men in the field of theology or spiritual experience… if that is what the women themselves desire.
It is not the teachings which have held women down, but the interpretation of (and the men who have claimed authority in) the teachings which has done so… and quite possibly the women themselves.
Gurudev fully approved of women undertaking study of Vedanta at its highest level. The lesser number of females entering Sandeepany was not about any kind of 'quota' but by virtue of the fact that very few women considered the possibility of applying to attend. It is a simple fact that majority women fall into the trap of their own gender and see themselves as being incomplete without home, husband and children - particularly in Indian society, but of course the 'emancipated' Western women on the whole are no different.
The truth is, however, that we all have the potential for sainthood within us. Male, female, makes no difference. The difference comes in who will take up the mantle of discipline and practice to enhance this hidden light. Who has the spiritual courage and determination to live a truly spiritual life...