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Women's bondage and liberation || Acharya Prashant, in conversation (2021)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
26 मिनट
127 बार पढ़ा गया

Questioner (Q): I want to ask something regarding the situation of women. When it comes to the working women, I’ve seen many of them constantly downplaying their own sense of leadership and ability. In Lean In , a book written by Sheryl Sandberg, the CEO of Facebook, she gave this example of when a man is to be promoted versus when a woman is to be promoted. In this kind of a situation, the man would be evaluated for his potential, while the woman would be evaluated for her past experience.

In schools, you’d definitely see more men raising their hands in class compared to women. They are intelligent, they are great company to have, but even though they are sometimes not even that amazing, they always have this air of being very confident about themselves. But women, even if they might know the right answer, they would refrain from raising their hands; they would be absolutely plagued with self-doubt.

And obviously, if we were to talk about this in a macro sense, it really transcends gender; there is really no man-woman thing like that. But still, I relate with women from all walks of life every day, and I see that, regardless whether they are young women, middle-aged women, elderly women, they would keep denying their own sense of ownership. At the same time, they have this fear of being tagged as bossy if they express themselves forthrightly or in a very outright fashion.

Acharya Prashant (AP): There are two aspects to it; we must address both of them. One aspect is, she is not allowed to raise her hand; the other aspect is, she thinks she does not need to raise her hand. And both these are within her mind, and both these have entered her mind from somewhere. ‘Not allowed to’ is obvious; the second one is subtle, and we probably may begin with this and find deeper insight.

The way we train our girls, the way our bodies are constituted and configured by Prakṛti , physical nature—not spiritual nature but physical nature, mother nature—the way our hormones are… There are so many species in which the female is not the provider. Even in human beings, if you see, it’s a bare fact; we must accept it. It may or may not conform to the popular ideologies currently in vogue, but facts are facts, no?

So, the way the female is configured, biologically she is supposed to be alright with spending a lot of time in the nest. ‘Supposed to’ biologically; not by way of consciousness, but by way of the body. This (raises his hand) indicates a movement out of the nest. Do you see this? The girl is comfortably sitting in the classroom, and the body is the nest. What does this indicate?

Q: I want to break out of the nest.

AP: I want to break out the nest. The teacher asks something; I’m saying, 'I know. I know.' Or, 'I want to ask, I want to enquire.'

Now, both knowledge and enquiry are not things of the body; they are things of the consciousness. The body wants no knowledge, and the body does not want to enquire. Even if the body seeks knowledge, all it wants knowledge of is things that are related to physical sustenance. The body, for example, will have very little interest in stuff like history or science. Yes, if somebody says, 'I have two slices of pizza; who wants it?' then the body will raise the hand. But if somebody is dealing with something else, then the body is not interested.

Now, the girl is born, and that’s the way her body is already configured, and then how do we raise her, and what do we teach her? Are we teaching her the way of consciousness, or are we teaching her the way of the body? You are teaching her the way of the body. Now, how is it surprising that she does not want to participate much in the process of knowledge or enquiry?

I have this little one at home, and I happened to visit the shopping mall with him and clothes were being bought. So, I noticed that even at that age girls’ apparels, little clothes, you know, this size, they were probably twice or thrice as expensive as that of little boys.

Q: Yeah, that’s true. What is the philosophy behind that?

AP: The philosophy behind that is that you are a girl and you must spend more of your resources towards your body. Money is a resource, right? So, the boy can save the money for the books. 'But you? You listen, girl; if you have two thousand bucks, all of that two thousand must go towards the dress.' Now, the boy can happily have the dress for six hundred bucks, and with the remaining 1400 he can buy books or toys or something else, maybe a ticket to the museum, maybe a ticket to the adventure show or to the library. The girl is supposed to invest herself fully in her looks and her body and her cosmetics and all those things.

Now, that’s the way the entire dispensation is raising her, and the same girl who was in that merchandise shop the previous evening goes to school the next morning, and there she does not raise her hand. How do we find it surprising? That’s just an instance, you know; it has to be taken in due spirit. If we want to counter it, it’s very easy to counter it. I expect some empathy when these examples are being rolled out, because one would make sense of them only if there is a certain listening.

So, these things are happening. Even right now, you know, nothing personal here, but I am wearing something close to black, and you are wearing pink.

Q: That’s true. I can’t help it that pink is a color that attracts me. I really appreciate darker colors, but for serene moments I do choose lighter colors. But then again, yeah, why not purple, right?

AP: Colors are just colors; they are wavelengths, right? But the fact is that, firstly, pink is the color of the nest, pink is the color of the newborn baby. So, Prakṛti is already pushing you towards pink, and then what is the entire commercial dispensation doing? It’s bombarding you with pink. You want to buy clothes; half of the choices are just in pink, the other half in red, then the remaining ones maybe in white, and the remaining ten percent, if you are very particular about diversity, you will get other colors.

So, that’s what is happening with the girls all the time. And you have to remember in all this that boys and girls are not born alike. We are born differently, and it is the responsibility of our parents and educators to rid us of our body-identification. The girl should be raised to be less of a girl; the boy has to be raised to be less of a boy. But instead of that happening, the girl is raised to become more of a girl and the boy becomes more of a boy.

And in this we must firstly acknowledge that equality is a very puerile myth. Girls and boys are different. But that difference, that inborn, that innate difference, has to be very wisely, very creatively sublimated, dissolved, not amplified. We amplify that. So, what does the woman become? The woman becomes a hyper woman, the man becomes a hyper man, and then both of these exploit each other. So, in some sense, then the girl says, 'I do not need to raise my hand, because what will I do with knowledge? My role is to be the one in the nest; my role is to make the bed and lay the eggs and bring up the kids. What will I do with Newton’s laws?'

Q: Yeah, and they are just so guilty about it when they are in the workforce. They are so torn when they are giving their five thousand percent there, and they probably have a baby just vying for attention, and they have that completely overpowering their entire work ethic actually.

AP: You know the scary part here? Even that baby came out of a conditional obligation. When I say conditional, I mean something arising out of your conditioning. You are conditioned to have a baby, conditioned by the two forces: physical—the body cries out for the baby—and much more than physical, social. Voices around you are constantly reminding you—‘reminding’ is a soft word—pushing you to have a baby.

Q: When I came back to my hometown after I don’t know how many years, no matter where I went, everywhere everyone in my family was just like, ' Beta, shadi kab karoge (Child, when will you get married)?' It was the hottest topic.

AP: When you have no right purpose in your life, all that you have in your life is sex. If you are sixty-five now and you cannot physically ingratiate yourself with sex, then you want to intrude into the sexual lives of others, younger ones. So, what do you do? You keep poking your nose in the matters of others; you keep asking others about their private matters and sexual lives. Otherwise, what does one mature adult have to do with these very, very personal decisions of another mature adult? Even asking for certain things, seeking certain information, is trespassing. It is simply a violation, it’s an infringement, and it’s not civil at all.

If we are cultured people, there are certain questions we would never ask. But we are not cultured; we are driven by conditioning. That’s the difference between conditioning and culture by the way. Culture is the force that reduces the stranglehold of conditioning on the person. But we are not cultured, we are just conditioned. Even in the name of culture what we get is conditioning. So, that’s what people are doing all the time.

Q: And it’s so weird because I tell them that you don’t even know who I am, who I am at my core, and yet you are making these assumptions.

AP: They do not know their own core—how do they know your core? And also, again, just to complete the story, the way we have narrated it so far it appears that only the women are victims. The story is a bit different. Now you are indoctrinating the girl into that kind of a role: you stay in the nest and you be pretty and you raise the kids and all those things. She suffers, right?—because no person male or female is born to do that. She suffers, and then she would take the suffering out on the nearest person possible, and that person would either be the kids or the spouse.

So, it is not as if a man exploiting a woman would be in a happy space; not at all. The woman is as much of a person as the man is, and this person would avenge herself in ways direct or indirect. And that’s going to happen. One of the ways of avenging herself is, 'Now that you didn’t allow me to be properly educated, you fetch me the money and I’ll burn the money. You were the one who restricted me to the house, so fine, I’ll stay in the house but I’ll burn the money. So, you bring me the money, and my job will be to shop.'

So, if you visit shopping malls during the weekdays, you will hardly find any men; the men are all busy working. Eighty percent of the crowd there is female. Now, that is revenge shopping, you know. He is at the job, she is at the shop. 'Why didn’t you allow me to be at the job?'

Q: Weekday shopping is revenge shopping!

AP: On weekends, the men are also pulled by the scruff into the mall: 'You come along with me and carry the bags!' But weekdays the men are all, you know…

I know I am terribly generalizing; I hope something is coming out of it. I very well know that there are couples in which the woman is working and the man is sitting at home; all those things are there, I know. But this generalization is very deliberate and it is to make a point. So, excuse me for this generalization, but it makes some sense.

So, that is what is happening. You exploit someone, you cannot remain at peace after the exploitation or during the exploitation. Man exploits woman; the woman too is bound to exploit the man. It’s not possible that one just plays the victim, because the victim has her own points of power. She is at the home, she controls the home, she has the kids; the kids are more affiliated to her. So, there are several ways in which she can turn a few handles. It’s not good for either of them. And what’s the root cause? The root cause is not man; the root cause is all-pervasive spiritual ignorance which is turning the man into a man and the woman into a woman; which is not allowing either of them to realize their conscious nature.

The woman is not supposed to be a woman. You have decked her up, turned her into a doll, and now one can’t even talk to her as a person; you have to talk to her as a woman. And if you talk to her as a person, the terrible thing is, the woman herself gets offended. She will say, 'You don’t know how to talk to a woman!' But I am talking to a person! And she says, 'You don’t know how to talk to a woman.'

Now, what is this? If you are so steeped in your identity as a woman, how will you ever transcend yourself? Same with men, obviously. You console a man; after a while the man starts feeling awkward. Men are not supposed to be consoled, you know. So, he will say, 'Okay, okay, I’m fine, I’m fine…' He is not fine, obviously. But he doesn’t want to be seen as a weakling. So, 'I’m fine.'

Q: So, women should not proclaim that chivalry is dead expecting the man to open the door and such things?

AP: I mean, why would you? You are just seriously contradicting yourself basically. The more women demand privileges for themselves, the more they are confining themselves to their womanhood. And if they are reinforcing their womanhood so much, then they are reinforcing their own prison. So, all these things, you know, reservations in buses or in trains—I mean, come on. We are grownups, right? 20:15 You look at the numbers in athletics or something—I mean, let’s look at the 100-meter sprint. Men do it, and what’s the Olympic record, world record? 9.7 seconds or something? How far behind are the women? Not very far behind. So, are modern, well-fed, well-bred, mature women really so physically weak that they require reserved seats in buses? That should not happen. And I am not saying that as a man; I am saying that as a well-wisher of all human beings, because if you are doing that, that’s bad for the woman and bad for the man; that’s bad for everybody.

I understand the situations in public buses; I know how people behave and all those things. We must have separate mechanisms to deal with cases of misbehavior or physical trespassing; we must have separate ways. But these things, you know, how does it honor a woman to say, 'This seat is for the elderly, the handicapped, and women'? How do women enjoy being bracketed with the elderly and the handicapped? And I’m talking of sturdy, strong women, you know; I’m talking of the modern girl. Why should she partake in this nonsense?

Q: Then what is the real criteria for evaluating whether the man and the woman are treating each other right?

AP: You know, who are you? Before you know whether you are being treated rightly, you should know who you are. Who are you? Are you a woman? Then you would try to be treated rightly in a womanly way. But if you are that suffering old consciousness we have been talking of, then you would want a man who elevates your consciousness. And the man would then seek a woman, or a man or anybody, even as a friend or as a teacher or as a companion or whatever, who helps raise and purify, refine his consciousness. Even if you are seeking a sexual partner, you would have some idea of or you’d give some weightage to the fact that what is this person going to do to your mind, to your consciousness.

That value system that your consciousness is far more valuable than the fact of your body or biology, that has not been driven into us. And that will not come naturally; that has to come through education, education provided by either the family or the institution. But they both are doing a dismal job; they both are doing a pathetic job, no doubt.

So, we are just, you know, hitting each other, killing each other, running amok. We are all being violent towards each other. It’s not that the woman is being exploited only by the man; the woman is being exploited also by the woman. And the man is exploiting the child; the woman is exploiting the child in some other way. It’s an entire network, an entire ecosystem in which all are exploiters because all are ignorant. And the root cause, again, is the absence of real education.

Q: Does pay parity between genders in this context have any kind of relevance?

AP: No, I’m not even talking of pay parity. In my organization there are women who get paid much more than men, men at similar positions, men of similar age. And there are times when they don’t get paid as much as the men. Now that you are saying it, it has never even occurred to me that I should look at gender before deciding on their paycheck. It depends on how well you have done; it depends on whether you have been true to your potential; it depends on so many things. The one thing it doesn’t depend on is your gender.

So, see, there are certain things obviously you have to take care of. If a girl is working till late in the night, obviously, given the social conditions, we’ll want to get her dropped back to her place, so that much the organization will ensure. Maybe if it’s a male, we won’t be that careful; we will say, 'Fine, pick up your vehicle and go on your own, and that’s all right. Even if you have to travel up to the next city, say forty kilometers, you will manage.'

So, in that sense, obviously we too are partisan; we are biased towards the women when it comes to providing physical security, and I think that’s quite fair. But when it comes to assessment on how they are doing, gender is very irrelevant, and gender should be irrelevant. The scary part here is, even the women want the gender to be relevant.

Q: Yeah. They are not outrightly saying it, but they are acting in a way or representing themselves in a way that shrieks from the rooftops that they are seeking that kind of treatment.

AP: 'I am a woman, so I deserve special consideration.' You won’t get it, not at the right places. If there is a place that is giving you special consideration as a woman, rest assured that it is also exploiting you, especially as a woman. Because the way our world is, the way the system of the capital is, there are no free lunches. So, if somebody is providing you certain special amenities or allowances, he would be extracting his pound of flesh somewhere at some time, rest assured.

But you know, that’s again a part of the training. The woman is supposed to feel that men would remain unreasonably and unduly chivalrous. They won’t. And because there is this expectation drilled into her mind since childhood, so she ends up making very, very bad career and relationship decisions. The man fully well knows how to ingratiate himself to the woman, how to make himself endearing to the woman; all those are set rules. He knows you do such a thing, this, that, and such and such trivial and childish stuff. You present that teddy bear, maybe not at an advanced age, but when you are in your late teens or in your early twenties, then all those things, they work.

So, you bring this and you pay her bills and certain things, and the woman ends up making a bad relationship decision, very bad relationship decision. And if kids sprout from that decision, that decision becomes practically irreversible. Now, what will she do? First of all, you are so prone to making a bad decision because you have been badly educated; then that decision is prone to becoming quickly irreversible. Now, will the woman remain caged or not?

Therefore, I have been repeatedly saying that spiritual education is doubly as important for girls as it is for boys. The boys can probably wait; maybe they can wait to receive hard knocks from life, and maybe they can get initiated even at the age of forty-five after they have gone through all the hardships and received the blows, and then they can come and say, 'You know, I have led a wasted life and now I want to know what the Upanishads and Vedanta and the saints have said.' So, it can begin for them at the age of forty-five. It cannot begin for a woman at the age of forty-five. If it doesn’t begin for her at fifteen, it will never begin. It will be so difficult, extremely difficult.

In the recently held camp, there were two women who were sitting out of the session venue because their kids were unmanageable. Think of it. One had traveled from Bangalore, the other one I don’t know from where; they had spent money, they had taken out time, and they were not attending the proceedings because they had kids to manage. And it was a very precious opportunity for them to attend the Advait Mahotsav. They had been waiting for it since long, and they would have taken leaves from their workspaces, done all kinds of arrangements. I can understand, and this is what happens.

So, even spiritual progress cannot happen when you have raised those kinds of liabilities. It’s a bad place to be in, you know. And she’ll stand in front and she’ll cry and say, 'I know what you are saying is right. I also know what I must rightfully do at this time. But what do I do with these two?'

Q: So, they actually never happened to come inside?

AP: They would have come inside. But you know, the sessions that we have, they are not of the kind where if you are doing this in-and-out thing you will still comprehend. So, if you miss out, you just miss out. You are either totally in or totally out. You cannot peep in for a while and get some percent of it; that’s not going to happen.

So, not that it is impossible at forty-five for a woman, but it’s very, very difficult, much more difficult than it is for a man. Even for a man it is very difficult. Now imagine the difficulty level for a woman.

Q: How do you unlearn, right? Because you have accumulated so much garbage.

AP: So much. And also, once you have been indoctrinated into thinking that the man is going to be the breadwinner and your function is to, again, make the bed, it becomes very difficult for you to be financially independent later on. You have never earned a penny all your life—how will you start earning at forty-five?

You know, the tragedy is, there are women who were earning till the age of twenty-eight, and then they give up on their jobs, and then at forty-five they realize the wreck their lives are, and now they want to resume their careers. It’s difficult. You have forgotten all the skills, technology has moved ahead, you have been left behind in all possible ways. So, you can still catch up, but obviously it’s difficult.

Spiritual education for girls must be supremely mandatory. And if one is parenting a girl child, one has to be so loving and so careful. It requires much more to raise an admirable girl than it requires to raise a decent boy. The role biology and society decides for these two is not at all right, not at all right.

After a while, one stops feeling that one is exploited; one gets acclimatized and one develops stakes in the status quo. So, now, even if there is an opportunity to change yourself, you don’t change. What’s worse, now, even if there is an opportunity to let your daughter change, you do not allow even your daughter to change. If a daughter is about to do something adventurous, off-track, it’s quite possible that the greater resistance comes not from the father but from the mother. One caged bird cannot envision another bird flying. So, the cycle just continues.

Q: But we need to tell the girls to hold on and just build that spiritual wealth that will sail them through, right?

AP: Spiritual wealth, not the kind of ideology that we are seeing in circulation these days. The ideology that we are seeing in circulation these days is just an extension of the past—you know, the thing that says that girls should be free to make their own choices and all that.

Now, why do I call it an extension of the past? In the past, choices for a girl were being made by somebody else, and that somebody else was a fool, so he was making all the wrong choices for the girl. Now, today the in-thing is, let the girl decide for herself and make her own choices, and the girl herself is a fool. So, you still have a fool deciding for the girl. Earlier the fool was sitting outside of the girl; today the fool is sitting in the girl’s mind. Nevertheless, it’s a fool deciding for her.

So, it’s not about who decides for you; it’s much more about you being in the right and the wise position to make decisions. If you do not know how to make decisions, autonomy in decision-making is just a curse, is it not? So, today we have in the current generation of teens and college going girls a lot of this radical thing: 'I’ll live life my own way, I decide for myself.'

Q: YOLO. 'You only live once.'

AP: Yeah. 'You only live once, my way or the highway' and such things. The thing is, you are still coming from the same center your grandmother was coming from—a center of ignorance. Your grandmother knew nothing; you too know nothing. It’s just that the exploiter in the grandmother’s case was a person other than the grandmother; today the situation is actually worse because the exploiter has entered the girl’s mind and is exploiting her from within, and she feels this is freedom.

You cannot have freedom without firstly becoming wise. Being unwise and arrogating freedom to yourself is disastrous.

So, there is this education in wisdom that is mandatory for every human being, and much more so for girls.

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