Once, at the main gate to Brindavan, Krishna said to the watchman, "See that no woman enters into Brindavan.'' Subsequently, when Radha came she was refused entry by the watchman. When she told him Brindavan belongs to all, he replied that women were not permitted entry. She asked him what he was, and he replied that he was a man. Radha challenged him by saying that there is no man; all are women only. God is the only male; all the created ones are Prakriti or children of the earth. In the drama of life, the world is a stage, where some don male costumes and others female.
Pope Francis made a statement recently, where he told men to be less macho and listen more to women. Why did he make this statement? Was he underlining the truth of basic man-woman equality, and hinting that the world needs to ''listen more to women'' to balance itself, with more feminine energy?
Indic scriptures accord a venerable status to women. They state that feminine energy is distinctive, because it is powerful, yet tempered with virtue. The feminine, according to our culture, is the embodiment of 'shakti' - the primal source of all energy and manifestation. If the feminine represents shakti, she is also the repository of buddhi (wisdom), karuna (compassion) and tyaga (sacrifice). And, most importantly, as 'mother', the feminine principle supremely embodies nurturing and caring instincts.
In the history of the world, the woman of the species, has exhibited, inspite of many constraints, an amazing versatility in her varied roles. Women customarily display an atmic (soul) strength and wisdom, that goes beyond the ordinary.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba says,
Women are more intelligent than men. Men use their discriminative ability only to do their jobs, but women can discriminate and deal with any work according to the situation ... people call women weak. Do not believe it. Women are the makers of the home, the nation and the world. They have a crucial role in individual and social uplift. There is nothing in this world that women cannot achieve. They have to be educated in a well-planned manner, and given equal opportunities in society, to equip them for the great responsibility that rests upon them ... However, woman is not meant to surpass man, nor to be trampled underfoot ... She stands as his equal.
The Bhagawad Gita states that women are equipped with seven strengths, whereas men are equipped with only three. However, the reason why women have traditionally taken a backseat is because they are primarily programmed to be homemakers, whereas men are the breadwinners. The women have labored in the home and the man outside. The only difference being, labor outside the house is recompensed monetarily, and labor in the house is not - being a labor of love. However, in contemporary times, women have proved that they can double-task brilliantly and be, mothers, and work efficiently in offices too. Not only that, they have shown that they are capable in any workplace task or profession that was previously considered a man's domain only.
If men and women are equal in essence and equal to all the modern day challenges, in society and home, what is the edge that women have, in today's context? It is, their basic qualities of compassion, of mutual cooperation, tolerance and sacrifice. These virtues are abundant in the feminine psyche and not so evident in the male. This is where macho comes in - the male machismo - which is mistakenly believed to be synonymous with manhood. Battles and wars in history have been waged on grounds of ego, dressed up in another garb. What the world needs to survive, is not more male machismo, but feminine energy, intelligent and balanced that can restore order and harmony.
Another area of women's strength is in their spirituality. Their spiritual aspect makes women more reverent, humble, serene and accommodating. They customarily employ an innate wisdom, honed over ages of handling and balancing multiple relationships, as daughter, daughter-in-law, wife, and mother. Their impulse is towards making, not breaking. Their natural tendency is towards rapprochement, not conflict. This feminine energy, that inclines toward preservation, restoration, and healing, is verily the base of creation. Maybe, the time has come, to expand the base of this energy, for a better, more peaceful and balanced world.
A version of this article appeared in Times of India in Feb 2015.