In a discourse in Kodaikanal in 1998, Swami laid out His views on women and their role in the family, in professions, in the country, and as spiritual aspirants. Here are a few excerpts from this landmark discourse:
Embodiments of Love!
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Bharat has always accorded a high place to women as the upholders of all social virtues. The very fact that in mentioning the names of the divine couples like Vishnu and Lakshmi, Siva and Parvathi, the name of the consort is given the first place as in Lakshmi Narayana, Uma Maheswara shows what importance Bharatiyas attached to women.
People generally speak of women as the weaker sex. Women cannot be considered as weak. The woman in charge of the home plays the main role in bringing good name and fame to the home. Not only in respect of individual homes, but also in the good name of the country and the world woman plays the main role. From ancient times, woman has been accorded a high place in the society.
The scriptures have ascribed seven virtues to women as a class: Sathya (truth), Prema (love), Dharma (righteousness), Santhi (peace), Sahana (tolerance), Ananda (bliss), Svanubhuti (spirituality).
The woman at home has been held in high esteem as 'Grihalakshmi', the goddess of prosperity of the home. It is the woman of the home who is behind the good reputation of the home. The woman is the embodiment of sacrifice. Though the male counterpart may also do sacrifice, it will be with selfish tinge while woman's sacrifice is absolutely selfless. Therefore, we should be proud of our women.
Because of the evil influence of modern education, people consider women as toys and tend to treat them as puppets. The women have very auspicious and noble qualities. But men consider them as cooks to be confined to the kitchen and the four walls of the house. What they forget is that women not only manage the affairs of the family but also look after the health and well-being of all the members of the household. Dharma can be made to occupy its position in society and restored to its pristine glory only by women. The Government has now started conferring the honorific titles of Padmashri, Padmabhushan, etc. to its chosen citizens. But women have had more respectable and valuable titles of Grihalakshmi (the goddess of prosperity of the home), Dharmapathni (devoted wife), Ardhangi (the better half) etc. They had these titles because of their good qualities and spirit of sacrifice.
Questions are raised like who will look after the home if women go to offices and who will teach her children if the mother goes to school to teach other children, and so on. Some say that though the woman goes to work to solve the financial problem, bigger problems may have to be confronted by her going to work. But, in the modern world, it is necessary for the women to share the burden of maintaining the family with their husbands and so the women should also pursue studies as much as possible and take up suitable jobs to share the burden of the family. It will smack of selfishness if the males prevent them from going to work for which they have acquired the requisite qualifications. Women can control the whole world by themselves by virtue of their inherent qualities of love and spirit of sacrifice (Prema Bhava and Thyaga Bhava).
Women devotees in Sai Movement are participating in large numbers enthusiastically in service activities such as helping the women of weaker sections to learn some useful trades like tailoring etc. so that they can earn some money for the family and also spend their time usefully. If such activities are taken up all over the country, the country will prosper. This sacred work is typical of the culture of our ancient country. Women are the heirs of our ancient culture. Culture means refinement. Women are the torch-bearers of refinement and they are toiling for the emancipation of the nation.
[Women] are not encouraged to show their ability. Even in the family, they have to face obstacles and confrontations. If women are given due recognition and encouragement, they will shine with brilliance in all fields and will serve the house, country and the entire world gloriously, contributing to the welfare of the entire humanity.
If man also follows the example of the woman to imbibe sacred and sacrificial qualities, the world will definitely improve. They say "Udhyogam Purusha Lakshanam" (a man is known by his job), as though only males can do jobs. It is a misnomer. Women are also doing all types of jobs equal to men. In fact, women work more sincerely and with dedication. Recently, Swami questioned a director of the Indian Telephone Industries when he came to see Swami about the percentage of women employed in the industry. He said 99% of the employees were women and added that women did ten times better work than men. They don't stop or step out till the allotted work is completed. They have the work culture better than men. It is nowhere stated in any sacred text that women should only cook and not do work like men.
As a matter of fact, even man has to learn cooking and housekeeping to help his wife in times of need. Awareness is life. Awareness means total knowledge and not partial knowledge. This enthusiasm is full in women. Even men should make effort to learn everything. Women have hidden power immanent in them. You have to encourage them to exhibit their talents.
Generally, the term Purusha is taken to mean only males, basing on physical form. It is not true. The term Purusha represents the Atma [Soul] or Chaitanya [Consciousness] in all, which is in the body from top to toe. One who realizes divinity is Purusha.
God has no distinctions. You should also practice this principle of equality. God is one and everyone in this world has an equal right to enjoy His Grace.
April 19, 1998