Vedic Equal Rights and Women’s Education

The husband and wife are 100% equal at the time of conception of a child because it takes both of them equally to create a child. To conceive a child it’s completely 50/50, there is a complete equality at that time. So the whole idea in the Vedic culture, because we don’t want to encourage sense gratification, therefore if you separate the husband and wife that one is senior to the other, to some degree, just a little bit, even if it’s slight, it throws it off that platform. And you can’t get the sensual platform. Then you can have planned conception of a child which Krishna recommends in the Gita. He recommends that conceiving children according to religious principles, this is Him, this is dharma. While if you work just according to Kandarpa, or Cupid, or lust, then that’s not considered. He says, ‘I am the power behind that, but the act of conception I have nothing to do with.’

So therefore you keep that little bit of balance, and it keeps that out of sense gratification. So therefore the wife can practice religious principles and become strong in those and protect the husband from sense gratification, and the husband can become strong because he is not constantly being physically attracted by the wife, and he can guide the family in a proper spiritual way. Then it works.

So we see, simple little thing like that has so much import behind it, which we can understand in relationship to the sadhana and to the philosophy. Then it becomes nice. And in that, of course, that means, if you put it like that, where the wife is submissive to the husband, that means, the husband has to protect and take care of the wife, he can’t ignore her. Problem is is that we just see it as who is in control. It’s not in who is in control, just who is leading. And who is leading, their duty is to take care of those who are following. So that means you must, shelter means, you must take care of their needs emotionally, spiritually, sensually.

So Prabhupada mentions in the Bhagavatam, therefore the brahmachari is trained in how to be strict in his vows of brahmacharya and how to take care of the needs of the wife. This, of course, is for the upakurvana-brahmachari, not the naishtika. But that brahmachari who has plans to get married, he is trained nicely in the sadhana, but also trained properly how you have a wife, she is a person, she has needs, emotions, all these different desires, you have to take care of that. You have to be sensitive. It’s not that marriage means, ‘I come home, like that, sit down and do some reading while the wife makes all kinds of things, come out, eat, like this and that, exchange a few pleasantries and then do something else and then that’s it.’ Wife wants to discuss things, has so many different things, all that has to be taken care of. Needs are there, one has to be sensitive in these things, one can’t be insensitive.

So because we haven’t been trained, then the men haven’t given the protection, so then it makes it very hard for the women to also be submissive to that because the whole parampara was broken, either in our own attempts, or our own families we have grown up in. The parents didn’t properly shelter us, the father did not have a good relationship with the daughter therefore she doesn’t have proper trust. If you can’t trust your own father, if the daughter can’t trust that her father has good affection, relationship, takes care, he is always seeing to her welfare, how is she going to trust any other man on the planet? If your own father doesn’t do why should anyone else? So then naturally then that girl will find it very intellectual to the platform that ‘I have to be submissive to the husband’ because she did not experience that as a child, so it’s not natural. So she can do it because she is a devotee. She has come for spiritual life, but it will still be very intellectual. And if the husband reciprocates and he does shelter and take care then she will agree and say, ‘Yes, it works. What is necessary, what is needed, what I desire is being taken care of. I feel comfortable.’ But if it’s not then it becomes, ‘Well, this is just philosophy, this is just theory. Okay, it worked 5,000 years ago or 500 years ago with Lord Caitanya, but it doesn’t work today.’ So that’s because we are not practicing it properly, it’s not that there is any problem with the theory or with the application, it’s just we have to do it properly with understanding. Then it works very, very nicely. So maybe we should stop here, and if there is any questions, or comments, or you want to throw me out for all the ridiculous things we said? [Laughter] Yes?

Mataji: I have a question. Where does Gurukula fit… [indistinct]

HH BVPS Maharaja: That’s the teacher. That will be like the first teacher. So in the Vedic sense, the Gurukula, it was the Guru.

[break in recording]

Because you are dealing with great intensity. So the only thing that can reduce it, it’s not the child’s side, it’s the mother’s side. In other words, if the mother hasn’t received that intensity of protection and shelter then she will find 5 years not very long to do anything. But I have seen in the Indian families, the kid at four… I have seen small girls of 4 years old, they are able to take care of their little brother, little sister who is 2 years old practically like their mother. They are crying, they can go to them, they can pick them up, put them on their hip, even though the baby is about as big as them, carry them around, do different things with them and they can act, I have seen, not a problem. And these 4 year old girls, they have, I would say, the maturity of… Practically the maturity of a married Western girl, like that, practically.

Mataji: What about [indistinct]

HH BVPS Maharaja: That’s also at that time. You see, the daughters generally we would see, they would be staying at the home. And if they go to school, they would go to dayschool. Though it is mentioned in the scriptures that the girls can go to a Gurukula and ashrama situation, but generally it would be an ashrama that is run by their own father or a relative. Like that, that’s the tradition. And that would be for girls who are very philosophically inclined. Means, if girls aren’t philosophically inclined, they are more into like the home situation, they wouldn’t go to such, they wouldn’t live in such a situation.

Mataji: So is it not natural to have girl ashramas?

HH BVPS Maharaja: It depends. I am saying, for brahminical girls, where the atmosphere in that ashrama is exactly the same as in their own home, but the thrust, instead of being the home skills, is more academic along with the home skills, then it can work, then it’s not unnatural. The dharma-shastras mention that. Means, the girls can go and learn practically all the things that the boys are learning, up to the age of puberty. And then once they hit puberty, then they will naturally want to switch into more practical skills, though they may continue in academic studies, but generally that will be in the home with tutors. Like we see Kunti, Kunti was very educated, very educated because she had very good tutors. Like that. I think Kunti came from… No, Madri came from Madras, Kunti, where did she come from? I don’t remember where Kunti comes from…

So we see, many times in the Vedic literatures, so many of these queens and the brahmana girls are very educated. But they would learn, they would hear their father speaking on the philosophy… If they had the interest, instead of just always hanging out in the kitchen, when there is nothing happening in the house they would go out and listen to the philosophy, they would hear the classes, you know, these kind of things, so they would be very knowledgeable. They would know Sanskrit, they would know everything. But that’s just that girl, that kind of girl. And if they weren’t they would generally get into other practical areas.

Like queens, how to manage the house. I mean, Devaki has 2,000 maidservants. That’s big management, to manage 2,000 maidservants, I mean, you have to organize and keep a whole palace. Means, the palace is being maintained by those girls, that’s the inner palace, not the outer palace where the men are, these are the inner palace where she lives. Where she lives is so big that it takes 2,000 of them to maintain it, right? So you can imagine, it’s, we are talking, that’s big time management. So they know how to do that. They also know politics, they also know these things because they have to… Like we see with Kaikeyi, she also knew politics, she used it to disadvantage, but she knew how to use them.

They know how to act in all the ceremonies, it means they know the ceremonies. When Prabhupada says, ‘The girls should be trained in cleanliness,’ that doesn’t just mean sweeping, that’s the external cleanliness. They also know all the internal cleanliness, how to keep the mind clean, all the subtle purifications, like the acamana and all these different things. We see the gopis, after the Trnavarta demon, then they got Krishna and they were purifying Him and sprinkling Him with dust from the hooves of the cows and cow tails, and chanting mantras and all these things, so that’s also part of cleanliness.

See, is that Western cleanliness means, physically it’s clean. It doesn’t have to be pure. Just like a cat in the West is called clean, though it’s completely impure because it licked itself clean. You don’t see any dirt. If I eat and I lick my fingers off and wipe them on my blue jeans, my hand is clean according to Western calculation, but it’s not pure. So the whole thing is is the external cleanliness of the place, of the body, of the Lord, the Deities, and the internal cleanliness of the mind, the consciousness, these aspects, and how to use subtle purifications, how to purify something with water and mantra, all these things, how to do acamana, these are all known by the women, and they teach it to the kids. I have seen myself – so many times we have life members come to sit in on a yajna. The men don’t know beans what’s going on about acamana, the wife has to tell them. The mother tells the kids and tells the husband, ‘Do acamana now. Oh, you touched this, wash your hands again.’ I have seen. Because they know, this is religion. So that’s why the women are called dharma-patni, they know these things.

So if that is your intention and purpose… So that’s why in the Vedic culture the women were protected because then they had, depending upon the child, basically, ideally five years, but up to eight years they had to train the child in what they had to give them. So that means, you have to spend the time. But nowadays you see the modern culture, the women have their own priorities, so therefore they don’t have the time with the kids. It’s like, ‘Oh, why should I sit home with the kid? Why don’t you change the diapers for once?’ Father can do that because the point is is, the mood of the mother is you take care physically, emotionally, a man can also do that. But the thing is is, it’s very much the nature of the woman to do that, it fits perfectly her own nature, so she takes that time, she is happy that the husband is going out and working like an ass, and she can sit at home and train the kids. They were foolish to think, ‘Well, I’ll also go out like an ass and hire a babysitter to take care of the kids.’ So that means the kid is loosing out. We may get what we want, but the child won’t get what they need. And then they won’t be able to give what is needed to their children, and in this way then the parampara goes on. So therefore in the Vedic culture the idea was is, the husband and wife worked together to create the family situation, the emotional support, train the children, when the children are grown up then they move into vanaprastha, then they get into all their heavy… Whatever they wanted to do in the way of sadhana, travelling, preaching, all these things, they’ve done their bit, and they’ve satisfied all those emotional needs and now they are able to leave those.

Because otherwise, if we just… Means, it’s a matter of intensity. Means, like let’s say you want to write a paper. So you can either sit down for 5 hours straight and write it. Or you can sit down for 2 weeks and work half an hour, one hour a day and come up with something. Now, of the two, which will have a better quality? The one that you sometimes when you had a little time you sat down and then you get distracted and run off, or where you just sit down and meditate on that, and that’s your full concentration is that thing?

So the whole idea was is in 20-25 years you finish off all your own material desires and emotional needs, and you train the children to take over and keep the culture going, and then you just drop it. Or, as we have today, 50-year old men and women getting married for the 2nd time, 3rd time, 5th time, 6th time because they have not done it. They do a little here, a little there, a little here, a little there. And they are having children when they are 50 years old. Now, minimum, according to the GBC rule, if a man wants to take sannyasa, children must be of age. That means, 18 years, at 68 he can get out. So a Westerner who has been through the regular mill that the Westerners have been through, what are you physically like at 68? Are you a dynamic physical athlete and all that? Or you are a wreck? Generally in the West if you live that long you are doing pretty good. Indians, because they follow some sadhana and some things, 70 years old they are in a pretty good shape, they don’t really start to go down until their late 70s, and even then they can function. It’s not till they hit kind-of like their late 80s or 90s, then they are like finished.

So we have to understand, it’s dangerous. And the reason is is because we are not fully doing it. We become grihasthas, we do not fully do it. And the only way to really fully do it is to follow the Vedic principles, otherwise we see the Westerners aren’t getting any advantage of it, how are we? All the difference between us as grihasthas if we follow the Western thing is, okay, we don’t eat Mac double cheesebourgers, but we eat vegetarian foodstuffs. We don’t watch, necessarily, though a lot do, heavy karmi films and this and that, and television is the main entertainment in the house, we may also chant and go to the temple and these kind-of things. Instead of having karmi pictures on the wall you put devotional pictures on the wall. But otherwise the lifestyle is the same. We have the same rugs on the floor, the same furnitures, the same kind of kitchens, the same bedrooms, we wear the same karmi clothes, everything. So therefore, it did not work for the karmis, we became a devotee, why is it going to work for us just because we took out the sinful activity, or at least part of them, the gross ones? You know, generally, at least we take out the meat eating, at least we take out the drugs, and illicit sex, maybe, maybe not. Movies and karmi literatures – maybe, maybe not. So how are we going to get that much of a dynamically better result than the karmis? So therefore Prabhupada is recommending Varnashrama.

(From His Holiness Bhaktividya Purna Svami Maharaja’s Seminar on Varnashrama and Social development, 11th Mar 1998, Sridham Mayapur)

Lecture audio, this section starting at 46:35

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