Thursday, January 24, 2013
Today I have a choice. To face something head on or not to. What I mean by this is am I going to address the fact that Arjuna is speaking about women become polluted and degraded due to irreligion? I am. I'm going to face this head on because it brings up a very important point which has nothing to do with men, women or degradation but about context.
Context is so important and something most of us fail to consider unless we ourselves are taken out of context and portrayed in an unfair way. So many things are taken out of context and none more so than the concepts and principles that are associated with religion and spirituality. This is why one of the key, key KEY (have I reiterated it enough times?!) messages of the Gita is the necessity to inquire and hear from authorized and self-realized bhakti yogis.
Now by no means am I proclaiming to be such an advanced individual, but I can say that I have learned from and am trying to follow in the footsteps of several such esteemed personalities. So my qualification is one of trying to be a transparent conductor of knowledge that others have spent years studying and realizing.
See bhakti is not like a do-it-yourself manual where all you need are the instructions and you're left on your own to figure it out. Bhakti requires teachers, friends, mentors, well-wishers and so much more. Essentially, the practice of bhakti yoga requires a community. There are things that you can learn on your own but most lessons require personal guidance, clarification and role models. This is essential to not only following bhakti yoga properly but to understanding it with your heart and not just your mind. What I mean by that is you're not left only understanding it theoretically but realizing it practically.
So in the case of this verse it is important to understand context. Sometimes I hear newcomers or even those who have not had a chance to study bhakti texts ask, "What is the position of women in bhakti?" Sometimes reading such verses and only understanding them superficially can turn people away.
Now this verse can be analyzed on two levels - the material and the spiritual. On the material level, which, let's face it, most of us are on, the question of the role of women may be important to many. On this level, this verse is saying that the role of women is of paramount importance in society. Surprised? It's true. Just like a king in his kingdom should be loved and protected from all negative influences, similarly women should be loved, protected, cherished and held in the highest esteem. And who are those people who should be treating women this way? Other women for sure, but even more importantly, men. When men treat women as objects this can cause so many issues. We see it in our own society today. I can only imagine the dread that parents feel the first time they have to explain the wild promiscuity and portrayal of women as sexual objects in the media and the entertainment industry today. It's so unfortunate.
On the spiritual level, whether male or female, it is irrelevant. The soul, that eternal spark which is in all of us, is the most important thing. And if one realizes that, then any reference to any designation, whether it be male, female, cat, dog, whale, elephant, bug, Chinese, Swiss, Conservative, Liberal etc., is of little value. It's just an exterior shell that is carrying that which is most important- the soul. If that is the case, then every single living being should treat the other with respect and once again, that promotes equality. There is no higher or lower. All souls are equally dear to God.
So what does this mean? This verse is a call out to all of society to say, "Wake up!" We all have our roles to play and we need to acknowledge them and work cooperatively. Although ultimately our spiritual role of re-establishing our loving relationship with God is the most important, bhakti yoga does not promote neglecting our material roles of being a member of society, a daughter, son, mother, father etc. The true practice of bhakti should actually inspire us to become better members and contributors to society due to realizing we are all the sons and daughters of God.
Comments and questions are always welcome! Thank you so much for reading!