The Woman as Guru: Words of Silence
By Abhaya Mudra Dasi
There has been a discussion in circles of devotees regarding whether a woman can be a guru. Women are not famous for expressing themselves. They usually find it more convenient to reflect the ideas of their counterparts or their environment. They do not like to be disturbed by extraneous complications while performing their duties. For this sort of non-participation and offering half answers the world accuses them of double talk. So what would the energies of the Lord, which are all female, really say if they had time to talk on the guru issue? Although their position is ultimately silent, women do have an undeniable presence in the life of everyone.
Can the right of women to give birth be denied? Since time immemorial women have been mothers and they will continue to be mothers in the future. Although a minority of women may have not volunteered for motherhood, most of them have felt or will feel a great desire to have a baby. Nobody ever wanted you so much as your mother. She is the one that gave you your precious body which, according to Shrimad Bhagavatam, is your key to self-realization:
‘‘From the womb of Matrika, the wife of Aryama, were born many learned scholars. Among them Lord Brahma created the human species, which are endowed with an aptitude for self-examination.” (SB 6.6.42)
Now in this life we are supposed to become spiritually aware. How much do you understand this? Are you convinced of the truth of this statement? Whoever uses the resources of the Earth, who eats the food produced of Mother Earth and who drinks the milk of mother cow without acknowledging his debt is nothing more than a hypocrite. Those who refuse to acknowledge the value of this body given and nourished through the sacrifice of so many mothers should quit his body at once.
The word Rama means ‘‘the reservoir of all pleasures,” and the final syllable ma means ‘‘reservoir”. Our mother, our maas, represents different reservoirs of the Supreme Lord. Each one of your mothers—your natural mother, Mother Earth, mother cow—are essentially Shri Krishna’s energies. Anyone who takes advantage of the energies of the Supreme Lord should pay tribute to his mother. So how much do we owe our mothers? Just as women are silent, so it is the law of karma. We may be surprised to discover how much we owe later. Shrila Prabhupada says,
‘‘The Shrimad Bhagavatam lists seven mothers: our own mother, the wife of our teacher or spiritual master, the wife of a brāhmana, the wife of the king, the nurse, the cow, and the earth. We are indebted to all seven of these mothers.” From: A Second Chance
Even though the service of the mother appears to be mandatory and she performs it uncomplainingly; a mother cannot abandon her duties once she has undertaken them. But that does not mean the silence of the mother should be taken as an invitation to exploit her selflessness. Today in our world exploitation of resources is approaching its final crescendo. Civilization is on the brink and the world must make some crucial choices. Should society continue the dark road deeper into the depths of ignorance by killing its mothers—exploiting the earth, slaughtering the innocent cows, and destroying the family unit—then very soon there will be severe karmic retributions. It is now or never—the world must become Krishna conscious.
Rampant destruction of the resources that maintain us means killing our very selves because we still have material bodies. This body as well as all the resources it depends on is meant for the service of Shri Krishna. That means paying obeisances to all of the energies of the Supreme Lord. This is our ticket to liberation. Shri Krishna is not pleased when we abuse our mothers just as the Lord killed Kamsa to avenge the demon’s persecution of His parents. In Shrimad Bhagavatam 10.44.37-8 we find:
‘‘Grabbing Kamsa by the hair and knocking off his crown, the lotus-naveled Lord threw him off the elevated dais onto the wrestling mat. Then the independent Lord, the support of the entire universe, threw Himself upon the King. As a lion drags a dead elephant, the Lord then dragged Kamsa’s dead body along the ground in full view of everyone present. O King, all the people in the arena tumultuously cried out, ‘Oh! Oh!’”
Although he was killed personally by Shri Krishna and received impersonal liberation, Kamsa did not achieve a personal relationship with the Lord. For the devotee seeking the Lord’s eternal shelter through devotional service, the offer of liberation is unattractive.
Like a silent mother, the energies of the Lord may not be heard to say just how much they have been exploited by hypocrites. And in a like fashion, there are hardly any women who are writers or artists who contribute anything to the world of expression. The Earth may appear not to protest when she is drilled for oil or her oceans and rivers used as dumps for poisonous substances. The mother cow seems to not protest when her children are stolen from her for veal or her milk runs dry and she is sent for slaughter.” A mother will not protest when a child abuses her. In this way a mother’s tolerance is considered a form of stupidity by the arrogant. Sometimes a simpleton is called a ‘‘dumb cow” by those who do not understand the silent forebearance of the worshipful gomata.
Mothers do not protest their service, but rather they find pleasure in their duties. Mothers are engaged in maintaining all living entities. From preparing the daily meal to providing milk to nurture a newborn’s body, women sustain life. And the more the living entities exploit their mothers the more the value of mothers’ resources becomes depreciated. Today women are no longer called mothers. Left unprotected by ravenous men, they are exploited by their own families, ill-treated in their places of worship, abused at their workplaces and some are even harmed by their husbands. And for that they must tolerate being called names other than mother, names that are too vulgar to repeat. In this way the world has forgotten its position through its obsessive exploitation of Shri Krishna’s energies. And by failing to acknowledge the Lord’s representatives, the devotees bearing the message of Shri Krishna sankirtana, an unrepentent world risks dooming itself through its failure to acknowledge its obligation to the Lord.
We must not forget that the first guru of anything born in this world is that entity’s mother. It is the mother who teaches us how to walk, how to talk, how to be independent. A mother walks the path of death when she gives birth. How glorious became King Yayati when he offered his flesh to a mere pigeon in order to save its life! And how much more glorious is one’s mother who gives a part of her body for her child? She sacrifices some of herself so that another may live and grow. In the beginning of life, we are no different from pigeons; mere babies without a name or past history. As common as a mother’s sacrifice is, it is no less glorious than King Yayati.
There is no need to officially declare that a woman should be a guru because that is her original position as mother. When you have called a woman “mother” or “Matajee” you have accepted her as your guru and as a representative of the nourishing energy of the Supreme Lord. By trying to fathom the many meanings that are contained within the word “mother,” we can understand a little of the mother’s sacrifice (and how she is connectd to the resources of the energy of the Supreme Lord). There is no need for futile wrangling, vainglorious discussions or hot tempered arguments whether women should be gurus or not. It is as senseless as arguing whether women should give birth or not. It is better to learn how to respect the mothers of the world and that is the last word. In that way the curse of Mother Durga in the form of karma that is silently waiting will not visit us.
Have you ever wondered why karma is nearly impossible to explain? Why do we suffer? What hidden deeds you we performed? The source of action is very difficult to pin down because it is lost in the smoky mists of a very dim past. But now by the grace of Shri Krishna’s pure devotee we can understand our situations. We have failed to respect the energies of Shri Krishna properly and to engage them in His eternal devotional service.
As Chanakya Pandit advises,
ka chinta mamajivane harir vishvambharo gayate
na ched arbhaka-jivanaya jana-nestanya katha nirmame
itity alochya muhur muhur yadupate lakshmipate kevala
tvat-padambhua-sevanena satata kalo maya nayate
Why should I be concerned for my maintenance while absorbed in praising the glories of Lord Vishvambhara, the supporter of all? Without the grace of Lord Hari, how could milk flow from a mother’s breast for the nourishment of her child? Repeatedly thinking only in this way, O Yadupati, O Lakshmipati, all my time is spent in the service of Your lotus feet. (Shri Chanakya Niti Shastra 10.17)
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