Swami Vivekananda, the young dynamic monk of 19th century India, was proud to belong to a civilization with a long tradition of respecting womanhood. Influenced by the culture of India, he regarded women as the embodiment of Divine Mother and taught the world to respect the ideal of motherhood in every women.
Swami Vivekananda faced prejudice in America on several issues of Indian culture — one of the main issue was the Indian woman. Naturally he sought to correct Western misconceptions. He gave lectures, discourses and quoted ancient Hindu texts to clear the misconceptions of the people. There was no greater advocate for improving the life of Indian women than Swamiji. The views of Swami Vivekananda on women were fascinating. Let us take a glimpse on his beliefs and views which can surely change the society.
Women Rights & Swami Vivekananda
Nowadays there are protests, programs related to women rights and women freedom. Swamiji almost one-hundred and twenty years back, spoke about the freedom of women from all types of bondages. He said the women must be educated and they themselves must say about the reforms needed. The exact quote what Swamiji said was, ” Educate your women first and leave them to themselves; then they will tell you what reforms are necessary for them. In matters concerning them, who are you? “. He had firm belief that women have the determination and power to achieve their destiny. If presently, we follow his ideals regarding the women, I strongly believe, women in India will again secure their rights and achieve the goals without any type of bondages. He viewed Men and Women equally. Discrimination on the basis of gender was not his ideal, and such rich ideals, shall surely help us, all Indians irrespective of religion, caste or creed to see our girls and women shining bright, achieving the destiny and proving the world, that Women are not inferior than Men.
Swamiji also said, ” Women will work out their own destinies — much better, too, than men can ever do for them. All the mischief to women has come because men undertook to shape the destiny of women “. Men must not think to shape the destiny of women. According to him, we must never think that there are men and women, but there are human beings. Men and Women are the two wings of a bird. Mankind cannot flourish without each other. Only Man cannot change the world, and similarly only Women cannot change the world alone. It is we both, Men and Women, who can change the world and make it a better place to live in.
Interference of Men about women problems was not supported by Swami Vivekananda. He wanted such a society where women would be put to such a position that they solve their own problems. One of his speech says, ”Our right of interference is limited entirely to giving education. Women must be put in a position to solve their own problems in their own way. No one can or ought to do this for them. And our Indian women are capable of doing it as any in the world“.
He believed women must be educated as they mould the future generation. These outstanding thoughts really have the power to change the Nation. The Youths of today, must be inspired by such ideals to transform the society and benefit the whole world. Youths must come forward, spread his doctrines or ideals whatever you may say, to attract more people towards his vision.
According to Swami Vivekananda, Sita is typical India — the idealized India. Swamiji assured that if world literature of past and future are thoroughly exhausted, it will be impossible to find another Sita, because Sita is unique. He said, ” All our mythology may vanish, even our Vedas may depart, and our Sanskrit language may vanish for ever, but so long as there will be five Hindus living here, even if only seeking the most vulgar patois, there will be the story of Sita present “.
Feminism & Swami Vivekananda
Now let us briefly relate the views of Swami Vivekananda with Feminism. Feminism means the social movement for the social, economic and political right of the women. It aims in equality of sexes. It believes in equal opportunities of the Man and Woman which Swamiji too wanted. It also speaks about the women freedom from bondages. Till here we don’t see any rift with Swamiji’s ideals of a equal society of Man and Woman, with Woman getting freedom from bondage and shape their own destiny.
But, pseudo-feminism is totally against the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda. Swami Vivekananda never said that Women deserve more respect and others don’t. He believed Man and Woman both deserve equal and nobody is inferior. As said earlier, he believed that Man and Woman are two wings of a bird, and world cannot progress without each other. It is a Fact, that pseudo-feminism harms the society more than doing any good.
Then comes another group of feminists like — Marxist feminists, radical feminists and liberal feminists. They believe that, wearing revealing clothes, smoking, drinking, breaking all bonds of family, not following our culture and traditions, disrespecting elders and leading selfish lives is feminism and freedom. We think having access to money, education, legal access etc makes us free. What we have FAILED to understand is that Indian society is duty bound, relationship bound, human interaction bound whereas western society is individual oriented, rights driven and contract oriented. This is where the difference is between the thoughts or philosophy of Swami Vivekananda and Marxist or Radical or Liberal Feminism.
Motherhood & Swami Vivekananda
According to Swami Vivekananda, ” The position of Mother is the highest in the world, as it is the one place in which, to learn and exercise the greatest Unselfishness “. He continued, ” The love of God is the only love that is higher than a mother’s love; all others are lower “.
Swami Vivekananda believed that a Woman is blessed who looks upon her husband as fatherhood of God, and blessed is the Man who looks upon women as the motherhood of God. This again indicates, that the ideals of Swami Vivekananda on Men and Women were not unequal. For him, both Man and Woman are divine. One represents fatherhood and the other represents motherhood respectively.
According to Swamiji, the ideal of womanhood in India is motherhood — that marvelous, unselfish, all-suffering, ever-forgiving mother. Vivekananda felt, in India there are two great evils – trampling on the women and grinding through the poor through caste restrictions.
He also firmly believed – Women are not Playthings.
Besides, he has also said, ”No man should scold his wife and he must always maintain her as if she were his own mother. And even when he is in the greatest difficulties and troubles, he must not show anger to his wife“. Continuing on the same subject,” He who thinks of another woman besides his wife, if he touches her even with his mind — that man goes to dark hell“.
Women are our pride. We must follow the vibrant ideals of Swami Vivekananda, and remove all bondage on women, and let them reach the greatest heights and work out their own destinies. The youths of India, must look upon every women like our Mother. Men and Women both are divine for us, and we can change the society, by spreading the ideals of Swamiji and following them with true determination and commitment. We must Arise, Awake and stop not until we reach the goal of shaping the society on the path of Swami Vivekananda.