Written by Sri Swami Chandrashekarendra
When the marriage of girls got delayed and they had to stay at home
doing nothing, the parents wondered why their daughters should not
study, go to work and start earning. The money would also come in handy
when the girls were to be married. Thus started the practice of women
going to work. At first the parents felt a little embarrassment or a
of shame about doing something they thought to be improper, that is
depending on the daughter's own earnings for her marriage expenses.
They were also worried and fearful about the girls being exposed to
various risks and temptations. But, in due course, this worry and fear
vanished. Also the parents came to think that there was no need to feel
awkward about their daughters going to work.
According to the Puranas, even royal sages like Janaka were worried that
their daughters stayed at home without being married. They felt so
uncomfortable as if they were carrying fire inside them. At first we
sheepish that our women went to work. But, by and by, we learned to
accept it. Now we take it as an advance, a step forward in our
Parents have thrown all sense of responsibility to the winds and are not
worried in the least about their daughters going out to work and,
they take pride in it. Our dharma has sunk to such low depths. Working
girls come to me blessings for promotion in their office. Turning a
eye to everything- seeing and not seeing- I have earned the name of
being a good Svamiyar.
"That women are receiving higher education and are working is a great
step forward", proclaim the reformists. "A great injustice done to them
the past has been undone," they add. My own view is that no injustice
was ever done to women in the past and I would go to the extent of
saying that, if at all any injustice was done, it was to men. You may be
amused by this remark. Let me explain. A male, after his
graduates to the stage of the householder. He has now to
perform many duties and rituals like aupasana and a number of other
samskaras with the ultimate object of finding release from worldly
existence. A woman attains the same goal by dedicating herself to her
husband and to do so is to go beyond all the samskaras performed by a
man. Though reformists think this to be an injustice done to women, to
me it appears that the sastras favour women more than they do men. I
tell you why. How does a man realise himself? He has to perform many
religious works; he has to learn the Truth and feel it inwardly through
nididhyasana. In this way alone does he erase his mind.
A pativrata does not need such difficult sadhana, such ardent and
practice, to reach the same goal and all she has to do is to surrender
her husband. By respecting the wishes of her husband such a wife
obliterates not only her own wishes, but all feelings of honour and
dishonour and all ego-sense. In this way she comes close to stilling her
mind. When the mind is utterly dedicated to another person in and
attitude of surrender, should it not be close to being blotted out? Is
any "promotion" for a woman higher than this?
A woman exalted by inner purity occupies a position far higher than
another who earns a promotion in her office. This is how many a woman
in the history of this land won powers far greater than those earned
by the sages. According to Tiruvalluvar, if such a woman says, "Let
be rain", it will rain, it must rain. If she says to the sun, "Don't
rise", it will
not rise. Such a woman can retrieve her husband from Yama. Our sastras,
our traditions, give these women a place more elevated than that
accorded to any sage or deity. We see from Puranas that a woman of
lofty character can transform even gods into little children by
water on them. Our religious texts speak about how a woman may rise to
true heights of glory and how she is enshrined in a temple and
worshipped. They do not ever condemn her to an inferior position. It
seems to me that it is the reformists who do so by preventing her from
rising to the heights of glory.
If marriage is one of the many samskaras to render a man pure, for a
woman it is the single samskara that gives her the ultimate fruits of
samskaras. Now the essence of this samskara is cast away and what
remains, the refuse, is retained. Marriage and the householder's stage
life are not meant for carnal pleasure alone. They constitute a path for
liberation. If this truth is understood people will appreciate that the
assigned to women by the sastras is just and proper.
Few seem to have realised the undesirable economic consequences of
women going to work. I am referring to the unemployment problem.
Until some years ago parents had this excuse for their daughters going
work: "Let her work till she gets married. Otherwise she will have to
at home brooding over things and being sorry for herself. Going to work
will be a way of spending time. Besides, the girl's earnings will come
handy for the dowry and other expenses of marriage." The idea then was
to let the daughter work until her marriage and then ask her to resign
job. The groom and his people thought it demeaning for the bride to
work after the marriage.
This attitude changed not before long. How? During the past one century
or so, the Brahmin community has developed an increasing appetite for
money. Owing to this greed that grew with the years, girls going to work
even after their marriage became a more widely accepted practice. The
result is that the noble duties of motherhood like child care are
neglected. It is the same as in Western countries and there is no warmth
and sincerity governing relationships involving parents and children and
other family members.
On the economic front too the phenomenon of more and more women
working has had an undesirable consequence. These days hundreds of
young men are unemployed. At the same time, in some families both
husband and wife work and earn. If the husband alone worked, the wife'
s job would go to a young man who is without work. Unfortunately,
husbands no longer take pride in caring for the wife and family with
earnings alone; they want the wife also to earn. At first the parents
reluctant to send their daughters to work. Then the husband did the
same perhaps half- heartedly. As for the wife, she is now proud to be
working. In fact, she is so used to working outside that she does not
being confined to her home. When she earns on her own she wants to
spend as she likes without being questioned by her husband.
To stay at home does not mean to be locked in. There is no shortage of
sastras and Puranas in Sanskrit and in other languages. If women develop
a taste for them, they will keep reading them for a whole lifetime and
find happiness. They may form satsanga groups and read such books by
turns at home. There is no need to form a club or some other
organisation nor any board. The satsanga may be held at home without
any office-bearers like president, secretary, committee members and so
on. I suggest this to avoid contests and rivalry for positions. Women
also keep themselves occupied in making pure kumkuma from turmeric
and in collecting unbroken rice grains ("aksata") for use in mathas,
temples and other religious establishments. To stay at home does not
mean being caged in while doing such work. Besides, women will not lose
their most precious possession, feminity. Work mentioned above will be a
means for the freedom of their Self and for bliss.
For women, surely, this is far better than going to work out of greed
loosing their feminity in the process, not to speak of earning the
reward of Atmic wellbeing.
It is also in keeping with a woman’s nature.
For a woman to work in an office on the pretext that she is otherwise
confined to the four walls of her home is the cause of so many problems,
so many evils. Though there is much talk of women's liberation, what we
actually see is that they have to work under so many people and have too
be answerable to so many of them. Is there peace in such a life? In the
liberation that is so much talked about, is there the bliss of domestic
Are working women able to cook at leisure, eat and enjoy the warmth
and affection of children?
What purpose is served by all such talk? Each man thinks of his own
selfish interests and is least bothered about others. People never pause
to wonder whether others suffer on their account. There is no feeling
others, no sense of justice. In some families there is "double income"
because both husband and wife earn while in some others even one
member does not have a job and so no income. It is a sad state. If women
decide not to work after their marriage it is possible that the
thus created will be filled by the unemployed men. Families without any
means so far will then benefit. Working women must think about this and
those who try to bring equality between men and women and ought to
consider the logic behind my observations.
Nowadays people do not know where to apply the principle of equality
and where not to. Each entity or aspect of life has its own way of
its own character; that is how life in the universe is ordained. It is
to contend that there must be a sameness about everything, that all
things must be equal. To insist on such sameness and equality is to
the natural order of life. Each finds its fulfilment and true happiness
being related to another as intended by nature and in promoting the
common social life. To pursue an arbitrary kind of equality instead of
means not only the denial of happiness on the individual level but
jeopardizing family and social life.
Nature has assigned the job of child- bearing to women. However much
we fight for equality we cannot change this fact of life. It is natural
dharma of women to care for children and to be Grahalakshmis. They do
not lose anything by doing so, nor do they become superior in any sense
by refusing to do it. Equality in such matters has no meaning.