By Nita Chicooree-Mercier
In our overwhelmingly male-driven societies built by men across the world and where a predominantly male point of view informs all concepts which govern every sphere of political, economic, social and family life, even the spiritual domain has not been spared. If we go back to the very sources of philosophical thinking and age-old wisdom, foreshadowing the religious representation of all that knowledge, we may find that the pre-religious discourse was shared and held by both men and women who composed those societies. But on account of men’s dominant role in society, it was upon them that the task of officially presenting an elaborate form of the knowledge devolved. And in the process, they mostly gave a male touch to the whole corpus of religious thinking.
Generally, spirituality is not dissociated from religion. All religions claim that Love is the essence of divinity. We all acknowledge that the family is the foundation of society and we all agree that it is mostly mothers who transmit spiritual values and that maternal love is the most essential element in the sound upbringing of children. And yet, when it comes to the official function of transmitting religious knowledge, women are non-existent or they perform at the lowest level of the hierarchy. Men have managed to make everyone believe that they are in a better position to impart religious knowledge and wisdom to all of us — men, women and children.
The Big Farce
Protestant religion ordaining women as priests is quite recent, Catholicism keeps nuns in specific functions but churches remain solely a male domain; Judaism and Islam totally exclude women from any function. There are swaminis who are spiritual gurus and women do preside hawans in Hinduism but they are few and far between.
Of course, both men and women are able to understand all the facets of spiritual evolution that religious knowledge advocates and teach them to their followers. Both women and men can feel compassion and propagate the values of generosity, understanding and forgiveness or teach dharma, individual conscience and show the way to moksha.
But whatever be the religion they represent, the male religious authorities have that inward-looking bearing about them and seem absorbed in their own meditation wherever you come across them. Now, with all the talks about Love, have you ever met any male religious figure who emanates the lovelight that goodness exudes? Apart from some self-appointed heads of sects who open their arms to their flocks and turn out to be sexual perverts…
Loving and Giving
But we do see all-encompassing love in women. In concrete terms, we are mortals living on this one earth, and we know that boys and girls need love to grow, develop and be happy not only in their childhood but throughout their adult lives till they leave this world. When you read about the life of any serial killer, what you find is the chaotic childhood and the absence of maternal love. Deprivation of love and the moral support it provides is at the root of so many suicides. Do people take drugs for pleasure? Why do they take the path of self-destruction?
Religion is the domain that men are still jealously and tyrannically keeping as their own preserves. If spiritual values are to be enhanced to serve society and guide people, women’s forces of goodness and love should find their way up to the proper platform to be expressed to and felt by one and all. This energy should not be bogged down by irrational fear and deep-seated conservatism if we are to build up a more human and caring society.
In this context, let us welcome Mata Amritanandamayi Devi.
* Published in print edition on 1 April 2011