June 19, 2008 Link Amma's Grace

Dearest Friends and Family.
I wanted to discuss Sabarimala and gender equality. Since coming to the Ashram we learned about Sabarimala. It’s a place of pilgrimage in Kerala– meant to be the hill that Lord Rama went to eons ago. Rama had an old lady devotee, named Sabari who was far outside his ‘inner circle’. She didn’t care for any of that, she just adored Rama. For her, he was the ideal, and nothing but. I think, frankly, although it may be said otherwise, that he probably never even knew about her. I mean, he was in a human form, after all, and if you read the literature, he seemed subject to a lot of human failings and delusions as well. Anyhow, as he approached the area she lived in, word spread among the gentle inhabitants of the thick woods, and people came up to him and told him about Sabari. She lived on the hill. She probably had the whole hill to herself, population being much sparser than today. My sympathies and frustrations are all with Sabari. This lady, by the time that Rama got there, was quite the old
woman. She only had a few teeth left in the front. She had this ideal conception of Rama that wouldn’t quit. Every day of her life, she had cleaned the pathway to her hut, in the event that Lord Rama would come. She drew little designs on the side of the path, put flowers in harmonic little nooks…She had this idea, prayer, dream, expectation, hope, vision, (it was really a bunch of little knowings all rolled into one big knowing) that he would come. After sweeping and fixing the path for him, she would go and gather fruits, so that when he came she would be able to offer him something. That day, that Rama was hiking through with Lakshman, he actually came up the path to her hut.
You can just imagine Sabari’s state. As it was, it was mid afternoon, and Sabari was sitting on the tiny porch of her hut, looking out, down the path, half seeing, as she always did, Lord Rama walking up. Then, up he really comes. For a few moments, Sabari was still lost in her reverie, Rama could see the shift from reverie to Reality in her as he came close. In seconds, she was up on her spindly legs, laughing and gasping, all at once. With trembling hands, she led him into her hut, places him on her kitchen peetam, and washed his feet, his hands, and then, chuckling like a dervish, got the bowls of forest berries she had gathered that morning for him. As she pirouetted from the shelf in the wall where the bowl of berries had been kept, back to a kneeling position at Lord Rama’s side, she half glanced at the berries.
Doubt, and dark suspicions about the quality of the berries flushed into her mind. She looked at Lord Rama, the Rama of her heart, that had finally come, to be adored by her, who had walked up the path…his path,…, after so many years…and shook her head violently, shuddering slightly. No, she had to make sure the berries were sweet for him. Rama reached to pick out a berry… Kneeling by him, she smiled sweetly at him, and nodding in agreement with his desire, she held the bowl back, inspected the berries for the best one, bit it, to make sure the juice was sweet, and passed it approvingly to Lord Rama. For that visit, in the hut, Lord Rama went into his Omniscient consciousness. He and Sabari were one, it was a movement of complete harmony – Sabari biting each berry gently with the remaining front teeth, then putting them to Rama’s mouth, and Rama eating and nodding…
Anyhow…that’s why the place is called Sabarimala – Sabari’s hill. There is a statue of Lord Ayappa there. His story is also quite long and detailed, in a gist, he was a noble prince was from a dysfunctional rich and royal family. He was the first born, and the crown prince. There was deceit and cunning, his father’s second wife wanted him out of the picture. She plotted. He ends up volunteering nobly to go and get tiger’s milk to cure her. He goes off into the forest, and returns, riding on a tigeress. His fearlessness and friendship with the tigers blew everyone’s mind. Ayyappa then renounces the kingdom, then 16 years of age, since it means so much to these people that they would plot murder to gain it (experience is a great teacher of dispassion)…and heads to the forest. His father wants to commemorate him in some way, and so Ayyappa tells him that he will shoot an arrow, and where it lands, build a temple to him, with only 18 steps. So said, so done, and later with the assistance of really
inspired architects, the temple is built on top of Sabari’s hill (Sabari by now, is long, long, long gone). After this, one of the minister who started the plot with the confused queen, falls sick and has a dream in which he is instructed to bathe in the river then go to the Ayyappa temple, and chant loudly “Swami Sharanam Ayyappa” as he climbs each step. This he does, and he is healed.
Tremendous faith in Lord Ayyappa is present all over India. He was a pure brahmachari. For centuries and centuries, people have trekked from all over India to go to Sabarimala.
Traditionally, only males are allowed to have the darshan of the idol. Many of the male students here take advantage of the pilgrimage season. There are a lot of restrictions that people going on the pilgrimage must observe. One must wear a black munda or lungi, travel barefoot, have no thoughts about women for at least 40 days before going…( I don’t know what thoughts men are having, but they are instructed to have no thoughts. This indicates that probably the general quality of their thoughts about women is not very refined) there are many more, I don’t know them all. During the pilgrimage season we often see many Sabarimala pilgrims coming through the ashram. Traditionally, the pilgrimage is done on foot. Nowadays, it seems that only the very last parts are done that way for many people.
Apparently, until the advent of faster transportation, the pilgrimage to Sabarimala was fraught with danger, as men made their way through lovely thick forests, that blanketed much of India, filled with tigers, leapords, bears, snakes and other hazards. Amma has suggested that as a result of this, women were not allowed to accompany them. To accomplish the pilgrimage with all the restrictions of diet, thought, speech, dress, etc., etc. was arduous, and required great devotion on behalf of its participants. Probably the biggest qualities needed were patience and endurance, qualities that Amma has said are naturally inherent in greater measure in those whose sense of Motherhood is awakened. Some family members would be gone for months at a time, even years, depending on where they lived accomplishing these arduous pilgrimages.
At some point, it became permissible for young girls before the age of menarche, and old ladies, after the age of menopause, to be able to accompany the men and boys.
Our point: Recently there has been a lot of agitation to have all the restrictions regarding women on the pilgrimage and at the temple removed.
I want to express my views on this.
Frankly, we have only to look, or listen , or touch what is around us, to see the applications of human intelligence in our lives. Children all over the world now, especially in ‘developed’ countries, live in fear of the bomb, other bombs, guns, other inventions of human intelligence. Our earth, waters and skies are massively polluted due to the devices and concoctions that human intelligence has created. Manhattan, NY, seen from the 30th floor of any building there, is, in my mind a clear example of ‘the mind of man’. Very little can grow, all tarred and cemented, huge buildings, security measures everywhere in evidence, it’s a reflection of the inner mind of its creators.
Mostly, the authors of all of these things, the inventors, creators, are men. We can see from the directions, and values, that human society is progressing in, that the authors are men. Women’s bodies are used to sell everything, even dog food. Aggressive selfishness and competition is economic law rather than ethics. Who authors most of this? Men…..the male mind.
We live in a world where undeniably, more than 98% of the violent, heinious crimes are committed by men. Raping. Killing. Stealing. Looting. Arson. Beating. Mugging. War. Most women on this earth are not comfortable with men. They may be able to handle them, they may trust their husbands, sons and brothers deeply, but with other men, there is a bit of an edge of doubt and mistrust. Its due to the conditioning and experience that women have with men. 99% of the time, it hasn’t been positive. Men are quick to use brute force.
Gandhi noted the facts plainly in his own life, and we shouldn’t let false concepts about openmindedness make us deceive ourselves now:

As I discuss this mattber, I feel ashamed of being a man. Is man, who was born of woman, whose mother carried him for nine months, for whom she suffered pain, who slept only after putting him to sleep and ate only after she had fed him – is man born an enemy of that mother’s kind that they should live in fear of him? A woman does not run away form a tiger; she runs away only from man’s lust. I have already pleaded with women. I wish to plead with men as well. Is not a man bound to remove the fears of women, of whom his mother was one? Should he not always pray: “Take my life before I cast lustful eyes upon any woman. If I ever incline to immorality, give me the strength to kill myself. Remove from me all uncleanness so that no woman will fear me but will feel safe with me as with a brother?” I pray to God that, as long as our men are incapable of protecting our women, he should keep us in slavery. If in a country the men do not protect the women, they are not men at all and are fit only to
remain slaves.1

1 CWMG 22:187. Navajivan. January 15, 1922. Age 53.

I frankly feel, that if men want to take on specific restrictions, focus their minds on an ideal of truth and purity, for 40 or more days, it’s a blessing. Lets not stop them. It appears that they urgently need that time and focus. It may help them to behave better. For sure the ones who enjoy going because it is an all male bastion, need that succor more. As all consciousness is connected, maybe if masses of men undertake the pilgrimage with piety, keeping their thoughts clean, their actions clean, transcending for a few days the strong body identifications that make them so crazy for sex, it will help them and others. Cultivating patience and endurance, they develop the feminine strengths within themselves. I think all male pilgrimages are a great idea, and I would not want to deny or get in the way of anyone having that kind of need met. I fully respect their effort to improve themselves ethically. Go for it.
I would personally love it, if there were a few places on this planet where only women could go and delight in nature as the face of God. Where they would have an absolute guarantee of no intrusions or disturbance from male mindsets, a place where covert or overt sexuality was absent from other females as well. Places of deep prayer and adoration of God. I would personally enjoy the peace and security. There are some lovely spots left on this planet, in Kashmir, Kerala, Russia, Tasmania, – somehow, we should find all of Nature’s beautiful temples, and dedicate large sections of them as sanctuaries to the Goddess in all women.
I don’t want the equality I see many women pushing for – the equality that says we can also go and kill people in war, shoot animals, beat others up in Lathi charges, use jack hammers, I want to see a different type of equality for women. Definitely, women should be priests, teachers, airline pilots, doctors, scientists, sportswomen, politicians and numerous other fields of intelligent intellectual endeavor and capability. But I don’t want to see us seek to express the brute that is inherent in men, or cultivate it in ourselves. Its not helping the situation here. There is just too much brute going on. As women get into these other arenas of activity, we should seek to turn them slowly into more refined agencies for ethical qualities to be expressed. I am confident that women’s participation and contribution anywhere will lead to the expansion of meaning and definition of whatever field they enter into. For example, a woman priest would expand the notion of priest hood, to include several other
aspects of ritualized care than is currently be availed of. Women’s influences in the sciences will bring harmony and confluence to those spheres, bringing strength through intellectual unity in multiple endeavors…in every sphere of activity, if women participate, the field is bound to become more stable, congruent and harmonious with its contextual reality.
I want women to be seen as having at the very least, equal value, not necessarily equal capacity to express brute strength. Women should be valued, highly valued, for what they are – or what they can be – a bit of grace and sanity here on this earth.
Amma has spoken extensively about this, from all that I have read, I must say, I totally agree with her. Here are some of her words from her speech at Geneva in 2002, when she received the Gandhi/King award:

“The rules and superstitious beliefs that degrade women continue to prevail in most countries. The primitive customs invented by men in the past to exploit and to subjugate women remain alive to this day. Women and their minds have become entangled in the cobweb of those customs. They have been hypnotized by their own minds. Women have to help themselves in order to extricate themselves from that magnetic field. This is the only way.
Look at an elephant. It can uproot huge trees with its trunk. When an elephant living in captivity is still a baby, it is tied to a tree with a strong rope or a chain. Because it is the nature of elephants to roam free, the baby elephant instinctively tries with all its might to break the rope. But it isn’t strong enough to do so. Realizing its efforts are of no use, it finally gives up and stops struggling. Later when the elephant is fully grown, it can be tied to a small tree with a thin rope….because its mind has been conditioned by its prior experiences it doesn’t make the slightest attempt to break free.
This is what is happening to women.
Society does not allow the strength of women to arise. We have created a blockage, preventing this great strength from pouring forth.
The infinite potential inherent in women and men is the same. If women really want to, it won’t be difficult to break the shackles – the rules and conditioning that society has imposed on them. The greatest strength of women lies in their innate motherhood, in their creative, life-giving power. And this power makes woman able to bring about at least as much change in society as men can accomplish…
Women were not created for the enjoyment of men….”
The essence of motherhood is not restricted to women who have given birth, it is a principle inherent in both women and men. It is an attitude of the mind. It is love – and that love is the very breath of life…for those in whom motherhood has awakened, love and compassion for everyone are as much part of their being as breathing. Amma feels that the forthcoming age should be dedicated to re-awakening the healing power of motherhood. This is the only way to realize our dream of peace and harmony for all. And it can be done! It is entirely up to us. Let us remember this and move forward.1

1 Amma (2002).The Awakening of Universal Motherhood:61.

Gandhi also made every effort during his lifetime for women to realize our great strength, to not compromise ourselves in light of the false ideals that are held out before us:
I am uncompromising in the matter of woman’s rights…As women begin to realize their strength, as they must in proportion to the education they receive, they will naturally resent the glaring inequalities to which they are subjected. But to remove legal inequalities will be a mere palliative. The root of the evil lies much deeper than most people realize. It lies in man’s greed of power and fame and deeper still in mutual lust [women as co-sharer’s of husbands power, fame]…That mutual lust too has played an important part in bringing about the disqualifications of the fair sex hardly needs any demonstration. Woman has circumvented man in a variety of ways in her unconsciously subtle ways, as man has vainly and equally unconsciously struggled to thwart woman in gaining ascendancy over him. The result is a stalemate. Thus viewed, it is a serious problem that enlightened daughters of Bharat Mata1 are called upon to solve. They may not ape the manner of the West which may be suited to its environment. They must
apply methods suited to the Indian genius and Indian environment. Theirs must be the strong, controlling, purifying, steadying hand, conserving what is best in our culture and unhesitatingly rejecting what is base and degrading. This is the work of Sitas, Draupadis, Savitris and Damayantis2, not of amazons and prudes.3

1 Bharat Mata – Mother India.
2 Heroines from India’s itihasas, puranas, and other legends.
3 CWMG 42:4-5. Young India. October 17, 1929. Age 61.

Gandhi saw that women have to be educated as to their rights, and to the right to resist men. To resist the unspoken demands and media models of false ideals that we use our life, bodies and times for the enjoyment of, or to be pleasing to, men.

“Woman must cease to consider herself the object of man’s lust. The remedy is more in her hands than man’s. She must refuse to adorn herself for men, including her husband if she will be an equal partner with man. I cannot imagine Sita ever wasting a single moment on pleasing Rama by physical charms.”1

Without education of this caliber, Gandhi did not see how India or women could rise: “I can only say that until women establish their womanhood, the progress of India in all directions is impossible. When women who we call abala [weak] becomes sabala [strong], all those who are helpless will become powerful.”2
Refuse to be slaves of your own whims and fancies and the slaves of men. Refuse to decorate yourselves, so not go in for scents and lavender water. If you want to smell well, the scent must come out from your hearts and then you will captivate not man, but humanity. It is your birthright. Man is born of woman, he is flesh of her flesh, bone of her bone. Come to your own and deliver your message again.3
Lets let the boys have Sabarimala. Hope it helps. Let us come into our own selves, and make this world anew….
Our Anni was a tiger, there was nothing of the ‘femme fatale’ in her. She had the purest convincement in the power of Truth and Love within her. Her absolute fearlessness is our constant inspiration.
We hope you will all pray for her on the 22 of June.
Closing on these thoughts,
Loving you,
Kamala Aunty

1 Mohan Mala:105. Young India. July 21, 1921 Age 52.
2 CWMG 64:165. December 23, 1936. Age 68. – All India Women’s Conference.
3 My Gandhi:40.

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