The Woman Shakti
-J. P. Vaswani
We live in troubled times today. You do not have to go on the Internet to become aware of the atrocities that are happening all over the world. You don’t even have to switch on your TV to watch news broadcasts, which are full of such violence; you don’t even have to turn the pages of the newspaper to keep track of what’s happening. The people you meet at work, the commuters who travel with you, even the stranger you meet on the street, everyone is talking about the latest act of violence—until a new horror pushes it aside.
I wish to emphasise just one truth. Everybody clamours today for freedom. And what is freedom? We may imagine that freedom is doing as we please; we may labour under the illusion that freedom is the ability to fulfill all our desires and satisfy all our sensual cravings: let us understand that all this is only going to shackle us deeper and deeper in bondage. True freedom is the capacity to do what we ought to do, to follow the path of goodness, truth and dharma, to be able to live with a pure heart, a clear conscience and an untainted mind. Freedom is breaking away from bad habits, addictions and wrong attitudes; freedom is conquering the lower self; freedom is the ability to rise to the highest level of consciousness and the purest level of thought that we, as human beings, are capable of!
Feminism, women’s liberation and the empowerment of women have become much used expressions now. In the days before the word feminism was even coined, Sadhu Vaswani brought about a quiet and meaningful revolution in his homeland. He pointed out to the women, whom he regarded as his own sisters, that they were not weaklings, but symbols of true Shakti, the inner strength of the spirit. He did not stop with words: he offered the purdah clad, kitchen-bound women of Sindh, spiritual liberation in the true sense of the term. The Sakhi Satsang started under his benign guidance, enabled many women to become decision-makers for the first time in their personal lives – by the very act of voluntarily joining his satsang. He did everything he could to break the shackles of superstition and hidebound ‘customs’ that had kept Sindhi women restricted and confined for centuries. He spoke out against the purdah as also against the deadly custom of deti-leti (dowry). At the same time, he was also aware of the dangers of excessive ‘modernism’, warning women against aping western fashions blindly. He encouraged them to cultivate the virtue of simplicity in their dress and in their daily life.
The Sakhi Satsang was quite revolutionary in its spiritual, social, cultural and economic impact on Sindhi women, if one were to consider the movement in all its aspects. For the first time, women learnt about economic independence, accountability and trust, when they were given the management of Sakhi Stores. They took their first steps on the path of self-reliance, outside the secure confines of their own homes.
At the Sakhi Conference organised by him for their benefit, they had the chance to make themselves heard on matters concerning themselves; on social evils like dowry, child marriage and exploitation. Sadhu Vaswani’s Seva Ashram opened a new world to women who wished to tread the spiritual path. Above all, he emphasised the spiritual shakti of women, exclaiming aloud to the male-dominated society, “The womansoul shall lead us, upward, on!”
Sadhu Vaswani’s contribution to Women’s Education was equally significant. The Mira movement in education, which he founded in Hyderabad Sind, has set new standards for value-based education which emphasized character development and cultivation of the soul. Rightly has it been said, that if you educate a man, you educate an individual; education contributes to his individual growth; it becomes his ‘private property’, as it were. But when you educate a woman, you educate the entire family!
Therefore, did Sadhu Vaswani describe the woman as the symbol of Shakti. This shakti is not physical force, but the power of integration. And to the development of stree-shakti, he devoted his vision of the Mira Movement in Education.
I have always admired the richness and depth of the Sanskrit language and I would like to point out to you, that the Sanskrit word for compassion, daya, has no masculine equivalent; so it is, that compassion is a special manifestation of the woman-soul. Incidentally, the Sanskrit terms for women are abala (the weak) as well as mahila (the great)! Personally, I hold no track with the term ‘weaker sex’. I believe women are blessed with great spiritual strength.
I read an ancient Greek story about a city that was threatened by an awful mythical monster, the Unicorn. The warriors and other brave men of the city could not stand up to fight the monster; they fled in disarray. But a pure, simple, young maid confronted the monster—and it was the monster that had to flee from the shakti she represented!
I find this story deeply symbolic. For our world today is threatened by the nameless, faceless monster that is compounded of hatred, violence, insensitivity, ruthlessness and strife. It is only the woman—pure, gentle, strong in the spirit of simplicity, service and sacrifice, who can take on the monster and conquer him with her spiritual shakti. The woman soul can bring about peace on this troubled planet.
NEW YEAR'S MESSAGE
J. P. VASWANI
"The New Year comes to us as a gift out of the spotless hands of the Lord.
All around us, today, is a ring of darkness. But darkness cannot stay forever. When I look into the future, it is so bright, it burns my eyes. It is upto each one of us to help in making this future a reality.
Let each one of us kindle a little light -- a little lamp of kindness and courage and compassion, of sympathy and service and sacrifice.
Let us plant shady trees under which we will not sit.
Let us bring the sunshine of joy into the lives of those who dwell in the darkness of despair.
Let us do little acts of kindness. Is not kindness better than knowledge, more important than wisdom?
Let us always be a little more kind than necessary. Be kind -- for everyone you meet carries a burden on his heart.
Let us never ever engage in envy or hatred: it is a deadly poison that will ultimately destroy us.
Let us do the little we can to help make the world a better place to live in. The greatest mistake is his -- who does nothing because he can do only a little."