वीरेश्वराय विद्महे विवेकानन्दाय धीमहि । तन्नो वीर:
"How do you account for the evil influence which you attribute to
"It came only with the decay of the faith", said the Swami. "Every
movement triumphs by dint of some unusual characteristic, and when
it falls, that point of pride becomes its chief element of
weakness. The Lord Buddha — greatest of men — was a marvellous
organiser and carried the world by this means. But his religion
was the religion of a monastic order. It had, therefore, the evil
effect of making the very robe of the monk honoured. He also
introduced for the first time the community life of religious
houses and thereby necessarily made women inferior to men, since
the great abbesses could take no important step without the advice
of certain abbots. It ensured its immediate object, the solidarity
of the faith, you see, only its far-reaching effects are to be
"But Sannyâsa is recognised in the Vedas!"
"Of course it is, but without making any distinction between men
and women. Do you remember how Yâjnavalkya was questioned at the
Court of King Janaka? His principal examiner was Vâchaknavi, the
maiden orator — Brahmavâdini, as the word of the day was. 'Like
two shining arrows in the hand of the skilled archer', she says,
'are my questions.' Her sex is not even commented upon. Again,
could anything be more complete than the equality of boys and
girls in our old forest universities? Read our Sanskrit dramas —
read the story of Shakuntala, and see if Tennyson's 'Princess' has
anything to teach us! "
"You have a wonderful way of revealing the glories of our past,
"Perhaps, because I have seen both sides of the world," said the
Swami gently, "and I know that the race that produced Sitâ — even
if it only dreamt of her — has a reverence for woman that is
unmatched on the earth. There is many a burden bound with legal
tightness on the shoulders of Western women that is utterly
unknown to ours. We have our wrongs and our exceptions certainly,
but so have they. We must never forget that all over the globe the
general effort is to express love and tenderness and uprightness,
and that national customs are only the nearest vehicles of this
expression. With regard to the domestic virtues I have no
hesitation in saying that our Indian methods have in many ways the
advantage over all others."
"Then have our women any problems at all, Swamiji?"
"Of course, they have many and grave problems, but none that are
not to be solved by that magic word 'education'. The true
education, however, is not yet conceived of amongst us."
"And how would you define that?"
"I never define anything", said the Swami, smiling. "Still, it may
be described as a development of faculty, not an accumulation of
words, or as a training of individuals to will rightly and
efficiently. So shall we bring to the need of India great fearless
women — women worthy to continue the traditions of Sanghamittâ,
Lilâ, Ahalyâ Bâi, and Mirâ Bâi — women fit to be mothers of
heroes, because they are pure and selfless, strong with the
strength that comes of touching the feet of God."
"So you consider that there should be a religious element in
"I look upon religion as the innermost core of education", said
the Swami solemnly. "Mind, I do not mean my own, or any one else's
opinion about religion. I think the teacher should take the
pupil's starting-point in this, as in other respects, and enable
her to develop along her own line of least resistance."
"But surely the religious exaltation of Brahmacharya, by taking
the highest place from the mother and wife and giving it to those
who evade those relations, is a direct blow dealt at woman?"
"You should remember", said the Swami, "that if religion exalts
Brahmacharya for woman, it does exactly the same for man Moreover,
your question shows a certain confusion in your own mind. Hinduism
indicates one duty, only one, for the human soul. It is to seek to
realise the permanent amidst the evanescent. No one presumes to
point out any one way in which this may be done. Marriage or
non-marriage, good or evil, learning or ignorance, any of these is
justified, if it leads to the goal. In this respect lies the great
contrast between it and Buddhism, for the latter's outstanding
direction is to realise the impermanence of the external, which,
broadly speaking, can only be done in one way. Do you recall the
story of the young Yogi in the Mahâbhârata who prided himself on
his psychic powers by burning the bodies of a crow and crane by
his intense will, produced by anger? Do you remember that the
young saint went into the town and found first a wife nursing her
sick husband and then the butcher Dharma-Vyâdha, both of whom had
obtained enlightenment in the path of common faithfulness and
"And so what would you say, Swamiji, to the women of this country?
"Why, to the women of this country." said the Swami, "I would say
exactly what I say to the men. Believe in India and in our Indian
faith. Be strong and hopeful and unashamed, and remember that with
something to take, Hindus have immeasurably more to give than any
other people in the world."