Monday 4 September 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Sister Christine : 53


...In some respects die transition which is upon us affects women particularly. With the growth of cities women are taken out of the free natural life of the village, and confined within brick walls in crowded towns. If they are poor but of high caste, as most of them are, they often do not escape from this confinement for months at a time. The economic pressure is incredibly severe. Anxiety, poor food, lack of air and exercise result in unhappiness, disease, and premature death. The lot of the widow is worse than that of the married woman. There is no place for her in the scheme of things. In the old village life she was part of the social order, a respected, useful asset. Now she is in danger of becoming the household drudge. She feels that the least she can do in return for food and shelter is to save the family the expense of a servant. When poverty becomes still more grinding, she is the first to know that in her absence the family would dispense with such help. In such a case there is feeling of humiliation for the less sensitive. For others it is much deeper. They feel that they are taking the bread out of the mouths of those around them, Their suffering is great, the more so in that they are helpless. There is nothing they can do to add to the family's income.

It was this class that Swamiji particularly wished to help. "They must be economically independent," he said. How this was to be done, it was not for him to say, so he implied. It was a problem to be worked out by the one who should undertake the work. "They must be educated," he said next. Here he was more explicit and laid down certain principles. Education should not be according to Western methods but according to the Indian ideal. Reading and writing are not ends in themselves. The teaching could be such that these achievements would be used for a noble purpose and for service, not for self-indulgence and not to add one more superficial weapon. If the woman who learns to read, uses the knowledge only for imbibing vulgar, frivolous, sensational stories, she had better be left illiterate. But if it becomes the key which opens the door to the literature of her own country, to history, to art, to science, it proves a blessing. The great ideals of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were to be kept before their minds constantly, by stories, by readings, jatras, Kathakathas,* until the characters lived and moved among them, until these ideas became pan of their very being, something living, vital, powerful, which would in time produce a race of superwomen. .

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