|March 08, 2002 |
For much of history worldwide, women were not given equal respect in society. They were looked upon only as bearers of children limited to household duties. Just as untouchables were violated, women were unjustly treated as well. For example, because women had no other means of subsitence and could not retaliate, they either silently tolerated abuse or even commited suicide.
Not until the 20th century did a signficant number of women enter institutions of higher education. Today, the ratio is one-half or better; in terms of scores as well, women often out-perform men. Corporations such as Abbott also have initiatives to hire more women. In other words, the time has come where women's talents are equally being allowed to expand. In religion as well, women are increasingly allowed equal opportunities today.
In the Swaminarayan faith, saints are given the vow of celibacy at initiation, avoiding even the sight of women. This allows saints to perfect the vow of non-lust, and remained focus only on God. This practice was also instituted by Swaminarayan Bhagwan because while traveling across India, He observed that many unscrupulous things were going on. For example, some temple heads were using their power and influence in wrongful ways. Swaminarayan Bhagwan saw that it would be very hard to change these habituated practices, and thus instead started a new culture amongst His own saints. The result was the protection of and respect for women.
Sometimes however the vows were misinterpreted as suggesting women to be inferior. But, in fact, Swaminarayan Bhagwan established similar centers for women to lead dedicated lives as well. (During Swaminarayan Bhagwan's time there were about 1500 dedicated women - in Gadhada, there were about 150 dedicated women. Today, the Ahmedabad/Vadtal branch has many separate centers for about 700 dedicated women.) Yogi Bapa asked Kakaji and Papaji to help establish a similar separate center in the Swaminarayan Akshar-Purushottam group as well. (Today, the Gunatit Samaj has about 700 dedicated women.)
In Bhagavad Gita 9/32, Krishna Bhagwan explains to Arjun, "Those who take shelter in Me, though they are of lower birth - women, vaishyas, or sudras - can [also] attain the supreme state." Swaminarayan Bhagwan similarly displayed that there was no barrier in caste or sex as to whom could attain the brahmasvaroopa or fully-liberated state. In Vachanamrut Gadhada Last 26, after describing the qualities of a brahmasvaroopa saint, Swaminarayan Bhagwan says, "Indeed, even though that saint appears to be human, he is still worthy of being worshipped on par with God. Therefore, whoever desires to attain liberation should serve such a saint. Also, women should serve women possessing such virtuous qualities."