By Emma Salvado.
In India there are more saints per capita, than anywhere else in the world.
1000’s of them were Female Saints, but there was never a lot of information documented about them. During the Vedic period women were culturally held in very high esteem, and enjoyed the same equal rights and opportunities as the men of that time.
They had the opportunity to study the Vedas and were given training in archery, yoga, music, and drama.
Gradually however over time as India became suffocated by battles against foreign invaders woman’s positions became less esteemed and her freedoms were minimised, women lost the privileges they enjoyed in the Vedic times, and began to lag behind in education due to their family responsibilities, and because of the controversial caste system in India many of these women remained with their families, and so women began practicing yoga in their homes, away from prying eyes.
These women would arise in the mornings before their families wakened, sit at their altars worshiping and praying in their homes… and uncaring for fame and notoriety, not even the people in the next village are unaware of who they are…
The Caste system in the Indian culture meant that many women were betrothed to their future husbands at an early age, because love was not necessary for a successful Indian marriage. Girls had no part in the decision of who they would marry. This was, and still is, in many respects the choice of a girl’s father.
Bad marriages frequently spurned Indian women to immerse themselves in spiritual life, as a way to alleviate the shortcomings of the rest of their lives.
Mira Bai the devotee of Krishna and Mahadevi the devotee of Shiva, were two such Yogini’s who even though they were married, immersed themselves in devotion to their Guru, and were then seen as being mad, as a way of discrediting them and their devotion.
Tantra was a tradition of Spiritual practice that flourished across India because of its inclusivity. Gender and caste were not a conversation when it came to Tantra. The desire to want to experience divine presence in your heart, through self discipline, motivation and sincerity was all that was required.
This is why many women Sages were Tantrica’s.
This is also mirrored in Hinduism, as it is practiced morning and evening in indian households, primarily by the women of the home at their personal family altar. They are the backbone of Hindu Religious Life, and pass most of hinduism’s highest principles to their children. This is the way things have been for thousands of years.
Women are the backbone of religious life in India and they pass on the principles of worship to their children.
Deities are commonplace on the walls and altars, and Indian children grow up hearing the mystical stories of love, war and life lessons based on these avatars.
How different if the population of the west grew up not with Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty or Ultra unhealthy Models or Tv Personalities as role models, but pictured themselves as these divine beings, who could move at will through the corridors of the universe.
It’s no accident that in India the deity who governs education, the arts and knowledge is Saraswati, the deity who governs strength and protection is Durga, the deity who rules wealth and commerce is Lakshmi – They are all Goddesses.
The Goddess is adorned in these households reminding the devotees of the spiritual dimensions of life and the compassionate motherhood of God.
Women in India are free to worship the Goddess freely and even imitate them.
This has also trickled down though Yoga’s lineages, one after another the male heads have been passing their spiritual mantles to women.
Some examples of this have been:
- Ramakrishna (Devotee of Kali) who passed his spiritual authority to Sarada Devi, his wife.
- Paramahansa Yogananda – One of the keepers of the Kriya Yoga lineage to American Born (Daya Mata)
- Swami Sivananda passed the teachings of Sivananda Yoga to Shivananda Radha Saraswati (German born Sylvia Hellman)
In the 1900’s the tantric adept UPASANI BABA taught that women are capable of “ Faster Evolution than Men”, and that all male devotees needed to cultivate “Feminine qualities such as Egolessness and Purity, in order to progress.”
I am so grateful that in this century Women have taken even greater strides to empower themselves spiritually, even though they have had to face tremendous obstacles to fulfill their spiritual desires.
When Tantra describes the Goddess, it is not talking about a multi armed deity in a Sari. The goddess is Reality… she is what we mortals call existence.
Whatever is at the root of you and me… That is She…
Through these women saints we can see the incarnate of the divine, because they unselfconsciously evoke her in us!!!!!
Honour the embodiment of what they represent in you…
BOTH ON AND OFF THE MAT
Love Emma x