MANY MASTERS UTTER HOARY WARNINGS AGAINST WOMEN RECITING THE GAYATRI MANTRA OR OM. THEY SAY IT CAUSES DAMAGE TO A WOMANalt39S REPRODUCTIVE ORGANS, WHICH ARE LOCATED WITHIN HER, UNLIKE THAT OF A MAN. IS THIS MERE PROPAGANDA OR COULD THIS REALLY

BE TRUE? ASKS SUMA VARUGHESE .

I had this really nice yoga teacher who was the epitome of tolerance and acceptance. Yoga was beyond all sects, he told us, and applied to anyone in any stage of evolution. He dealt gently with my plaster- cast limbs that refused to fold docilely into any kind of pose, and did not turn a hair when I bunked class. Eating nonvegetarian food, smoking, were airily waved away with the observation that it was part of ones vasana ( inherent tendencies) and must allowed to away on their own.

But the man was obdurate on one issue. He maintained that women could not attain enlightenment. With airy confidence he argued the impossibility of the case. How enlightenment happened only to a handful, how the enlightened simply had nothing to do with the mundane world after attaining their lofty goal and certainly never spoke, and how no woman in history was known to be enlightened.

In vain, I pointed out the names of contemporary god women such as Mata Amritanandamayi, and Anandamayi Ma. In vain, I told him of my own acquaintance with at least two women of indisputable spiritual attainment. He would have none of it. What really hurt, of course, was that there I was, in hot pursuit of that same status and the man was out to deny it to me. What? Was I going to be done out of all that lovely sat- chitananda I had been chasing virtually for a decade? It was never the same between me and the yoga teacher after that. I dropped out after a while, and though I miss the yoga and its absence will probably delay my appointment with Samadhi, Ialt39m not beaten yet. Ialt39ll get there. I bet I will. The pity, of course, is that I wonalt39t be able to crow over him when I approach him in a shower of golden light to the sound of celestial trumpets. We enlightened souls are supposed to be beyond revenge. I shall just have to be content with radiating an extra dose of love and compassion, definitely compassion, over him.

Mind you, this isnalt39t the first time women have been denied access to self- realisation. Many masters utter hoary warnings against women reciting the gayatri mantra or Om. They say it causes damage to a womans reproductive organs, which are located within her, unlike that of a man. Is this mere propaganda or could this really be true? I havenalt39t the slightest idea but when I get enlightened and can tune into Gods radio station, as my current guru puts it, its the first thing I mean to find out. Meantime Ialt39m chanting Om with the best of them, and taking a chance that my reproductive organs wonalt39t fall off.

If moksha is a gentlemans club for the traditionalists, women have their revenge in the growing band of New Ages who believe in exactly the opposite.

They say that woman have an inbuilt advantage in spiritual matters because of innate qualities such as sensitivity, caring, conciliation rather than confrontation, gentleness as opposed to aggression, being more in touch with feelings, and most of all, less ego.

Thanks to centuries of oppression women have learnt to bend without breaking, all of which holds them in good stead along the spiritual path, where the Big Goal as everyone knows, is dropping the ego. Indeed, the great quest in these times of men and women alike, is the search for the feminine self. Moreover, the spiritual world today is clogged with women.

Enter any yoga centre, meditation class, reiki initiation class, tarot reading and youalt39ll find that women outnumber men by far. And spiritual masters are unanimous in asserting that the key to the impending New Age of peace, joy and harmony lies in the liberation of women.

So where does the truth actually lie? Which sex has the advantage on spiritual turf? Probably both Balance, after all, is the key issue. Oriental phi

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