Feminine Challenges in Spirituality
Thank you, Michael, for re-posting some illumining articles, spotlighting Sri Chinmoy's Path from a female perspective. They have inspired me to reflect on my own experiences, naturally from a female perspective.
Joining this Centre at the age of 26, I had already been blessed with many life experiences. Looking back they feel like many miniature lifetimes within a lifetime. I suppose I was trying on a few to see which one fitted best before I decided which one to keep. I often found myself either the only female in a situation, or as part of a minority. I usually had to fight to be heard and respected, and often lost the battle.
I have never considered myself a feminist, far from it actually. I value both male strengths and female strengths; I do not see why one should either compete with the other or try to be like the other. If God had wanted us to be the same in that sense he would have made us all androgynous. The more I follow the spiritual life, the more I want to discover and celebrate what it means to be female, aside from all the roles I have not chosen for myself like being a wife or mother. Not to say that there is anything wrong with choosing either of those roles of course - either instead of, or in conjunction with a spiritual life - only that I do not feel those roles fit me comfortably.
As a female in the Sri Chinmoy Centre, I am not in a minority, nor do I have to fight to be heard. Females do all the same things that males do here, but just in a female way. A male singing group can sing a song powerfully, and a female group can sing the same song sweetly; they are both equally valid and enjoyable.
One of many things I love about Sri Chinmoy's teachings is that he acknowledges exactly that: females and males are different, as God intended, and that is part of the beauty and diversity of the world. I have always felt the Sri Chinmoy Centre is a safe place for someone who has chosen to lead a single life, and to give spirituality top priority. It is really like being in a huge family with lots of elder brothers; I feel protected and respected, I am allowed to be myself, and do not have to think about defending myself against any unwelcome advances. I have never come across an environment anything like that, anywhere else in the world.
As well as discovering and celebrating the good things about being female, I want to observe and transcend particularly female weaknesses. One of the most helpful things I find about Sri Chinmoy's teachings is that he admits there are particular weaknesses which females tend to suffer from more than males, and vice versa. Of course we are all susceptible to any weakness until we reach God-realisation, but certain things need a little more work than others. For females the biggest challenges are often insecurity and jealousy. So, not that Sri Chinmoy is just writing for females on these topics, but he has given a lot of helpful instruction on both of them in his stories, poems and plays.
One example was performed as a play in New York recently by Immortality's Flame-Waves (an all-female theatre troupe). I tend to find things go in better if I have some visual reference, so that story stayed with me. In the story one disciple is far more advanced than the others. The others have somehow got it into their heads that the advanced disciple hates them, but the Master explains that jealousy and inferiority play such tricks on the mind. The jealousy has to be acknowledged and transcended before they can give and receive love (which is basically something that everyone wants at the end of the day):
"There are two things that usually go together. One thing is jealousy and the other thing is hatred. Just because you people are jealous of Khaga, you think that he hates you. He knows all about your jealousy, but I wish to tell you that he does not hate you at all. On the contrary, he suffers. Because you are jealous of him his loving heart has not been able to establish oneness with you. You people ought to feel sorry that you do not love him the way he loves you."