11 januari 2012

Vimala Thakar

Fragmenten uit een interview met Vimala Thakar,
meditatie leraar (1921-2009)over de  Spirituele Emancipatie van Vrouwen. 
Gepubliceerd in WIE? Magazine issue 10, Fall/Winter 1996 
WIE: This morning I would like to talk with you about women in relationship to spiritual liberation. ... One thing that is beginning to emerge (in our community) is that women often have difficulty with objectivity. For example, when a tendency or habit is revealed, women often take it more personally and in some cases will initially be defensive. They tend to feel hurt and they seem to have more difficulty than the men not being distracted by their emotional response to what has been seen. ....(zij spreekt hier uit haar jarenlange ervaring in de spirituele commune EnlightenNext  (1986 - 2013)
Vimala Thakar: The objectification of the inner psychological life is extremely difficult for women. Woman has had a role to play in human history. She has been the wife, the mother, the sister, protected by others, especially by men. In India the Hindu religion says woman is always to be protected—in childhood by the father, in young age by the husband, and in old age by her son. It is said that she does not deserve freedom. That is the basic principle. And I feel that perhaps in other countries also she has had only one role to play. It is a secondary role, protected by the male, and she did not require objectivity. As a subjective person she always has to react. Man has to act, man has to earn; she has to take care. In this secondary role, she never lived for herself as a human being. She lived for the parents, for the husband, for the children, for the family.
The family institution has survived at the cost of woman. So the inner freedom of objectifying her own emotions or perceiving the situation entirely objectively is very difficult for women, very difficult. And man finds it easy, objectification. But it is very difficult for men to transcend their egos. Woman, through emotional strength and emotional integrity can go beyond the ego easier than man. Man can objectify more quickly and easier than woman.There are certain limitations because of the role that man and woman have played in human history and civilization.
The woman immediately withdraws into her own shell to protect her emotions, her reactions, everything.
VT: Perception of bondage is the beginning of freedom. 
WIE: I’m very thrilled to meet you, Vimalaji, because it seems to me that there are very few women teachers like yourself who are teaching real liberation in the world. I haven’t met many. I’ve met more men, such as Krishnamurti and Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. It seems that most of the women figures who are leaders in the arena of spirituality are kind of Divine Mother figures, and that’s very different. They’re apparently teaching unconditional love through the expression of who they are, in a sense. But there does not seem to be a real teaching of liberation there. So it’s very inspiring for me to meet someone like yourself who has actually transcended the conditioning that we are speaking about. It seems to me to be unusual.

VT: My dear, it is unusual because, for example in India, Hinduism says woman can never be liberated in a woman’s body. If she behaves, if she follows bhakti yoga, then she may be born again in a male body and then she will be liberated. Buddhists and Jains also never accept that a woman in a woman’s body can be emancipated. Nor do the Catholics accept it. So at best a woman becomes a mother figure, such as Anandamayi Ma, or this figure or that figure. And she teaches as the Mother, not as an emancipated person.
Shall I tell you something? I was visiting Los Angeles in 1968 and I was staying at Ramakrishna Mission. I was asked to give a talk to the inmates of the ashram but they said, „You cannot speak in the chapel because you are a woman. Only sannyasins [monks] can speak there, and a woman cannot be a sannyasin.“ The Swamiji there was Swami Prabhavananda, who was a very powerful swami. He wrote books along with Christopher Isherwood on the Bhagavad Gita, and commentaries on the Gita. He knew J. Krishnamurti, and so on. He was a very fine person. I said to him, „Swamiji, excuse me. Will you please remove the photographs of Sarada Devi, Ramakrishna’s wife, from the chapel?“ There were two photographs there. So I said, „Since you tell me that I cannot give an address in this chapel, I will not give an address. But, will you please remove those photographs?“
Even in Ramakrishna Mission there is a differentiation. So who will stand up against all this and assert the humanness concealed in woman’s body, the divinity concealed in woman’s body, and demand equality on that level—not just on the physical and psychological levels? So it is unusual. But let us be thankful that it has happened here (= zo duidt zij zichzelf aan).
SA: Yes.
VT: It is something in the orbit of human consciousness. Whether it happens there or here is immaterial. But it can happen.
This person (= Vimala zelf) has been hurt in many ways by the ancient Hindu authorities. When I wanted to study the Vedas, the Brahma Sutras, in Varanasi, I went with folded hands to the authorities on the Vedas and they said, „No, a woman should not study the Vedas. What have you to do with the Vedas and the Brahma Sutras?“ they said. „No, we won’t teach you.“ „Alright,“ I said, „I will study by myself.“ For a woman to be unconditionally and totally emancipated is something unacceptable at least to the Indian consciousness, and maybe to the non-Indian consciousness also. This differentiation has to go. There is differentiation that has to do with the body, with different kinds of limitations. But that doesn’t mean that woman is not entitled to liberation.  I am so glad that you are talking about this and that you are looking at the issue in this way. This challenge has to be met. Not aggressively—you don’t have to fight for it, you have to work for it. 
WIE: We were speaking earlier about women seeming to have a bit more difficulty than men being objective and impersonal. When things about themselves are pointed out to them, they often take it personally and defend themselves at first, taking time to come around to accepting what has been revealed, and then overcoming or transcending it. There sometimes seems to be an almost innate visceral response of defending, of protecting, of surviving and maintaining that operates in women. The reason I am saying this is because while I know that men have tendencies they have to face—male traits such as selfishness, aggression and even cowardice have been revealed in our investigation—the men do seem to be able to more easily accept the impersonality of their condition. .. I was wondering whether underneath their defensiveness women have a deeper fear of nonexistence, a deeper existential insecurity or fear of emptiness, than men.
VT: Nothingness, nobodyness, emptiness, even the intellectual understanding of this frightens women. It frightens women! At the depth of our being there is fear because of our physical vulnerability, because of our secondary role in human civilization. It is in the subconscious, not in the consciousness. On a subconscious level there is fear. If I get converted into or if I mature into nonduality, into nothingness, into nobodyness, what will happen to my physical existence? Will it be more vulnerable? Will I be able to defend myself in case of difficulty, in case of some attack against me? That is a basic fear among women.

So women very rarely take to meditation. They take to devotion, to bhakti yoga. They can take to service, seva yoga or karmayoga. But not meditation, dhyana, samadhi. Consciously, intellectually they understand everything, because regarding the brilliance of the brain there is no distinction such as male and female. But psychologically, at the core of their being is this fear. And that fear has to be dispelled. Woman has to understand that nobodyness or nothingness, the emptiness of consciousness in samadhi or meditation, generates a different kind of energy and awareness which is more protective than self-conscious defensiveness. When woman appreciates that, when she understands that, then this fear will be dispelled. Otherwise it is very natural for a woman to feel frightened even by the idea of nothingness.

WIE: It’s amazing, Vimalaji. Everything you say rings perfectly true to our experience. The areas women excel in are exactly what you have said—in service they are very strong, they give everything to help and to support. Physically and emotionally they are very, very giving. They will give everything and work very hard, very selflessly. So it’s very interesting what you say about women being naturally inclined to devotion and to service because that is exactly what is happening in our community. And yet on the other hand, as we have been saying, to really engage with meditation in the truest sense, to really let go into being nobody—many women are unwilling to do that.
VT: There is a subconscious resistance.
WIE: Yes, exactly.
VT: They don’t find any resistance on the conscious level. They will say, „No, we do not resist,“ and they are being honest. And yet at the deeper level of their being there is an unverbalized resistance.
WIE: Exactly. That is exactly what is happening.
VT: That has to be perceived. That has to be recognized. Perhaps if the women recognized the resistance at the subconscious level, it might disappear, it might dissolve.
WIE: Yes, that seems to be the only possibility. And I think some of us are just beginning to recognize that. I know, for myself, for many years my teacher pointed this out, and I said no. Because consciously I accepted and was thrilled by the idea of being nobody, by the concept of freedom that that means. But now I’m beginning to see that subconsciously there is a resistance which needs to be completely met in order to be truly free.

VT: To allow the divinity or the absolute truth to use your body, your brain, your mind for the service of humanity is one thing. „I want to serve and I get pleasure out of that service. I’m serving so and so, the cause or the individual.“ There is pleasure in that. But to let go of that pleasure and allow the truth to shape your life, to mold it, to give it a direction and to use it for the cosmic purpose, requires tremendous fearlessness. And very few are willing to let go of the last noble pleasure for that.
It’s a noble pleasure to serve. You’re offering service and you’re offering your life and here is someone who says, „No. Not that, not the conscious service, the 'I‘ doing the service. No, not the I‘ devoting itself. You are again creating a different field for the survival of limitations. Let it go.“ Then the resistance comes, the inhibitions come. Women begin to suffer. They don’t like it if you point it out, even on a conscious level. They hear it, but they don’t receive it. It doesn’t go in because of the subconscious resistance.
WIE: Yes, that’s absolutely true.
VT: Oh, yes. One has seen it happening. One has seen it happen in people around you. The emptiness, the nobodyness, as you have rightly put it—that frightens them. Me doing the service, me giving, me working; that is O.K. Yes, we are dealing with the crux of the issue here. Hitting the nail on the head. Such merciless perception of truth, merciless analysis of the subjective world, is very rare to come across. People find it unbearable. Even the verbalization is unbearable to some.
WIE: Yes, definitely.
VT: Thank you for raising these questions. You are the first person in the last ten years to raise these questions. Non-Indians come to me from at least twenty countries here. Women come from many different nations and discuss with me the problems of women in modern Western culture, but not the question you have raised this morning. It is from a very deep level that this question has come. I’m glad about it.
WIE: Thank you. It’s been a fabulous opportunity to explore this together.
VT: For both of us to share. Life is fulfilled in sharing. Not only meals and clothes and money, but when you share your flesh and blood then there is a rare fulfillment.
It takes two to have a conversation, a dialogue. One person can’t do it.