Where are the ladies?

I’ve observed that all the sadhus, gurus, sages or prophets are mainly from the male gender. Why are there no females? How have Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad Bhagavatam dealt with the question of women’s roles in society? Can women make the same spiritual advancement as men? Please forgive me if my question is foolish or offensive.

Our Answer:
In this world, “male” and “female” are gender designations we assign to different body types. Spiritually, everyone is equal; the bodily and mental differences we see here don’t have anything to do with the soul. Everyone has equal opportunity to make spiritual advancement. When we overly identify our self with our temporary body (thinking, “I’m a Woman!” or, “I’m a Man!”), then we’re not so spiritually advanced.

Traditionally, mothers are the original gurus, providing children with their initial framework for seeing the world and acting in it. Children’s first impressions of right, wrong, duty, and God generally come from their mothers.

In Vedic culture, at a certain stage of life—when children are old enough to take care of their mother—men are expected to leave home, travel alone, and seek self-realization through vows of austerity. They’re the ones, therefore, who have traditionally taken on roles of formal spiritual leadership.

Traditionally men were better suited to go out and encounter the public for purposes of preaching. This doesn’t mean that women were not advanced. Actually, the most advanced devotees in the Gaudiya Vaishnava teachings are the gopis, or simple village girls, of Vrindavan. Also, Jahnavi Devi, the wife of Nityananda Prabhu, took the role of an acharya, or teacher, after her husband left this world.

In the Srimad-Bhagavatam we see many great women devotees, such as Queen Kunti, Draupadi, Mother Yashoda, Devahuti, the wives of the yajnic brahmanas, the naga-patnis or wives of Kaliya, and many more. Even Pingala, who was a prostitute, was able to attain self-realization by her devotional service.

So at first glance we may see that the majority of teachers seem to be male, but when you get into the heart of the matter, you will see there are at least an equal number of exalted devotees in female bodies. Spiritually, all souls are ‘female,’ prakriti, in relation to the Lord. He is the enjoyer, purusha, and we’re meant to be enjoyed by Him. Temporary, bodily distinctions are not very important. If you’re in a woman’s body—and you’re at all inclined—by all means we encourage you to become a sadhu, guru, sage or prophet and make this world a better place.

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