Question: Acharya ji, what is meant by ‘woman’ when Shri Ramakrishna says, “Souls enmeshed in worldliness cannot resist the temptation of ‘woman and gold’ and direct their minds to God, even though these things bring upon them a thousand humiliations.”
Acharya Prashant: It is not possible to go through this reading and not be astonished as to what Ramakrishna really means by ‘women’. In our time and age, it comes as a bit of a shock that a holy man, a wise man, is nullifying one particular gender, right?
But that is not really the case.
When Ramakrishna says ‘woman’, what he means is ‘Prakriti’ – everything that appears, moves, can be seen, can be touched. And when he says ‘you must be cautious of women’, what he means is that you, the one you are, the individualized eye, has the tendency to ‘not to watch Prakriti’, ‘to not to have a healthy relation with it’ but to rather acquire it and exploit it. This tendency is called LUST.
Lust is the tendency of the individualized self, the ego, to seek salvation in the material world. The material world is being referred to as woman by Ramakrishna. So, woman is not really a gender here nor is the woman a danger! Neither is woman a danger nor is even the Prakriti or the material world a danger.
What Ramakrishna is repeatedly warning against is our own tendency, not somebody outside of us. He is warning us against ourselves. He is not warning us against somebody else. He is warning us against our desire, our inclinations to be attracted to Prakriti, which is material, which is world, which is flesh, in the hope that we will get peace there. Seen in that light, woman and gold are one. When the ego is attracted to material flesh, then it is attraction to women. When the ego is attracted to insentient material, non-living material, then it is attraction towards gold.
Fundamentally, attraction towards flesh and attraction towards gold are one and the same thing. The incomplete ego raises a hope, builds a story that something outside of it, something visible, something material, something sensual, will give it peace, will give it completion.
Gold shines, so does flesh. Gold attracts, so does skin. It should be obvious by now that Ramakrishna is warning not only men but also women because the attraction of riches, physical things, and bodies is as prevalent in women as it is in men. In that sense, if you get it right, even women need to be cautious of women. Man needs to be cautious of women and the woman also needs to be cautious of women. Do not be too bothered about the terminology. Do not get stuck at words. Go into the essence of what the wise teacher is saying.
He is continuing with the tradition of viewing the Self as ‘Purush’. The Self inside even a woman is Purush! So even a woman is actually Purush. Are you getting it? Even a woman is actually Purush. He is continuing with tradition of calling the Self as Purush. The non-material Self, the non-physical Self, the non-formal Self, the self without a name, color, gender or distinction. He is calling that as Purush! So the Self of the woman in the woman, the Self that is the woman is also a Purush.
In the world of Ramakrishna, the woman is also a Purush. If the woman is a Purush, who then is the woman? Who is he referring to as ‘Stri’? Who is he referring to as ‘Kamini’? He is constantly warning against Kanchan and Kamini. If the physical woman, the lady that you see, is actually a Purush, then who is the Kamini?
The Kamini is whatever that arouses Kaam within the Purush. If the woman is attracted to a man, then the man is Kamini because the man has aroused kaam, desire, inside the woman.
Are you getting it?
So, Kamini does not refer to a lady. Kamini refers to any entity that has the potential to push you into kaam! So if a lady is walking and if she comes across an attractive and handsome man and the man arouses sexual passion within her, then the man can be suitably called as?
AP: It is just all due to the rules of language. You would not call man as the Kamini, because Kamini is Striling (feminine). You would call man by some other name. May be you would call him Kamdev or whatever! Clear?
And please get rid of the impossible notion that a Kabir or Ramakrishna can side with people of his own gender. A Ramakrishna identifies with no particular gender. A Kabir identifies with no particular gender. He does not even identify with being a human being. How can then he identify him a man. Ramakrishna is not even human, forget about him being a man. Is that clear?
Two things! One, he is not warning you against ladies. Second, he is not even warning you against anything outside of yourself. Because if you are prone to be attracted, you can be attracted towards anything.
He is warning you against yourself!
He is not warning you against anybody else; he is warning you against yourself. If you are drunk, do you really require stones and boulders to hit against and fall? You can then fall even on the cleanest and the most secure pavement. Do you then need to be warned against the dangers in the path? Is the path now where danger resides for you? You now need to be warned against your own drunkenness. You do not require anything now to obstruct you and make you fall. You are yourself the very obstruction. You would stumble against yourself if nothing else is available to make you fall. Your two own legs would cross against each other and enable the fall.
Are you getting it?
Do not let your mind fool you. It is very easy to point fingers at others even if the other is a non-sentient thing, like gold! O gold is evil! No gold is not evil! O woman is evil! Or man is evil! No! Neither man nor woman is evil. By pointing fingers towards the world, you allow the evil to continue where it really resides.
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Acharya Prashant is an emerging champion of socio-spiritual awakening in the world today. An alumnus of IIT-Delhi and IIM-Ahmedabad, and a former Civil Services officer, Acharya Prashant is an acclaimed Speaker, Vedanta Teacher and author of over 50 books. Apart from that he wears various hats: a veganism promoter, an environmental activist, a science activist, a campaigner against superstition, and a champion of essential human freedom. Know More