Bhakti is beyond feminism – and beyond male chauvinism too
Gender roles are becoming increasingly intermingled and blurred nowadays. Conservatives blame feminism for various social problems such as marital ruptures and teenage delinquency. Liberals counter that male chauvinism has caused far bigger social problems such as domestic violence and bridal burnings.
When people with such orientations start practicing bhakti, they often stress their orientations within their conception of bhakti. Thus, some hold that non-traditional ideologies such as feminism have caused the lack of spirituality among women and thereby in all of society; so, social re-spiritualization requires the repudiation of feminism. Others counter that today the lack of spirituality plagues men too, who would only exploit women if the clock were turned back; better to not position bhakti as antagonistic to influential social trends such as feminism.
Either way, such attacks and counter-attacks risk missing the problem: misdirected consciousness. The Bhagavad-gita (15.07) explains that we all are souls, parts of Krishna, and are meant to love and serve him. Be we men or women, conservatives or liberals, if we don’t live harmoniously with Krishna, our consciousness gets misdirected by our mind and senses. These inner agents of illusion torment us with various desires and conceptions. And goaded by their torment, we end up acting in ways that torment others. Amidst such internal and external torment, worldly conceptions such as feminism or male chauvinism often become convenient whipping boys.
Ultimately, bhakti is transcendental to all worldly conceptions – it is the human heart’s loving connection with the divine heart. Whatever our personal disposition or social position, we all can cultivate bhakti. When we focus on practicing bhakti-yoga diligently, the resulting deepened devotion will make us more open to Krishna’s inner guidance (10.10). With such spiritualized intelligence, we will understand how we can best act as parts of the solution, not parts of the problem.
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