To begin with, Amma makes false statement about her own culture and religion. Le'ts use some excerpts from the Manusmriti, the Laws of Manu, one of the famous sacred text of Hinduism and compare them with Amma's speech.
The religious celebrations
|"Until recently women were not allowed to worship in the inner sanctum of a temple; nor could women consecrate a temple, perform Vedic rituals or chant Vedic mantras ... Those prohibitions against women were never actually a part of ancient Hindu tradition."||“Na ast strinam………..” – 5/158. Women have no divine right to perform any religious ritual, nor make vows or observe a fast. Her only duty is to obey and please her husband and she will for that reason alone be exalted in heaven.|
“Na asti strinam………” – 9/18. While performing namkarm and jatkarm, Vedic mantras are not to be recited by women, because women are lacking in strength and knowledge of Vedic texts. Women are impure and represent falsehood.
|"India has a rich heritage of giving due reverence and respect to women"||“Ya to kanya…………….” – 8/369. In case a woman tears the membrane [hymen] of her Vagina, she shall instantly have her head shaved or two fingers cut off and made to ride on Donkey.|
“Asheela kamvrto………” – 5/157. Men may be lacking virtue, be sexual perverts, immoral and devoid of any good qualities, and yet women must constantly worship and serve their husbands.
|"women enjoyed the same status as men, or perhaps an even higher one"||“Yasto na bhavet ….. …..” – 3/10. Wise men should not marry women who do not have a brother and whose parents are not socially well known.|
“Balye pitorvashay…….” – 5/151. Girls are supposed to be in the custody of their father when they are children, women must be under the custody of their husband when married and under the custody of her son as widows. In no circumstances is she allowed to assert herself independently.
“Vandyashtamay…….” – 9/80. A barren wife may be superseded in the 8th year; she whose children die may be superseded in the 10th year and she who bears only daughters may be superseded in the 11th year; but she who is quarrelsome may be superseded without delay.
|"In fact, women were considered the embodiments of power"||“Poonshchalya…………” – 9/15. Because of their passion for men, immutable temper and natural heartlessness, they are not loyal to their husbands.|
“Imam hi sarw………..” – 9/6. It is the duty of all husbands to exert total control over their wives. Even physically weak husbands must strive to control their wives.
“Pita rakhshati……….” – 9/3. Since women are not capable of living independently, she is to be kept under the custody of her father as child, under her husband as a woman and under her son as widow.
|"If there exists any rule that oppresses women, it must have arisen from the selfishness of men; it cannot be God’s decree"||“Ati kramay……………” – 9/77. Any women who disobey orders of her lethargic, alcoholic and diseased husband shall be deserted for three months and be deprived of her ornaments.|
“Bhartaram…………….” – 8/370. In case a women, proud of the greatness of her excellence or her relatives, violates her duty towards her husband, the King shall arrange to have her thrown before dogs at a public place.
“Trinsha……………….” – 9/93. In case of any problem in performing religious rites, males between the age of 24 and 30 should marry a female between the age of 8 and 12.
According to Amma, the rules that oppress women cannot be God's decree. Does she mean that the Manusmriti doesn't come from Brahma or does she means that these rules are perfectly fair for women?
She may not give us the answer, so enough with the past. Let's have a look at the present aspects of her speech. Amma doesn't only contradict her culture, she also contradicts herself.
On the one hand she teaches us that women are stuck and afraid for no reason :
"In truth, no external power can possibly obstruct woman"
"A woman’s mind is the only real barrier "
"Women have been hypnotized by their own minds."
"Women should let go of their fear and distrust. They are illusions."
"The limitations women think they have are not real."
"Women need to muster the strength to overcome those imagined limitations."
On the other hand, she notices that women are concretely impeded :
"The rules and superstitious beliefs that degrade women continue to prevail in most countries"
"The primitive customs invented by men in the past to exploit and to subjugate women remain alive to this day"
"The memory of the horrors perpetrated against women throughout history runs very deep."
"The antiquated, crippling concepts devised in the past are blocking women from reaching spiritual heights"
"Men have forced women to become like potted plants, stunting their freedom and development"
"the problem is that women are given a bad start in life"
"women are pushed back when it comes to sharing political power with men"
"how many women can be seen in the arena of world politics? Is it this way because women are incapable, or is it due to the arrogance of men?"
"Yet no one considers the injustice of women being ruled by men"
"The number of rapes taking place all over the world is astounding. And the fact that in some countries it is the victims of rape who are punished is incomprehensible"
Either women are dreaming that they are impeded or they are actually impeded. Both cannot be true. If women are afraid of mere illusions, why selling them personal safety devices? Are they supposed to press the button anytime they face an illusory threat? The next quote helps us to solve the riddle :
"woman is caught in the illusory net of the nightmare she has experienced for so long"This sentence gathers opposite concepts like "illusion", "nightmare" and "experience". In short, Amma's speech is so full of contradictions that it can appeal to any devotee. Someone neutral, carefully listening to her, may not find her teaching so interesting. But someone who is looking for answers, someone who considers that she has the answers, is likely to be hooked by the terms and images which comfort his or her own likes and dislikes. The varied terms cover a wide range of mindsets.
The following quotes are a good example of such personally customizable contradictions.
"women in countries where they are forced to remain inside the narrow walls of religious tradition should awaken to modern thinking"Modernity leads to freedom. I suffer under the burden of traditional rules. Amma is my savior. She will set up a lot of charities for modernity to come and set me free. Long live modernity!
"It has been widely believed that women and the cultures in which they live will awaken through education and material development. But time has taught us that this concept is too limited"Modernity doesn't lead to freedom. I am not satisfied with the void of modern life. Amma is my savior. She will reveal some ancient spiritual secret to set me free. Long live tradition!
The great spiritual secret lies in motherhood. How to reach for universal motherhood?
"Anyone — woman or man — who has the courage to overcome the limitations of the mind can attain the state of universal motherhood"Easy! Anyone just need courage to reach for that goal.
"The qualities of motherhood are a woman’s birthright"Hmmm, men could need more than courage...
By the way who is superior, men or women?
"The infinite potential inherent in men and women is the same"Nice, both can be equally powerfull.
"There are many powers in women that are generally not found in men"Oops! It seems like women's infinity is greater than men's infinity.
She even suceeds in making two divergent assertions in a short paragraph :
"Half of the world’s population is comprised of women"
"In the world, there are more women than men"
Spiritual talks are often filled with such contradictions. One of the reasons which are commonly given to explain this fact is that we are all different, we cannot all step on a unique track. Therefore the spiritual guide delivers a multitude of apparently paradoxal teachings, in order to cover a maximum of individual cases. The devotees pick what they see fit to elaborate their own specific path. If such is the case, then the next post of our series will show that some particular devotees are not free to choose their path.