Women and virtue

The virtues that the shastras described for a woman pertained to a certain time in history. The tradition of this land allowed for two dimensions to teachings - sruthis and smrithis. One is eternal and unchanging while the other should constantly evolve from generation to generation. So going by the virtues or moral codes which were prescribed thousands of years ago may be out of place today but the basic virtue for any human being, whether man or woman, is to be true to themselves.

What is virtue? Your idea of virtue - about doing this or that, is social virtue not life virtue. Now, for example, was Veerappan a virtuous man? He was a criminal who slew almost 600 elephants and everybody wanted him dead. But in the past, in Tamil Nadu, one of the greatest titles that could be conferred on great heroes was ‘One who has slain a thousand elephants’. So our values and virtues have changed. Today, you are considered a criminal if you kill a thousand elephants.

So society’s virtues serve society; life virtue serves life. If you are truly virtuous, you must be beyond all bias and only then will you truly be capable of compassion. Compassion is not about being sympathetic to certain causes or certain people. You are compassionate when your passion becomes all encompassing and you are passionate about everything.

Compassion is the highest virtue and it is not possible if you are identified with this or that. You can be compassionate only when you are able to just look at life as life and not as my life or your life.

Today, even the people who take up so called good causes are doing so with identification. Now there are women’s movements that are trying to lay down a new set of virtues because they don’t like the old ones; the new virtues will not be any better. A woman will be virtuous when she transcends her identification with her body and is no longer identified with body parts. When you refer to life as either masculine or feminine - this whole idea has entered you not because you have perceived some other lever of duality but because the difference in a man and a woman’s body parts is entrenched too deeply into your consciousness and you can’t think beyond it. You should not carry your manhood or womanhood 24 hours of the day; you can just be a being.

At certain times and in certain situations in your life, you need to be a man or a woman but for the rest of the time why would you want to be identified with a few body parts.

So, there is no separate virtue for a woman; virtue is for all human beings.

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