Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be sexist in any manner, but simply puts forward the model of thought as per Ayurvedic and Yogic traditions. The author is a devotee of the Goddess (Devi) and simply wishes to express traditional concerns relative to traditional India, alone.
In the spiritual sphere, we talk about the satya (truth) that triumphs over mithya (falsehood). But, what happens when falsehood is seen as the truth alone and the entire world-view thus becomes inverted? Have the poles clearly reversed?
We may ask this question often. In ancient times, yogis, even advanced, fell due to the allure of falsehood, or even basic mudhabhavas (delusional states) alone. It is easy for us all to do, due to human emotionalism. Sri Ramana Maharishi may have wished not to have an ashrama built around him, but he still allowed such, as out of social love for his family or brother – an emotional zeal. Sri Ramakrishna also allowed scores of devotees to come and engage with him, as Sri Ramana also did, again out of (outer) emotionalism. Of this, as a part of our prarabdha-karma (karma coming out as a result of past-actions influencing the current life or avatar), it becomes almost a necessity. Yet, still there are also other non-karmic factors and forces at play that often wish to thwart our progress forward, or the soul’s spiritual evolution through numerous layers of consciousness.
In the yoga tradition, it was rare to find yoginis or female aspirants of yoga for many reasons, such as the hormonal-cycle of females that causes them to be emotional-beings, and also due to them being a manifestation of the divine soma and Prakriti, a lunar* and physical-force that makes them naturally susceptible to, as also carrying the force of maya or illusion or the world (materialism), compared to the male counterpart who is more spirit as agni (fire), thus semi-tangible, not solid, transformative and also a manifestation of Purusha or the individual soul-Self as a manifestation of Lord Shiva. Here, males are closer biologically and psychologically to the spirit – however, due to the grounding and heavy (gurutva) or dense nature of females to counter-balance them, it can cause them to sink too far, when in the female influence, to a state of tamas (ignorance and darkness), hence of avidya (ignorance) and moha / mudha (attraction and delusion).
For these reasons, few yoginis were famous and generated their own sects, centered upon worship of the Goddess and Lord Shiva. Yet, such were balanced and still looked back to the spirit-Master, forms of Lord Shiva as the Divine Guru. They maintained cordial traditions with the male Saivites and Saktas alike, who they often formed a part of, relative to traditions. This is quite contrasting from today’s world and modern yoginis.
Yogis however, with their fire could often be overbearing to women of a more lunar-nature, as we see with male-centric cults such as Islam, Judaism and Christianity, which go off the deep end with treatment of women, primarily due to not honouring the Divine Feminine and being too fiery and aggressive as a result. A balance must be there, but also with either side recognosing the limitations of the other; spiritualising their forces and uniting them – which seldom happens in the material sphere (such as modern pop-yoga today). Classical militant Hatha-Yogis were required to develop brahmacharya or celibacy in mind, body and speech, so as to avoid falling into emotional traps, generating a greater inner ojas (strength and vitality), as well as a more nonchalant attitude towards sexuality and women which itself generated a better emotionally detached, strong and more fiery warrior against the invading Arab forces, in addition to their yogic agility!
Still, even within spiritual spheres, the fall of the yogi was indeed possible. Great ancient masters in the Treya-Yuga, who were spiritually more advanced and powerful than the best of yogis and Brahmanas we could find on this planet today in Kali-Yuga, themselves fell. Examples are the great King of Sri Lanka, Ravana, who was a renown Ayurvedic vaidya, a jyotishi, Vedic-scholar, philosopher and poet and one of the greatest Brahmanas of his day in the higher age of Treya-Yuga. What does this say about us today, in an age of decay and ignorance? Ravana’s fall was not simply due to his lust of power and fame or riches, but for possession of the beautiful Sita-Devi, wife of Sri Rama. As a result, he ruined his mighty spiritual powers and became corrupted – again, even back then, such women and their allures, even at a subconscious and innocent level, caused men to behave in a psychotic manner, fall and ruin everything they had fought hard for spiritually!
Numerous lessons are known here. Lord Indra, King of the Devas or celestials, is known to have sent down the apsaras (nymphs) to delude human yogis and even advanced Rishis, so as to prevent them from performing their austerities. Again, what to speak of people in a lesser-age of today, and not Rishis?
Even great masters such as Matsyendranatha, the great yogic siddha fell due to the charms of a goddess and fell, saved only by his disciple Gorakshanatha, who was able to snap him out of this state he had become entranced with. Again, what to speak of us today?
Here, the shakti itself is said to have had the power of attraction (mohana-shakti), by which Vishnu appeared in female form as the divine enchantress, Mohini. Again, while this is dangerous, too much fiery or masculine energy, as with Abrahmic sects as also Zoroastrianism generate excesses of social tejas, which cause the shakti to lose all ground whatsoever, and societies become too fiery and aggressive in a destructive, rather than yogic manner of masculine energy and overtake the feminine, denying them their place altogether. Again, there must be spiritual balance.
These are great lessons here. We can understand why some certain Vaishnava sects actually forbade women to come into the presence of their Goswamis and males – not simply due to their lustful charms, but knowing the deeper side of females being emotional-beings and their skills in the art of manipulation and that the goddess’ energy brings with it as maya-shakti. We can also understand why some yogini sects also chose to shun males in their company and temples.
Today, however, we have a new range of narcissistic and sociopathic manipulators in the yoga-sphere as faux sadhakas and Gurus alike. We have access to the mainstream media and to “google” anything at our fingertips to become self-proclaimed armchair ‘experts’ in! Hence, the classical lessons of yoga are not always seen and understood and when pointed out, can sometimes be seen as antagonism, rather than ancient lessons for the modern mind to harness!
* The moon becomes an asura planet temporarily, for his behaviour, lusting after Jupiter’s wife, Tara. As a result, he goes to war with the Devas, representing the lunar and feminine form of charm and lust that can ruin a male, or anyone due to it’s inherent force of moha (attraction) and mudha (delusion). Hence, soma or the feminine grace and form represents materialism and illusion, like Venus on an outer level, while representing immortality at an inner-level.
Here, females represent the heavier force that gives grounding and balance, but becomes tamasic in excess, whereas males are fiery in excess; both need a balance. Today’s poles of balance, as also historical unless yogic were often outside these normal states, which lead to women “weighing down” men karmically (natural force of tamas and also rajas that mayashakti, natural with them, possesses).