Dr. K.S. Fathima Beevi
Member Syndicate, Mahatma Gandhi University
“Empowering Women Through Universal Motherhood”
“My salutations to all the honourable invitees, salutations to the Spiritual Masters, sisters and brothers.
“Let me first of all express my heartfelt gratitude and thanks to the organisers of Amritavarsham50 for having given me this opportunity to share my thoughts and express my views. My talk shall be in Malayalam, and I am going to speak about Motherhood.
“Motherhood is a manifestation of one of the powers of women. The state of motherhood is beyond the limitations of words. Lying in the lap of its mother, the baby drinks her breast milk and receives basic lessons on noble human qualities such as love, compassion, consideration, dharma, etc. This is the subtle glory of motherhood.
“On a much grosser level, by the mother’s showering of pure, selfless love, she helps the innocent newborn babe to raise above all barriers, such as caste and religion. By imparting the right understanding of its dharma, a mother helps her child to properly use its faculty of discrimination and to enter into higher studies.
“Although I was born Muslim, along with Arabic and Islam—by the grace of Allah—I was able to learn Sanskrit and Vedanta. Let me assert that after studying Vedanta I did not have any obstacle in practicing my religion, Islam. Moreover, Vedanta helped me gain a better understanding of Islam. Also, it helped me to appreciate the subtle and hidden meanings of the Islamic teachings. Vedanta allowed me to glimpse the expansiveness of Islam. I am happy to openly admit this fact before all of you.
“Motherhood is invaluable, holy and precious, and it is the duty of every husband, father and son to preserve it. Bearing this fact in mind, our ancient Indians said, ‘matru devo bhavah.’ [‘Let mother be your God.’]
“Sri Shankaracharya highlights the depth of the selflessness of a mother’s love for her child in this sloka from Devi Aparadah Ashtottara:
“kuputro jaayeta kvacidapi kumaataa na bhavati”
“[‘We’ve heard that bad sons may be born, but never have we heard of a bad mother.’]
“The son of a mother may have an unpleasant nature; he may be a threat to his family and society; he may even denounce his mother. But, despite all this, his mother shall never denounce him.
“A mother is the perfect symbol of pure selflessness. There are many instances in our Puranas where even the Trimurtis [Brahma the creator, Vishnu the sustainer and Shiva the destroyer] are rendered powerless in the face of motherhood. We all know the story of the Trimurtis failing miserably in their attempt to test the chastity of Anusuya.
“Since a mother can reach the depths of selflessness, she is often seen as very close to God.
“In the Markandeya Purana, which is popularly known as Devi-stottaram, there is a sloka that highlights the glory of women:
saisha prasannaa varadaa nrgram bhavati muktaye
“[‘If Devi is pleased that becomes a blessing for human beings to be liberated.’]
“‘If a wife wishes, she can guide her husband into either righteousness or unrighteousness—or even to liberation.’
“In the Soundarya-Lahari of Sri Shankaracharya, he glorifies mother thus:
“shivah shaktya yuktho yadi bhavati shaktah prabhavittum
na cedevam devo na khalu kushalah spanditu-mapi
prantum stotum vaa katha-makrtapunyah prabhavati”
[‘United with Shakti, Shiva is endowed with the power to create the universe. Otherwise He is incapable even of movement. Therefore, who except those endowed with great merits acquired in the past can be fortunate enough to salute or praise Thee, Mother Divine, who are the adored of even Hari, Hara And Virinci?’]
“In this sloka, Shankaracharya is not praising Shiva the pure Brahman, but he is singing the praises of Shiva-Shakti, Shiva manifesting along with his divine consort, Parvati Devi, the Parashakti [supreme power]. When Shankaracharya says that there is no Shiva without the feminine power, the shakti, it implies that it is impossible to even imagine a family without a mother or a society without females. Today, we have a Mother in our midst that stands as an embodiment of Motherhood.
“In Manusmriti, it is said:
“pitaa rakshati kaumaare
bhartaa rakshati yaijavane
rakshanti sthavire putra
na strii svatantryam arhati”
“This sloka is often misinterpreted. It means: ‘During her childhood, a female is taken care of by her father, during youth she is protected by her husband, and when she becomes old, her son takes care of her. So she does not deserve any freedom.’ There are few points to ponder over:
“Why does not a women deserve freedom? Who needs freedom first of all? The one who is in bondage needs freedom! A woman is protected and taken care of all through her life. She needs no freedom and such a freedom means nothing to her.
“In the sloka ‘matru devo bhavah,’ it has already been said that motherhood is something very, very precious in this world, and that it is the duty of every man to protect this most precious treasure. But today, women are used as a mere source of lowly pleasures. This is very sad. Women are regularly exploited by magazines and film media. Some magazines even started to highlight this plight of women, and went as far as to ridicule women for their inability to fight against this exploitation. Some women took the task of fighting this exploitation, but, sadly, they started imitating men—rather, they started to exhibit manliness.
“Women have a number of qualities and responsibilities that are very special and unique. It is not good on the part of women to give up such noble qualities. Of course, there are some women who see motherhood as mark of weakness. It is sad that modern women are ready to give up motherliness to stand in par with men. This blind, mindless imitation is never a solution. Moreover, this imitation will worsen their present condition.
“Look at any sphere of the world. Is there a single part of the world that is totally free from problems? Family, nation, parliament, schools, assembly, place of worship: there are a number of problems in all these segments of society. Except for temporary ones, we will never can we come up with any permanent solutions. So women should consider this and rediscover their duties and power. And only if men are ready to accept this, will we be able to find a permanent solution.
“Seeing a mother in all females and awakening the motherhood in all males and other beings is our duty to Amma.
“The sloka ‘vidyaa dhanam sarva dhanat pradhaanam‘ means that acquiring knowledge is the greatest form of wealth.
“What does vidya mean? It just means ‘knowledge.’ Knowledge is power. Just as it can be used for the well being of others, it can also be used for raising havoc.
“During the days of the Upanishads, when men and women dived into the real depths of knowledge, Chandogya Upanishad uplifted humanity with its invaluable teachings. Numerous stories are contained within it. In one such story, the father advises his son who is well versed in all scriptures that even after studying all the Vedas, even after knowing all other things that are to be known, a man, indeed, remains unfulfilled or unsatisfied as long as he does not know the reality of the Self.
“An individual who has mastered all the branches of the Vedas, who has learnt Holy Qu’ran and Bible cannot be considered as a fulfilled being. Along with education, one has to developer right discrimination within. If the faculty of discrimination does not grow along with one’s knowledge and understanding, the individual will start using his power of knowledge for harming others. He may even use such crude knowledge to attack and harass other beings. He won’t even hesitate to kill others. And, alas, the unrefined knowledge will only help him in digging his own grave. In contrast, if the faculty of discrimination develops in proportion with one’s knowledge, he or she shall be able to shower love and compassion on all the other beings around.
“The Great Seers of the very ancient Sanatana Dharma, such as Sri Shankaracharya, Mohammed Nabi, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Kanadana and Jesus Christ gave the same message of love to humanity.
“Getting the right understanding that ‘love is the fulfillment of life’ is the real maturity of education and knowledge. It is this right understanding and maturity that helps one to put all the noble values of dharma into practice. If education is not able to inculcate these values, it will just lead to unrighteousness in society. In such a society, even knowledge will be traded for money. To safeguard the society from such dangers, we have before us an ocean of love and compassion in the form our beloved Amma. I am pretty sure that She is here to guide us on the right path. Let us be flooded by this nectar-like flow of Amma’s love.”
[translated from Malayalam]