Spiritual revolution of Hindu women

Asha Pandey discusses the status of women in the Hindu faith. She tells the story of modern female

In Hinduism, women are considered a form of energy and are given due importance at every stage of life - as a daughter, as a daughter-in-law and as a mother. Out of these roles some come out as women gurus.

During the Vedic times we had seers and philosophers like Ghosha, Apala, Lopamudra, Vishwvara, Surya, Indrani, Yami and Romasha (all women). In a theosophical debate between Shankaracharya and Mandana Mishra (Sanskrit scholars of ancient times), the latter's wife was appointed to be the judge – obviously because of her superior knowledge and spiritual attainments.

In modern times we also have a number of female gurus with large followings. Some of the TV channels like ‘Aastha and Samskaara’ in India continue showing the gatherings and preaching of women gurus. Ma Anandmayee, Amma, and Mata Nirmala Devi are famous female gurus. I have attended one of Mata Nirmala Devi’s big congregations in New Delhi. Let me tell you about her and her work and how she is helping to change the face of women in the spiritual evolution.

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi was born on March 21, 1923 in Chindawara, India. Her parents called her Nirmala, which means 'Immaculate’. She is married with children and is currently living in Italy. She travels extensively in India and abroad.

Shri Mataji began experimenting with awakening the spiritual power of every human being (which the Hindus call the Kundalini) and was surprised at the results. She experimented first on people near her and noticed they were transformed physically, mentally and spiritually. Slowly she found out that this process had the potential solution for all human problems and decided to make her work more widespread.

Since 1970, Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi has been traveling around the world teaching the techniques she developed of Sahaja Yoga meditation (Sahaja is Spontaneous and Yoga is Union with the Self). Large numbers of people acknowledge the value of her teachings and Sahaja Yoga centers are now in more than 75 nations. The yoga and meditation allows people to tap into their inner spiritual power and achieve balance in their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual lives.

Some members of the Hindu faith have accepted Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi's guru status today. Nirmala Devi has dedicated her life to helping with the spiritual ascent of mankind and in doing so has "reclaimed the role of women in the spiritual evolution."

Dr. Asha Lata Pandey is the chairperson of the Sanskrit Department at Delhi Public School in New Delhi. She has written numerous articles on the subject of the role and view of Hindu women. She has also presented papers in the World Sanskrit Conferences in India and the United States.
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Why the Liberal Democrats by-election surge is not all it seems

The Lib Dems chalked up impressive results in Stoke and Copeland. But just how much of a fight back is it?

By the now conventional post-Brexit logic, Stoke and Copeland ought to have been uniquely inhospitable for the Lib Dems. 

The party lost its deposit in both seats in 2015, and has no representation on either council. So too were the referendum odds stacked against it: in Stoke, the so-called Brexit capital of Britain, 70 per cent of voters backed Leave last June, as did 62 per cent in Copeland. And, as Stephen has written before, the Lib Dems’ mini-revival has so far been most pronounced in affluent, Conservative-leaning areas which swung for remain. 

So what explains the modest – but impressive – surges in their vote share in yesterday’s contests? In Stoke, where they finished fifth in 2015, the party won 9.8 per cent of the vote, up 5.7 percentage points. They also more than doubled their vote share in Copeland, where they beat Ukip for third with 7.3 per cent share of the vote.

The Brexit explanation is a tempting and not entirely invalid one. Each seat’s not insignificant pro-EU minority was more or less ignored by most of the national media, for whom the existence of remainers in what we’re now obliged to call “left-behind Britain” is often a nuance too far. With the Prime Minister Theresa May pushing for a hard Brexit and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn waving it through, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has made the pro-EU narrative his own. As was the case for Charles Kennedy in the Iraq War years, this confers upon the Lib Dems a status and platform they were denied as the junior partners in coalition. 

While their stance on Europe is slowly but surely helping the Lib Dems rebuild their pre-2015 demographic core - students, graduates and middle-class professionals employed in the public sector – last night’s results, particularly in Stoke, also give them reason for mild disappointment. 

In Stoke, campaign staffers privately predicted they might manage to beat Ukip for second or third place. The party ran a full campaign for the first time in several years, and canvassing returns suggested significant numbers of Labour voters, mainly public sector workers disenchanted with Corbyn’s stance on Europe, were set to vote Lib Dem. Nor were they intimidated by the Brexit factor: recent council by-elections in Sunderland and Rotheram, which both voted decisively to leave, saw the Lib Dems win seats for the first time on massive swings. 

So it could well be argued that their candidate, local cardiologist Zulfiqar Ali, ought to have done better. Staffordshire University’s campus, which Tim Farron visited as part of a voter registration drive, falls within the seat’s boundaries. Ali, unlike his Labour competitor Gareth Snell and Ukip leader Paul Nuttall, didn’t have his campaign derailed or disrupted by negative media attention. Unlike the Tory candidate Jack Brereton, he had the benefit of being older than 25. And, like 15 per cent of the electorate, he is of Kashmiri origin.  

In public and in private, Lib Dems say the fact that Stoke was a two-horse race between Labour and Ukip ultimately worked to their disadvantage. The prospect of Nuttall as their MP may well have been enough to convince a good number of the Labour waverers mentioned earlier to back Snell. 

With his party hovering at around 10 per cent in national polls, last night’s results give Farron cause for optimism – especially after their near-wipeout in 2015. But it’s easy to forget the bigger picture in all of this. The party have chalked up a string of impressive parliamentary by-election results – second in Witney, a spectacular win in Richmond Park, third in Sleaford and Copeland, and a strong fourth in Stoke. 

However, most of these results represent a reversion to, or indeed an underperformance compared to, the party’s pre-2015 norm. With the notable exception of Richmond’s Sarah Olney, who only joined the Lib Dems after the last general election, these candidates haven’t - or the Lib Dem vote - come from nowhere. Zulfiqar Ali previously sat on the council in Stoke and had fought the seat before, and Witney’s Liz Leffman and Sleaford’s Ross Pepper are both popular local councillors. And for all the excited commentary about Richmond, it was, of course, held by the Lib Dems for 13 years before Zac Goldsmith won it for the Tories in 2010. 

The EU referendum may have given the Lib Dems a new lease of life, but, as their #LibDemFightback trope suggests, they’re best understood as a revanchist, and not insurgent, force. Much has been said about Brexit realigning our politics, but, for now at least, the party’s new normal is looking quite a lot like the old one.