The Spiritual Education of Women
WITH THE WORK of the ashram increasing rapidly, Gauri Ma felt it was not feasible or proper that the entire responsibility be on her shoulders. She created an advisory board, whose membership consisted of several highly respected gentlemen, and a women's council, whose membership consisted of a group of well-educated women. She also established an executive committee of women. In this way, through her inner vision and farsightedness, Gauri Ma established the Lord's work on a sound footing so that when she was no longer there, the work of the convent would continue to run smoothly for a long time. Thus, because of everyone's sympathy, cooperation, and help, the work prospered.
Deep within herself, Gauri Ma knew that if any permanent change in the lives of women was to be achieved, it would be necessary to have nuns of ideal character who were willing to dedicate their lives to the service of women. These brahmacharinis, or novices, would first have to elevate their own lives by renunciation and the practice of austerity. They would also have to be well-educated; only then would they be ready to accept the responsibilities for imparting good education to other women. She knew that unless she had a well-organized group of such women, her work would not be complete. That is why, despite all her other responsibilities, right from the beginning she gave special attention to capable women who had detachment and were willing to become brahmacharinis and devotedly practice austerity. These brahmacharinis would later become sannyasinis who would dedicate their lives and work to their own realization and to the welfare of other women.
Having this goal firmly in mind, Gauri Ma organized the brahmacharinis into a group called Matrisangha, Mother's Group. This organization became the basis and life of the ashram, and the nuns today follow in the tradition and path set out by Gauri Ma.
Today, we can see the awakening of women all over India. Many institutions have been established for their welfare and all-around development. But near the turn of the century in 1895 when Gauri Ma first established her ashram at Barrackpur, the status and educational accomplishments of women were quite different. Women had forgotten that they had duties in life other than household duties, that in this vast world they had another field of work, and, above all, that it was necessary to have spiritual awakening.
In those days it was unimaginable for a Hindu girl to renounce everything, remain unmarried, and take vows of renunciation and service, sacrificing her life for the welfare of society. Sri Ramakrishna gave Gauri Ma the inspiration she needed to follow her spiritual calling. Sri Saradeshwari Ashram was the visible manifestation of that precious, pure. and auspicious inspiration. Struggling to overcome many difficulties, obstacles, and unfavorable situations, Gauri Ma sacrificed her life to help others.
Gandhiji felt great joy listening to Gauri Ma's words. Chittaranjan Das was so filled with amazement and devotion that when Gauri Ma was leaving, he bowed low before her and, with tears in his eyes, asked for her blessings. Gauri Ma blessed him in the name of Sri Ramakrishna.
- www.vivekananda.net edited by Frank Parlato Jr.