Some people consider woman as inferior to men in spirituality. The reason why they consider women in the same wavelength with lowborn persons (Sudra), merchants(Vysha) and laborers is mainly due to this verse of Bhagavat gita-9.32 “O son of Partha, low-born persons of degraded lineage, women, merchants, or laborers they also attain the supreme destination by taking full refuge in Me”
When we fathom more into sublime vedantic philosophy then we can understand that the meaning of that verse does not mean woman’s should be considered as degraded sect. That verse actually has a deeper meaning than its expressed in the word format. One thing is very clear that in Vedanta there is no importance to any genders. It boldly declare – Those who know the truth will become Brahma. This Brahma is formless, so its obvious that it is genderless, because only a form can contain a gender. If you say that the Rishi’s named Brahma as Purusha, then understand that it is not in the sense of man or woman as we commonly use by that term. Pursha means the one whom abodes in Pura. Pura means body. So Purusha means the one who abodes in each and every bodies.
Now coming back to the verse of gita . The 4 varna ashram’s(Caste system) are not formed from birth. It’s by the karma one gets into it. The actual definition of the caste system is as follows. The brahmins is the ‘realized soul’ or ‘truthful seeker of Brahma’ and Kshathriyas are generally called as rulers, but they are not just rulers of land, but rulers of knowledge too. In the ancient time the Upanishad was with Kshathriyas, not with Brahmanis. We can read about this concept in Chandogya upanishad. So the first 2 class-Brahmanis and Kshathriyas are categorized to lofty level because of their intellectual power or wisdom they hold.
Vaisya’s and Shudras devotes most of their time in worldly activates, hence they were less active in spirituality that’s why these 2 classes were not considered equal to Brahmins and Kshathriyas. So the concept is- any individual who is less active in spirituality is considered as degraded(low caste). This degradation is not forever, when he starts to become intensely spiritual, then he is upgrading himself to the ‘brahaminhood’, The inner essence of the gita verse(quoted above) is a slogan – raise yourself to brahaminhood by becoming my devotee or remain intense in spirituality.
Now the question- why women are considered with the labors and businessman? It’s mainly because there are 2 level of womanhood. First level is obviously the womanhood and other level is that of motherhood. Like a shudra and vaisya ascents their grade by knowledge, similarly A woman upheavels her grade to brahamana level by becoming mother. Upanishad named mothers as ‘Bhavaythri’. Aiterya Upanishad declares “In man indeed is the soul first conceived. That which is the semen is extracted from all the limbs as their vigor. He holds that self of his in his own self. When he spills it into his wife, then he procreates it. That (semen) becomes non-different from the wife, just as much as her own limb is. Therefore (the fetus) does not hurt her. She nourishes this self of his that has entered here (in her womb). She, the nourisher, becomes fit to be nourished”
A mother cares a baby in her stomach just like her own organ, not as a different entity. She is transforming herself into that kid. She nourishes the baby and it is this baby (in any gender) is becoming wise later in her life. So actually she is fit to be called as the ‘mother of the wise ones’. Motherhood is the upanayana(sacred ceremony for becoming brahmin for boys) for woman’s and its the highest state. Because of that upanayana (Mother), woman is becoming the teacher of all teachers.
Thus Upanishad (Taittiriya) declared- first- Mathrudevo bhava, then only it utters pithrudevo bhava, acharya devo bhava. So its in the order – mathrudevo bhyava…salutation to mother, only after mother comes father, guru, etc. As per Indian spiritual tradition of Rishi’s when you desire to become a monk, you must gain the permission from his mother otherwise he cannot be a monk. Others permission, including that of the father are not considered as mandatory. So obviously concluding women as degraded gender in spirituality is absolutely baseless.
Swami Vivekananda has affirmed this concept clearly in one of his famous speech while discussing about the womanhood in india, “The glory of a nation depends upon the way it treat women”.
Women should be highly respected according to the Vedas. They defined motherhood as “bhavayathri,” which is a clear indication that women as mother should be protected always by the family. Christ lauded this statement and Quran also said, “Respect womans because they are your sisters, mothers and daughters.
So the classification of Gita may be like this:
Brahmin, Kshatriya, motherhood = highest
Vaisya, Shudra, Woman = lower
After understanding such a concept we can say that the meaning of this Gita verse “O son of Partha, low-born persons of degraded lineage, women, merchants, or laborers they also attain the supreme destination by taking full refuge in Me” is that- even woman’s who can’t be mother will also have the way for getting salvation is by being a devotee of mine, by this way they are exalted.
I offer my salutation to that motherhood which is as equal as guru in the spiritual quest of Truth.