Question: Sadhguru, most temples in India are maintained by male priests, only very few by priestesses. Why so? Can women be priests?
Sadhguru: Why are men maintaining all the temples? Maybe the women are maintaining the men! Traditions evolved at a certain time in history, in a particular situation and context. For example, today, so many women travel around the globe and move long distances, not because the world has become liberal, but because of the development of technology. Technology has levelled the field to some extent. In the past, the context of those days was definitely such that activities outside the home were more suitable for a man, not for a woman.
That is one aspect. There are other dimensions to it. In this country, only the public temples were maintained by men because they were more suitable to manage the public. But there was no home without a little shrine, and these private shrines were always maintained by women. So in that sense, more temples were managed and maintained by women than by men, and it is still so.
What type of shrine is it?
Another aspect is what type of shrine it is. There are certain shrines where we would definitely not want women to be there, so there is no question of whether women can be priests. There are other shrines where we would not want men to be there. It depends upon how the shrines are consecrated and for what purpose. Based on this, certain traditions were created.
The question of who maintains a temple is not about superiority and inferiority, it is a question of suitability. For different kinds of jobs, different kinds of people are suitable. Accordingly it is done. It is not the gender, it is the quality.
Men and women are different but the problem with human beings is that every difference is made into a discriminatory process. Every society invents different levels of discrimination based on colour, gender, caste, creed, or whatever. Based on all kinds of nonsense, people always find ways to make themselves superior and someone else inferior.
The question of who maintains a temple is not about superiority and inferiority, it is a question of suitability. For different kinds of jobs, different kinds of people are suitable. Accordingly, it is done. It is not the gender, it is the quality. Certain qualities come much more easily to women. Certain other qualities come much more easily to men. But this is not a fixed ratio. There may be some women who are very good at things that usually a man can do well. There are some men who are very good at things that are usually considered feminine. Right now, at Isha we are bringing up boys and girls without any distinction, but if I get a bicycle, give them a spanner set and tell them, “Dismantle this bicycle and put it together,” probably a boy will do it quicker and better than a girl, but not necessarily. If I give them a pile of flowers and ask them to make a garland, most probably, but not necessarily, the girls will do it quicker and better than the boys.
Probabilities and certainties
When you work with the world, you are not working with certainties, you are always working with probabilities. All traditions and cultures were created based on the larger probability, not on certainties. So when we say, “Let men do this, let women do that,” it is not a certainty, it is a probability that if you give this kind of work to men, they will do it better and if you give that kind of work to women, they will do it better. It is only a small tilt, it is not an absolute factor but that little tilt makes a lot of difference. If the planet was spinning straight on its axis all the time, it would be the same season throughout the year. Because of that little tilt, how many things are happening! So when we say men and women, we are talking about that little tilt and about making use of that tilt because life is always working with probabilities, not with certainties.
If we see a mango seed and say, “This can produce a lot of sweetness. Let’s plant it,” it is a probability, not a certainty. There are no certainties in your physical existence. Everything is only a probability. If you are skilful, you can make what is probable into a reality.
Sadhguru is a yogi, mystic and founder of Isha Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to addressing all aspects of human wellbeing through yoga programmes, and social and environmental initiatives.