Swami Vivekananda was a monk who at one time saw women as an obstacle. However on realising the highest truth he saw no distinction between sex and saw in women the presence of the Divine Mother.
Swami Vivekananda worked effortlessly to try and uplift the plight of women, in particular Indian Women.
These are a collection of his thoughts on women.
Swami Vivekananda on Women
“The soul has neither sex, nor caste nor imperfection.”
“The best thermometer to the progress of a nation is its treatment of its women.”
” There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved.”
“Woman has suffered for aeons, and that has given her infinite patience and infinite preserverance.”
“The idea of perfect womanhood is perfect independence.”
“Soul has no sex, it is neither male nor female. It is only in the body that sex exists, and the man who desires to reach the spirit cannot at the same time hold sex distinctions. (CW ,V.4, P.176)
It is very difficult to understand why in this country [India] so much difference is made between men and women, whereas the Vedanta declares that one and the same conscious Self is present in all beings. You always criticize the women, but say what have you done for their uplift? Writing down Smritis etc., and binding them by hard rules, the men have turned the women into manufacturing machines! If you do not raise the women, who are living embodiment of the Divine Mother, don’t think that you have any other way to rise.
In what scriptures do you find statements that women are not competent for knowledge and devotion? In the period of degeneration, when the priests made the other castes incompetent for the study of the Vedas, they deprived the women also of all their righ ts. Otherwise you will find that in the Vedic or Upanishadic age Maitreyi, Gargi, and other ladies of revered memory have taken places of Rishis through their skill in discussing about Brahman. In an assembly of a thousand Brahmans who were all erudite in the Vedas, Gargi boldly challenged Yagnavalkya in a discussion about Brahman. Since such ideal women were entitled to spiritual knowledge, why shall not the women have same privilege now? What has happened once can certainly happen again. History repeats itself. All nations have attained greatness by paying proper respect to women. That country and that nation which edo not respect women have never become great, nor will ever be in future. The principal reason why your race h! ! ! ! as so much degenerated is that you have no respect for these living images of Shakti. Manu says, “Where women are respected, there the gods delight; and where they are not, there all works and efforts come to naught.” There is no hope of rise for that fam ily or country where there is no estimation of women, where they live in sadness. (V7. p.214-15)
when people are discussing as to what man and woman can do, always the same mistake is made. They think they show man at his best because he can fight, for instance, and undergo tremendous physical exertion; and this is pitted against the physical weak ness and non-combating quality of woman. This is unjust. Woman is as courageous as man. Each is equally good in his of her way. What man can bring up a child with such patience, endurance, and love as the woman can? The one has developed the power of doin g; the other, the power of suffering. If woman cannot act, neither can man suffer. The whole universe is one of perfect balance. (CW V.2,p.25-26)
If you do not allow one to become a lion, he will become a fox. Women are a power, only now it is more evil because man oppresses woman; she is the fox, but when she is no longer oppressed, she will be the lion (CW vol.7,p.22)
[Talking to an American audience] I should very much like our women to have your intellectuality, but not if it must be at the cost of purity. I admire you for all that you know, but I dislike the way that you cover what is bad with roses and call it good. Intellectuality is not the highest good. Morality and spirituality are the things for which we strive. Our women are not so learned, but they are more pure.
Not until you learn to ignore the question of sex and to meet on a common ground of common humanity will your woman really develop. All this is the cause of divorce. Your men bow low and offer a chair, but in another breath they offer compliments. They sa y, ‘Oh, madam, how beautiful are your eyes!’ What right have they to do this? How dare a man venture so far, and how can you women permit it? Such things develop the less noble side of humanity. They do not tend to nobler ideals.
We should not think that we are men and women, but only that we are human beings, born to cherish and to help one another. No sooner are a young man and a young woman left alone than he pays compliments to her, and perhaps before he takes a wife, he has courted two hundred women. Bah! If I belonged to marrying set, I could find a woman to love without all that! (CW Vol. 5, p. 412-413)
Men and women in every country, have different ways of understanding and judging things. Men have one angle of vision, women another; men argue from one standpoint, women from another. Men extenuate women and lay the blame on men; while women exonerate men and heap all the heap on women. (CW V.7, p.378)
“In the West its ideal is wife, in India in the mother”.
“In India the mother is the center of the family and our highest ideal. She is to us the representative of God, as God is the mother of the universe. It was a female sage who first found the unity of God, and laid down this doctrine in one of the first hy mns of the Vedas. Our God is both personal and absolute, the absolute is male, the personal, female. And thus it comes that we now say: ‘The first manifestation of God is the hand that rocks the cradle’.” (CW V.4 p.170)