Question: Are women less intelligent?
Answer: This is a vague question, I must say. Intelligence is multifaceted; there are various types of intelligence. According to Howard Gardner, Professor of Education at Harvard University, there are nine types of intelligence. Similarly, according to Steven Rudolph of Jiva Institute, there are eight types of intelligence.
Somebody may be highly intelligent in one area but have medium intelligences in another. The whole idea of an intelligent person having a high IQ is very misleading. IQ testing is mainly related to mathematics and calculation. One could be intelligent in business, music or interpersonal relation but not have a very high IQ. I know many examples from my friends in college who had high IQ, were very good at studies, got a good job, and made a lot of money, but their personal lives are very miserable – broken families and taking to drugs. Would they be considered highly intelligent? Maybe, maybe not.
Indian scriptures mention 64 kalas or arts, and Krishna is expert in all of them. There may be people who are good in some of these and not so good in others.
So we cannot make a blank statement that women are less intelligent and men are more intelligent unless you speak of a specific area. As a simple example, women are very good at taking care of children, family and managing the house and this is a very important part of human life. Without these three a man’s life will be quite miserable, even if he is so-called intelligent.
The general function of intelligence, which is called buddhi in Sanskrit, is to discriminate between right and wrong. This discrimination can primarily be in two fields: material and spiritual.
Usually, spiritualists attack women because they think that women are less intelligent when it comes to being a spiritualist. However, if we study the scriptures in an unbiased manner, this premise does not hold ground. Let us look at the women described in Bhagavata Purana, which is considered as the highest authority for spiritual matters.
The first woman mentioned in the Bhagavata is Sri Kunti Devi. Is she a spiritual dull head? It doesn’t appear that way from her prayers to Krishna. From the material point of view she may be considered quite foolish because in the whole history of the universe she is the only one who prays to God to give her troubles:
vipadaḥ santu tāḥ śaśvat
tatra tatra jagad-guro
bhavato darśanaṁ yat syād
“Let there be calamities again and again, o Lord of the Universe, so that we can have your darshan again and again because by seeing You we will no longer see repeated birth and death.” (SB 1.8.25)
Spiritually, however, she is the most intelligent because she realizes that when calamities come to her it also brings her the darshan of Krishna. What can be a more intelligent conclusion than that?
The next lady who comes into the picture is Draupadi. She was not only the most beautiful woman of her time but also the most intelligent. In the whole history of the universe she is the only one who could manage five husbands peacefully.
One can read about the great characteristics of Draupadi in Mahabharata and see how she was actually managing the whole kingdom of Yudhisthira Maharaja.
She is the one who asked a very technical question when she was dragged into the assembly of the Kauravas by Duhsasana. No one was able to answer her, including Bhisma. Her question was, “Does Yudhisthira, after losing himself in gambling, have the right to wager her?” Such a question cannot be asked by anyone of petty intelligence.
When Arjuna captured Asvathama, who had killed Draupadi’s five sons, and brought him before Draupadi as a slave, Draupadi, although very aggrieved by the cruel murder of her five young sleeping sons, immediately told Arjuna, “Release him, release him! He is a Brahmana and son of your guru.” Such a statement can be only made by a person who is very balanced in her mind, stitha prajna, and not by a person who is full of envy, jealousy, duplicity, and craftiness.
Then there is a description of Devahuti, the service she did to her husband is exemplary. She was a princess, but she served her austere husband with utmost humility. Her character is described as being free from any material desires, hypocrisy, greed, pride, inadvertence, and hatred (SB 3.23.3). Modern women may think it was foolish for her to do this, but actually this was the most intelligent thing to do because by doing so she begot God as her son.
Then we have the example of Suniti, Druva’s mother, the one who intelligently advised him to go to the forest and worship Krishna.
So it is wrong to make a categorical statement that women are less intelligent. Even in modern times, I find that wherever I go the majority of the audience consists of women. The same is true for churches, temples and Yoga associations. In fact, women are more reliable in performing service than men.
To be continued with: “The Place of Women in the Bhakti Movement”