The debate between individualism and collectivism lies at the heart of all modern political debates, but it is obvious that we could not live without both. If everyone acted individualistically, society—which hinges on cooperation—could not exist; there could be no common agreement on social laws that aim for the greater collective good over (sometimes) individual good. If on the other hand we prioritized the collective good over individual good, there would be no incentive in the individuals to act out of their own agency, resulting in the relinquishment of individual responsibilities. What is the right balance between individualism and collectivism? This question hinges on the problem that these two ideas seem to be fundamentally contradictory and this post hopes to show that they are not.
“Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” says that bestseller book from John Gray. This book has become a classic, although it stereotypes both men and women, disregarding the fact that each person has both masculine and feminine tendencies in them to varying degrees. We can clearly speak about the masculine and feminine as ideas, concepts, or archetypes, but we cannot speak of ordinary people as purely feminine or masculine. This post extends the previous one (where I described masculine and feminine as archetypes of consciousness in Vaishnavism) into yoga philosophy where the masculine and feminine are combined to produce a human body—the masculine being the upward flow called pingalā (also called the sun) and the feminine being the downward flow called idā (also called the moon). This gives a scientific orientation to the gender debate. But more importantly, yoga philosophy teaches us that we are not men or women; to extricate ourselves from the false sense of manhood or womanhood, we have to combine the opposing tendencies in a very specific sense. That specific sense represents the simultaneous quest for knowledge and devotion.
As we have seen earlier, a soul has three tendencies called sat (choice), chit (meaning), and ananda (pleasure), such that the essence of choice is that between meaning and pleasure. We have also discussed previously, how the original sat-chit-ananda Absolute Truth creates five forms—Kṛṣṇa, Rāma, Hara, Ramā, and Jīvā, which are called the pañca-tattva or five categories. Two of these forms are masculine (Kṛṣṇa and Rāma) while two of them are feminine (Hara and Ramā). Each masculine form is paired with a feminine form. The form of Kṛṣṇa and Hara are the subject and object of pleasure, while the forms of Rāma and Ramā are the subject and object of meaning. In this post, I will use these descriptions to outline the Vedic philosophical view of feminine and masculine. It is noteworthy that masculine and feminine are not just material bodies in Vedic philosophy; they are spiritual archetypes or forms, which have a variety of material manifestations. This philosophical understanding can then be used to discern the basis of gender roles in a society, and why some modern roles (for both men and women) are rejected.