Why does the Gita say that “I am intelligence among women?”
Edited By: Shyam Venkateswaran P
Question: If women are considered to be less intelligent, then why does Lord Krishna say in the Bhagavad Gita 10.34 verse that among women I am intelligence?
Answer: The point that women are less intelligent has to be very carefully understood in the context as I mentioned in the earlier answer. This is primarily with respect to the misidentification with the body, that this less intelligence is talked about. Now, in the context of the BG, the verse is
kīrtih śrīr vāk ca nārīnām smritir medhā dhritih kshamā
So, among naris, among feminine personalities, Krishna says I am kirtih-srir-vak. Kirti is fame, opulence, the power of speech, the power of remembrance (memory), the intelligence, determination, and patience. This verse can be understood at two levels. One is that Krishna is referring to feminine nouns over there. In the Sanskrit language, this list of nouns which is given, smrtir medha dhrtih kshama, all of them are feminine. There are nouns which are masculine, feminine, neuter. So these are all feminine nouns. And Krishna is saying that among these feminine nouns, from the feminine nouns in general, these seven represent Him. This chapter is Vibhuti Yoga. Vibhuti Yoga means that Krishna, in order to help us think of Him, He is telling us that whatever it is that attracts us in this world that is a spark of His opulence. And that is why He is giving us a sample of the best things in the material world and telling us that they represent His opulence. So it is not that He is them; rather, He is represented through them. His opulence and glories are represented through them.
On one level, these represent feminine nouns; at another level, the Vedic culture understands that underlying everything in the cosmos is personality and personal aspects. So, whatever good qualities we have, they come to us as a result of the blessings of the Supreme Lord manifested through particular personalities, who are in charge of those qualities under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Lord. Just like we have the Prime Minister, and under him we may have the Finance Minister who looks after the particular department of finance, so like that, there is the Supreme Lord who is the Prime Minister and then there are these assistants, the demigods, who are like the cabinet ministers who have particular portfolios. So, Saraswati is the goddess of learning and whenever a person is learned, that person is considered to be blessed by mother Saraswati. Srila Baldeva Vidya Bhushan, one of the great acharyas who, in his commentary on Bhagavad Gita, called Gita Bhushan, explains that these seven are deities. For example, vak, the power of speech, is a very powerful deity and she is often equated with Sanskrit language because Sanskrit language has so much procedurality and precision that it can practically represent everything that you may want to speak as much as possible for any language to convey the affairs of the heart in words and speech and in writing, of course.
So like this, these seven are deities and Krishna is telling that there are so many feminine personalities who are presiding over different qualities and among all these feminine deities, these seven are especially conducive for spiritual advancement. And they are also conducive for the mode of goodness. That’s why Krishna is telling that these seven deities represent me. Among women, I am intelligence; what that means is that among all the women of this world, the feminine deity who presides over memory, smrti is a representative of Krishna. This is also described by Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakur, another great Vaishnav acharya. These are all, in the Vedic cosmology, the wives of Dharma. That means that whenever a person follows Dharma, then these qualities manifest in him. So again, the fact that learning and wisdom are represented as women, as a female personality, and learning is considered to be the gift of the female personality, Saraswati devi, that should make us a bit cautious about not misapplying or misunderstanding the idea that women are less intelligent. So here it is representing the deities.