What should be the most important quality in a woman?
If you had asked the same question a few thousand years ago, the answer would have been different. In the year that we are living in, the biggest quality of a woman is education. The best ornament of a woman is education. There is no better ornament than this. Her second best quality is self-reliance: to be able to stand on her own feet. Today the woman who has education and self-reliance is safe, respected and powerful. No one will dare to touch a woman who is educated. She will not get beaten up by her husband. She will not let you slap her. What right does a man have to beat up a woman? This has been going on for years and it is an animal culture.
Education means qualification. We are no longer living in the age of degrees like BA and MA. The woman who has such a qualification can determine her past and future herself. She can help her parents, marry a man of her choice and play a role in nation-building. This is the straight answer to your question. However, many people would like to hear a different answer that a womans best quality is character. That is what people want to hear, that is what was on the questioners mind. But I do not give worn-out answers. Okay, let us agree with you for a moment that a womans best ornament is character. Now character is such a thing that to safeguard it you need power. To keep gold, diamond or pearls safely you need security. You do not need to safeguard iron. It can be left out in the open. We can accept that the best ornament of a woman is character, but to keep that ornament safe, today and always, a woman has to be powerful and well-educated. Not only is this necessary for society, but also for women themselves.
When women are educated and become too career-oriented, how can they be convinced of the importance of marriage?
Marriage is a social thing. It is a social process, a social contract, nothing more than that. Society has allowed two people, who were strangers to each other, to live together under certain conditions so that society can run in an organized way, so that social niceties are maintained. However, the real thing in marriage is the living together of two individuals who were once strangers to each other. Marriage is a stamp paper that the government has signed on; it is a signed stamp of society stating, Yes, you can live together.
The attraction between man and woman is not a social thing, it is a God-given thing; it is natural the way sleep is natural. When it is natural, it is inevitable. No one can be free of it. Everyone will hope for this attraction. If a woman is educated and stands on her own feet, she will choose this relationship of her own free will. There is no rule that if a girl is educated and career-oriented, she will not marry. That cannot happen. If one or two have the temperament for sannyasa, that is a different thing. But I am talking of the majority. So you do not need to worry about this. Take a look at educated societies anywhere in the world. There girls look after their future themselves. Girls should not go with the notion that they will not marry. There may be one or two such girls, but most do get married.
—30 April, 2000