In creating this universe God revealed two aspects: the masculine or fatherly, and the feminine or motherly....
In Nature you behold the mother aspect of God, full of beauty, gentleness, tenderness, and kindness.

This quote from Paramhansa Yogananda beautifully captures what we are here to celebrate today- the subject and the author! Women and Yoganandaji.

Each being is bestowed with both masculine and feminine characteristics. The
equilibrium between the two keeps shifting as we move through the cycles of birth. Influenced by karmic consequences and experiences in any given lifetime, one trait predominates the other. Neither one superior then the other. Regrettably masculine aspect, being endowed with physical strength, has led to the society being controlled by them leading to oppression and inequality.
Growing up in a somewhat male predominant world, I wondered how I can live my life as an expression of Divine spirit and not be bound by social expectation of who I should be. The depth and frame of this question kept changing as I grew up. Eventually I realized that the seed of inequality and inferiority is within me and it is up to me to tend to my inner garden and weed them out. I chose to be the best version of who I am today in the hope that tomorrow I can be a better version of what I was yesterday. My flaws and weaknesses are not my burdens and I chose not to be ashamed of them. I shall churn and burn them and keep improving! I chose to accept myself wholeheartedly beyond the gender binary.
Devi Sita was the consort of Lord Rama and the epitome of the feminine aspect of the Divine. Many of us grew up listening to the stories of Ramayana and Devi Sita was always portrayed as the ideal example of a woman who possessed all the good qualities that are expected from a traditional Indian woman. She went through numerous trials and tribulations through her life. In my perspective, she is not a meek woman who got tossed around and was taken advantage of. Rather she represents the silent pillar of strength, the Shakti, who showed what a strong woman can be and never let go of her principles in life. She maintained her calm and dignity throughout. She had the courage to face the Agni Parikshas (an ordeal of fire) that kept coming her way. She raised two children as a single mother and eventually merged back in the loving womb of Mother Earth. She symbolizes qualities that are relevant irrespective of gender but applicable to all humankind.
The theme of 2021 International Woman’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge. Individually, we are all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. Choose your challenge, celebrate yourself and let us all collectively help create an inclusive world.
Paramhansa Yogananda entered my life almost 27 years ago. I never met him in person, but he has been my spiritual guide since. My father, Vijay Bansal, was going through some turbulent times financially, physically and emotionally and was intensely seeking his purpose of his life. He had started reading “Autobiography of a Yogi” and was extremely drawn towards Yoganandaji. At the lowest point in his lifetime, he saw a magazine with a picture of Yoganandaji and purchased it. Inside that magazine was an article about Reiki. That’s how my father’s and eventually my journey started on the path of Reiki Raja Yoga. The gratefulness I feel cannot be described in words…I want to end with reading a few excerpts from Yoganandaji’s writings.
God’s unconditional mercy is expressed in the mother. The mother’s instinctive
love and forgiveness, no matter what her child has done, shows us that God will
ultimately forgive the sins of all human beings. That is why I like to relate to God
not as the grim Deity of some prophets, but as the Mother Divine waiting to
forgive all and take them back after their freewill wanderings on the error-strewn
pathways of incarnations.
There are two kinds of seekers: those who are like the baby monkey and those
who are like the kitten. The baby monkey clings to the mother; but when she
jumps, it may fall off. The little kitten is carried about by the mother cat, content
wherever she places it. The kitten has complete trust in its mother. I am more like that; I give all responsibility to the Divine Mother. But to maintain that attitude takes great will. Under all circumstances — health or sickness, riches or poverty, sunshine or gray clouds — your feeling must remain unruffled. Even when you are in the coal bin of suffering you don’t wonder why the Mother placed you there. You have faith that She knows best. Sometimes an apparent disaster turns into a blessing for you....
Some of you have been practicing for a while- enhance your existing practice.
Some of you may be new to this- here and now is the time to take that first step!
All the best.

Guru Parul Bansal