In Kashmir there was a woman of the name Lalla. In Kashmir they have a proverb: We know only two names – Allah and Lalla. Lalla was a rare woman, a buddha, but she must have been not very feminine; she must have had a little more of a male mind than a female mind. She lived her whole life naked. She is the only woman in the whole world who did that. Many men have lived naked: Mahavira, Diogenes, all the Jaina tirthankaras, and thousands of others, but only one woman. It looks very unfeminine, because the very essence of the feminine mind is to hide, not to show – to hide in the inner cave.
Lalla is known to be an enlightened woman; few other women are known to be enlightened. One woman, Maitreyi, is known in the days of the Upanishads, but she must have been a very male type.
It is said that King Janak had called a great debate among all the learned people of his kingdom to decide the ultimate question: What is reality? It was going to be a great discussion and all the learned people, all the pundits of the country gathered together. And there was going to be a great prize for the winner – one thousand cows, the best of the country, with gold-covered horns, with jewelry around their necks. They were standing there outside the palace – one thousand cows. Whosoever won the debate would take the cows.
Yagnawalkya came – one of the great learned men of those days – and at that time he must not have been enlightened, later on he became an enlightened sage. He came with his disciples – he was a great teacher – and he was so arrogant, as scholars are, that he told his disciples, “You take these cows. I will decide the matter later on, but you first take these cows because it is too hot and the cows are suffering from the heat.”
He must have been very arrogant – so certain. Only ignorance is so certain. Wisdom is always hesitating because it is so vast – and how to decide the ultimate nature of reality? Who can decide it? All the other scholars were offended but they couldn’t say anything because they knew that they could not defeat this man in argument. In argument he was superb. And he argued, and he defeated all.
But a woman was sitting there; she was the only woman, and she had not said anything. She was Maitreyi. And then she stood at the end, when the debate was almost finished and he was going to be declared the winner. She said, “Wait. I have to ask a few questions.” And she asked simple questions; but in fact simple questions cannot be answered.
She asked, “On what is this earth supported? Who is supporting this earth?”
The old Indian tradition says the earth is being supported by eight elephants, big white elephants. So Yagnawalkya repeated the old tradition, that the earth is supported by eight elephants: “Are you absolutely illiterate, don’t you know this much?”
The woman asked, “Then on whom are those elephants supported?”
Now Yagnawalkya suspected trouble. So he said, “On Brahma, on God.” And he was thinking that now she would stop.
But she said, “I would like to ask on whom is your God supported, on what?”
Yagnawalkya became angry, and he said, “Woman! Stop! Otherwise your head will fall off. You will be killed!”