In Mahavira’s time women were fewer, men were more. The reason was that many tribes in India in those days used to kill girls when they were born, just to avoid the trouble of raising them and then getting them married. It was such a trouble, because girls could be married only if you gave enough money, land with the girl to the man whom she was going to marry – unless the girl was exceptionally beautiful, which was rarely the case. And people were so poor, they could not afford to have one dozen girls. It was simply impossible for them to manage.
You cannot blame them for killing the girls. It was better than leaving them beggars on the streets, or having them become prostitutes. It was better, but then the problem arose that there were fewer women, more men; hence celibacy was not objected to – on the contrary, it was praised. But if you look into it, there was nothing spiritual in it, nothing moral in it; it was simply certain circumstances….
They wanted many men to remain unmarried. How to manage it? Unless you give celibacy a certain prestige, a higher status than marriage; unless you put it on a holier pedestal, it is impossible for people to remain unmarried. You can’t just say to them, “Women are fewer, men are more; simply look at the figures and remain unmarried. Just do a little service to society.”
You cannot hope that people will be ready to do such a service to society. No, you have to give them some incentive; celibacy was given an incentive. Only the celibate ones would reach heaven. The married people were worldly, ordinary; the celibate ones were other-worldly, spiritual. They were respected, given great honor, worshipped almost like gods.
That continues even today, although the situation has changed. Now in India the proportion is exactly the same. If you allow nature, if you don’t interfere with nature, nature always goes on keeping its balance in every way; it never loses balance. Balance is something very fundamental to existence – in every dimension.
When one hundred girls are born, there are one hundred and ten boys born at the same time, because boys are not so strong as far as resistance against sickness is concerned. Girls are stronger, not in a muscular way but in a very different way. They are more resistant to sickness, to disease, to death.
All over the world it is the same proportion, one hundred and ten boys to one hundred girls, because one hundred girls are going to survive up to the marriageable age, but ten boys will go down the drain. By the time they are marriageable the balance will be regained.
You will be surprised to know that in wartime when many more men die because they go to the front, to the war, naturally the proportion of women becomes higher. But in these two world wars it has been discovered that the birthrate also changes. Nature, in a strange way, keeps the balance. In wartime and after war for a few years fewer girls are born, more boys are born. Afterwards, the balance is established again, the same proportion – one hundred girls, one hundred and ten boys.
Celibacy was preached by Buddha, Mahavira, Shankara – all the great teachers of India; and the reason was that it looked right and nobody objected to it because it was serving the society in a very subtle way. But today it is not true.