editorials

Lively, insightful commentary on contemporary issues facing spiritual practitioners.

reviews

Book, film, and audio reviews of contemporary Gaudiya media, as well as a wide variety of media of interest to the spiritually minded.

news

News from around the world with an emphasis on alternative press that is especially relevant to spiritual practitioners.

classroom

Excerpts from classical Gaudiya texts, with and without commentaries, hosted by teachers with whom readers can interact and ask questions.

philosophy

Philosophical articles on Gaudiya Vaisnavism that focus on the tradition’s scriptural conclusions as well as its feeling for the nature of ultimate reality.

Home » editorials

Vaishnavism and Homosexuality

Submitted by on April 26, 2009 – 1:05 am58 Comments

StampaBy Amara Das Wilhelm

The historical approach to homosexuality within Vaishnava Hinduism is quite opposite from that of the Abrahamic faiths. Whereas the latter punished homosexuality harshly in ancient times but has since softened its stance, Hinduism has no history of persecuting homosexuals until after the arrival of Islamic and British (Christian) influence. Ancient Vedic texts mildly discourage homosexual behavior for brahmanas or priests but do not criminalize it for the common citizen. On the contrary, Vedic texts describe homosexual citizens serving as dancers, artisans, barbers, house attendants and prostitutes well within the purview of ancient Vedic society.

This comes as a surprise to many Hindus who are at present accustomed to condemning homosexual people and excluding them from both family and society. It has also become a custom among Hindus to force gay and lesbian offsprings into opposite-sex marriages, even though this is expressly forbidden in religious codebooks such as the Narada-smriti. Vedic medical texts like the Sushruta Samhita declare homosexuality to be inborn (discussing it only in chapters on embryological development) and texts concerned with human sexuality (the Kama Sastra) refer to homosexuals as a “third sex” (tritiya-prakriti) with both masculine and feminine natures. Thus, while Abrahamic faiths have been forced to abandon ancient codes and beliefs in order to accommodate gays in modernity, Vaishnavas need only abandon imported misconceptions and refer back to their ancient past.

The modern debate over homosexuality in Vaishnavism has only recently begun and gay-friendly organizations such as the Gay And Lesbian Vaishnava Association (GALVA-108) lag quite a bit behind their Judeo-Christian counterparts. While some Vaishnava sects and leaders do in fact fully accept gay peers and disciples (particularly in the West), too many still remain ignorant and homophobic. This has subsequently kept many gay Vaishnavas in the closet, afraid to come out to their family or co-worshipers and with some instances of gay suicide as well as gay-related “shame killings” reported.

My own personal experience as a gay Vaishnava, however, has been much less tragic and thus I am hopeful Vaishnavism will once again embrace gender-variant people. After converting and moving into a Hare Krishna ashram at the age of seventeen, I came out to my peers only a few months later and with no ensuing difficulties. Ultimately, essential Vaishnava teachings of all-inclusiveness, compassion and bodily transcendence should compel practitioners to overlook all bodily differences and embrace the soul of every being. This can be accelerated with a little education and sincerity on all sides.

This article originally appeared on NewStatesman.com.

58 Comments »

  • Amara dasa

    As a sidenote, this article was first published in the “Faith” section of the “New Statesmen,” a popular and forward-thinking magazine of the United Kingdom. It received a lot of publicity and much favorable feedback, particularly from Hindus of Indian descent living in the United Kingdom. I thank the “Harmonist” for posting it here as well.

    -Amara dasa

  • Urmila devi dasi

    The author writes, “Ancient Vedic texts mildly discourage homosexual behavior for brahmanas or priests but do not criminalize it for the common citizen.”

    That statement does not accurately represent Vedic texts such as Manu Samhita and Srimad Bhagavatam. The Manu Samhita prohibits homosexuality for any of the three higher sections of society, and one who practices homosexuality loses his standing as a member of those sections. These sections of society are all those who are dvija, or twice-born, meaning such persons have accepted initiation from a spiritual master. Socially, such persons are brahmanas (priests, teachers, physicians excluding surgeons, lawyers, astrologers, etc.); ksatriyas (government leaders, royalty, military persons, and landlords); and vaisyas (farmers, tradespersons, and bankers).

    While homosexual behavior is considered a minor sin, it is still in the category of sin and therefore both prohibited for anyone who takes initiation from a spiritual master, and from the mainstream of society in general.

    • From what you have written, the it would appear that the sudra varna (laborers, artisians, etc) are not prohibited from indulging in homosexuality. Furthermore even if they do not indulge in it they cannot be initiated by a guru. However, in the least you are conflating dharma with bhakti. Anyone who has faith in bhakti’s efficacy is qualified to embrace it, the first step of which is to take shelter of a guru and receive the mantra/initiation from him or her.

      Incidentally, the good number of Gaudiya Vaisnavas historically have lost their standing as members of the higher and lower sections of Hindu society. Prime examples are Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis. Where in the text of Srimad Bhagavatam does it say that homosexuality is sinful and where for that matter does it say that bhakti cannot be systematically embraced (initiation) by those who are sinful? Again you seem to be viewing bhakti through the lens of morality rather than morality through the lens of bhakti.

      • Gaura-Vijaya

        That is a very good point. I think the contention of devotees like Urmilaji is that they have to stop homosexual behavior to take initiation. Actually you should have sex only for procreation in order to take initiation according to SP standards but people who have sex inside marriage are not subject to such ostracization as homosexuals though in my eyes both activities are equally “sinful”.

        Manu give something to thing about in this verse,
        56. There is no sin in eating meat, in (drinking) spirituous liquor, and in carnal intercourse, for that is the natural way of created beings, but abstention brings great rewards.

    • Madan Gopal das

      “These sections of society are all those who are dvija, or twice-born, meaning such persons have accepted initiation from a spiritual master.” They may have accepted initiation, but in what path, with what sadhana and what sadhya? – their goal may not be bhakti.

      Furthermore, the socioreligious worldview you are citing is not one that is current, however disappointing that may be to us. Verses and texts (such as Srimad Bhagavatam) that affirm the power of bhakti and describe the limitations of progress in varnasrama in kali yuga are most applicable to us. Such texts and our acaryas following them consistently hold bhakti on the highest pedestal and as the means to become dharmic, rather than the other way around.

      After all, kalau sudra sambhava – and westerners cannot even claim to come close to the sudra of the varnasrama dharma. Our only hope is through bhakti, which is available to all.

  • Urmila devi dasi

    Thank you for publishing my comment. If someone is going to refer to a dharma sastra such as Manu Samhita as Amara does, then he or she should refer to it accurately. Manu Samhita prohibits homosexual behavior for all dvijas–not just priests. And a dvija (brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya) who engages in homosexual behavior loses standing as a dvija and is a sudra. A dvija literally means one who has taken a second birth, or initiation from a spiritual master.

    It is certainly true that such regulations are about a social, religious, and economic system that supports bhakti, rather than being about bhakti itself. I gathered that Amara’s essay was about dharma and a social system of Vedic times, not about bhakti.

    I am not citing that socioreligious worldview–Amara is. I wanted to clarify his reference. I feel uncomfortable with Manu Samhita presented as relevant to modern decisions when misquoted, and then called irrelevant when properly quoted.

    If we turn to the bhakti sastras, then we learn that even the most sinful can take to the process of bhakti with only the coin of faith. One can advance to part of bhajana kriya even if one is, as Krishna says, “the most sinful of all sinners.”

    And one who takes diksa in the bhakti mantras, even if superficially a sudra, must abstain from illicit sex. Prabhupada condemned both heterosexual contraception and homosexual behavior in exactly the same strong language and did not allow either for those who were his disciples.

    Of course in rare instances a person can be brought quickly to pure bhakti despite any other material considerations, since in the ultimate sense bhakti has nothing to do with anything except bhakti. The usual and expected course, however, is that in order to become fixed in bhakti (nistha) one must remove all unwanted things (anartha nirvritti) which certainly includes all types of illicit sex–sex which is not pro-creation, or intended for children within marriage.

    As far as Bhagavatam, Prabhupada explained the creation of beings from Brahma’s buttocks to be a reference to homosexual behavior. Others may explain it differently. Certainly it is an implicit reference subject to interpretation, unlike the Manu Samhita’s explicit statements.

  • Madan Gopal das

    Urmila: “Manu Samhita prohibits homosexual behavior for all dvijas–not just priests.”
    Maybe Amara will comment himself, but just a couple quick notes:
    1. I do not see Amara referring to Manu Samhita in the article. He simply said ancient Vedic texts. It was a generalization.
    2. In that generalization he seems to make the point that “Vedic texts” describing homosexuals are describing people in a sudra class, which matches your assertion.
    Amara: “Ancient Vedic texts mildly discourage homosexual behavior for brahmanas or priests but do not criminalize it for the common citizen. On the contrary, Vedic texts describe homosexual citizens serving as dancers, artisans, barbers, house attendants and prostitutes well within the purview of ancient Vedic society.”
    In “common citizen” and the varnas he listed, I read sudra. Now another argument can be made about the positions of sudras, varnasrama and its relevance today, but that is way too much for here.

    So, it seems that his point (that homosexuals were present in ancient Vedic society and that it was not looked upon as negatively as today) stands on the evidence he has cited.

    Urmila: “And one who takes diksa in the bhakti mantras, even if superficially a sudra, must abstain from illicit sex.”

    This raises the essential question; what is illicit sex? Is that always the same, for all people, for all time? Is there a spirit to this law or should we just focus on the letter? Certainly “illicit sex” meant something different in ancient vedic times, for different people. So what about modern people? How is it to be regulated? From my study of Prabhupada’s words, though he emphasized sex only for procreation, he sometimes defined illicit more broadly. Given the common understanding of the failure of this first interpretation, the question should be how to facilitate the growth of bhakti.

    Urmila: “As far as Bhagavatam, Prabhupada explained the creation of beings from Brahma’s buttocks to be a reference to homosexual behavior.”

    Those beings then pursued the twilight, thinking it to be a female form and maybe it should be said then that they are bi-sexual? Through this elaborate imagery I don’t think that we can determine the Bhagavatam as condemning homosexuality, but rather describing creation.

    • I think it is important and conclusive to simply state that Srila Prabhupada like any acarya made his time, place and circumstance call on his standards for initiation. He experimented with standards briefly and then landed on something he was comfortable with. As stated earlier, “only the coin of faith” is the bedrock standard.

      If sexuality in and of itself is not sinful, as scripture attests, but control of this urge is essential for spiritual progress, the principle involved is to help students harness their sexual energy in the context of enthusing them to engage in bhakti. Sex only for procreation within marriage is considered a form of celibacy, but celibacy is not prerequisite for engaging in bhakti. I see no reason why bhakti would not be effective in curbing and retiring lust for homosexuals as much as it is for heterosexuals. As Gaura-vijaya said, there is no point in stressing celibacy for homosexuals more than for heterosexuals. Stress bhakti.

      I am not arguing with anyone here. Just expressing my thoughts.

      • Gaura-Vijaya

        I agree that at the stage of nistha desire for illicit sex should go away . But I thought bhakti mantras are meant to help in anartha nivritti not that you cross the anartha nivritti stage(especially completely free from lust) completely to qualify yourself for bhakti mantras.

  • Urmila devi dasi

    I’m curious as to what “ancient Vedic texts” Amara is referring to if it is *not* Manu Samhita.

    And, if he feels Manu Samhita is relevant to Vaisnavas, as he has titled his article as such, then it would be interesting to hear from him as to how Manu’s saying that homosexuality results in loss of the status of a dvija applies to us today.

    I like this statement you made, Maharaja: “the principle involved is to help students harness their sexual energy in the context of enthusing them to engage in bhakti.” Thank you for expressing this so clearly and succintly.

    • I agree it would be nice to hear more from the author. But I will offer these thoughts: He refers to Narada-smriti in the article, and the Puranas take a very different approach to sin than the Dharma-sastras. While the Dharma-sastras set out atonements for sins committed, the Puranas (maha-puranas) extol the virtues and efficacy of Visnu-bhakti and make light of atonement. The Bhagavata is well known for its emphasis on nama-sankirtana over prayascitta of any kind. Indeed, the conclusion of the story of Ajamila is that one who chants the name of God never sees hell despite his sinful past. So maybe Amara is referring to the Puranas and their generous approach to sin. Again the article is about Vaisnavism, which is found in the Puranas.

      As for the twice-born, the dvijas, it is worth noting that it was customary in Vaisnavism to discard the sacred thread received as a symbol of being twice-born upon receiving Vaisanva initiation. Thakura Bhaktivinoda followed this practice.

      • Gaura-Vijaya

        Garuda Purana is pretty severe about different kinds of sins. Also it is described in Puranas how papa purusha chases people if they eat grains on Ekadashi.
        I find that the Upanishads and Vedanta Sutra are essential to focus on essential aspects of the Puranas. Bhagavata is more like a combination of Upanishads and Puranas and therefore it is in a different category.

        • My point is not about the severity of sin described in the Puranas, but about the remedy for sin prescribed as compared to the remedy in Dharma-sastra: Visnu-bhakti. The Puranas are also not shy to invoke fear in the hearts of their readers in the hopes that they will take to bhakti.

      • Madan Gopal das

        Swami: “As for the twice-born, the dvijas, it is worth noting that it was customary in Vaisnavism to discard the sacred thread received as a symbol of being twice-born upon receiving Vaisanva initiation.”

        I was thinking about this; in Varnasrama isn’t it that the dwija’s have not necessarily taken initiation from a spiritual master, rather they receive the sacred thread often from their father or family guru as part of the upanayanam ceremony. In this way it does not indicate spiritual initiation per say, but rather confirmation of their caste and entrance into adolescence and study/duties within that caste.

  • Amara dasa

    Hare Krishna! I offer my dandavat pranams to all the devotees here on this site. Thanks for the nice discussion.

    Reagarding my statement: “Ancient Vedic texts mildly discourage homosexual behavior for brahmanas or priests but do not criminalize it for the common citizen.”

    This statement was made in comparing ancient Vedic laws to Abrahamic ones regarding homosexual behavior. The Abrahamic laws are clear–men or women engaged in homosexual behavior should be put to death (Leviticus 20:13). In 390 AD, Roman Christians put this ancient edict into law with death by burning at the stake. In the seventh century AD, the Visigothic Code was enacted punishing homosexuality in the West with either death or castration and in 1533, Henry VIII changed the penalty to death by hanging. In 1860, the British Empire ended its prescription of death by replacing it with a sentence of life imprisonment (which was also established in India under British rule). These life sentences were gradually reduced and ultimately repealed in the Christian West first by France in 1791 (and later by the UK in 1967 and the US in 2003).

    Now, to compare this with ancient Indian law. The Dharma Shastra texts I have studied in this regard include: Manumsriti, Narada-smriti, Yajnavalkya-smriti, the four Dharmasutras of Vasistha, Apastambha, Gautama and Baudhayana, as well as the Smriti-ratnavali (Daya Rahasya) and the Artha Shastra (of Kautilya). None of these texts prescribe death, imprisonment, castration or any such thing for homosexual behavior. Rather, they mildly admonish it only in terms of brahminical behavior. If a brahmana or twice-born man engages in homosexual behavior, he is made to atone for it by a ritual bath or, in some cases, by paying a minor fine. If the behavior continues repeatedly, such a person loses his twice-born status.

    Urmila dasi is correct to assert that this also includes vaisyas and ksatriyas, but only if they are twice-born (not otherwise). Non-dvija ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras (who were not given second initiation in Vedic times) were not expected to follow brahminical standards and were thus not admonished for homosexual acts (what to speak of being punished for them). By “common citizen” I was referring to the above-mentioned three types and I apologize if there was any confusion.

    To summarize, there is indeed a stark difference between how the ancient Vedic lawbooks address homosexuality as compared to the Abrahamic. It is furthermore important to note that these same Vedic texts describe homosexuality as inborn, forbid homosexuals from marrying women, forbid a king from striking or even fining homosexuals, and enjoin the family or king to provide at least minimal maintenance to such people.

    All of this gives us some idea of how homosexuals were treated in Vedic times. While these lawbooks are not “absolute” Vaishnava standards by any means, they can certainly be taken into consideration. Since Srila Prabhupada set strict brahminical standards for all ISKCON initiates, I’m certain he expected them to refrain from homosexual behavior as well. But that leaves us with the great problem of how to accommodate the vast amount of people who cannot follow strict brahminical standards. That, I believe, is the task of our modern Vaishnava preachers.

    • Sugriva Dasa

      Dear Amara Prabhu,

      Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

      Thank you for your text. Could you please provide the exact citations from the Vedic sastras that you have mentioned. It would be edifying to read what they actually say.

      I do agree that in Lord Krsna’s Vedic culture homosexuals are not given the same harsh treatment as in the Abrahamic religions, nor should they.

      Manu mentions it as an upa-pataka, that is, less than a mortal sin. But sin none the less and an obstacle to devotional service.* We should not forget that or make light of it. It is an anartha to be over come. Anarthas come in different flavors and we all have different ones to deal with. I have my own which I struggle with. I take shelter in the following verses of the Gita and purports by Srila Prabhupada.

      “Those persons who execute their duties according to My injunctions and who follow this teaching faithfully, without envy, become free from the bondage of fruitive actions.” Gita 3.31

      Purport:
      “The injunction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, is the essence of all Vedic wisdom and therefore is eternally true without exception. As the Vedas are eternal, so this truth of Krsna consciousness is also eternal. One should have firm faith in this injunction, without envying the Lord. There are many philosophers who write comments on the Bhagavad-gita but have no faith in Krsna. They will never be liberated from the bondage of fruitive action. But an ordinary man with firm faith in the eternal injunctions of the Lord, even though unable to execute such orders, becomes liberated from the bondage of the law of karma. In the beginning of Krsna consciousness, one may not fully discharge the injunctions of the Lord, but because one is not resentful of this principle and works sincerely without consideration of defeat and hopelessness, he will surely be promoted to the stage of pure Krsna consciousness.”

      And Bhagavad-gita 12.10

      “If you cannot practice the regulations of bhakti-yoga, then just try to work for Me, because by working for Me you will come to the perfect stage.”

      Purport:
      “One who is not able even to practice the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga, under the guidance of a spiritual master, can still be drawn to this perfectional stage by working for the Supreme Lord. How to do this work has already been explained in the fifty-fifth verse of the Eleventh Chapter. One should be sympathetic to the propagation of Krsna consciousness. There are many devotees who are engaged in the propagation of Krsna consciousness, and they require help. So, even if one cannot directly practice the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga, he can try to help such work. Every endeavor requires land, capital, organization and labor. Just as in business one requires a place to stay, some capital to use, some labor and some organization to expand, so the same is required in the service of Krsna. The only difference is that in materialism one works for sense gratification. The same work, however, can be performed for the satisfaction of Krsna, and that is spiritual activity. If one has sufficient money, he can help in building an office or temple for propagating Krsna consciousness. Or he can help with publications. There are various fields of activity, and one should be interested in such activities. If one cannot sacrifice the results of his activities, the same person can still sacrifice some percentage to propagate Krsna consciousness. This voluntary service to the cause of Krsna consciousness will help one to rise to a higher state of love for God, whereupon one becomes perfect.”

      The Gita verse 11.55 that is referred to is

      “My dear Arjuna, he who engages in My pure devotional service, free from the contaminations of fruitive activities and mental speculation, he who works for Me, who makes Me the supreme goal of his life, and who is friendly to every living being-he certainly comes to Me.”

      Purport:

      “Anyone who wants to approach the supreme of all the Personalities of Godhead, on the Krsnaloka planet in the spiritual sky, and be intimately connected with the Supreme Personality, Krsna, must take this formula, as stated by the Supreme Himself. Therefore, this verse is considered to be the essence of Bhagavad-gita. …”

      You mentioned Ayurvedic texts:

      “Vedic medical texts like the Sushruta Samhita declare homosexuality to be inborn (discussing it only in chapters on embryological development).”

      According to the OED we find the following definitions for inborn:

      Inborn: Of a quality, etc.: Born in a person, existing in him from birth; implanted by nature; innate.

      Innate: Originally or properly existing in the thing spoken of; belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing; inherent

      When you use the word “inborn” it gives a certain aura to the condition as if it were the constitutional position for some atmas to be homosexual.

      Is this what you are trying to say?

      The opinions of both Charaka and Sushruta can be found in the commentary on Charaka’s Sarirasthana (embryology) 2.18-21 wherein the 8 types of sexual abnormalities (including homosexuality) are discussed. The reader can get the text as a PDF at the following location:

      http://tinyurl.com/msjmta

      The reason I mention this point is that Charaka (and Sushruta) state:

      “These are the eight types of sexual abnormalities. They are caused by the effects of the misdeeds in the previous life of the individual.” Sarirasthana 2.21

      So homosexuality is not “inborn” but rather, like all the other problems that living entities face in the material world, is the result of papa karma. And, since it is the result of former papa karma it can be eradicated by prayaschitta (yajnas, vratas, etc.). However, while becoming a heterosexual would remove the social stigma, it would not eradicate sexual desire. It would be like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

      (BTW in the course of a conversation I once mentioned to a homosexual man that his condition could be cured by various remedial measures [yajnas, vratas, etc.] Rather than being happy he got angry saying “how dare you say that there was something wrong with being gay and that it could be corrected. Rather being gay is normal and you should accept it.” That would be like saying disease X is not a disease and trying to cure me from it is discrimination. Very weird I thought.)

      The real thing, as has been pointed out by others, is how to channel our sexual energy in a positive way so that we can leave this material world.

      The idea of removing the social stigma lead me to another thought. The whole idea of the gay liberation movement is to remove social stigma from gay – lesbian activities. That it is normal etc. and should be accepted as such. If this is successful then those souls with that type of papa karma will be born in a different stigmatized situation. They can’t escape the karma of stigmatization. Much like the futile efforts of scientists who try to eliminate diseases only to find new diseases springing up. With the demise of “small pox” came the rise of a host of new diseases most recently “Swine flu.”

      But I think your position is different rather you want followers of Krsna’s Vedic culture to view this condition from the Vedic and not the Abrahamic view point.

      The Vedic world view is realistic and at the same time compassionate.

      Personally I could not care less what the particular anartha sexual orientation of a devotee is. But what I am concerned about is their level of commitment to spiritual life. At the same I would feel uncomfortable if a person started making my acceptance of their particular anartha sexual orientation a pre-requisite for relating to them.

      I also notice the natural reaction that the more someone pushes in one direction there will be an equal and opposite reaction in the other direction. So if one puts their anartha sexual orientation, in someone’s face, one should not be surprised if some do not react the way one would like. So you have to be careful in your approach, that it is actually Vaisnava and educative and not militant like the karmi Gay movement. If it is actually based on sastra then it will be accepted by honest people.

      Your humble servant

      SD

      * BTW Manu Samhita is written in such a way that it can be accepted by all sections of Krsna’s Vedic culture. Thus when Manu mentions that by doing something one attains the “Final destination” to the karmis it means svarga, to the jnanis it means brahmananda and to the Bhaktas it means Vaikuntha, Goloka etc. So for Vaisnavas Manu is a Bhakti Sastra if one knows how to read it. Indeed Baladeva Vidya Bhushana (as quoted by Srila Prabhupada is his commentary on the Caturvyuha in Adi Lila) states that Manu is the primary authority for establishing the personhood of the Godhead. For more on this topic I would suggest contacting HH Bhaktividya Purna Svami at http://www.vidyapitha.com/ he has done a very in-depth study of Manu and presented almost 100 lectures on the subject from a Vaisnava point of view.

      • Amara dasa

        Hare Krishna! Thanks for your many comments, Sugriva Prabhu!

        You can access all of the specific quotes and references I’ve collected from Vedic texts at this link:

        Additional Vedic References
        http://www.galva108.org/additional_references.html

        I agree that the “Manusmriti” classifies homosexual behavior as a minor sin, but it is important to note that it does so only for twice-born “males” (i.e., ordinary heterosexual men). Manusmriti makes no mention of sexual behavior between people who are exclusively homosexual, and sin itself has different meanings for people of different natures. Since homosexual behavior is a minor sin for ordinary males it is likely to be even less so for those born with exclusive homosexual attraction. Of course, all material desires are inherently sinful and unnecessary (“unarthas”) but innate bodily requirements (eating, sleeping, mating and defending) are generally regulated rather than completely abandoned, especially in the beginning stages of spiritual life.

        In terms of the Ayur Shastra, “inborn” means physically/biologically inherent within the material body. This is what we mean when we say that homosexuality is inborn. A person’s material body has nothing to say about their constitutional position as spirit-soul. Nevertheless, while embodied, the conditioned soul must be engaged according to his or her own psycho-physical makeup. This is the underlying principle of varnasrama-dharma and apparently was applied to “born” homosexuals in Vedic times (i.e., their nature was understood and they were not forced to marry women or adopt heterosexual roles, etc.).

        Being born “impotent” (“napumsa”) in any way is generally viewed as materially inauspicious since the person cannot enjoy family life, relations with the opposite sex, having children, social approval, etc. However, from the spiritual or Vaishnava perspective such a birth can be considered a boon and special opportunity to make progress in spiritual life. Furthermore, it is essential within Vaishnavism to judge people on their own personal merits rather than on any presumed sins from previous lifetimes.

        Most gay people–just as women, Blacks, or any other body type for that matter–do not like being addressed as “lower,” “sinful,” “curable,” etc. They don’t see that attitude as spiritually advanced and are especially sensitive to it based on the social stigmatism they’ve received. All material sex desire is an “unartha” or, as Srila Prabhupada stated in specific reference to homosexuality: “Sex is sex. What is the difference whether a person is bound to this world with a gold chain or a silver chain?” In other words, why argue over whether a gold chain is superior to a silver chain? One person may prefer gold and the other silver but in any case the material chain must eventually be cut and discarded.

        Gay people don’t see themselves as mistakes or errors but rather as part of God’s amazing natural diversity. The Vaishnava perspective also is that this material world is an amazing reflection of the spiritual world, wherein there is unlimited diversity. Vaishnavas should appreciate diversity wherever it is found since that is the root of personalism. The opposite of that is impersonalism, where people are stigmatized and treated cruelly for being different in any way. I wouldn’t try to justify stigmatizing gay people in the hope that this will help “cure” or “rectify” them karmically. If anything, a person who oppresses others will have to take such a birth himself to experience the same mistreatment.

        While it’s interesting to see how gay and lesbian people were understood and treated in the various Vedic texts, it’s ultimately more important for us to deal with such people from the purely transcendental, Vaishnava perspective. That approach would involve not only an educated understanding of gay people but, more importantly, genuine Vaishnava compassion and judgment based on the person’s devotional qualifications, not mere birth or body-type. That’s why I began my article mentioning the Smarta scriptures but ended it citing higher Vaishnava principles.

      • Madan Gopal das

        Thank you for your comments Sugriva. I would just like to clarify a couple of things that didn’t sit quite right with me. Maybe they were unintentional on your part as I gather that you are recognizing discrimination and seeing the fault in it. I appreciate this about your comment, but think your sensibility around this issue can be developed further…

        And, since it is the result of former papa karma it can be eradicated by prayaschitta (yajnas, vratas, etc.)

        As bhaktas, we are not interested in prayascitta of the variety you have mentioned. We recognize seva, activities in bhakti as the ultimate prayascitta – because it addresses the root of the problem. The kind of prayascitta you speak of would likely lead to the “bathing of an elephant”; meaning it would not have lasting results.

        I once mentioned to a homosexual man that his condition could be cured by various remedial measures [yajnas, vratas, etc.] Rather than being happy he got angry

        You will continue to consider this man’s reaction as “very weird” until you develop some empathy for his life experience. May I suggest that empathy is conducive for the development of bhakti? As a heterosexual man I can only guess that this man was offended because he is not treated equally in all areas of his life, including spiritual life. How often are heterosexuals told that they can be “cured”? Never. Rather heterosexuality is considered “normal” and not viewed as equally spiritually detrimental as you suggest.

        If this is successful (removal of stigma) then those souls with that type of papa karma will be born in a different stigmatized situation. They can’t escape the karma of stigmatization.

        As Gaudiya Vaisnavas aspiring for the heart of “para-dukha-dukhi”, we should endeavor to end all stigmatization. Yes, suffering is part of the material world and is ultimately unstoppable. We are all due our lot. But out of that compassionate heart, the devotees will try to remove obstacles from the path of those who aspire to serve Sri Krsna. Instead of pointing out suffering that souls must endure, we should encourage all people in their practice of the real “cure” of all suffering – bhakti. Let nothing stand in their way!

  • Thank you Amara, but I think it is important to distinguish between Vaisnava initiation and the kind of initiation described in the Dharma-sastras. For example, a duly initiated brahmana can engage in priestly duties on the basis of his or her initiation and corresponding character, but one who has received Vaisnava initiation can also engage in arcana and often does so for more spiritual reasons, even though he or she may be habituated to things inappropriate from a brahminical standpoint. Thus the spiritual superiorority of bhakti over dharma. Acknowledging this is required for entrance into bhakti: sarva dharman parityaja mam ekam saranam mama.

    • Amara dasa

      Please accept my koti dandavats, Maharaja. Your statements are very encouraging to hear.

      Unfortunately, most of my experience with devotees has been that if you engage in homosexual behavior you are out. Your initiation tie with the spiritual master is broken (unless he extends special mercy to keep you) and you are forbidden from performing any brahminical activities whatsoever. At least that is my understanding of the official ISKCON position. In most cases, a gay devotee would be allowed to continue visiting the temple and chant but he or she is not considered to have made any measurable spiritual progress until all same-sex relations are ended. Many devotees even believe there is no significant difference between a gay devotee practicing committed monogamy and a promiscuous person having untold amounts of anonymous sex.

      None of this seems very compassionate or even realistic to me, so I’m always encouraged when Vaishnava leaders rethink and readdress these issues. I hadn’t considered there was any difference between Vaishnava and Smarta brahminical standards so I’m really glad you brought that up. It makes a lot of sense as the difference in approach between Smartas and Vaishnavas is like the difference between night and day.

      • Yes on the low end of the spiritual spectrum (karma) rules are everything and love is practically absent. And if you do not do it right, you could get the opposite result. On the high end of the spectrum (bhakti) love is everything and rules ultimately disappear. In bhakti Krishna is bhava grahi. He is taken by his devotee’s affection—he eats the banana peels mistakenly offered by Vidura’s wife. Embarrassed by Krishna’s affection and generosity, devotees are humbled and inspired to improve themselves.

  • atmananda

    The ISKCON Governing Body Commission recently explained that they could not condone marriage between homosexuals because there is no possibility of procreation, which excludes such relationships from the possibility of following the vow of no illicit sex required to receive initiation within ISKCON.

    I also received initiation within ISKCON. Unfortunately, I have not been able to follow the vows of sex only for procreation, although I am married. Therefore I do not find myself in a position where I could honestly support the GBC’s explaination towards homosexual marriage without becoming a outright hypocrit. Amongst those vaisnavas whom I have known, I have never personally met a heterosexual couple who has been able to strictly follow the vow of “only for procreation”.

    If the vow of “no illicit sex”, as explained by Urmila prabhu and the ISKCON’s GBC, is the true qualification required to accept initiation from a guru, I think we can safely say that at least 80% of the heterosexuals who accept diksa are unqualified. If this is the true standard, then the vast majority of people that Srila Prabhupada gave diksa to were unqualified to recive it and the vast majority of those who received diksa from Srila Prabhupada’s disciple were also unqualified to receive it. If this is the true standard, then I guess I should just give up my initiated name, take off my thread and stop making a show of my so called qualification.

    So is the issue really about sex only for procreation? Apparently so, but only if you happen to be homosexual. If you happen to be heterosexual then it can be overlooked without a word.

    • Nitaisundara

      Well said. It seems to be a “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” but only the most naive could not know what is going on. Of course, this is not the only reason the treatment of homosexuals has been inappropriate, but it certainly illustrates the point well.

    • Amara dasa

      Thanks for your honesty, Atmananda Prabhu! Nearly all devotee married couples I know have told me the very same thing. In my experience, gay and straight couples are far more similar than different. Nearly all relationships begin with passion and shortcomings but slowly improve as the couple matures and makes spiritual advancement. I know quite a few older gay couples whose relationships have matured to the point where they no longer have sex and the basis is one of friendship and mutual support. People are people and all committed couples deserve recognition and respect, what to speak of those whose relationships are centered on Krsna.

      I suspect the whole “marriage for procreation only” is just an excuse for discrimination since ISKCON has no laws forbidding sterile couples, the elderly, or couples with no intention whatsoever of having children from marrying when the need is there. Any reasonable, compassionate person can understand and identify with the human need for love and companionship–even if it’s less than perfect or ideal. This same human understanding need only be extended to gay couples, as it is with the occasional exceptions cited above.

  • dasi

    Vaishnava diksha was never prohibited for anyone; sudras, outcastes, whoever.

    People are conflating brahmin diksha with vaishnava diksha. They are two totally different things. Vaishnava diksha is with any Vishnu mantra (for Gaudiya Vaishnavas it is Gopal Mantra).

    Brahmin diksha is with Brahma gayatri.

    The two were never combined until Srila Prabhupada, as a sort of social reform action in 20th century Bengali society, started giving Brahma gayatri along with Gopal Mantra to some of his Bengali male disciples.

  • Madan Gopal das

    If you want to go overboard analyzing Prabhupada’s “standard”, you will see that he has about three different versions of what “no illicit sex” could mean. Increasing in degree of restriction he has said:
    1. Illicit sex is sex outside of marriage.
    2. Illicit sex is sex other than for procreation.
    3. Illicit sex is sex more than once per month with intent for procreation.
    * He has also said that the disciple must have permission of the spiritual master before engaging in sex for procreation!

    I have heard people pick from any one of these three to interpret how they follow a vow of “no illicit sex”, which one is best, and which one you would be “following Srila Prabhupada” more by. I would say the best situation one can be in is under the instruction of a living guru who as Swami said earlier in this thread can adjust principles for how to best serve the growth of bhakti in the disciple’s life. Any interpretation of what Prabhupada said is always subject to challenge by the other interpretations because he is not personally present to give individual instructions. Like it or not, interpretation now lies in the hands of the next generation of gurus.

    • Long post!

      Just to be clear on one point you raised, Bhagavad-gita 12.10 is saying that one who cannot engage in saravanam kirtanam . . . That is, hearing and chanting, etc. are what Prabhupada refers to in his translation and commentary with the words “regulative principles,” and such limbs of bhakti are the bhajana kriya that follows initiation. I mention this because I have seen the verse and purport misunderstood to be referring to what Prabhupada has referred to elsewhere as regulative principles to describe something other than hearing, chanting etc.

      So Bhagavan Sri Krishna is saying that if you can’t engage in bhakti yoga . . . .

      • Sugriva Dasa

        Sorry for long post. I’ll keep this brief.

        Could you please provide pramana and more explanation for regarding what you said about BG 12.10.

        Thank you.

        • Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has explained the verse in this way: ” . . . karami kurvan in this verse means hearing and chanting about me [Krishna], bowing to me, worshiping me (arcana), sweeping and washing my temple . . .” The idea is that one can do this nava laksana bhakti without having one’s mind fixed on Krishna, which is the previous stage mentioned in 12.9. 12.8 is about being absorbed in internal smaranam; 12.9 is about practicing internal smaranam; and 12.10 is about external expressions of bhakti that lead to internal smaranam.

          Also Prabhupada’s translation tat tat karma pravartanat in Upadesamrta 3 is helpful: “acting according to regulative principles [such as sravanam kirtanam visnu smaranam [SB 7.5.23]—hearing, chanting and remembering Krishna]”

  • dasi

    Do any other Vaishnava gurus from India require their disciples to take such vows at diksha time?

    • Of course it would be impossible to definitively answer this question. Having said that, I do not know of any. But I do know of some who were careful not to step in the shadow of the Western disciples of Srila A.C. Bhaktivednata Swami Prabhupada because they felt they would become contaminated by doing so. So apparently they had a more conservative approach to giving diksa, perhaps requiring that one first take birth in India. However, after seeing Swami Prabhupada’s success, over time many have adopted a more liberal policy. But unfortunately after doing so some of them have in turn criticized Srila Prabhupada’s policy. At any rate, such policies are details as pointed out earlier by others. The principle is faith, and Srila Prabhupada has made this clear, following as he did the siddhanta of Sri Rupa.

  • Sugriva dasa,

    You said,

    “I also notice the natural reaction that the more someone pushes in one direction there will be an equal and opposite reaction in the other direction. So if one puts their anartha sexual orientation, in someone’s face, one should not be surprised if some do not react the way one would like. So you have to be careful in your approach, that it is actually Vaisnava and educative and not militant like the karmi Gay movement. If it is actually based on sastra then it will be accepted by honest people.”

    I think Amara das has done an admirable job of this over the years.

    But I think it unfair to characterize the secular gay movement as militant and thereby objectionable. You have to look at the history of abuse gay people have endured and realize that the ignorance behind this abuse would still be in place if gay people had not lobbied for the fact that they are equally human and deserving of equal rights despite their sexual orientation. This history of abuse is extensive and highly objectionable, and in some places in the world it continues to this day.

    Furthermore sexuality is not merely and act, it is an entire orientation to life. It determines nearly everything about a person’s way of social interaction. It’s not something one can just decide to turn off. Homosexuals need to be human within the context of their sexual orientation, just like the rest of us.

    In our times morality is determined more by one’s ability to empathize with other human’s and find common ground with others in our common material plight than by what one does in one’s bedroom. And this is the spirit of the Bhagavata in terms of its emphasis on essential spiritual life over mere adherence to moral codes.

    • Sugriva Dasa

      But I think it unfair to characterize the secular gay movement as militant and thereby objectionable.

      I’m not saying it is objectionable or not. I’m am just stating a fact of life. That being if position X is pushed too forcefully then it will naturally create opposition to that movement in the oposite direction. It is basically Newton’s laws of motion applied to political movements.

      Just go sit in a pool of water and with an open hand slap that water with force. What do you get? A sore hand. Because though it is water since you used force the water became hard as stone. This is the reason why people who jump off high bridges seldom drown to death, they die from the impact.

      Now sitting in the same water if you gently put your hand into the water there is no pain.

      So my point is that the way a message is presented can often effect the audiences receptivity to the message. It is the reason authors have their books printed nicely, with aesthetic design etc, so that it will appeal to the readers.

      I hope what I was trying to say is clearer now.

      In any case that this was not the main thrust of my comment.

      • Nitaisundara

        Applying Newton’s law really just backfires here. Who acted forcefully first? The homophobic public. They are the ones that were (and are) doing the slapping (literally as well). To claim otherwise is to deny history. Therefore a much stronger argument can be made that the Gay Rights Movement is the “equal and opposite reaction” to the extreme abuse.

  • More on Bg. 12.10.

    The idea here is that some devotees have misconstrued the verse to be saying that if one cannot follow the particular vows that Prabhupada asked his disciples to commit to before giving them initiation, vows that included refraining from sex other than for procreation within marriage, they should not be initiated and engaged in bhajan kriya of hearing and chanting, deity worship and so on but can do other services such as assisting those who are initiated. The confusion centers around Prabhupada’s use of the term regulative principles in his purport. This is the same term he used to describe the pre-initiation vows.

    However, in his purport to this verse he writes “regulative principles of bhakti-yoga, as opposed to merely “regulative principles.” This is an important distinction, and I have already demonstrated that elsewhere he has used the term in reference to bhakti-yoga consisting of hearing and chanting, etc. Note that refraining from sex outside of marriage or without a view to procreate is not a principle of bhakti-yoga per say. That is, it is not listed in Rupa Gowami’s limbs of sadhana bhakti. Note as well that in his purport to the previous verse 12.9 Prabhupada also defines what he means by regulative principles of bhakti-yoga: rising early and bathing, entering the temple and chanting the holy name, collecting flowrs to offer the deity, cooking for the deity, honoring the deity prasada, etc.

    Now Prabhupada has taken this verse differently from both Visvantha Cakravarti and Baladeva Vidyabhusa, both of whom see it as referring to a stage in which the devotee cannot be fully engaged internally and who should therefore be fully engaged externally in devotional practices, arcana, etc. They have distinguished the internal service discussed in the previous two verses from external engagement short of one’s ability to effectively engage in dhyana and pratyahara. Prabhupada in contrast has taken the verse to refer to those who cannot engage in hearing and chanting, or the “regulative principles of bhakti-yoga,” external practices of sadhana bhakti.

    However, even in the case of Prabhupada’s rendering he is saying that those who cannot engage fully in hearing, chanting, deity worship, etc., which he sees part of the previous verse referring to, such people can still be engaged by assisting those who can be fully engaged in bhakti-yoga—devotees who have the requisite faith to apply themselves wholeheartedly in bhakti despite their shortcomings. Homosexually oriented devotees fall into the latter category, not the former.

    • Sugriva Dasa

      Maharaja you lost me on: Homosexually oriented devotees fall into the latter category, not the former.

      Which is the former and which is the later? It is not clear to me.

    • Sorry. The latter are “devotees who have the requisite faith to apply themselves wholeheartedly in bhakti despite their shortcomings.”

    • Amara dasa

      I’m so glad you mentioned this, Maharaja! I’ve always taken it for granted that BG 12.10 referred to devotees who cannot follow the four prohibitions of no meat-eating, intoxication, gambling and illicit sex. That’s the way it’s always been explained to me and I’ll bet most devotees take it that way. Your explanation offers a whole new venue of hope and encouragement for “less-than-perfect” devotees to continue their devotional practices. I’m learning so much on this new website and am very grateful for it!

      • Amara das,

        There are more “less than perfect devotees” than not. I consider myself so. We have all learned a great deal from you as well, your courage and scholarship and your demeanor. You are the Harvey Milk of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Thank you!

  • Kula-pavana dasa

    It is heartening to see devotees (especially those of significant public profile) not afraid to take a stand on controversial issues of our times, such a homosexuality. We may not always agree with their views but we should always respect their courage.

    I have observed that our views on such issues tend to change and soften when someone very dear to us can be placed in that controversial category. Out of sympathy for that person we actually for the first time sincerely try to understand their situation and point of view. It is easy to be ‘inflexibly principled’ when our heart is not involved in the matter.

  • Brahma das

    As the Sanga editor I recently received this email via the http://www.swami.org. My reply follows.

    I have been recently diagnosed as a transsexual (male to female), and I am now taking hormones. A few gurus and devotees have told me that because I am on the bodily platform, I will never go back to Godhead in this lifetime. Is it true? Am I incurring sin for doing such a thing? I am not doing this to enjoy sex gratification or anything of the sort; I just feel that my subtle body is female while my gross body is male, and this incongruence is stressful and depressing.

    I feel so much incongruence, and feel that I can serve Krishna better if I change. I am chanting 16 rounds, and following the Four Regulative Principles. And yet I have heard that if a guru were to initiate me, he must be born again several times before he can even bring me back to Godhead.

    I feel terrible. Is my vaidhi-bhakti all in vain? And what is the point if it is my body, and not my practices or qualities, that determine my initiation? I know that ISKCON, of which I currently affiliate with, are trying to be sensitive of the public masses, but I can not help but at the same time feel neglected, ignored, or unimportant.

    My boyfriend’s initiation was rejected primarily because of my transsexual status. My temple has a better acceptance of homosexuals than transsexuals.

    I am afraid of being born again as a woman if I stay as a boy. But if I stay as a boy, it would at least make the temple authorities happy (but I feel that I’d be eternally yearning to become a girl). I feel lost, confused, and sad by this entire situation.

    Please help! I do not want to offend Krishna in any way, and yet this karma of mine is so entangling, that I simply feel at a loss.

    Dear *********,

    I am appalled at the things that you say the temple authorities are telling you. Please believe me when I tell you that there is not a shred of truth in any of it. You are not offending Krsna, you are not committing sin, your bhakti is not in vain, and a guru that initiates you into bhakti will not have to be born again because of it. (What stupid things to say.)

    Below is a letter from Srila Prabhupada to Jennifer, a transsexual. At the time not much information was available on the subject but nevertheless in the letter Srila Prabhupada wholeheartedly encourages Jennifer by saying that once she has made up her mind as to her sexual identity then she could enter his temples any time she liked. He also encouraged her to chant Hare Krishna as much as possible.

    In another place Srila Prabhupada said, “We are accepting everyone into this movement, regardless of sex, caste, position, or whatever. Everyone is invited to come chant Hare Krsna. This is Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s munificence, His liberality.”

    Your situation falls in the “whatever’ category, and Prabhupada says that bhakti is for everyone regardless of sex, caste, position, or whatever. Anyone can perform bhakti, bhakti is never in vain, and there is no reason whatsoever that a transsexual cannot become pure through bhakti and go back to Godhead.

    About this Swami Tripurari wrote: “Although my Guru Maharaja [Srila Prabhupada] frowned on homosexuality in general, he was also very practical, flexible, and compassionate. One of his earliest disciples was a gay man who once related how he had ultimately discussed his sexual orientation with Srila Prabhupada. He said that at that point Srila Prabhupada said, ‘Then just find a nice boy, stay with him and practice Krsna consciousness.’ I also had the experience of meeting a transsexual who explained her sexual orientation and confusion to Srila Prabhupada before committing to an operation. She told me that Prabhupada told her, ‘Just pick one or the other [sex] and stick with it.’ Those who knew him well would have expected him to say something like this in both of these instances. Again, he was very flexible and compassionate.”

    So please disregard these so-called authorities and practice bhakti. You don’t need a temple to do so. All you need is a sincere heart.

    Best wishes, Brahma Das
    sangaeditor

    P.S. Contact GALVA for more info.

    My dear Jennifer,

    Please accept my greetings. I am in due receipt of your letter dated June 6, 1975 and have noted the contents. First of all, you decide whether you are female or male, then be one or the other. Then, you may enter our temple any time you like. But sometimes man and sometimes woman, that is not proper. Such awkward things cannot be allowed. It will be disturbing to others. Anyway, continue to chant Hare Krishna as much as possible.

    I hope this meets you in good health.

    Your ever well-wisher,

    A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

    ACBS/ps

    (Personal letter, June 10, 1975)

    • Amara dasa

      Thanks for your nice response, Brahma Prabhu!

      Unfortunately, these types of discrimination are still going on within ISKCON as there are no explicit policies or protections for gender minorities. Thus some temples and leaders accept such people while others exclude them. Srila Prabhupada’s own statements and dealings in these matters are clearly inclusive, but many devotees choose to ignore his own example.

      I believe this particular devotee has already contacted me through GALVA. I recommended she associate with gurus and temples that are clearly understanding and accepting, such as BV Tripurari Swami or even some ISKCON leaders like Hridayananda Maharaja. It can be very harmful if we associate with the mean-spirited types described above. What a shame!

  • Kula-pavana

    Most religions (including Gaudiya Vaishnavism) use a biological definition of marriage (pairing up for procreation and raising family) despite their self proclaimed ‘spiritual vision’. When marriage is defined differently (such as union for emotional support in life), homosexuality may not seem all that ‘abnormal’. When Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita (7.11) dharmaviruddho bhuteshu kamo ‘smi bharatarshabha – I am kama (desire) which is not against dharma, He is not saying: “I am sex for procreation” – it is something a lot deeper than that.

  • Payonidhi das

    I am rather disturbed by Kulapavana twisting Sri Krsna’s direct words:
    Bhagavad-gita (7.11) dharmaviruddho bhuteshu kamo ’smi bharatarshabha – I am kama (desire) which is not against dharma.This clearly refers to
    married KC couple having sex only for procreation of KC children..
    srila Sridhara Swami has commented on this vers also :

    Rajas or passion is an active desire for things unattained. Attachment though is a passive emotion of the mind which incites the thirst for more of a desired object after already experiencing it. So when Lord Krishna states: kama-raga-vivarjitam meaning devoid of passion and attachment He is explaining the nature of His strength. He is the serene, sublime strength which empowers one to regularly perform their spiritual duties without deviation or cessation. He is also the passion which is never contrary to sanatan dharma or eternal righteousness and which is beneficial in marriage and having a son by one’s wife.

    (This verse should never been seen to support homesexuality)

    • Kula-pavana

      Payonidhi Prabhu,

      There are two separate things mentioned in this verse (7.11) by Krsna:
      1. “I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire”
      2. “I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles”
      There is no need to mix the two.
      One can interpret the second sentence very narrowly (sex for procreation only) or more broadly, looking at the general context of what is dharma (religious principle) in general.

      In the purely biological sense it is better when homosexual individuals form unions between themselves and not with heterosexual partners, because in that way their genes are not propagated in the population. It is yet another natural self regulating mechanism of this material world.

      • Syamasundara Dasa

        In the purely biological sense it is better when homosexual individuals form unions between themselves and not with heterosexual partners, because in that way their genes are not propagated in the population. It is yet another natural self regulating mechanism of this material world.

        This is quite bizarre. First, what’s wrong if those “genes” are spread? Are you saying that homosexuals come from homosexual parents? Or that they are some kind of genetic mutation that happens even in the best families, just like a baby may be born dwarf (incidentally, dwarfs may have full-sized children)?
        Homosexuals should find partners among themselves just because it’s who they belong with, for sensitivity, sensibility, culture and sexual orientation.
        However, in one sense, although from very different view points, maybe we are saying the same thing if you mean that they should make couples among themselves, because if they keep in the famous closet, that will bring about dysfunctional individuals, parents, children, and ultimately society. Let heterosexuals perpetuate the human race, and let every member of society be functional and happy, no matter what their sexual orientation, creed, sex, race, etc.

        • Kula-pavana

          It is not as simple as “homosexuals come from homosexual parents”. I have quite an extensive background in biological science, including genetics, to know that. Yet research shows that genetic makeup of many homosexual individuals may have a lot to do with their sexual preferences, and that makeup can be passed down to their progeny.

          Since in biological sense allowing these individuals to breed is undesirable, they should be allowed to mate with their own kind. As you have said: “Let heterosexuals perpetuate the human race, and let every member of society be functional and happy, no matter what their sexual orientation, creed, sex, race, etc.”

    • Syamasundara Dasa

      Payonidhi prabhu,

      I don’t know if English is your first language, but… a son by one’s wife? How about a daughter by one’s husband? Or in other words, your wording expresses a certain rigid view, and we know that flexibility is a golden virtue among Vaishnavas, if they are to understand the Absolute and preach about it, especially in a society where women are not given in charity to men anymore, marriages are a mutual decision, and so is having children, no matter what their gender. Not only that, it’s a society where homosexuals (who have always existed and have never chosen to be such) are being accepted in more and more respect, and they would feel alienated if, when it comes to their spirituality, they came across such exposition of our siddhanta.
      I don’t think anybody here is saying that Krsna is supporting homosexuality, but for sure he supports a soul being brought closer to him, no matter what subtle and gross body recover it, and for sure he supports those devotees who do their best to bridge the gap between himself and such souls. By their best I don’t mean tweaking the scripture, but rather using their intelligence to find any possible way to shorten that bridge. As SP says, buddhi-yoga means bhakti-yoga.
      Even if the paragraph I am referring to was Sridhara Swami’s actual words (it’s not clear, there were no quotation marks), you still expressed that rigidity when you said: “This verse should never been seen to support homesexuality.”

  • Kula-pavana

    Tripurari Maharaja translates dharmaviruddho bhuteshu kamo ’smi as: “I am love that is righteous”. That is a good way to put it. This sloka is certainly not supporting homosexuality but IMO it’s meaning is much deeper than “I am sex for procreation only”. In the Vedic literature we have many beautiful love stories where even very saintly personalities like Kardama Muni and Devahuti enjoy sex life far beyond what is minimally required for procreation. Such relations are all praised in the Vedic literature as righteous (dharmic) and thus the meaning of Bg. 7.11 must be seen in this context.

    Can a homosexual love be righteous? I do not see a reason why not. How often does it happen? Probably not very often, but it is an ideal homosexual people need to strive for, as it is a positive motivation, much better than simple repression. Remember? Even a man of distinction is forced to act according to his nature.

  • Amara dasa

    There is smarta-dharma and there is jaiva- or sanatana-dharma. Dovetailing kama according to smarta-dharma would entail marrying a wife, worshiping the ancestors and engaging in sex only for begetting children. Dovetailing kama according to sanatana-dharma or Krsna consciousness, however, involves centering the relationship on Krsna and viewing one’s partner as a servant of Krsna. This is what Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura states in his book, Jaiva Dharma, anyway. The latter definition could easily include same-sex couples whereas the former would be less likely to.

    In his purport to BG 7.11, Srila Prabhupada speaks of dharma in terms of smarta or ordinary religious principles but there are higher Vaishnava principles as well. Another point: Krsna says in the Gita that among fishes, He is the shark, but that doesn’t mean all other fishes are therefore bad or unwanted. BG 7.11 implies that there are many, many different types of kama or desire but out of all of them, kama according to religious principles (either smarta or sanatana) is the highest and therefore most represents Him.

    Like other intersex conditions, there are many different biological factors causing homosexuality but all of them ultimately involve hormonal effects on the primal brain in utero. There is no evidence I am aware of demonstrating that homosexual people are more likely to have homosexual offspring, so I wouldn’t use that as an argument against marrying gays to straight people! Homosexual offspring are overwhelmingly produced by heterosexual parents and the more offspring they produce, the more likely they are to have a homosexual child. One study I’ve seen apparently demonstrates that the more sons a woman has, the more likely her succeeding sons are to be gay.

  • Thomas

    “It’s not the issue that is in question, but the question that is at issue.”

    That’s a little ditty I wrote as part of my Master’s thesis. It applies well to this topic.

    The question shouldn’t be: is homosexuality a sin, but rather – is focusing on the bodily concept something that will destroy our sadhana? There may be many straight people who will take their next birth as a dog or hog, and many gay people who will advance to the next level of spiritual existence.

    The whole idea of living a Krishna conscious life is to get away from those things that have trapped us from time immemorial. The sin isn’t in whose body we want to share our lives with, but rather in doing that, what will it do to our determination to advance to the point where we can leave the material world?

  • Frank

    I very much like Thomas’ summation. The discussion of this topic was, at times, way too academic. In my understanding, bhakti-yoga is not a dry subject matter, but something that has to be tried and experienced.

    This particular devotee in a homosexual body tries to minimize his need for sex. Even though he cannot maintain perfect celibacy or regular japa, the real question is how does his love for Krishna grow? On Friday he had his weekly sex release. On Saturday he sent money to the LA temple, remembering that really his whole paycheck comes from Rukmini-Dwarkadisha. Later he read the introduction to Baladeva’s Govinda-bhashya. He was particularly moved by it and did a full dandavat, inspired by a vision of Govindaji.

    Does he really see Govindaji within his and everyone’s heart now? Is that just an illusion because he is unable to completely curb his material desires?

    If I recall correctly, Prabhupada compared the start of devotional service to unplugging a running fan. The blades will continue to move for a while.

    If I may say so, I would like to hear more about how devotees have dealt practically with their homosexuality and spiritual growth than the rules and regulations prescribed by the scriptures and saints. I don’t mean to minimize the impaortance of regulations, but I feel that the intentions can get lost in them.

  • Vikram Ramsoondur

    I would concur with you, Frank. This thread had a special focus on homosexuality, but I think that much of your point could also be extended to heterosexuals, meat-eaters, and so forth – in short, practically every beginner or kanistha, if you will, who is still very much in essence a materialist with an interest in spirituality, nothing more. As I fall in this category myself, I’m speaking from first-hand experience.

  • govinda

    the use of the word homosexual is the first mistake. there are certain sexual acts that are forbidden,irrespective of any sexual orientation. there is no sanskrit word for homosexual. the episode in the srimad bhagavtam that is often recalled is in regards to the attempted anal rape of lord brahma. we can all accept that forced anal or vaginal intercourse will be forbidden by any religous sripture ..be it vedic or ibrahamic. it is interesting to note that the quranic episodes where so called homosexuality is condemmed is also referring to anal rape.this time of an angel who appeared as a beautifull boy. again interestingly enough there is no arabic or hebrew translation for this all encommpassing concocted term homosexual.made up by the english 100 years ago.
    as vaishnavas we should never allow the cultural terms of language of the cowkilling english(even the french refer to the english as le roast beefs)to dictate our own cultural norms. so we can all agree …if we are inclined sexually to our own gender..or not…that forced sexual intercourse be it anal or vaginal is anathema to the civilised.we do not need the english or the bedu to tell us this.thankyou very much. kindly read the srimad bhagavatam carefully in its original sanskrit and do not bring any abrahamic cultural baggage to your study. lord brahmas children attempted to rape him…bringing incest into the picture also

  • krsna das

    Is sticking to rulles and regulations more beneficial than taking the graduall path,even if takes lifetimes.Is it possible to return home back to Godhead by acts of repentance during life and at the end of it,being unable to be free of all anartas?
    Kd

  • Ayush

    Please Stop misinforming people on Ayurveda/ Hinduism. The ancient Hindu texts have never talked about ‘homosexuals’ but only about ‘third genders.’ You are confusing between gender and sexuality — just like the west makes us all do. There are very few places where Hindu texts talks about sex between two men (which is treated as different from sex between a man and a third gender/ gay), e.g. in the chapter on men’s sexuality in the Kama Sutra. You’d notice that Kama Sutra discusses sex between gay/ third gender and men … and men and men as two different concepts. Sex between two men is treated as part of the mainstream (straight) manhood gender, while sex by effeminates are treated under the ‘napumsak’ (non-men) section. It treats the sex between men as normal, while only slightly looks down upon sex by third gender (i.e. effeminate/ gay) males with men.

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.

Subscribe without commenting