Homosexuality and Scripture
Published on May 30th, 2014 | by Harmonist staff74
Q & A with Swami Tripurari, originally published on July 22, 2010.
Q. Is being gay a sin?
A. I don’t think that any reasonable person would consider “being gay” sinful in as much as the distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behavior is understood. Sometimes people refer to biblical passages that they say condemn homosexuality but even Christian theologians have offered plausible interpretations to the contrary. For example, regarding the often-quoted verse (Romans 1:26-27) where the apostle Paul denounced homosexual behavior as unnatural, one distinguished Christian theologian comments, “No doubt Paul was unaware of the distinction between sexual orientation, over which one has apparently very little choice, and sexual behavior, over which one does. He seemed to assume that those whom he condemned were heterosexuals who were acting contrary to nature, “leaving,” “giving up,” or “exchanging” their regular sexual orientation for that which was foreign to them. Paul knew nothing of the modern psychosexual understanding of homosexuals as persons whose orientation is fixed early in life, or perhaps even genetically in some cases. For such persons, having heterosexual relations would be acting contrary to nature, “leaving,” “giving up,” or “exchanging” their natural sexual orientation for one that was unnatural to them.” (Rev. Dr. Walter Wink, Professor of Biblical Interpretation, Auburn Theological Seminary) Hindu texts, on the other hand, are relatively silent on the issue, and when they do discuss homosexuality, it is in relation to heterosexual brahmanas, or priests, indulging in homosexual liaisons. The Hindu dharma sastra describes such behavior as a minor sin; however, it is hardly possible to make a determination as to the religious status of homosexuality in today’s world on the basis of a few isolated statements from the dharma sastra. Nor will mere reference to Srimad Bhagavatam‘s statements concerning spiritually correct “celibate householder sexuality” or the Bhagavad-gita‘s identification of divinity with dharmic sexuality, serve conclusively in condemning homosexuality. Indeed, wholesale condemnation of homosexuality on the basis of Hindu scripture is quite difficult, and given the amount of information on the subject that we have today, which was not available even fifty years ago, such condemnation would not in my opinion be spiritually correct or compassionate.
Therefore, my conviction is that monogamous homosexual relationships are as viable a position from which to cultivate spiritual life as are monogamous heterosexual relationships, and I believe that despite what my guru said decades ago, he would hold the same opinion were he with us today. Since he was with us, a wealth of insight into the nature of homosexuality has come to light, so much that any devotee would do well to carefully consider it when forming his or her opinion on the subject. Times change and with new information new opinions form, and if they are spiritually reasonable, the task for devotees is to support them with scriptural logic—sastra-yukti—or the logic that supports the essential conclusions of revelation.
Q. What really bothers me about today’s homosexuals is how they wave their gay flag and require everybody to approve of their sexuality. Why should the world appreciate their parade of wrongly directed lust?
A. You might think differently if you were born gay and had to undergo the kind of discrimination that homosexuals have been experiencing for centuries, what to speak of the psychological trauma of “coming out” in our largely homophobic society. The fact is that homosexuality would still be a criminal offence in the United States if it were not for the courage of gay activists. Their flag waving is a cry to be allowed to be what they are without being attacked, jailed, or discriminated against, which was the norm here in America for so long. What’s more, in some countries people are still being executed for homosexuality. Sexuality is a huge part of a person’s life. To be forced to live in a society where one is routinely mistreated because of his or her natural occurring sexuality is something I would not would wish on anyone.
Q. I am a Hindu and I believe that homosexuals should seek reformation because scripture (the Bible) states that God is not pleased with homosexual relations. The Kama sutra states that the goal of kama, or lust, is procreation. Heterosexual relations serve this purpose but homosexual relations serve only personal sense gratification. Dharma means to accept one’s duty in relation to society and God, so how could homosexuality, which has nothing to do with procreation, be considered in any way dharmic?
A. In the Hindu canon there is no condemnation of homosexuality that I am aware of. You profess to be Hindu but are unable to cite any of our scriptures to support your position, not one. Kama sutra is not scripture but it does address homosexuality without condemning it as you have done.
Ultimately everyone agrees that the sexual urge should be harnessed, and different acaryas have tried to help their students do so in different ways. In the mission of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, sexual activity was supposed to be restricted to married life, but our Srila Prabhupada tried to establish a stricter standard, one that permitted sex only for the purpose of procreation. However, the vast majority of his disciples could not follow this standard. Thus in some individual cases he sanctioned sex outside of procreation for married couples. The point is that establishing a standard that students can follow and that helps them to progressively harness this desire constitutes sex that is dharmic and is thus arguably blessed—kamo ‘smi. Realistically, whether one is gay or straight this would be limiting sexual activity to within a committed long-term relationship, doing so for the purpose of making advancement in spiritual life.
Furthermore, we are not concerned with trying to please God by following the complex rules of dharma because Krishna is not concerned with this. He says, sarva-dharman parityajya: “Forgo all concerns of dharma and take exclusive refuge in me. I will protect you from all reactions. Do not fear.” Spontaneous love brought about by devotion (bhakti) is the way to please Krishna, and homosexuality being a naturally occurring minority phenomenon is no more an obstacle to bhakti than is heterosexuality. Therefore, I encourage everyone regardless of their sexual orientation to become devotees of Krishna and follow in the footsteps of the residents of Vrindavana. This is the highest dharma—prema dharma.
Regarding your proposal that homosexuals seek reformation. As far back as 1948 sex researcher Alfred Kinsey attempted to document patients who had been converted from homosexuality to heterosexuality during therapy and could not find one whose sexual orientation had been changed. Later, in 1973 the American Psychiatric Association officially ceased classifying homosexuality as a disease, and today’s psychiatrists and psychologists almost never attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation. All this means that your notion of converting homosexuals into heterosexuals will certainly be a failure.
Finally, just try to imagine growing up and finding that when your young friends began to develop an attraction to the opposite sex you found yourself developing a sexual attraction to the same sex and had learned that you were a queer who could be justifiably beaten up and that there would be no shoulder to cry on at home. Employers (if you could get hired) would fire you if they detected your sexual attraction, which is not something that one can easily hide or that heterosexuals hide (indeed they are encouraged to celebrate it!). Then imagine that you had to pursue your sexuality in the back alley or at an illegal bar and thus ended up being the shady person that society accused you of being and gave you little opportunity of avoiding. The world is still just understanding that they did this to millions of children. Think about it.
Q. Swami, from your writing on the issue of homosexuality it appears that you want to encourage gay people to become devotees. I think that sounds broadminded but I think that the way you are doing it flies in the face of the words of your guru Srila Prabhupada, who was a great and wise man. I like to quote Prabhupada’s words on the topic verbatim, and I don’t think doing so is narrow-minded. What can possibly be wrong with just repeating what he said? And what he said does not jive with your approach.
A. The difference between you and Srila Prabhupada is very great. You may repeat what he said (kind of) but you have no ability to change when new information is presented; information that is much more readily available to you than it was to him. What new information? That one born with a homosexual orientation has no choice in the matter, a fact that has come to light only in recent decades. Srila Prabhupada’s views on this subject were informed by the prevailing misinformation of his time. He similarly wrote that women were less intelligent because their brain size was almost half that of men which is another piece of misinformation that he attributed to Dr. Urquhart, a professor at the institution he attended in Calcutta. However, unlike you, Srila Prabhupada was able to significantly change his position when new information was presented to him. Being incorrect at times is normal, but what’s egregiously incorrect is when a person simply ignores new information and holds fast to outdated ideas despite of it.
Abraham Lincoln was also a great and wise man. He brought about the abolition of slavery in America but he also felt that black people should not be allowed to hold public office. Although once nationally accepted, this idea has in our time been internationally rejected. Still, history does not condemn Lincoln for his latter position but rather lauds him for the former–freeing the slaves. By our standards Srila Prabhupada was an even greater person; not because he held some dated views on various social issues but because he was an empowered pure devotee who was able to free sincere souls from the bondage of material existence. This is what he should and ultimately will be remembered and appreciated for, not for the few dated statements he made about homosexuality.
Q. You say that you know of no passages in the Hindu scriptures that condemn homosexuality, but in his purport to Srimad Bhagavatam verse 3.20.26 Srila Prabhupada writes: “It appears here that the homosexual appetite of males for each other is created in this episode of the creation of the demons by Brahma. In other words, the homosexual appetite of a man for another man is demoniac and is not for any sane male in the ordinary course of life.” How do you explain this?
A. The verse says that when Lord Brahma created the demons they approached him for sex but were ultimately lured away by the twilight, which appeared to them as a beautiful young woman. The text goes on to elaborate on the alluring qualities of youthful women and how attraction to them clouds the mind of the unintelligent. In that section of the Bhagavatam, only one verse mentions the demons’ sexual attraction to a male, while the ten following verses elaborate on their sexual attraction to a female. Overall, the demons being discussed were obviously more sexually attracted to a woman than they were to a man (Brahma) which indicates that they were not “gay” as we understand the term today.
It is also worth mentioning that Prabhupada never backed up his stance on homosexuality with any references from scripture. Even in the purport cited, he does not say that the verse he is commenting on says that homosexuality is demoniac. Instead, using the word “appears,” which indicates a degree of uncertainty, he merely offers his own opinion. Elsewhere when discussing the subject he also only cites reasoning that demonstrates that his opinion was based on misinformation. For example, in one place he says that homosexuality is not even found in the animal world; a notion that we now know is incorrect. In this case Srila Prabhupada made an inaccurate statement in support of his position, one that he must have learned from someone else. If we are to take his words as absolute in all respects, as some devotees claim that we must, then we are forced to deny the proven fact that homosexuality is found in the animal species. If not, we must face the fact that the example given by Srila Prabhupada was mistaken. If the example used in support of one’s reasoning is proven wrong, then one’s position on the issue itself is brought into question, especially if that position is not clearly supported by scripture. So to disagree with Srila Prabhupada’s opinion on homosexuality is not to pick and choose whimsically, but to do so in the very way that he taught us to do, which is to consider the issue according to sastra. In one discussion of the subject Srila Prabhupada even said, “One should take as it is enjoined in the sastras.” This is what I have done, and as I have already stated, Hindu texts are relatively silent on the issue, so it is very difficult to condemn homosexuality on the basis of sastra.
In conclusion, you have made it clear that you feel homosexual relationships established with a view to progress in spiritual life are not to be accepted in the same way that similar heterosexual relationships are. Your arguments on the subject are basically Bible-based religious fundamentalism, as you could not present any verses from Hindu scripture in support of them. As for Srila Prabhupada, if it were possible I would welcome a discussion with him on this topic and I feel confidant that in light of present times and information available he would be willing to alter his position in agreement with mine. After all, in regards to his gay disciple Upendra he did exactly that: he sanctioned a committed homosexual relationship with a view to help his disciple progress in spiritual life.
See Sanga: The Essence of Varnasrama Dharma
Hmm, what a sound lesson in humane, compassionate liberal thinking that was! Way to go, I’d say.
I agree Vikram. Not all the Bengali Vaisnavas are fanatics.
Most are apart from a select few. I think there are enough people defending fanatics out there, so if a few people strongly oppose them that is a good sign. Though, the downside is there is no impact of any reason on fanatics.
Sounds rational and refreshing, its important we can see Prabhupada as a pure devotee and have the maturity to distinguish his general observations and what constitutes Sastric statements, I have no problem to see he had cultural mis understandings but still remains a Maha Bhagavata Pure devotee. The Christians mistake is they made Jesus God, and the same mistake is made when we take Srila Prabhupada to be omniscient, the blunder of accepting the Guru as God. Srila Prabhupada never at any time claimed omniscience just as Jesus also never claimed to be God. Dandavat Pranams.
A lot of people are confused about this point.
The guru is more important than God for the disciple.
In fact, the actual shastric codes state that in the true guru and disciple relationship the guru actually becomes God as far as far as our actual connection of service is concerned.
The guru is better than God, because God is invisible but the guru has a physical manifestation that can interact with the disciple.
We don’t need God. We need guru, for without guru we will never attain spiritual realization.
I agree that many devotees are confused about guru-tattva. No doubt Sri Guru is the most important factor in the sadhaka’s life, but the statement of Prabhupada you emphasized has been misunderstood and misapplied and so wreaked havoc on the faith of too many. “Accepting the guru as God” does not mean that we are to think the guru is omniscient in all respects like Bhagavan is. If we take such statements literally we end up with all sorts of contradictions that then require outlandish explanations for resolution. An example would be the abuse of children that went on in the gurukulas. Those who think Prabhupada was omniscient say he knew it was going on but allowed it because it was the karma of the children to be abused. This is not even close to being tenable to a reasonable person given the compassionate nature of SP (in this case) and of advanced Vaisnavas in general. The guru is not omniscient in all respects but knows what he or she needs to know when he or she needs to know it.
This statement is problematic because it makes it sound like guru and God are somehow separate. Sri Guru is a specific manifestation of God. The two are one, and different–saksad hari (directly Hari) and priya (dear to Hari, i.e., a devotee)at the same time. Bhedabheda.
Obviously, the shastric code concerning the principle of accepting the guru as God only applies to fully qualified, self-realized siddhas who have been duly empowered and authorized by Krishna.
Of course there arises big issues and big problems when sadhaka gurus assume the role of the siddha guru. Then we run into all sorts of issues in applying the “guru as God” principle.
Surely the shastric statements are true and correct. But, in the event of a sadhaka assuming the responsibility of guru there is the chance that some disaster of faith can occur.
The shastra speaks of guru in the strict sense of the fully qualified and authorized spiritual master. Sometimes the guru is not a Uttama-bhakta who has attained the complete authorization or qualification.
It’s quite apparent by the shastric codes that the spiritual master is highly qualified guide and teacher who never utters anything or promotes anything that is not given in the shastra.
If the guru is chaste to the shastric codes and fully equipped to teach the science of God, then he should be accepted in terms of shastric codes as being as good as God as far as the spiritual attainment and spiritual service to the Godhead is concerned. We can only serve the guru here. We cannot serve Krishna directly. Krishna does not even acknowledge such service.
The ONLY service that Krishna accepts from us is the service we offer to and through the spiritual master.
So, guru is God. Serve the devotee of the devotee and then we have some prospect of hope.
Lots of people have a problem with this standard, but then again a lot of people are not going to attain perfection in this life and will continue to serve the false ego and the petty material desires that infest the heart.
Even God can incarnate as a human with human limitations if he so desires. So, we need to be very cautious in thinking that the spiritual master is a human being with defects when he might just be an immortal pretending to be a human with human limitations and defective thinking.
Guru seva is everything?
What is there to help us but guru seva?
What they mean when they say that guru is God is that God only accepts service to his representatives in this world and not by any direct method of service.
So, as good as God is certainly most accurate and no exaggeration in the least.
“We don’t need God. We need guru, for without guru we will never attain spiritual realization.”
I do not think this is a view supported by God. Just read the Gita. What happened to “give up all dharmas and surrender to God alone”? Out of some 700 verses in the Gita at best 3 or 4 relate to the guru. Do not try to reverse this ratio. I see more problems arising in the Western Vaishnavism from over-emphasizing the importance of guru than from anything else. In practical sense the tipod of guru, sadhu, and shastra gets tipped over whenever you extend one of these three legs too much. This is what happened in Iskcon long time ago. The tripod fell over spilling what was supported by these three legs all over the place.
And the issue of homosexuality is no different: you have to place it firmly on those three legs or it will fall over.
Well now, do have a particular scriptural reference in mind; guru; sadhu?
Swami: “Well now, do have a particular scriptural reference in mind; guru; sadhu?”
I do not. I merely call for a balanced approach. One should balance even the opinion of his own guru using shastra and opinions of other sadhus.
In the article I have dealt with the sastra in one way. I could have also labored to demonstrate from sastra the nature of bhakti, as opposed to karma marg or jnana marg with regard to eligibility, or explained kamo ‘smi in essence, etc. as I have done elsewhere including here on the pages of the Harmonist. But the point I emphasized in this particular article is that sastra is silent in terms of any clear mandate on the morality of homosexuality. Prabhupada’s negative opinion was not based upon any clear sastric mandate nor did he cite any sadhus to support it, nor has any other acarya cited a clear mandate or the opinion of other sadhus on the subject. I did, however, cite Prabhupada’s positive opinion/action in relation to his homosexual disciple Upendra, actions that were in consonance with the spirit of my article.
Furthermore I am left with the feeling that your position is that homosexuality is immoral unless proven by sastra, guru, and sadhu otherwise. One could just as well take the opposite position and call for proof. I find it humorous that you consider my article out of balance.
Its obviously insufficient to base an argument solely on the number of verses dedicated to a given topic, especially in our Sampradaya, which makes huge claims on what others consider minimal scriptural evidence (Krishna being svayam Bhagavan, Mahaprabhu being Krishna, etc.). How much of the Vedas deal with things other than bhakti? How much of the Gita for that matter? As always, it is quality and context, not quantity, that are to be considered. That being said, God himself says in the Bhagavatam that he is the guru (acarya mam vijaniyat), that is, the sad-guru is as good as god and is one with god in certain ways. Surrendering to guru and surrendering to god are the same, except for the bonus that surrendering to guru is the process that god has prescribed. Furthermore, surrender is a process that must be informed by divya jnana. And again, the gita says that this jnana comes through submission to the guru (tad viddhi pranipatena).
Can you honestly say this is the problem? Or is the problem one of unfit gurus? If one’s glorification and emphasis is in line with siddhanta and not offensive toward others’ faith, than there really can’t be overglorification of the guru/sadhu, even while there can be varying degrees of advancement among the gurus. Is that to say that a sad-guru’s students will never be in distress, have crises of faith, or even feel animosity toward their guru? Certainly not. All of these things will be there and in some cases maybe even more so, because the nature of our conditioning is to resist its own dissolution, which the guru represents and advances in our life. No matter what, submission to a guru will entail some risk. Srila Sridhara Maharaja articulates this wonderfully in Sri Guru and His Grace:
Additionally, in Sat-Sandarbha Jiva Goswami says that often a jiva makes devotion to Krsna the angi (body) of bhakti and guru-bhakti the anga (limb). But, he says, there are some who reverse this, and Krishna finds the latter scenario even more pleasing. Like KB said, a qualified guru will be the lord of our life… and our afterlife, as neither in sadhana nor sadhya should we expect to be direct servants of god. Our path culminates in Radha (not Krishna) dasyam, and even that we should not expect to mean direct service of Sri Radha.
I think the issue arises when we conflate our experiences of less-than-ideal gurus with the theory of the sad-guru, often having been expected to behave like they were synonymous. It is so infortunate that so much faith has been mangled in guru-disciple relationships around the globe, but we will be nowhere if we throw the baby out with the bathwater. But if we can find a qualified guru who boosts our faith and we assist them in this current climate of doubt, thereby rebuilding the damaged faith of devotees, surely we will receive the well-wishing of the Sampradaya!
Nitaisundara: “Can you honestly say this is the problem? Or is the problem one of unfit gurus?”
One is connected with the other. Why do unqualified people want to be gurus? Because they get to play God.
Today is Guru Purnima. Why we do not celebrate our gurus during that day? Because we replaced it with a personality cult of individual gurus. From the principle of “Guru is one, and that Guru is Krsna” we made a principle of “my guru is the only one and he is better than God”.
Wanting to play god is still a problem of unfit gurus and not over-emphasis of the guru. Without even speaking of their level of devotion, the first verse of Upadesamrta says that a fit guru will have controlled their speech, tongue, genitals, mind, anger, belly. So where is there playing god (the enjoyer)? This does not mean disciples will not want to honor their guru with nice things, but the attachment is not there on the guru’s part. But then again, we should not think the guru unqualified because he or she likes a nice subji. Again, it is a subtle topic.
When you say “we made a principle of ‘my guru is the only one and he is better than God'”, who exactly are you including in “we”? I have not been taught to cultivate this “amara guru, jagad guru” mentality, and I know not everyone else has. Certainly this mentality prevails, but that is the nature of the world. People identify with leaders that promote this mentality because they have a samskara for thinking in such rigid ways. Like Sridhara Maharaja said, we must try to avoid false agents, but we cannot help ourselves so much in this regard because we are faulty too.
In general with many issues discussed here there needs to be a distinction drawn between what some people have done and how we should react to that, and what the ideal and theory of GV is, and how we should react to that.
Celebrating our guru (not in an amara guru jagad guru sense) and celebrating Krishna/the oneness of the guru are not mutually exclusive. Far from it. Krishna is embodied in sadhus and they in turn are represented in their true followers. Our best prospect lies in finding a true follower, who is keeping the current of spirituality alive, and investing our energy in their service. This is really the only way that we properly celebrate the “one” guru. That is what sastra says. And yes, for this and other reasons, one’s guru is, in some senses, better than god. That is the revolution of Gaudiya Vaishnavism: the devotee is the highest. Jaya Guru Parampara! Jaya Srila Sanatana Goswami!
This particular set of Questions and Answers was very refreshing to read, especially for gay devotees and their supporters. I received many positive comments when I posted this newsletter on various sites a few days ago. Especially appreciated was the example of Lincoln because that is much the way I see Srila Prabhupada in relation to this issue.
I don’t believe, however, that only modern science has recently revealed homosexual orientation as inborn. Vedic texts, particularly the medical texts of Sushruta, mention homosexuality as caused during the time of conception and within the first two months of embryological development. Knowing how much Srila Prabhupada referred to and appreciated the Vedic sciences I can hardly believe he would deferred their conclusions in favor of the Victorian misconceptions–had he been made aware of them at the time, that is.
What websites did you post it on???
How bout Chakra? and the Sun?
Keep us informed. I like to read the comments.
Dandavat pranamas, Brahma prabhu!
Oh, I just posted it on GALVA, Facebook and Twitter. It would probably be nice to post on Chakra also. I never deal with the negative sites anymore…those were just in the early days of the Internet for me…LOL!
Swami has always sounded level headed to me. It makes sense to take Srila Prabhupada’s lessons as stepping stones to one’s personal realization. I think that’s a good thing, and a step that Swami has taken. I feel as if Swami really understands Srila Prabhupada.
@ Tulsi, I agree with you completely. So many Christian equate Jesus as God, even as he taught that he was the son of God. Not God himself, so like Prabhupada was a pure devotee of God, sincere, and humble and very learned, yet never called himself Krsna. I don’t know why devotees can’t see that. It’s almost an injustice to the gift he offered us, teaching us to love God, and to love and serve guru as God’s most intimate disciple. It seems like so many miss the point. But then again, what do I know?
But Srila Prabhupada, Swami Tripurari and others who have the courage to think and meditate on the scriptures and how they relate to modern times, are in my opinion doing exactly what we are all supposed to be doing. Propagating KC, so that all sentient beings can partake of the mercy being offered. Somehow that original impetus has been lost by many. We could only try our best to serve.
I live in my mind in devotion always, even if in practise I am light years off track.
When I was young, I knew men of a masculine orientation and older than myself attracted me sexually. But at 13 I met a senior policeman and had relations that were no less than up with the gods for eighteen years until he got killed. I have had other relations, but none as fantastic as this one. I can live alone for the rest of my life with the love of this man and krsna in my heart side by side. How can this be not a part of nature and spiritual life. I love Gurudev, have all respect for Prabhupad and many established devotees much higher than myself in practise and life. No one can tell me this is wrong, despite the fact that they try to.
When I visited Miami for a few weeks in 1986, I would walk from the apartment I was staying in to the temple for Mangala Arati each morning. This japa walk took me thru a section of the city where the Miami “night life” was just winding down. One morning there was a group of men in drag and they all very nicely responded to my greeting of “Hare Krsna!” One of them began to walk along with me and was telling me how he goes to the temple for the Sunday feast and how much he was attracted to the spiritual atmosphere there. He then asked me how he could join ISKCON and would it be a problem that he was gay. I explained to him that in order to actually move into the temple he would have to follow the 4 regulative principles and chant 16 rounds. One of the principles is no illicit sex and there is no distinction between homosexuality and heterosexuality. Sex is for procreation and the raising of Krsna conscious children. So, therefore, abstinence is required for spiritual advancement…control of the genitals is a yajna we take a vow to follow. One’s sexual orientation is of no consequence. I lived in temples for 17 years and met a number of devotees who are gay and they lived as brahmacaris and brahmacarinis with the goal of Krsna consciousness in mind. Lessening the sex drive is required to properly serve Krsna. That being said, Acyutananda Swami once made the point that “Pure Krsna conciousness is the standard…but if you can’t do that, then do this…if you can’t do this then do that…if you can’t do it at all, then be the most sinful but do it somewhere else.” We are all on our own journey back to Krsna and we all have to deal with Maya’s influence. Type of body, sexual orientation, etc. has nothing to do with it. So we keep the goal as pure devotional service and practice the process of Krsna consciousness to achieve that goal. Hare Krsna!!! Jai Radhe!!!
I appreciate the general sentiment of Tulsi and Bhakta Will, except their comparison of Srila Prabhupada to Jesus seems not quite right. But I think it helps to make a good point.
Virtually all historians of the late Roman period accept there was a historical Jesus. But for the historian to have any idea about who Jesus was, what he said, or what he was about, he has only the books of the New Testament: the letters of Paul, the Gospels, Acts. As a historical figure we know almost nothing except there was a crazy Jew who fired up some kind of fringe movement. We know Jesus Christ only within the religious context of his own followers. So in order to understand Christ we have to hear from the Christians. Christ is meaningless outside of Christianity and Christ is what Christianity is all about. Only the “devotees” of Jesus Christ can tell us anything about who Jesus actually is and our relationship to him (this is called sambhanda-jnana).
According to the many Christian traditions, Christ is God -he sits at the right hand of the Father. I don’t know of any Christians who don’t think of Jesus as God and aspire to loving their God beyond time and space. Whether we believe this or not, that is our own judgement of material that is given us by his devotees. Naturally we can interpret the entirely Christian account through our own understanding of Vedanta, Yoga philosophy, Vaisnava theology, or whatever (personally, I do it a lot), but that is extraneous to both their tradition and ours’. We can say that Jesus is Guru Tattva, and he may in some ways be, but we have to remember that that is our interpretation. Christians may or may not accept “Guru tattva” in the way we do.
The point I want to make is that we cannot know any conception of the Absolute in any depth or application without the devotee. We can say “Guru is as good as God” because it is only through him or her that we have knowledge and the means to enter it as lived experience. Of course there’s more to it, but we have to enter lived experience to work out the details.
There can be nothing but problems with the equation Prabhupada = Jesus because these are (according to the respective theologies they live within) two different tattvas (our word). One is Guru tattva, the other Avatara tattva (again, our term; I’m forcing Christ into our concept).
I hope Tulsi and Bhakta Will will understand my comment as only my opinion. I’m just taking the opportunity to urge caution in “inter-religious” thinking, if only for myself.
The point I made above was not comparing Jesus to Prabhupada, but rather the mistake made by the followers of ‘kicking them upstairs’ by proclaiming they are omniscient beings no less than God. Neither Prabhupada nor Jesus ever at any time claimed to be God and Prabhupada is very clear that the spiritual master is not omniscient.
One devotee asked Prabhupada if he is aware of offerings being made to his pictures, he replied “Krishna is aware” This is the mistake made. Guru is not God but to be worshipped as Good as God. We can note the history of Iskcon when some of Prabhupadas followers began to teach at New Vrindavan that Prabhupada is Krishna. Prabhupada was furious and banished these devotees from the movement for some time as a lesson on this subject. the Guru is never to be taken as God. It is also a fact Prabhupada would often change his mind on things when presented with new information.
Well, like Gaura Krishna, I dislike interreligious comparisons…one of the reasons I appreciate the, “God is not one” book by Prothero. However, another interesting thing that happens is that by divinizing someone completely we lose so much of their humanity. Despite talk of Jesus being ‘fully divine and fully human” how many ‘fully human traits do we ever think about? That to me is a great loss. The benefit is that we do not have to deal with the human parts of the guru that make us uncomfortable or raise doubts…and we also lose the parts that make him/her unique. As much as we want to ‘perfect’ people by reducing their ‘flaws’ (like we do in psychology), we also reduce their personality. However, we can see from lila that personality is desirable and each resident has a unique personality his/her own. On this plane I find it to be desirable as well.
In speaking with a godsibling, it came up that Gurumaharaja has some of his own personality idiosyncrasies or what others would consider ‘flaws’. It was also said by one of GM’s own godbrothers, “Tripurari is just being Tripurari!” (in an endearing fashion). It bothered me because I felt that my “divine conception” of GM was feeling shaken by that level of human acknowledgement. Then I realized that this one one of my own tendencies to want to fully divinize the guru and strip him of his humanity. It was not but moments later that I realized, “Gopa…you have some of those same idiosyncrasies!” and now it became a point of contact and identification. Shortly thereafter I realized further that some of these personality ‘flaws’ might actually desirably carry over into the lila (as the cowherd boys and gopis all have some traits that are very human), and that maybe the similarity between us is of divine arrangement. This turned his ‘flaws’ into ornaments… as love and lila tend to do.
Your comment regarding Srila Prabhupada and his followers is correct and is supported by our scriptural canon and by the words of our Acharyas, but to say the same regarding Christ is a mistake as Gaura Krsna pointed out. It’s like someone from the Christian tradition stating that the followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu got it wrong – he clearly covered his ears when they call him God. He was most obviously a devotee of God and not God himself as they claim. We, of course, have our scripture and understanding which clearly refutes such a claim. The Christians have theirs as well. The trinity is a well established doctrine both orally and scripturally from the earliest times in the Chistian tradition.
Yes, only small difference is that Jesus was never considered God by his followers (at least there was no formal theory like that floating around) until Paul got some “special”revelations and CM was known to be God by his intimate disciples. Trinity and the theory about it was developed much later though you can argue that CC was written about CM much later also.
So, yes people will be convinced about either one according to their sukriti. But in any case, there has to be some common ground between different religion. Or else advaya jnana tattva and the fact that Krsna is everywhere has to changed to Krsna is with GV and Hindus, Christ and his philosophy operates with Christians and Allah exists in the Muslim world. This theory does not appeal to me.
In natural sciences, material laws operates similarly for every body in the same region ( not different for Christian and hindus living in New York) and I have no idea of a universe where different religions with different conceptions are insulated from each other and that actually is the complete truth. 🙂 But perhaps Gaura-Krsna and Gopa-Kumara disagree with me. That is ok, no problem 🙂 Enjoy.
There are 4 different hypothesis I can think about the interrelationship between different religions. In general, my thinking is a recipe for disaster 🙂
1) All religions are false. Some are less harmful than others :). They have been useful to develop different cultures ( foods, dresses, dances developed as religious rituals) and to help in keeping people moral ( though this claim can be contested). Some of them vanished like the Greek Gods, Azetec Gods etc.
2) All religions are true. Obviously, they conflict with each other on many concepts but they function in locally isolated areas with Krsna operating for the Vaisnavas and Jesus ( actually the trinity) operating for Christians with Krsna completely aloof from Jesus. I can’t determine though whether I go to Hindu heaven or Christian hell.
3) Only one religion is true and every other religion is more or less false. In fact, it is a work of Satan. Obviously, it hard to prove which religion is the one that is true but every religion can try to use all critical tools at disposal like science, moral issues etc to prove the falsity of other religions but never apply the same tools for the critical analysis of their particular religion.
4) One conception gives the complete truth, but there is partial truth in other religious conceptions. Again, everybody will think their conception is the complete truth but they can appreciate sincere people in other conceptions.
I gravitate towards the forth scenario and I can be wrong 🙂
Gaura-Vijaya, I think you’re creating a false dialectic with your 4 hypothesis. Spriritual conceptions cannot be rationalized into true/false statements.
It seems that you’re trying to find some standard of absolute certainty by which all religious philosophies can be sorted out. For example you said: “…there has to be some common ground between different religion.”
OK sure, but my question is, who is in a position to know that? Who is able to know the interior experience of all religious people? Religions are not merely ideas, they are traditions of lived experience. If they were only ideas, say if GV was only some words and images, some philosophical constructs and patterns of behavior, then it would not be a spiritual tradition, it would be an ideology. If that were the case then it could be compared and contrasted agaisnt any other ideology, and we could play philosophical games determining what is reasonable, true, false, etc.
But GV is a way of relating to God and is therefore seperate from ideas (although it may inform them). It is hard for me to even say what GV is beyond this at this exact moment because it is outside the reach of anything I can know or think about. Given that I cannot even understand my own religion, how am I to understand anyone else’s, let alone what is true about it?
True, we can talk about philosophy, but is philosophy the gist of the matter when it comes to faith? I could be very wrong, but it seems that your difficulty with reconciling various philosophies of religion (and you’re a very smart guy) is itself an idication that they cannot be reconciled, that they cannot be brought into a rational synthesis. I think this is because you are trying to apply an external view of them while their reasonability is internal to each.
You said: “…there has to be some common ground between different religion. Or else advaya jnana tattva and the fact that Krsna is everywhere has to changed to Krsna is with GV and Hindus, Christ and his philosophy operates with Christians and Allah exists in the Muslim world.”
Sure advaya jnana tattva…but who can know it relative to all people and religions? Krsna is everywhere, but again, who can know him? Can we know someone else’s knowing? Sri Guru knows Krsna, but can he know everything about Krsna? Our acaryas have made statements about other religions to make various points, but these are often wrong, so can the Guru know conceptions outside his own in truth? As for the rest, yes, you hate it, but I think various philosophies serve others’ faith in ways we can’t know. This is not relativism because we’re talking about Krsna’s interactions with others, not material nature and not mental constucts. Whatever we know of spiritual truth is through our realtionship to Krnsa through the living tradition(s) of our Guru(s) and our knowledge is always relative to us. We cannot know what doesn’t pertain to us.
I think that we may think we see common ground among religions, and that may even be true and/or serve Krsna’s purpose, but we cannot really know. Uncertainty will aways be here because absolute truth is not for us to know, only Krsna. To assume it is is envy.
I agree with you. I never said I hate other philosophies. I think, I objected when Gopa Kumar wanted to prove the falsity of Judeo-Christian God through a psychological analysis of their God. Show me where I said I hate other philosophies. I said that I live with GV as it appeals the best to me and then I place others as having a different conception of the same Absolute truth ( I am just making a guess here). Even then, I am aware that this is a choice and I cannot be certain of the choice and others will feel the same about their choice. I can be wrong. I just said it is likely that different religious conceptions are related in mystic ways and it is unlikely they function is locally isolated zone. Is that very unreasonable? You find it reasonable that all small local conceptions are simultaneously true? I agree I cannot be sure how, but I think they should be all beliefs in all systems cannot be simultaneously true. I don’t know whether you read my discussion with Vrindaranya on the other thread. I have made similar points that we are hitting in the dark, and we are helpless and we make one choice that we are not certain of.
And hypothesis is not a true/false statement. It is about more likely and less likely among alternatives (that is the method of hypothesis). It is not like straight true and straight false. Hypothesis testing never works like that.
And lastly, it is strange when I talked about uncertainty in our decision making then I am attacked for saying we can’t know anything and here I have hardly made any absolute statement and I am accused of absolutism.
I don’t even understand what you found objectionable in my thread. I always qualified my statements and presented various scenarios of viewing the world. I never even diminished other’s faiths. I am surprised that you accuse me of statements I never made. I did not claim that I can find a place of certainity where all issues between different religions will be resolved. In fact, my views are almost similar to you. I just expressed that we can’t compartmentalize each religion and completely insulate them from each other as material nature does not work like that. How they interact will not be known for sure and I agree with that.
I myself have no clue which religions have truth or falsity as I have no idea what those words even mean and if I did I would not be qualified or bold enough to claim ‘knowledge’ in this domain. At some point (maybe i am just tired), these conversations start to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “wha, wha, whawa”. My opinion: I tend to think most religions are absolutely fascinating, predominantly regressive, and utterly silly (and I study them).
At this point the only thing that charms me is the person of Gauranga, the fantasy of Vrindavana wanderings, and the possibility of the embodiment of both these aims in Sri Guru. Not because of some belief in “absolute truth” but rather, subjective, emotional, and aesthetic captivation. Gauranga or bust.
Thanks for your beautiful explanation GopaKumara. I love it.
Gaura-Vijaya, I wasn’t saying you hate other philosophies, I was trying to acknowledge that you dislike the notion that “different conceptions are insulated from each other.”
While you say “it is likely that different religious conceptions are related in mystic ways,” you say “it is unlikely they function is locally isolated zone. Is that very unreasonable? You find it reasonable that all small local conceptions are simultaneously true?”
It seems that what you are calling “locally isolated zones” are people’s faith. Maybe I’m misreading this, as I have probably misread other things you have said, or at least projected my own thoughts beyond what you have said at your expense. What I read in your first post that I responded to was that these “local zones” cannot operate in unique and seperate ways which appear to contradict one another, which I disagree with. In your second post, I think that while you’ve made a good assesment of ways some people think, I object to the notion that spiritual conceptions can be assesed against each other in terms of true/false, which despite what you say about how hypothesis work, I still read in what you’re saying. I think we can only make hypothesis in an academic environment, in which case we are studying things to gain an “objective” perspective, and there can be no objective perspective about different people’s faith. We can talk about the relationship of religions socially or intellectually, but faith cannot be compared between followers of different faiths, which is why I think your hypothesis miss the point. I understand these may apply to your thinking, but they suggest a perspective (to me anyway) of which I am skeptical.
I think we both agree on the prevelance of uncertainity and the neccessity of subjective personal choice.
I’ll try a stab at it: Raso vai sah, “Krsna is aesthetic experience.” True or false?
I believe that he wasn’t looking for a standard of certainty but was examining ways of reconciling the differences and stating which he found most compelling.
When people look for the common themes of religions, they look not only at writings, but the experience of saints as revealed in their writings, among other things. Furthermore, I think we can know quite a bit from reading about theory; for example, reading about rasa theory isn’t the same as experiencing it, but then again it gives a good basis to know something about the experience of Gaudiya saints.
I don’t think you can separate relating to God from ideas: the sambandha-jnana (which can at least be conceptualized as ideas) is inherent in the action. And although the only way to truly know is to experience, I don’t think we are so in the dark here that we have no basis make some comparisons. But moreover, I believe Gaura-vijaya was pondering whether there is absolute truth, not whether he could perceive it in full.
I think his difficulty with reconciling is based more on the idea that we can’t know everything conclusively than trying to compare religions externally.
His point is that there is common ground because there is only one God, advaya jnana tattva, but you are saying that we can’t really know others’ experience of advaya-jnana-tattva, so apparently you seem to be saying that there is a different advaya jnana tattva for each experience, which basically means that there is no advaya jnana tattva and thus there are many Gods. Or actually, I guess what you are saying is that everyone knows only a part of the advaya-jnana-tattva, so although it is advaya-jnana-tattva, it manifests with different truths based on which part you realize and thus there is no common ground. Doesn’t sound very advaya to me.
Although Gaura-vijaya would undoubtedly ( 🙂 ) agree with you, I myself wonder if this we-cannot-really-know-anything idea is being stretched beyond its reasonable limits.
A few more random thoughts about what is knowable:
If there is a material hierarchy, then you can know something at your own level or lower. Once you’ve gone there and done that enough times, you can conclusively know its limitations. Thus pursuing something higher is not entirely blind–you at least know what you’re leaving behind. And once experiencing the higher taste as well as the lower, you have a basis to compare. I think that this dynamic holds true in terms of the material hierarchy, but breaks down in the spiritual realms where everyone feels that his or her relationship with the Absolute is the best and (from the vantage point of tattva) everyone is correct.
However, it is not that all religions are purely spiritual; therefore, there is much that is not in the realm of the unknowable or relative. In fact, a lot of religion and “spirituality” these days is largely materialistic.
Vrndaranya, thank you for the nice clarification of Gaura-Vijaya’s thoughts. It would seem sensible to let things lay as they are after your typically cohesive and illuminating analysis, but indulge me just one more thing.
“Although Gaura-vijaya would undoubtedly ( ) agree with you, I myself wonder if this we-cannot-really-know-anything idea is being stretched beyond its reasonable limits.”
What I am trying to do is not claim we cannot know anything, but claim that there are reasonable limits to our knowing. Ultimately I’m trying to maintain Krsna’s superiority to his jivas and any knowledge he may give us. It could be argued that the spiritual knowledge Krsna gives us is non-different from himself (advaya jnana tattva), and therefore cannot be inferior to its source. But advaya jnana tattva is not an object but a state of consciousness, an awakened state of the jiva. It is the jiva herself. It seems to me that acintya bhedabheda must also be brought to bear on the knowledge which comprises her. In this way, it seems reasonable to assume there will be differences of perspective even within non-dual consciousness, because that consciousness is held within a plurality. I am pushing on the differences because these are what define our human situation, including spiritual traditions manifesting within it. (A tired example could be varnasrama: it is the differences within this system that give it meaning, or a fresher one, the differences between Judaism and Christianity or “Hinduism” and Buddhism.)
Therefore, I am not convinced that advaya jnana tattva is the same in all people. Only Krsna is the center which means that only he can have a perfect perspective on the totality. Points on the periphery can only be situated by reference to the center. Practically, I think this means we can only have spiritaul knowledge through direct engagement towards the center within our own tradition. Sri Guru is between our place on the periphery and the center, within our line of sight, and so sometimes appears as an eclipse, like a moon before the sun.
Moreover, it is clear to me that experientially a Buddhist or Saivite can have an experience of advaya jnana, non-dual consciousness, but that does not make him a bhakta. Nor can we asume from the record and writings of self-realized people that they develop knowledge of other traditions. They refer to it in their own terms.
I understand your point about theoretical knowledge of other philosophies and faiths and I agree, but I am trying to emphasize that distortions in understanding the perspective on truth of others are built into our bias as jivas. I am being agressive about this point because I want to allow Krsna to reconcile differences rather than thinking I can force some universal “objective” perspective, which is to assume that reality is the way I think it is. I want to draw on my integral condition of unknowing to let mysteries be mysteries so that Krsna can continue working within them.
One last thing. You said:
“Raso vai sah, “Krsna is aesthetic experience.” True or false?”
True, but only if we accept sastra and the people we accept are participating in sastra. But what if we don’t? And what would it mean if the statement was false? What if Krsna was not aesthetic experience, and how could we “prove” it either way? This is a statement of faith, not reason.
But the complete advaya-jnana-tattva is Krsna, not the jiva: this nondual knowledge is known variously as Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan (SB 1.2.11). So although people may have realized different aspects of advaya-jnana-tattva, the advaya-jnana-tattva itself remains one. It was for this reason that Gaura-vijaya was saying that there must be common ground between religions: based on the fact that they are worshipping different aspects of the same advaya-jnana-tattva.
As Srila Prabhupada said, religion without philosophy is sentiment or sometimes fanaticism and philosophy without religion is mental speculation. Guru Maharaja elaborates that in the word bhaktivedanta, bhakti represents the difference that manifests in religion, and vedanta represents the oneness all religions share based on the philosophical truth that God is one but manifests variously.
So although people’s realization of advaya-jnana-tattva is not the same, there are universal truths (tattva) about God, the Guru, the jiva, the material world, etc. that don’t vary from religion to religion. As many of these truths are outlined in the sacred literature, by accepting scripture we can know and by following its directives we can realize. Thus although the Absolute is unknownable even by great intelligence, it is knowable by mercy, which manifests through the devotees.
In relation to the topic at hand–whether Jesus is God or not–we can deduce from the Vedic literature (as well as from the New Testament, as far as I understand ) that Jesus is an empowered devotee, not God.
About reconciling differences, I think that there is difference that is beautiful and should be retained, but there is also difference that is based on anarthas and misconception, which we should try to rout out of our consciousness. As we purify our consciousness, we get proper/clear sambandha jnana. In fact they are synonymous.
Although we have distortions in our perspectives of others, as well as distortions about our own philosophy, the method for clearing these distortions is the same: theoretical knowledge and realization, although I do not mean to imply that a realized person knows every detail about every religion.
So while I can appreciate letting mysteries be mysteries, I don’t see the value in seeing things that aren’t mysteries, things that have been clearly explained, as mysteries. To be specific, while our theoretical knowledge of other religions may be limited, we should have enough knowledge to be able to determine whether a religion posits a transcendental goal or not, to make some general observations about the nature of the sadhana (path) and sadhya (goal), and (in relation to the topic at hand) to distinguish between the Absolute and the devotee. This seems reasonable to me.
You say you don’t want to force an “objective” perspective, which is really our own idea of reality, but to let Krsna reconcile differences. But the whole point of scripture is that it is descending, Krsna’s idea, not ours. There is an objective reality, which we can’t see clearly because we’re in illusion, and the scripture points out this reality to us. Gradually, by listening to the sacred literature and serving the pure devotee, our consciousness becomes purified and we can see things as they really are. Although we may parrot scripture to others, proper sambandha-jnana is not a cheap thing. We can think we have understood when we actually have a superficial and distorted understanding. I think this is what you are objecting to, and in that I agree.
It is either an objective reality or not: if it is an objective reality (in other words, if it is a true statement), then it doesn’t matter whether we or anyone else agrees with it. Thus the truth or falsity of the statement does not depend on faith. What does depend on faith is whether we practice sadhana-bhakti until we realize it as an objective reality or not; however, this faith is not blind.
If it is a false statement, then we may as well pack up our marbles and go home.
Thanks for clarifying the points I had put before Vrindaranya. Only one comment from me
You said,”It is either an objective reality or not: if it is an objective reality (in other words, if it is a true statement), then it doesn’t matter whether we or anyone else agrees with it. Thus the truth or falsity of the statement does not depend on faith. What does depend on faith is whether we practice sadhana-bhakti until we realize it as an objective reality or not; however, this faith is not blind.
If it is a false statement, then we may as well pack up our marbles and go home.”
I would just like to say that though the statement that Krsna is aesthetic experience has to be true or false, like you pointed out in our conditioned state we have to put well reasoned faith and go about it. But because I in my conditioned state cannot know whether it is false statement, I will not pack my marbles and go home in this life 🙂 whatever maybe. Perhaps it helps that I can feeling transformed as the years of spiritual practice go on, but I can’t look back 🙂 and go home now because there can be no “reasoned” evidence to prove the absolute falsity of the
statement Krsna is aesthetic experience. Therefore, no way to turn back 🙂
Yes, you don’t pack your marbles because you have faith based on experience. But if the statement is false then there will be no reciprocation and a tradition will become dead. Even if you don’t have much experience, you can go on the experience of others to a point, but if there are no saints–no one having true experience–then the religion has no life.
The great Goswamis – apostles of Mahaprabhu and their followers and successor acharyas and perfected Vaishnavas such as Narottama Das and Vishvanatha Chakravarti elevated this ideal of guru being better for us than direct contact with God. We aren’t ready for direct contact with God. We must get trained and schooled for that by the learned acharyas of the Gaudiya sampradaya.
We need such great Vaishnava Goswamis to teach us and also be the exemplars of bhakti sadhana.
Anyone who has much of an acquaintance with the mood and the teachings of all the great Goswamis in the line of Mahaprabhu knows fully well that in the classic Gaudiya drama of the Goswami era such devout reverence and esteem was truly the standard in the era of parshada avatars such as Srila Rupa and Sanatan etc. etc
Guru was the lord of life of all the devotees of that era, but then again none of them were exploiting for disciples as career gurus.
The mood is different nowadays, but it really shouldn’t be when we have such a great rasika saint as Tripurari Maharaja who can also recreate that classic Goswami mood for any sold out disciple who simply wants the sublime nectars of Krishna-katha.
Lots of young and new devotees have a long struggle in householder life ahead of them and I understand the struggle fully well and all I can tell them is to keep the faith no matter how trying times can be. These devotees won’t really taste the sublime nectars of devotion until they have been purified in the cauldron of family life for several years and attain satiation and usually frustration in material achievement.
So, for them guru can’t really be given all the service and sacrifice that the guru traditionally required in order to be accepted into the inner circle of a parshada.
You said, “Well, like Gaura Krishna, I dislike interreligious comparisons…one of the reasons I appreciate the, “God is not one” book by Prothero.”
I too have mixed feelings about comparing and not comparing. I’d love to hear your feelings on this and if you know of other writers who have something to say on the matter.
Long story short Jason…. these are just my opinions…: Any comparison requires significant reductions in the religious systems… simplifications and abstractions that render them so liquified that they lose what is interesting about them. Each tradition within its own context is far more interesting & worthy of being observed than it is comparatively. I am not sure what more I can say… well, one more…. I just can’t stand when Gaudiya Vaisnavism feels it needs to absorb every popular god, just because they are valued by some other group. So many Gaudiyas talking about Jesus…! Can we give the poor guy a break…? How many times do we need to resurrect him.
However, I have no issue being reductive when trying to understand psychological underpinnings and patterns in religious belief! So go figure…. hypocrisy. I guess we each just have our own idiosyncrasies.
I agree that comparisons only go so far, but as far as God, guru, and avatar go, I think these are universal concepts: that there are some broad universal truths that apply to all religions, certain principles regarding guru-tattva, for example (as was originally being addressed in this thread in regard to Jesus).
As for Gaudiyas needing to absorb any popular God, is there one God or not? If there is a great prophet in another tradition, should we not feel a kinship with another great devotee of the same God we’re worshipping?
Well, since you ask… in my opinion: no not really. There are thousands of variations of god-concept and just because they exist doesn’t mean that they are true. For example, I am a major Lord of the Rings geek… In the Silmarillion the origin of the entire cosmos is explained. Here is a summary:
The first section of The Silmarillion, Ainulindalë (The Music of the Ainur), takes the form of a primary creation myth. Ilúvatar (“Father of All”) first created the Ainur, a group of eternal spirits or demiurges, called “the offspring of his thought”. Ilúvatar brought the Ainur together and showed them a theme, from which he bade them make a great music. Melkor—whom Ilúvatar had given the “greatest power and knowledge” of all the Ainur—broke from the harmony of the music to develop his own song. Some Ainur joined him, while others continued to follow Ilúvatar, causing discord in the music. This happened thrice, with Eru Ilúvatar successfully overpowering his subordinate with a new theme each time. Ilúvatar then stopped the music and showed them a vision of Arda (the creation) and its peoples. The vision disappeared after a while, and Ilúvatar offered the Ainur a chance to enter into Arda and govern over the new world.
In this description the universe is created from the music of god(s) and the discord of Melkor causes evil. This is a beautiful mythology, not unlike many described in other faiths. In fact, it is so compelling that many (like myself) even feel sometimes that it is divinely inspired within the mind of Tolkien. In fact, people have actually begun to follow such a faith. Now I am not delusional. I know that Tolkien was a fiction writer and that his genius was in creating a mythology and theology that would be compelling (and maybe even touch on some universal truths). However, just because it is there, some people believe in it, and it has some compelling, universal truths (that god is a singer), does not mean that it is true and that Iluvatar is a dimension of the one true god. This is an extreme example… but I think there are many more (eg. Zeus, Dionysus, Olorun, etc.). I just don’t think that this is the harmony we all need to seek. I am not so bold as to claim to know whether a faith, prophet, or deity is real… but I will also not worship them or venerate them all just because someone else does. Without disrespecting, attacking, or even undermining others, I think we need to have a personal way of discriminating. In my opinion, beauty and personality are two great ways of assessing for the ‘truth’ –little ‘t’– of a divinity. I mean ‘truth’ as it pertains to my heart.
Gopa Kumar, good point. That exactly the point Dawkins has. Once you have proved a falsity of a lot of Gods, why not go with the idea that siva, indra and 330 millions gods in the hindu pantheon are unreal. They may as well be a work of fiction. 🙂
The obvious reason is that Siva, Vsinu, etc. are supported b considerable philosophy in comparison as well as a means to experience their reality.
But Gopa Kumara, Gaura Krsna etc. the postmodernism in your posts positing absolute relativity/subjectivity is of course philosophically suicidal. Or at least it shoots itself in the foot.
GM Swami Tripurari says:
I actually do not propose a purely relative/subjective epistemology. I actually believe in using emotion as evidence. I consider emotion to be a sixth sense, a tangible one, that although subjectively experienced might suggest the presence of another subject (not unlike the sense that “I am not alone!” one might get when in a dark room –or– the feeling that someone is staring at you from behind). I believe that in harinama one might begin to experience the sense that the name is another subject, interacting or reciprocating one’s efforts and approach. I believe this to be especially compelling data/evidence when it is corroborated by others in a similar way. In scripture and in the sadhu one can find detailed descriptions of these experience that corroborate one’s subjective experience and therefore add to the validity of one’s individual interpretation of that emotion (like the emotional gravity that manifests when a friend in the same dark room mentioned above whispers, “I feel that too”). This is called perspectival-realism… an epistemology that suggests that the more perspectives we get the closer we get to that which is actually ‘real’. I just include emotion as one of the valid perspectives. This, in my opinion, is post-modernism at its best. Which Gaudiya will argue with the evidence inherent in experience?
Perspectival realism is summed up and faulted in the old story of the different blind people describing and elephant (kind of), except that none of them are allowed to ague with one another. It holds that all perspectives on the objectively real are valid but none are are better than the other. There is no possible experience of the entire elephant that puts the others in perspective. But it is an improvement on pure postmodernism and it has you chanting so I will leave it at that.
I am chanting, contemplatively, with your encouragement. By your grace, I am Gopakumara dasa… I come from a lineage of ambitious fellows…
This model is faulted in the story of the blind men and the elephant –but as you already mentioned– they were not allowed to discuss what was being experienced. With more time and more discussion and more experience with their sensations, they may have concluded: Here we have an elephant.
Additionally, I am using my model to describe the Absolute as an interactive subject. Therefore, from this perspective, you would have an elephant that is not just passively waiting to be known, but is actively wanting to be known. Moving its trunk and letting its motions defy the opinion that it is just a rope, moving in a particular way to defy the opinion that it is a snake. Some theoretical knowledge of what an elephant is would be enough to ultimately conclude: we have a live elephant who wants actively to be known. Insert “the Absolute” where “elephant” is & “sastra” where “theoretical knowledge” is, and this model of perspectival-realism comes back to life.
…experience corroborated by scriptural descriptions and the experiences of sadhus. It is not enough, from my perspective, to have subjective emotional experience even if it suggests another subject is present, but that others can corroborate such an experience in a similar manner. If I claim to have felt a crawling on my skin, you might think I was having a tactile hallucination. But if in similar circumstances, several others experience the same, this may be reason to validate the experience.
Later in spiritual advancement, there is emotional, visual, audio and other sensory evidence, if we take what the advanced saints tell us (i myself have no experience at these levels of experience).
Sounds good. Unless you are alone.
sadhu-sanga, sadhu-sanga — sarva-sastre kaya
lava-matra sadhu-sange sarva-siddhi haya
Alone? Not acceptable.
:). Gald you’ve got that down.
Perhaps that is true (though I am not sure about how to experience all 330 million Gods is easy), but I think in Greek times, even Socrates does acknowledge the presence of gods like zeus as real though not the absolute ideal he was following. People have compared zeus to indra and his thunderbolt to vajra to show that same devatas do in fact manifest with little bit of cultural differences. I feel that other cultures also may have some access to real Gods. It does not make sense that only gods that appear in Indian regions were real and others are false. I don’t want to go in this direction as this comparison can be blown to pieces by a good postmodern critic. It just my school boy analysis that is as naive as it gets.
But again, Dawkins argument is silly. There are good reasons why people even today embrace Siva, etc as objective realities even outside of the culture they appeared in, as opposed to Zues, etc. For Dawkins there is no difference between Santa Claus and God, which only demonstrates how little he understands theology and is thus unqualified to be an authority on it except for those who are equally theologically uneducated. .
I agree that we shouldn’t accept any religion as divine and that there are ways of assessing divinity, however this fact is not very compelling evidence for the idea that there is not one supreme God.
Nonetheless, putting that question aside, even if you believe that there is not a supreme God but merely thousands of variations of the god-concept, what is the harm in appreciating devotees of other god concepts, at least those with aspects you admire? What’s the harm in comparing concepts and even incorporating aspects you like? After all, aren’t concepts meant to be improved on? And can we say that everyone following any particular God concept is really following the same concept or is each person following a semblance of the concept with their own unique experience? If this is so, what is the importance of keeping some artificial concept of purity? When so many fields of knowledge cross-pollinate, what’s the use of imposing a sterile idea of purity on the fertile field of god concepts?
Just a few thoughts that came to mind…
I have compared all religions and concluded there is no comparison to Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Save yourself the trouble and take my word for it.
Take your word for it?!?!?! Well Swamiji… we have it on good word that you are in direct contact with some of the foremost preceptors of that faith… We have significant reasons to believe that you have even received priceless gifts from these preceptors and are still doing so frequently. Proof is in the pudding.. there is evidence in your speech and writings that you have had contact with them! How can you answer to that? And how then can we trust that you have not been biased by your association?!?!!
Well that’s the secret. Krsna is biased towards his devotees and their partiality is a virtue. You had it backwards.
Now partiality is a virtue?!?! You Gaudiyas must really live in a very topsy turvy reality!?!?! I better get in there so I can get a closer look. I will report back.
Gopakumara wrote, “Now partiality is a virtue?!?! You Gaudiyas must really live in a very topsy turvy reality!?!?! I better get in there so I can get a closer look. I will report back.”
Whoa–careful, Gopa! Danger! That Gaudiya vaishnavism is a sort of spiritual/philosphical tar baby. You may find yourself stuck in there. Don’t want to end up like Swami, do you? 😉
Thanks Babhru! Actually, you may not know… but I joined that sect and tried to get away some years later… then I realized it had insidiously captured my heart and now I even have feelings of fondness for the practice itself! Very sly.. very sly…
In fact, as I escaped, Swami Tripurari emailed… “but can’t you see that Krishna is the highest in aesthetic rapture… beauty to its fullest, truth as the highest beauty?!?!?!”…and I turned and thumbed my nose at him…! I knew better than to equate truth with beauty! lo and behold… now some 5 years later I value beauty above all else! There is no end to this scheme… Swami is trying to recruit me into his group! FINE ALREADY! take me…
Gopakumara wrote, “Actually, you may not know… but I joined that sect and tried to get away some years later… then I realized it had insidiously captured my heart and now I even have feelings of fondness for the practice itself!”
No, I knew. I was just teasing you. Yup, you’re stuck, pal. Read SB 1.5.19 and the purport. You’re toast.
Yes, I do. But that is another discussion.
You do what GM? What is a different discussion…? I don’t follow.
I agree with Gaura-vijaya on his recent post.
But do you think there maybe a possibility that the Mayan and Greek Gods do in fact have a reality connected to the other Vedic Gods? I am uneasy with the fact that real things only appear in a certain geographic location (Indian region) and everywhere else you get unreal appearances. Also I think that is the reason I said some people can be serving the wrong conception (Mayan gods) sincerely according to the availability of religion or philosophy at that location and perhaps makes advancement.
Yes, again I do believe this. Jaya Hercules. When the Greeks came to India they said that their God Hercules was the same as the Hindus’ Krsna but that the Krsna conception was better articulated. But yes, I agree with this idea to an extent.
most hard core gays or those who get raped or otherwise sexually abused by men have to have anal reconstruction surgery or suffer some sort of anal and mental/emotional trauma – elton john has had his rear end reconstructed a few times as with with some iskcon gurukul boys and bording school boys – lets face it the body wasn’t designed by god to be used in this way, and of those who’ve had children who wants there children to be educated by gay propaganda at school in the class room and the media to the extent that they cant work out weather they should marry a man or a woman have children or not etc the modern so called education is propagating mas mis-information in many ways including gay education that no-one needs but a few who are born that way, its a fact that most gays are transformed from the norm at a young age by sexual abuse or rape public schools or boarding schools and institutions being the worst places to send a child in this regard as the risk of sexual and other abuse is very very high as we well now by the documented evidence of the guruculs.
if you want to see some statistics on the subject and not just me relating my life experiences or words
The above comment simply perpetuates the same old, mean-spirited myths. Homosexual orientation is not caused by sexual abuse, bad upbringing, childhood trauma, overbearing parents or any such foolishness. This fact is supported by years of psychiatric research and data. The false report you provide is from biased Christian-oriented pseudo-science that is rejected by all modern academics.
I know several gurukula-alumni who were abused as children but none of them are homosexual. Similarly, young girls who are abused by men do not “become” heterosexual because of the abuse. And many girls or women who are raped suffer from torn vaginas, so what is your point? Many women who give birth also suffer from torn vaginas, but that doesn’t mean that procreation and the process of birth is unnatural by any means!
So get your mind out of the dark and out of the gutter. Homosexual relationships are not just about sex and whatever else you are imagining. They are just as ordinary and natural as other relationships based on attraction, companionship, love, committment and with all the common shortcomings and imperfections also.
Gaura, as far as the link you provided, I did do my research, as you advised:
“The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) is a socially conservative association of pediatricians and other healthcare professionals in the United States. The College was founded in 2002 by a group of pediatricians including Joseph Zanga, a past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), as a protest against the AAP’s support for adoption by gay couples.
[…] Zanga has described ACP as a group “with Judeo-Christian, traditional values that is open to pediatric medical professionals of all religions who hold true to the group’s core beliefs: that life begins at conception; and that the traditional family unit, headed by a different-sex couple, poses far fewer risk factors in the adoption and raising of children.”
I assume you are heterosexual, yet you know many more details about Elton John’s anus than any of my gay friends would care to know. I can guarantee you that none of the ones I know, including myself, have had to resort to surgery. Rape is rape. Can you please provide a list of physical damages incurred by women or girls who got raped? Is that what made these girls heterosexual, by the way?
Also, women can develop uterine prolapse due to repeated childbirth. Clearly that part of the body is not meant for penile penetration (in the case of rape) or childbirth.
As far as propagating mass-misinformation you should probably look in the mirror before accusing proper and exhaustive sex education in schools.
Discussing homosexuality is fascinating when we approach it from a spiritual perspective. My understanding is that at the time of death the mind, intellect and false ego transport the spirit-soul to another body that is most conducive to the living entity realizing its unfulfilled material desires. So, how does genetics — as referenced by Swami Tripurari — trump the desire for illicit sense gratification (whether homo- or heterosexual) when it comes to the transmigration of the soul, or are we saying that the subtle body transports the soul to that zygote which is genetically disposed to, in this specific case, homosexual behavior?
It is overly simplistic to assume that a specific desire for homosexual sex life karmically results in being born with homosexual genetics. For example, I believe that Hindu scripture gives examples of lusty people being born as trees. And why would a heterosexually genetically oriented person decide to prefer homosexual sex?
But the real issue is that, according to Hindu scripture, the attraction between two members of the same sex for sexual indulgence and the act of such indulgence is not considered sinful, other than in some minor sense if a male Brahmin on some occasion indulges in sex with another man. And this stricture does not address what we are talking about.
After all, sex is sex in one form or another. It is sense indulgence. So if heterosexual couples engage in sex outside of the pursuit of procreation or if homosexual couples do, what is the difference? Sastras speaks of “householder brahmacaris” as those who are married but only have sex for procreation on the order of the guru. Then there are actual householders, who obviously have a different standard.
The sexual urge must be harnessed. Bhakti is the best way to do that. Unlike jnana and yoga sadhana, it allows persons to couple and share human intimacy in the context of an effort to transcend material existence and attain prema. It says nothing about not including same sex couples. Thus we are left to make determinations ourselves, applying reason and the spirit of the scripture in relation to observable evidence regarding the nature of a homosexual orientation to life.
Seems like women are more malleable in their orientation than men. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/25/magazine/25desire-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=3& But she sees significance in the fact that many of her subjects agreed with the statement “I’m the kind of person who becomes physically attracted to the person rather than their gender.”
Thanks for reposting these very interesting and insightful Q & A’s on homosexuality by Swami B.V. Tripurari. Maharaja has always been right on about this topic since the very beginning! Over the years I’ve noticed many devotees improving their understanding and compassion on this issue and much of that is due to Gaudiya Vaishnava leaders such as Maharaja with the courage and heart to speak out against LGBTI mistreatment.
For related interest, here is a summary article I recently wrote entitled “Homosexuality, Hinduism & the Third Gender: