Same-Sex Marriage in the U.S.A: Are You Ready?

gay-marriageBy Amara Das Wilhelm

As societies advance, a person’s material body, gender, race, caste, etc. matter less and less while individual merit and the ability to empathize with others matter more and more.

This statement became all the more true today in the United States of America. By order of the Supreme Court, the United States became the 21st country in the world to legally recognize same-sex marriage. The sex or gender of one’s partner will no longer be relevant in determining whether or not any loving adult couple can marry. This is significant not only because of the United States’ example and influence in the world but also because of its large population (approximately 321 million, the third most populous nation after China and India).

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled: “The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest. With that knowledge must come the recognition that laws excluding same-sex couples from the marriage right impose stigma and injury of the kind prohibited by our basic charter.”

Vaishnavas and people of good heart should appreciate this social progress. Whenever a society leaves behind bodily-based criteria in favor of equal opportunity according to individual merit, humanity advances as a whole. We have seen this with the termination of base human practices such as slavery, the repression of women, racial segregation, the caste system, persecution of gay people, and so on. Allowing gay citizens to fully participate in society on an equal footing, including the right to marry, not only recognizes their humanity but enables them to reach their greater potential in life. It removes stigma and the social divisiveness that occurs whenever we treat an entire class of people less than ourselves.

Social change and its acceptance can be difficult, especially for older members of society who are accustomed to the ways of the past. Nevertheless, it is important that Vaishnavas rise above bodily prejudice and the negative mindsets of previous centuries. I have seen this become a real problem for many of my Godbrothers and Godsisters, and for this reason I would like to outline eight important points from Vedic literature, with affirming quotes, to illustrate this issue in a positive and progressive light:

  1. Gay marriage was known during Vedic times.

“There are also third-sex [homosexual] citizens, sometimes greatly attached to each other and with complete faith in one another, who get married together.” (Kama Sutra 2.9.36)

“Citizens with this kind of [homosexual] inclination, who renounce women and can do without them willingly because they love each other, get married together, bound by a deep and trusting friendship.” (Jayamangala, twelfth-century commentary)

  1. Everyone should be entitled to marry.

“Ah! Vaishnava-dharma is very liberal. All jivas have the right to vaishnava-dharma; that is why it is also known as jaiva-dharma. Even outcastes can take up vaishnava-dharma and live as grhasthas, although they are not part of varnasrama.” (Jaiva Dharma, Ch. 7, p. 172)

“A shrewd man, expert in one thing or another, considering both ethics and his own material interests, must not be a sensualist thirsty for sex, but establish a stable marriage.” (Kama Sutra 7.2.59)

  1. The foremost qualification of Vaishnava marriage is a household centered on God.

“One should not enter marriage with a desire to beget children, or to worship the forefathers and Prajapatis. It is favorable to bhakti to think, ‘I am only accepting this servant/maidservant of Krsna so that we can assist each other in Krsna’s service and establish Krsna-centered family life together.’ Whatever one’s materially attached relatives or family priest may say, ultimately one reaps the fruit of one’s own determination.” (Jaiva Dharma, Ch. 7, p. 164)

  1. Lifelong celibacy is extremely rare if not impossible.

“Complete celibacy is very essential for the student’s advancement in spiritual life, but at the moment such brahmacari (unmarried celibate) life is not at all possible.  The social construction of the world has changed so much that there is no possibility of one’s practicing celibacy from the beginning of student life.” (Bhagavad Gita 8.11, purport)

  1. Marriage and duty are according to nature. The unnatural marriage of homosexual men to women is forbidden in the Dharma Shastra.

“Even a man of knowledge acts according to his own nature, for everyone follows his nature.  What can repression accomplish?” (Bhagavad Gita 3.33)

“It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though they may be faulty, than another’s duties.  Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than discharging another’s duties, for to follow another’s path is dangerous.” (Bhagavad Gita 3.35)

“These four—irshyaka, sevyaka, vataretas, and mukhebhaga [three of which are homosexual]—are to be completely rejected as unqualified for marriage to any woman, even by a wife who is no longer a virgin.” (Narada-smriti 12.15)

  1. Vaishnavas view everyone equally, paying little attention to the material body.

“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Bhagavad Gita 5.18)

“It is said that by modern medical treatment, a male can be transformed into a female, and a female into a male. The body, however, has no connection with the soul. The body can be changed, either in this life or the next. Therefore, one who has knowledge of the soul and how the soul transmigrates from one body to another does not pay attention to the body, which is nothing but a covering dress. Panditah sama-darsinah. Such a person sees the soul, which is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. Therefore he is a sama-darsi, a learned person.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 9.1.33, purport)

“As the blazing fire of death, I cause great fear to whoever makes the least discrimination between himself and other living entities because of a differential outlook. Therefore, through charitable gifts and attention, as well as through friendly behavior and by viewing all to be alike, one should propitiate Me, who abide in all creatures as their very Self.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.29.26-27)

  1. Compassion and human kindness are essential Vaishnava principles.

“Sri Krsna is very quickly satisfied with one who maintains a compassionate mood towards other jivas, and who does not give them any kind of anxiety through his body, mind and words. Compassion is the main dharma of the Vaishnavas.” (Jaiva Dharma, Ch. 20, p. 490)

“The Lord is very satisfied with His devotee when the devotee greets other people with tolerance, compassion, friendship and equality.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 4.11.13)

“Those who think that devotion to God and kindness to living entities are different to each other and act accordingly in their life will not be able to follow devotional culture.  Their attempt is only a resemblance of devotion.  All types of beneficence to others like kindness, friendliness, forgiveness, charity and respect are included in devotion to God.” (Sri Tattva-sutram, verse 35)

  1. Vaishnavas recognize different types of marriage according to time and circumstance, even when they are outside of ordinary varnasrama.

“Moreover, people who have accepted sannyasa within varnasrama, and have then fallen from their position, may later adopt pure bhakti by the influence of sadhu-sanga.  Such people can become grhastha-bhaktas, although they are also outside the jurisdiction of varnasrama regulations.” (Jaiva Dharma, Ch. 7, p.172)

Srila Prabhupada to Upendra dasa, after bemoaning his need for a male partner: “Just find a nice boy then, and settle down!” (Related by Adikarta dasa, 6/28/2001)

There are various types of exceptional marriages that are not within the ordinary rules and regulations of varnasrama but which modern-day Vaishnavas recognize as helpful in the cultivation of bhakti.  Such exceptions to the general rule are not typically performed in front of temple Deities but nonetheless honored by an understanding and loving community of Vaisnavas.  For instance:

  • the remarriage of a sannyasi
  • marriage outside of one’s caste
  • interracial marriage
  • the marriage of divorced Vaishnavas
  • the marriage of elderly Vaishnavas who are beyond their childbearing age
  • the marriage of sterile Vaishnavas
  • the marriage of Vaishnavas who do not want and will not have children
  • the marriage of a Vaishnava to a person of another faith, an atheist or an agnostic
  • the marriage of ethnic Hindus who are not necessarily following Vaishnava principles
  • the marriage of Vaishnavas, perhaps our own sons and daughters, who we know are not following the required principles

Considering all of the above exceptions, many of which are quite common within contemporary Vaishnava communities, can we not also extend our understanding and compassion to include:

  • the marriage of Vaishnavas with homosexual orientation

… and if not, what does that say about us?

A person’s gender and sexual orientation are no longer criteria for civil marriage in the United States of America—and that is a good thing!  What truly matters is whether or not a person needs to marry and our ability to empathize with that reality.  The above quotes and their enlightened approach on this issue should help Gaudiya Vaishnavas keep up with the 21st century, as long as we can take them to heart.  Are our hearts becoming softer or harder through the practice of Krsna consciousness?  Ready or not, the caravan passes.


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44 Responses to Same-Sex Marriage in the U.S.A: Are You Ready?

  1. Great article harmonizing ground beliefs of vaishnavism to this controversy. I am in LOVE with this article.

  2. Prema-bhakti dasi

    Thank you Amara dasa for the privilege to publish such a thoughtful and timely article on a major historical event. Your insights are valuable and important for Vaisnavas and good hearted people alike.

    I appeal to all Vaisnavas and kind hearted spiritualists who embrace marriage equality to embrace the principle of tolerance and compassion in their religious communities. This is not some politically correct position to rejoice in solely. Im very thankful for Amara Dasa’s article because it highlights the basic sentiment we should have towards issues of social injustice. Lest we forget our own privileges and freedoms to practice our beliefs, lifestyle, etc. These words from the article are pertinent and powerful, “Vaishnavas and people of good heart should appreciate this social progress. Whenever a society leaves behind bodily-based criteria in favor of equal opportunity according to individual merit, humanity advances as a whole. We have seen this with the termination of base human practices such as slavery, the repression of women, racial segregation, the caste system, persecution of gay people, and so on. Allowing gay citizens to fully participate in society on an equal footing, including the right to marry, not only recognizes their humanity but enables them to reach their greater potential in life. It removes stigma and the social divisiveness that occurs whenever we treat an entire class of people less than ourselves.”

  3. Thank you! A wonderful article that truly informed me AND shifted how I felt about this topic. Hare Krsna!

  4. I feel really happy to see in other parts of world when people give equal rights to gays, transgender, and lesbians. And now USA has done the needful, hope one day even India will take same steps and try to see gays , lesbians or transgenders as humans and soul instead of discriminating them on their orientation.. Congratulations USA..

    Amara prabhu you have written a wonderful article.. hats off to you !!

  5. Thank you for this article.

    It is a fact that it will be an embarrassment if devotees can’t be open-minded, tolerant, and accepting when that is becoming the norm. We need to develop Vaisnava qualities of compassion.

    I also think at the root of this non-acceptance is the obsession many devotees have with thinking about, knowing about, and nosing about the intimate details of couples sex lives. Love is love, and if two adults want to make their relationship one of commitment and integrity by marrying one another that should be encouraged.

    I am so happy to see America taking this stand. Finally. It’s been long enough. Now that America has joined the ranks of developed countries in making this legal, it is time for the Gaudiya Vaisnava community to also allow their gay and lesbian devotees the same rights of service, initiation, and weddings in their temple communities.

  6. This article appeared in Patita Pavana’s astrological newsletter today:
    “In this incarnation, Kali was not born by a normal birth. He appeared out of the ground, inauspiciously emerging feet first from the earth. For this reason his head became stuck for a long time in the soil. And due to this incident Kali himself becomes confused about his own identity. In this way he affects the people of this age in similar fashion. Due to his influence they can not actually fathom their real identity. With their minds boggled, they have lost their historic roots and are unaware of their actual duties. They do not know to which caste, nationality, race or sometimes even gender that they belong to. Thus Kali easily provokes enmity between confused factions and confounded individuals, since their own identifications are locked in illusion. The people of Kali Yuga are unaware that they are servants of Shri Krishna since the presence of the Supreme Lord appears lost to them in this age. In this way the atheistic population takes shelter of atheistic science and philosophies controlled by Kali and conclude that there is no God.” Amara states “As societies advance,” but societies don’t advance in Kali yuga, they become increasingly degraded. IMO, these new marriages are only reinforcing bodily consciousness by legitimizing additional variants of bodily consciousness. But yes, I try to see everyone equally, and if these persons take to KC, they will become purified. But most of them don’t take to KC and end up becoming immersed in even deeper layers of conditioning.

    • That sounds like a fanciful explanation of kali yuga that I have never seen any scriptural support for. But what is degradation. Is kindness and equality for other human beings despite the fact that they may be different in their sexual orientation by nature’s arrangement degradation? The article you site implies that a homosexual orientation is a confusion and not a product of nature, but we find it even in the animal species.

    • IMO, these new marriages are only reinforcing bodily consciousness by legitimizing additional variants of bodily consciousness. But yes, I try to see everyone equally, and if these persons take to KC, they will become purified. But most of them don’t take to KC and end up becoming immersed in even deeper layers of conditioning.

      Do you have an data to support your claim that most gay people don’t take to KC, etc.? It is not my experience that a lesser percentage of gay people take to Gaudiya Vaisnavism than the percentage of heterosexuals that do.

      • Swami B. A. Ashram

        And it’s also a plain fact that most heterosexual people don’t take to Gaudiya vaisnavism and become ever more deeply immersed in layer after layer of conditioning. After all, that is the way of Kali-yuga, except for Sri Caitanya Mahprabhu’s merciful special dispensation.

      • Dear Maharaj, Gay people may or may not take to KC in the same proportions as straight people. I have no way to track that, and likely no one else does either. But that wasn’t my point. My point was that most gay people, like most straight people, do not take to KC. Certainly both gays and straights are conditioned, and both have the defect of sex desire. But IMO, and it is only my opinion, you can take it or reject it, as you like, gays have a slightly denser level of conditioning than straights because they cannot legitimize their sex desire through producing progeny as straights can. Srila Prabhupad tolerated his gay disciples, but as far as I know, we’ve seen no evidence that he encouraged gay-ness. Should we celebrate Bruce Jenner’s transgender change as a good thing ? I think not. This is such a confused person that he cannot even wait until his next birth to attempt to change his gender. It is one thing to tolerate these variants and see these folks as spirit souls; it is quite another to promote it by lending it legitimacy through government sanction. But of course gays and transgenders don’t stop at merely being accepted equally in this modern spear-head of Kali-yuga country. They’re proud of it and they promote it. But as we know, pride is also considered a defect. And we must all, straights and non-straights, vanquish our pride. I have no issue with tolerating gays and transgenders and attempting to see them with equal vision, but I personally feel that it is a mistake at the government level to legitimize marriage for them. And some backlash has already begun, which will cause civil disturbance. But again, that is only my own opinion, so take it or reject it as you like.

        • But IMO, and it is only my opinion, you can take it or reject it, as you like, gays have a slightly denser level of conditioning than straights because they cannot legitimize their sex desire through producing progeny as straights can.

          I do not agree with this but if you think they are at a disadvantage like some people think women are for other reasons, all the more reason to be generous toward them.

          And if you think that sex is only legitimate when engaged in for procreation, then you have heterosexual couples having “legitimate” sex a few times during the course of their marriage, those times when they consciously engage in sex at the opportune time for procreation. The majority of couples have four children at most. So because they have had sex four times legitimately in their life and homosexuals could not have that opportunity, in your outlook homosexuals are at a disadvantage. Meanwhile the vast majority of devotee heterosexual couples have their fair share of sex not in pursuit of procreation.

          Prabhupada spoke of two standards of “legitimate” or dharmic sex: sex for procreation or sex within a sacred union (marriage). Taking the latter definition, I see no difference between heterosexual and homosexual married couples in terms of their capacity to act in accordance with dharma. Are homosexual couples better off not marrying? Will that make it go away? Licensing the affair serves to harness it and that is an improvement.

          Regarding transgender persons, Prabhupada was approached by a male devotee that desired to change his gender and Prabhupada replied, “pick one and stick with it.” And the notion of changing genders is not what it appears to be at first. It is not one gender changing to another. It is one physical gender in terms of organs mixed from birth with another gender in terms of hormones, psychology, etc. seeking to become one gender in all respects. So the idea is to make it all one—and stick with it.

          Regarding gay pride, this is often misunderstood to be an instance of pushing gayness on others. Factually heterosexuality is proudly celebrated everywhere in society. Homosexuals at one point in history refused to be marginalized and pushed to the fringe of society for their natural sexual orientation. They refused to be the kind of people heterosexuals made them out to be through word and action and law. They revolted and expressed that they are no longer ashamed to be they way nature made them.Subsequently they have shown themselves to be capable of anything a heterosexual is capable of in terms of being a meaningful contributor to society. So gay pride is a reaction and it speaks of not being ashamed of a sexual orientation one is born with.

  7. Swami B. A. Ashram

    Anandamaya wrote, “these new marriages are only reinforcing bodily consciousness by legitimizing additional variants of bodily consciousness. But yes, I try to see everyone equally, and if these persons take to KC, they will become purified. But most of them don’t take to KC and end up becoming immersed in even deeper layers of conditioning.”

    But marriage itself, especially in our age, is really an accommodation for conditioned souls’ need for companionship and all that comes with it. That includes commitment and responsibility, which help us grow as human beings, partly be teaching us how to love more selflessly. If we claim we try to see everyone equally, why not behave as though we do? This is really an issue of civil rights, of human rights. Why should we deny someone the same opportunities for personal, maybe even spiritual, growth we claim for ourselves.

    After all, the vaisnavas’ business is to act as agents for Krishna’s kripa (mercy) shakti. The Bhagavatam’s 11th canto describes the kind of discrimination that facilitates such agency: loving God, making friends with those devoted to God, being kind to the innocent, and ignoring those who are averse to God. That’s it. I don’t see neglect of or unkindness toward the Other in that verse.

    Moerover, in the 4th canto, Manu, shocked by Dhruva’s campaign against the yaksas, tells him,

    titikṣayā karuṇayā
    maitryā cākhila-jantuṣu
    samatvena ca sarvātmā
    bhagavān samprasīdati
    The Lord is very satisfied with His devotee when the devotee greets other people with tolerance, mercy, friendship and equality. (ŚB 4.11.13)

    In his commentary on this verse, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura cites Krishna’s instruction to Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita (6.32):

    ātmaupamyena sarvatra samaṁ paśyati yo ’rjuna |
    sukhaṁ vā yadi vā duḥkhaṁ sa yogī paramo mataḥ ||
    I consider that practicing yogī who sees equally everything as equal to himself in all circumstances, whether in happiness or suffering, to be the topmost yogī.

    Then Visvanatha says, “If all beings are satisfied one can infer that the Lord is satisfied (sarvātmā).” I can’t claim to have a better idea than Krishna, Manu, or Visvanatha. I am bound to use my intelligence to understand how to follow them.

  8. Bodily identification is bodily identification. Are we seriously going to debate whose conditioning is better or worse? It’s ridiculous. Focus on your own issues and your own conditioning, that is the key to progressive spiritual life.

  9. Prema-bhakti dasi

    And let us not forget bhakti is so powerful and merciful and independent, she does not discriminate. It is with such compassion of bhakti devi in their hearts that acaryas like Srila Prabhupada came to America and distributed Krsna consciousness in the mood of Sri Nityananda, not considering who was fit or unfit.

  10. Dear Maharaj,
    I have read carefully and understood all your points, and I advocate as well as practice tolerance of gays, etc., but I respectfully disagree. You are speaking from a spiritual plane; I am not on that plane, so I can only speak from a more legalistic plane. I disagree because this ruling goes against the prevailing human mores demonstrated throughout the entire history of the human race. When what is essentially a demonic Kali yuga government’s democratic (“demon crazy”) supreme court makes a split decision in favor of gay marriage, I see it as a red flag, a spear-head of the deeper encroachment of Kali yuga. Call me conservative, call me old-fashioned, but I find it offensive to my sensibilities, and I don’t see how it can possibly aid society in the direction of dharma. Straight marriage values must be the paradigm of society, otherwise no progeny; the gays will always be there, as they have, and that is fine, but better if they stay on the fringe and don’t push their Gay Pride, at least IMO. Please see the following link for an in-depth BBC look at this controversial and split decision of the Supreme Court. Respectfully, Anandamaya das
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-33292806

    • madan gopal das

      Call me conservative, call me old-fashioned, but I find it offensive to my sensibilities, and I don’t see how it can possibly aid society in the direction of dharma.

      You are conservative and old-fashioned. Your sensibilities are not the universe – you are not your ego and what you are conditioned to like or dislike. Get out from under that conditioning. The followers of the bhakti marga are not interested in dharma, but paro-dharma, the function of the soul. Advocate that, for it is the dharma that is open to all via Mahaprabhu’s mercy.

    • Gaurasundara das

      Anandamaya, you have a very poor knowledge of human history if you think this ruling goes against it. It is infact the opposite. There is plenty of information available about homosexuality in practically every culture since the begining of time. I suggest you do some reading.

    • better if they stay on the fringe and don’t push their Gay Pride

      Well, homosexuality used to be illegal and that helped to keep it on the fringe. So maybe we should push for that. After all, why tolerate something that is inherently evil? And who cares if gay people can function perfectly well and contribute to society as much or more than straight people. Never mind that the gay man Alan Turing invented the electronic computer and in doing so enabled the Allies to win WWII. He should have been pushed further to the fringe of society and labeled dysfunctional so that he never even had the opportunity to invent this machine. Luckily afterward he was arrested for his sexual orientation and was driven to commit suicide. Think about it, this machine came from a deviant gay mind. How can we even continue to use it?

      And then we have those that trot out the few quotes from Prabhupada discouraging homosexuality while ignoring the logic he invokes in support of his position at the time, logic and misconceptions about homosexuality that permeated the society 40 years ago. These fools expect us to think that Prabhupada was as unreasonable and bigoted as they are. They do not think he would change his opinion on a subject when supplied new information about it. Oh you means that misguided information from science? Ugh! It is called “observable evidence.” Open your eyes! For example, Prabhupada reasons homosexuality is unnatural because even the animals do not experience this orientation. Yes, everyone thought like this until it was observed that homosexual orientation does readily occur in animal society! Now what? Are we to irrationally deny what is right in front of our eyes or reason that Prabhupada was reasonable and likely to change or adjust his position on such a relative issue with new information? And by natural I mean that it is not a result of nurture or choice. That is the new information. There is a third gender! And if it is afforded the legal right to matrimony, what negative bearing does that have on heterosexual marriage? Will not encouraging gay people to marry help to regulate their sexuality as it does heterosexuals?

  11. Here’s my two cents to the discussion –finally 😉

    These past days, I have been watching rainbows and rainbow colors popping up my newsfeed at various social media outlets. Mostly, the reactions have been of joy and celebration: finally, love wins! Love wins over prejudice, hatred, “tolerance” and discriminations. Finally us “queers” are seen as regular “folk”. Finally, we, too, have a right to marry the one we love. Finally, we get to have human rights. Finally, we get to have –if we so choose–a real marriage, instead of “registration”.

    As a gay vaisnavi (I dislike the word ‘lesbian’, and so prefer to identify as ‘gay’) I have watched this discussion from the sidelines and also watched the reaction of the vaisnava community as well with interest. How is this news received?

    Thankfully, my sangha is loving and supportive and has celebrated this news for what it really is: a victory to the human rights movement. A relief to all LGBT people. As such, the legalization of gay marriage is a big deal to me. Worthy of all the noise and discussion and celebration.

    But there is a side of me that often wonders why this is a BIG deal. A hot-potato-of-an-issue. I mean: Why does the heterosexual majority care so much about the love-lives of LGBT people?

    I say ‘love lives’ with intent.

    It bothers me greatly that our relationships and marriages are reduced to mere ‘sex-lives’ or ‘what happens in the bedroom’. Gay lives have been closeted for so long and I refuse to have my relationships to be reduced to just sex and into bedrooms.

    Gay love-lives are bigger than bedrooms: they belong to churches and temples and synagogues. They happen in the homes and schools and workplaces. They belong to houses and playgrounds and parks and cities.

    Being gay is so much more than mere ‘sexual orientation’. Its more than sex and lust and ‘what happens in the bedrooms” and this is a message I want to get across to the vaisnava community especially. The pointless discussions about whose sex-lives are more sinful make me sick. I am as much gay as a celibate woman as I would be as a married gay person. Sex alone is not what makes me gay: it’s who I am. And it’s natural and good. Marriage is more than sex, it’s about celebrating your relationship with your family and friends. It’s about commitment and family. It’s about love. And so it is –exactly the same– with gay marriage as well.

    And the more I can be who I am –a gay woman, vaisnavi – the happier and healthier I am. (And thus better equipped to practice bhakti.) So, of course, having full human rights is great! Having the society at large acknowledge my right to exist and love is something that BENEFITS my life and well-being and thus also aids my spiritual life.

    Love is big and spacious –and so it survives being stuffed into closets–but it is good and beautiful, too, and so it deserves to be taken out to the streets and celebrated with pride. I, too, have survived the closeted years –but many of my LGBT sisters & brothers have not, as depression as suicide rates are HIGH among the LGBT folk –and I now walk with pride, out in the streets.

    Mahaprabhu’s heart and love is so big that it is able to thrive in the small, confided space of the gambhira and the devotees should take his example in embracing their LGBT brothers & sisters: Love should be taken to the streets, celebrated loudly with drums.

    So, come on, make some noise, love and celebrate with your LGBT vaisnava sisters and brothers. And then let us all together, take the big heart and message of Mahaprabhu to the streets of every town and village of the world. His love and message is bigger than politics, sex-lives and hate. And I am SO PROUD to be a gay vaisnavi in his sankirtan group! Love wins! Param vijayate sri krishna sankirtanam!

    • madan gopal das

      Marriage is more than sex, it’s about celebrating your relationship with your family and friends. It’s about commitment and family. It’s about love. And so it is –exactly the same– with gay marriage as well.

      Very nice, thank you for sharing your perspective. I’ve had very similar thoughts – People don’t get married because they want to have sex (sexual stimulation is available in a multitude of ways for a single person) and the biology of sex is such a minuscule, lifeless, boring aspect of any marriage. As a heterosexual marriage is about a hell of a lot more than sex, why is it that when gay marriage is discussed the focus is all about the sex? What about the couple’s commitment to each other, what about the care and sacrifices they will offer to each other, children, extended family and society? What about who they are as people?

  12. Dear Madan Gopal das,

    Yes, yes, yes! You got it! 🙂 Thank you for being an ally and for your continued support.

  13. Parker Williams

    Healthy, God conscious societies will have fewer occurrences of homosexuality. Homosexuality is double conditioning.

    How does a gay marriage serve God, in ways that straight couples can’t? Now how can straight couples serve God, in ways that gay couples can’t? Which is the superior position, overall?

    I think most people who support gay marriage and homosexual equality in general do so out of sentimentality and a desire to appear liberal.

    Gay couples and straight couples are not equal in terms of their value to progressive, religious societies.

    The Supreme Court or governmental institutions of a nation ought to behave like the uttama-adhikari who comes down to the lower platform of realization in order to chalk out the progressive path to higher realization for those in the modes of material nature.

    Sentimentalists who are pretend to be learned mahatmas champion gay marriage but ignore the practical obstructions doing so creates for society in general.

    Surprised to see so many devotees championing gay marriage. For me, this issue is just like the female diksa guru issue. It’s a personal consideration and therefore it is not an issue to be ruled on. Such rulings will only create dichotomies. Instead, an educated population should understand the general rules or cultural standards and see exceptions to these standards as just that, occasional exceptions.

    • Citta Hari dasa

      Parker, did you not read Swami Tripurari’s comments above? The point being made is that there is no inherent superiority in one or the other. Moreover, it is not out of sentimentality that devotees are advocating for the rights of homosexuals but out of a recognition that they are humans and as such have the right to pursue happiness in their own fashion provided it does not harm others. You mention “practical obstructions” gay marriage poses for society. What are they? I have yet to see a convincing argument as to why committed homosexual relationships are damaging to society. The fact is that both homo and heterosexuals can be (and are already!) stable, productive members of society who contribute positively to society. In other words, homosexuals are not “deviants” who if “allowed” a legitimate status in society would cause the social fabric to unravel; they can be just as much an asset as anybody.

    • Parker Willaims,

      The real question is how does marriage serve Krsna? It is not an anga or limb of bhakti. However, it serves devotees’ needs for emotional and sensual intimacy that they might be stonger in this regard to pursues bhakti. It is not primarily about having children. But for that matter, homosexual couples can adopt children and raise them as devotees.

      As for your charge of sentimentality and a desire to appear liberal, you ignore the observable evidence that leads Vaisnavas to their conclusion in support of gay marriage, etc. You would do well to read up on the contributions of science and modern psychology on the subject. Furthermore, Prabhupada considered himself a liberal-minded person and his “liberal” policies that included engaging women on the altars and in the kitchens of his temples, etc. was met with similar charges by his contemporaries.

  14. How does a gay marriage serve God, in ways that straight couples can’t? Now how can straight couples serve God, in ways that gay couples can’t? Which is the superior position, overall?

    How does the marriage of mlecchas serve God in ways that brahmana couples can’t? Now, how can brahmana couples serve God, in ways that mleccha couples can’t? Which is the superior position, overall?

    Yes, let’s forbid gay marriage. And then let’s be consistent and forbid the marriage of mlecchas. And let’s forbid the marriage of fallen sannyasis. Let’s abandon the broad-minded example of Srila Prabhupada.

    Prabhupada didn’t perform a marriage ceremony for his gay disciple Upendra, but did suggest that he settle down into a monogamous gay union. Mercifully, though, he did condone the marriage of mlecchas, including fallen sannyasis.

    Was Prabhupada a “sentimentalist” because he thought two mlecchas could be married even though, in addition to their conditioning since their low birth, they had even violated the regulative principles very recently before their marriage?

    For a Western-born devotee to say “mleccha marriage is SO much better than gay marriage” is ironic at best, and is soaked with bhakti-lata-choking pride at worst.

  15. Caitanya Chandra dasa

    It’s OK that the author is giving his personal opinion on the subject. That’s his right. What bothers me is the quotes of previous acaryas put out of context. I consider this of extremely bad taste to say at least. One might even say that it’s offensive.

  16. The quotes are not taken out of context. They are presented and then questioned by the author whether or not compassion mandates their extension to include gay marriage.

  17. My dandavats to everyone assembled here. All glories to Guru and Gauranga!

    I would like to applaud Anandamaya das Prabhu, I find his thinking to be balanced, lucid and uncompromising.

    ***True conservatism is progressive and either without the other is neither.***

    Before I share my perspectives on the following points, I want to say that some homosexual people that I have met have been some of the most thoughtful and sensitive and conscious people I have met. Some have also been some of the most ridiculous, prideful, immature, and silly people I have met. So I would like to think that I am not biased for or against them in any way. But as for the lifestyle choice itself, I do not equate the two as equal in terms of degree of naturalness and capacity for service to a progressive human society within the grip of samsara.

    Responding to some points raised above:

    1) Why some heterosexuals care about homosexual marriage equality? (With the insinuation that this ‘curiosity’ originates from a purely sexual interest in such relations.)

    To insinuate that generally speaking, people who are concerned about the equalization of homosexual marriage to heterosexual marriage are limited in their concern to the private sex lives of gay people is inflammatory and underhanded. I, as a heterosexually conditioned person, see the practical problems that will arise if the organizing and order-instilling institutions of society do not uphold the general and natural superiority of heterosexual marriages over that of the unlimited perversions thereof. (See the linked article below at #3 for examples of the scope and velocity of bodily perversion possible in human society.)

    As Vaisnavas and in simple terms, we know that the first perversion is that of jiva-on-jiva “love”. This manifests in its most natural form as male on female attraction. This original perversion can compound itself indefinitely. Again, see the linked article below.

    2) Are heterosexual and homosexual relations equal?

    Obviously not. We do use different terms to describe them, after all and I for one will not pretend to be a topmost devotee who sees all things with equal vision. I do not actually exist in a state of consciousness typified by that of an uttama-adhikari Vaisnava.

    The above comment by “Das is gut” which contests my original post, actually reveals and validates my point that the two types of unions are not equal. The comment rhetorically asks:

    “How does the marriage of mlecchas serve God in ways that brahmana couples can’t? Now, how can brahmana couples serve God, in ways that mleccha couples can’t? Which is the superior position, overall?”

    This retort unwittingly draws the basis for discriminating between heterosexual and homosexual relationships; one is akin to a higher type while the other is akin to a lower type. We know that a complete social body must have a head, arms, stomach and legs, etc. And we know from repeated instructions from sastra, guru and sadhu that if we try to feed the body through any input other than the mouth, problems for the body arise. IOW, we cannot equate the anus with the mouth and go on living without creating disturbance in the natural balance and order of things. By the basic fact that a women is born with the facility to give birth to another human, we accept different gender roles between men and women. Similarly, on the basis that a man and a women can procreate, we accept that union as natural and most desirable for the perpetuation of human society. Who is interested in equating non-heterosexual relationships with heterosexual relationships on the basis of non-ideal behavior? Certainly such speech is conducive to enjoying the niceties afforded by political correctness. As aspirants of service to the Absolute Truth however, we have no interest in such equivocating speech.

    3) Does equalizing the two types of relationships create practical difficulties for the advancement of a spiritually progressive society?

    Here’s an article which to any simple and clear minded, common sensical person would shed abundant light on the answer to this question: (enjoy 🙂

    http://www.naturalnews.com/2017-02-23-trans-species-woman-claims-she-is-actually-a-cat.html

    Obviously, not understanding what is natural and what is LESS natural for a society is a prime cause for confusion and disturbance. If one cannot understand that the original and more natural sexual attraction (irrespective of pure spiritual attraction in full blown, authentic, non-sahajiya Krsna consciousness) is that of a male and female bodies, then I suspect such a person has not sufficiently awakened their desire to know what is natural and wherefrom natural order actually originates.

    4) Should sexual desire be repressed?

    The author quotes Bhagavad-gīta [3.33] to support the position that homosexuality should not be discouraged or otherwise discriminated against. “Even a man of knowledge acts according to his own nature, for everyone follows his nature. What can repression accomplish?” This is the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna shedding light on Arjuna’s poor decision to forgo acting as a ksyatriya in favor of BODILY considerations. Therefore this sloka does not support the author’s position. It is a misapplication of sastra. Arjuna wanted legitimization of his bodily desires and false identity. Krishna told him, ‘No, you should act according to your higher self. Do not sacrifice the higher thing for the lower consideration.’ We are told also in Bhagavad-gīta that devotional service is joyfully performed. In other words, there is no repression of lower desires when the higher desires are actually acted upon and fulfilled.

    5) Is Srila AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada less liberal than more “modern” Vaisnavas?

    The author indeed points out that Srila Prabhupada is in fact a liberal minded personality. A true mahatma. However, the effect of the article seems to tend toward casting Srila Prabhupada as a liberal in the modern, mundane sense and the truth couldn’t be further from such.

    ***Again, true progressivism is conservative and either without the other is neither.***

    • But as for the lifestyle choice itself, I do not equate the two as equal in terms of degree of naturalness and capacity for service to a progressive human society within the grip of samsara.

      It is not a “lifestyle choice” when all but one the young boys on the school football team suddenly become interested in the cheerleaders as puberty manifests, while the one boy becomes similarly interested in his teammates.

      • Maharaja, with all due respect I find your reply incredulous.

        Is not free agency an eternal and all-important quality of the jiva?

        This question of nature or nurture is not the main issue or point of my response above.

        Perhaps one should save their breath for want of a more serious rebuttal for I believe my effort above merits one.

        In the spirit of constructive dialogue in pursuit of Absolute Truth.

        • The jiva has limited agency, but to think that this means that if it finds itself in a homosexual orientation to life it needs to exercise such agency to forego sexual activity and practice celibacy in order to progressively participate and grow in bhakti is ludicrous. Celibacy is not an anga of bhakti. Participation in bhakti requires only faith in her efficacy. If in pursuance of this faith one seeks to harness one’s sexuality sensibly in order that it will be retired in due course, one is artful in one’s sadhana. And typically sexual attraction wanes in a committed relationship over time as the relationship meets greater needs of emotional fulfillment and affords combined strength to practice.

          I just read the article you cited. If found it something that Trump you agree with and I do not have a high opinion of him.

    • The author indeed points out that Srila Prabhupada is in fact a liberal minded personality. A true mahatma. However, the effect of the article seems to tend toward casting Srila Prabhupada as a liberal in the modern, mundane sense and the truth couldn’t be further from such.

      People are that are liberal in their time may appear conservative to liberal sensibilities decades later. However, that does not make them conservatives.The liberal value of today’s society underscored in the article is a sense of compassion (and better understanding of a natural phenomenon) that results in a change of law. It is the idea of the spirit of the law overriding its letter. We see this sensibility in Prabhupada in terms of how he compassionately engaged Westerners in bhakti in a manner that many Gaudiyas felt contradicted the letter of the scriptural law. Thus the idea is that a person with this sensibility would apply it in new times as well relative to the circumstances.

      The world is such that new knowledge about it and how it works will continue to surface in an ongoing manner. It is not static. As it does, our position based on previous less complete understandings discovered in previous times should be retired. In Prabhupada’s time even homosexuals thought they were diseased. But now we know that homosexuality is a naturally occurring minority phenomenon in human and animal species. We also know that this orientation does not hinder one’s ability to meaningfully participate in any walk of life and contribute to society. Furthermore, many of a homosexual orientation to life develop faith in bhakti. If their sexuality is to be harnessed, as we teach sexuality should be, limiting it to a committed and blessed relationship makes sense. Mandating celibacy for homosexuals, on the other hand, not only does not make sense, it lacks empathy. One simply has to reflect on how powerful of an influence sexuality is in one’s own life and then consider the plight of those of a homosexual orientation understood and a product of nature, as is one’s own sexual orientation. This is the simple formula for empathy/compassion—shared experience and knowledge.

    • Bg 3.33 is about the fact that instruction on jnana and karma are not powerful enough to help one overcome one’s nature, Whereas bhakti is so because she has the power to work with one’s nature. Do you think it would be healthy and foster spiritual growth for the average heterosexual to repress their sexuality in the context of their spiritual practice? If not, why would you expect it to have that positive affect for a homosexual to do so? Is the homosexual orientation any less powerful?

  18. Maharaja, your replies are appreciated and their points noted.

    We are in agreement generally. For the record, I never voiced a position on celibacy or any special regulations for homosexual practitioners.

    My focus is on correctly understanding the ontological aspect of homosexuality, what homosexuality is in relation to heterosexuality, varnasrama-dharma, etc.

    So hopefully we can move beyond the sentimental aspects of this issue because I’m not homophobic or otherwise interested in inflicting harm to anyone, whatever their conditioning.

    • Ok fine. What is homosexuality in relation to heterosexuality? Are we talking about sexual activity or orientation? In either case there are a number of ways to answer the question. As to its ontological position, it appears that you are approaching that from a moral standpoint. Is it ontologically grounded as good or bad? Is that your question? Varnasrama is of course concerned with the moral good and bad, and as such is deals only directly with the good, as opposed to the Good. Thus it has no bearing on the culture of uttama bhaklti, while it does have some bearing on karma and jnana-misra bhakti.

      • Simply speaking, I am looking for an admission from yourself and persons who appear on the “liberal” side of the issue at hand, that homosexuality is a position of increased material conditioning in comparison with heterosexuality and therefore, it is important for purposes of societal organization that the ideal of heterosexuality is generally preferred to that of homosexuality and that that preference naturally must manifest in boundaries meant to support the more ideal social constructs. In the same way, it is preferred that an individual be aligned in their conception of gender as it manifests on the subtle and gross platforms and that should malignments in the body arise, that those be properly and compassionately addressed with a healthy dosage of tactfully applied truth.

        • What is the healthy dose of tactfully applied truth you speak of? That a homosexual orientation is a disease, a “misalignment” that needs to be marginalized for the benefit of the society? That is certainly a well worn conservative social position in today’s world. But my experience does not lead me to believe that this it true. Gay unions and gay marriage have been with us for some time with little if any downside that can be definitively tied to these unions. And legal and religious unions are aimed at curbing promiscuity! But at any rate, if from there you want to make the leap that this conservative social position is also supported by sastra, you still have some work to do, especially with regard to the bhakti sastras. Thus your reference to varnasrama. But even varnasrama says next to nothing about homosexuality. As far as I know, Dharma sastra speaks only of it being a minor sin for a heterosexual brahmin to engage in homosexual acts. And the larger question as to the morality of homosexuality, if discussed in such sastras at all, should be subject to revision based on new evidence and reason. While morality itself is ontologically rooted, determination of the moral law in any given circumstance is subject to revision with new information, reason, and consideration of the outcome of its application. This is what Krsna teaches in Mahabharata.

          So I guess you have not convinced me to make the admission you seek. Look at the facts before us. There are homosexually oriented persons who are devotees that are better devotees than some heterosexually oriented devotees. But admittedly it would be difficult to sort out how much anyone’s sexual orientation was a factor. Is a gay devotee couple that has lost the appetite for sex worse of that straight couple that has not? So again, is it the sexual act itself or the orientation that is a greater conditioning in your outlook? Certainly homosexuals have been marginalized and this has caused psychological disturbances and social alienation for them that puts them at a disadvantage to function in any realm. But what we have seen is that when that stigma is removed they function like everyone else in every other field. Your point seems to be that this is not the case in the realm of religion. Some agree with you, but I am not convinced by anything you have said.

  19. Resorting to the most utterly simple scenario for the purpose of illustrating a valid point, could you say that it is reasonable to conclude that a society suffers undue hardships or is required to work harder to simply maintain its population and standard of living if the rate of homosexual couples increases beyond a certain point? In other words, do you think there could be an over abundance of homosexual couples/partners/spouses? If no, then please explain how a society of 100% homosexual couples could even exist! And can you say the same thing for heterosexual couples/partners/spouses? In light of such questions, can we agree that heterosexuality (either itself or its expressed activity) is more natural than homosexuality?

    It has already been established and admitted that homosexuality is a natural phenomenon, but so is pedophilia by that same measure. Krishna tells us that all varieties of sense desire arise from mental concoction. [Bhagavad-gīta 2.55]

    This debate rests on this point and nothing else; Is heterosexuality more natural and thus more fundamental to human society than homosexuality? All other retorts or aspersions meant to cater to varied sentimentalities are irrelevant. This is a philosophical discussion, I am not interested in anything else here.

    “The Blessed Lord said: O Partha, when a man gives up all varieties of sense desire which arise from mental concoction….” Bhagavad-gīta 2.55

    • This debate rests on this point and nothing else; Is heterosexuality more natural and thus more fundamental to human society than homosexuality?

      I really do not appreciate your depiction of my arguments as “other retorts or aspersions meant to cater to varied sentimentalities,” as if it were a meaningful reply to the points I have raised and questions I have asked. But to answer your question, first of all you emphasizes that all varieties of sense desire arise from mental concoction, as if to say that homosexual desire is a mental concoction and therefore it must be given up. Is that really your argument? If so, it’s not a good one.

      Then if homosexuality is “less natural,” a term you have not defined, does that make it a spiritual disadvantage? Spiritual disadvantage or greater material conditioning is relative to the influence of the gunas. Even of you could demonstrate from sastra that homosexuality was a product of the tama guna, it constitutes but one of many desires a person is conditioned by. People are not homosexual or heterosexual people, these terms really only refer to one of their many desires.

      But to your question, homosexuality occurs naturally in human society to lesser degree than heterosexuality. Minorities could be construed as less fundamental to a functioning society. That is something Steve Bannon might agree with.

    • This debate rests on this point and nothing else; Is heterosexuality more natural and thus more fundamental to human society than homosexuality?

      I would disagree that the debate rests on that point.

      You seem to be more concerned with speculative social implications of the acceptance and integration of homosexual couples into an unspecified society, rather than the more important question of how to engage and encourage everyone in the practice of sadhana-bhakti.

      As Maharaja mentioned, consider a married gay couple who make spiritual progress because they have sadhu-sanga in addition to social support in the form of acceptance and integration. Their sexual orientation itself would not prevent them from making progress. To argue otherwise is a misunderstanding of bhakti.

      However, a lack of social acceptance would make it psychologically difficult to practice. Maharaja has given reasons for why this might be the case and they derive from the difficulty that a non-accepting society would create for homosexual couples. Therefore, from a spiritual perspective, it is important to make social adjustments that encourage the practice of bhakti. Acaryas, especially Srila Prabhupada, have made similar, well-documented adjustments.

      In addition, consider the fact a heterosexual orientation does not eliminate the possibility for an inclination towards odious and non-consensual sexual behavior. This is the type of behavior that should not be accepted in society because of the harm involved.

      You do not seem to be equally concerned about of those types of harmful heterosexual behaviors and instead seem to equate a homosexual orientation with harmful sexual behavior. The problem with that approach is that orientation and behavior are two different aspects of sexuality. It is the harmful sexual behavior, which occurs within both hetero and homosexual orientations, that is a social concern. The assumption that all homosexual relationships are harmful ones is undermined by the fact that you can easily find homosexual relationships that are much more wholesome than some heterosexual relationships, as Maharaja mentioned.

      Your assumptions and conclusions about homosexual relationships and their implications have very little support from sastra, science, sociology, and psychology. You would be better off thinking about the ways that stable, loving, committed relationships in society can be encouraged for the purpose of spiritual practice, and accept the fact that some, perhaps many, of those relationships will be homosexual.

  20. My apologies. I do not want to offend you Maharaja. Please forgive my offenses.

    Are you aware of any incarnations of God which are homosexual? This is not necessarily a rhetorical question.

    And I will define natural as that which is in harmony (of which there are degrees) with the Complete Whole.

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