Published on July 6th, 2015 | by Harmonist staff4
Gay Marriage in the Bhagavad Gita, Part 1
A few years ago I was a guest speaker at Joshua Greene’s Bhagavad Gita course at the Jivamukti Yoga School in New York. During our discussion Joshua asked me if I thought that gay marriage was supported in the Bhagavad Gita. I gave the question a moment of silent consideration and then, to the relief of my left-leaning, breath-holding audience, I answered ‘yes, it is’.
How is this so? According to the Gita, everyone has two natures: a temporary material nature and an eternal spiritual nature. To put it another way, we are eternal spiritual beings who have acquired temporary material identities. The practice of yoga builds a bridge from our temporary identity to our eternal identity. In order to cross that bridge we need to be peacefully situated. If we’re agitated by conflicts due to repression or oppression of our temporary nature then it will be difficult to be peaceful—to say nothing of happy—and we won’t be able to focus on the development of our spiritual life, on crossing the bridge to our eternal nature.
We can cross-reference several verses in the Gita that support this proposition, starting with chapter 3, verse 33: “Even a wise person acts according to their own tendency, for everyone follows the proclivity they have acquired due to contact with the three qualities of material nature (goodness, passion, and ignorance). What will repression accomplish?”
The Sanskrit word jnana-van in this verse means “one who has acquired knowledge”. ‘Knowledge’ in the context of the Bhagavad Gita refers to the ability to distinguish between the spiritual self and the material body, the latter of which includes the mind and all of the psychology and behavioral tendencies associated with or initiating from the mind. So here Krishna is describing a person who is simultaneously acquainted with transcendental knowledge and yet is still affected by behavioral conditioning that arises due to contact with prakrti—material nature.
If our realization of our spiritual identity is incomplete, then we’ll find ourselves straddling the gap between our material and spiritual identities. Since this can be a precarious position, we need a firm foundation underfoot to stabilize us as we attempt to cross this gap. The Gita encourages us to find that stability by acting in harmony with our material identity while we work on the practical application of transcendental knowledge that can awaken us to a complete experience of our eternal, spiritual identity. In essence, we cross the bridge to transcendence while we build it with a steady yoga practice grounded in a spiritual understanding and compassionate acceptance of our current material identity. Throughout the Gita, Krishna encourages Arjuna to act according to his nature, both spiritually and materially. Since the Gita’s teachings are universal the same must apply for any eternal spiritual being who has acquired, for the time being, a gay material identity.