There was one item in the news recently that touched on the topic I haven’t addressed before. It’s about “our” Tulsi Gabbard, first devotee in US Congress. She was elected a while ago and this latest article is about her visit to India on the occasion of Gita Jayanti.
It sounds all very innocent but it also prompted HH Bhakti Vikasa Swami to call on GBC to disavow this article and to “police” the “aberrant” new.iskcon.org. What’s the problem?
It’s Tulsi’s stance on gay rights and abortion/contraception issues.
A bit of history first – she is a daughter of Srila Prabhupada’s disciple Siddha Swarupa right hand man, Krishna Katha Prabhu, Mike Gabbard, who has eventually converted to Catholicism. Her mother Devahuti, however, remained a devotee, afaik. Siddha Swarupa had eagerly embraced vaisnavism and was very successful in preaching in Hawaii but later fell out with ISKCON and GBC. According to Hari Sauri’s Transcendental Diaries at one point Srila Prabhupada even commented that despite being a devotee he has never surrendered. So, Tulsi is not exactly an ISKCON devotee even though she also belongs to Srila Prabhupada’s family.
She doesn’t chant a regular number of rounds or anything like that but her spiritual home is Vrindavana, where she visits very often, and, as far as politicians go, you can’t ask for anything more.
Siddha Swarupa once run in elections in Hawaii but it was Mike Gabbard who became successful politician as Hawaii Senator, and now Tulsi got elected, too. Good for them.
Now, the issues.
Mike Habbard has always been a conservative and he made a name for himself as anti-gay, anti-abortion campaigner, a position expected from devotees who grew up on Srila Prabhupada’s books. Naturally, Tulsi followed his steps but now she is part of a Democrat party and her stance on gay rights has changed, which is not surprising, and this is what provoked Bhakti Vikasa Swami’s protest.
Her position on abortion is murkier, she doesn’t publicly commit herself one way or another but she supports women’s right to contraception. If push comes to shove she might vote for pro-abortion bills but I’m sure she’ll disguise it in such a way as not to offend her conservative supporters.
Tulsi being a politician, I thought it would be easy to find her position on these issues but actually it’s not. There are organizations dedicated to tracking down voting history etc and they churn up a lot of data but one thing is still elusive there – a definitive answer. They just elect this wall of garbage that passes off as information and I bet it’s designed to give a wiggle room for future policy reversals. Never mind, it’s not important.
I’m sure Tulsi does not support abortion as a rule, I don’t think she has changed direction of her moral compass on this, but there exceptions to each rule, too. Duryodhana wasn’t particularly welcome to this world, for example, so in Vedic times killing unwanted demoniac progeny wasn’t completely out of the question.
I don’t know what to do with rape victims either. I can’t imagine they’d ever love the child conceived that way. The specter of rape will always hang over them and it’s not something I have a clear opinion on. Did Srila Prabhupada ever forced raped women to carry their children? If not, I’d rather leave room for doubt on this one.
Gay rights are easier and it’s a good reason to doubt Tulsi’s dedication to sanatana dharma, as she puts the name of her religion herself. Having said that, I don’t actually have a problem with gay marriage. The more I think about it the clearer it becomes – gays should better stay in monogamous relationships. They are not going to live with women, that’s just not happening anymore, so being “married” is the next best thing, from varnashrama perspective.
If by marriage they mean having the same tax breaks as actually married couples I can’t care less what they legally call it. Should they be allowed to adopt children? As long as we have orphans who need to be looked after it’s not easy to argue why not. Would these orphans be better off as orphans or as children who grew up with gay parents?
The only downside is the effect on these children’s understanding of what sex is and what it is for but people get wrong ideas about it without being raised by gays, so that might not have a big effect after all. Who will have a better chance of becoming a devotee – an orphan or a gay parents’ adopted kid? I don’t know, there are too many variables, and so altogether I don’t see many reasons to object to gay adoptions.
Gays in ISKCON, however, is a completely different story. Out there they can live whatever perverted life they create for themselves but to be a devotee one must give up sex as means of enjoyment, which is impossible for gays. They should either become celibate and forget about their sexual orientation altogether or they should marry a woman (or a man, for lesbians) and raise Krishna conscious children.
Would that be against their gay nature? I bet it would, but devotees should live for the pleasure of Krishna, not for themselves. There’s a reason why human life on this planet is so special – it gives one the opportunity to develop his Krishna consciousness. If being gay is not suitable for devotional service – tough luck, dogs and cats have it even worse.
We can’t save everyone, Sivananda Sena once saved a dog that followed his party to Jagannatha Puri and Lord Chaitanya saved lots of wild animals in Jarikhanda forest but our abilities are limited. If we can’t save gays then we can’t do it, period.
Gay people can chant, they can read books, they can preach, they can do tons of service, they can beget children, but engaging in gay sex isn’t one of the options. They should accept this limitation just as western devotees accept not being allowed to enter temple of Lord Jagannatha.
Should they be given initiation? Why not, as long as they follow the fourth regulative principle just as straight devotees do – sex only for procreation. If they can’t commit themselves to that – tough luck. Having formal initiation and being accepted by Krishna as a servant of His servants are not one and the same thing anyway. Not having diksa is a big loss but it’s not fatal.
So, as long as Tulsi doesn’t promote homosexuality among devotees I don’t have a problem with her gay rights stance, I think Bhakti Vikasa Swami has overreacted somewhat her, though his objection was against new.iskcon.org, not against Tulsi herself, and that is a whole other topic.