This latest debate about deontology, consequentialism, disrobing of Draupadi etc raised a number of interesting points and, I believe, led to a number of new insights into the nature of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, essence of faith, relationships with our gurus and ācāryas and so on. Then came an unexpected twist.
The whole thing started many years ago with some devotees thinking of a proper response to homosexuality when outside society was moving towards embracing gay marriage. We always had gay people in our movement but we knew of their orientation mostly after their falldowns, while they were in our good books they lived a life of renunciation. There never was any formal arrangement for gay devotees, they were expected to be brahmacārīes like straights and that was that. Marriages have never been looked upon favorably by many of our leaders so for our gay devotees the choice between renunciation and having sexual relationships in marriage with women was easy, until it became difficult and they chose the third option – being gay and acting on it.
In our early days homosexuality was still considered a sin by the rest of the society so it was easy to keep gay devotees in check, lately, however, people started coming to us with a sense of entitlement to gay rights and expect them to be at least addressed if not properly honored. Mostly, we don’t know what to tell them. We have no provisions for gay sex whatsoever, it’s always illicit and one must give it up if he has any hopes of advancing through devotional ranks. The way I made it sound here, this kind of career is easy to forsake and concentrate on inner progress instead but if you can’t get initiation you are in trouble, and there are no initiations for people engaged in gay sex.
So we ask them to come, tell them about a house for the whole world to live in, and then refuse to accept them as they are and as any kind of equals. It’s a bummer. I don’t know what can be done about it. Personally, I’m all for expanding our society in less strict form with lesser demands on sādhana but people still need some sort of a recognition for their efforts. Traditionally, our starting point was dīkṣā and if that is unavailable to gays we need to invent something else.
I don’t know how much of a problem it really is, maybe gays are not attracted to Kṛṣṇa consciousness in great numbers anyway or, if they decide to surrender, do not have big problems with denouncing their sexuality. Maybe this interest in gay people is driven not so much by success in preaching but by trying to penetrate “lucrative” gay market the way regular consumer companies feel about it.
If one thinks about how exactly a model gay devotee, even in uninitiated, should live his life one would naturally assume that it should be in monogamous relationship and probably with adopted children or children from surrogate mothers or fathers. Gay people themselves see this lifestyle as much more advanced, sophisticated, and cultured than their typical and well known promiscuity – a stereotype they feel is unfair and in need of correction. When we think about it we should also agree that if their engagement in illicit sex is unavoidable it should be done with some restrictions, just like meat eating or drinking in Vedic times. What’s there to think about it?
Well, devotees who disagree with Hṛdayānanda Mahārāja over consequentialism also disagree over his response to homosexuality which he presented in this 2005 article (pdf). For some reason they thought that regulated sex life for homosexuals is not advantageous to their spiritual advancement. I don’t know how they could have come up with such an idea but they did.
The irony here is that regulated sense enjoyment is all over our philosophy and all over our practice, it’s everywhere in our books, we don’t have any other way to deal with it, be it sex, eating, work, pleasure – we have regulations for everything and if we don’t then we have ācāryas appearing among us and giving us more regulations than we could possibly follow. Hṛdayānanda Mahārāja’s critics accuse him of ignoring the bulk of Prabhupāda’s statements on homosexuality but then they completely ignore this necessity for regulations. Pot, meet kettle.
I guess they wanted to oppose him simply for the sake of opposition but that implies some rather base motives which I don’t want to ascribe to devotees. Let it remain a mystery. Their logic and reasoning go roughly like this – there’s a verse in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (7.11.33-34) spoken by Nārada Muni:
My dear King, if an agricultural field is cultivated again and again, the power of its production decreases, and whatever seeds are sown there are lost. Just as drops of ghee on a fire never extinguish the fire but a flood of ghee will, similarly, overindulgence in lusty desires mitigates such desires entirely.
If one continuously sprinkles drops of ghee on a fire, the fire will not be extinguished, but if one suddenly puts a lump of ghee on a fire, the fire may possibly be extinguished entirely. Similarly, those who are too sinful and have thus been born in the lower classes are allowed to enjoy sinful activities fully, for thus there is a chance that these activities will become detestful to them, and they will get the opportunity to be purified.
They took it to mean that… I don’t know what. It seems they advocate overindulgence with multiple partners as being better than monogamous gay unions but neither the verse nor the purport say that. The verse advocates overindulgence, the purport allows to enjoy sinful activities fully, but this does not mean without regulation and it does not mean promiscuity. We know how we deal with straight sex, which is what Nārada Muni was talking about here, and this solution is apparently at odds with our immediate ācāryas. This means that while there might be a need to reconcile, in our lives we should follow rules given by Prabhupāda. He never told our devotees to beat sexual desires by humping our brains out, quite the opposite. Why should gay devotees deal with their sexual urges any differently?
Even if that really worked they can still have all the sex they need to mitigate their desires with one single partner rather than by prowling public toilets. One could say that promiscuity is in gay blood but if it’s not what gay people want themselves why should we force them to copulate with as many partners as possible? This is a really strange recommendation.
There’s another reason for it – some study with pigeons who were trained to get food by pecking a button. Researchers tried to find out how they could “unlearn” this behavior. They found out that if initially the food was delivered every time it takes 100 pecks without reward to “unlearn” but if food was delivered not with every peck it takes 1000 times before pigeons give up hope. Interesting observation, but it was done on pigeons, not on people, “unlearning” to peck a button does not equal lost of taste for food, and it does not means that one’s attraction to sex would disappear faster if one gets it every time he wants without any restrictions. Sometimes it appears to be true but then it’s not what Śrila Prabhupāda has taught us and it’s not how it is practiced in Gauḍīyā vaiṣṇavism.
Fascinating topic, no doubt, but I seriously doubt that this reasoning would gain more traction in our society than accepting gay “marriage” as more advantageous to spiritual progress.
They also made a parallel with gambling, that it is addictive because of “partial reinforcement”, like with pigeons, but if people would win every bet it wouldn’t be called gambling and no one advocates overcoming gambling addiction overindulging in it.
This whole response to gay “marriage” was completely unexpected and I don’t think we should agree with this proposal regardless of what we might think about Hṛḍayānanda Mahārāja or that GALVA website. IMO, they appear as somewhat saner people here.