I finished my yesterday’s post about homosexuality rather abruptly – there’s no place for it in the spiritual development, there’s nothing to discuss. I stand by this statement but what it does not do is to make all homosexual devotees disappear, and as long as these people are there their concerns must addressed. We can’t dismiss THEM with “period”, in this way we can dismiss only OUR OWN doubts.
So, what do we tell them? What do we arrange for them? Any special facilities? Any special place in our society? Would it be an equivalent of prisons (called correctional facilities, btw), or would it be filled with compassion, understanding, and value, as Frankie the Pope advocates?
I wrote about this many times and so unlikely to say anything new but since this issue has come up again there’s no harm in repeating myself. Every time we revisit any particular issue our understanding of it deepens, so please
First, let’s establish the time line of developing devotion, taken straight from Bhāgavatam (SB 1.2).
- ..it is therefore concluded that the highest perfection one can achieve by discharging the duties prescribed for one’s own occupation according to caste divisions and orders of life is to please the Personality of Godhead. Therefore one should constantly hear about, glorify, remember and worship the Personality of Godhead, who is the protector of the devotees. Intelligent men cut through the binding knots of reactionary work [karma] by remembering the Personality of Godhead. By serving those devotees who are completely freed from all vice, great service is done. By such service, one gains affinity for hearing the messages of Vāsudeva. Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramātmā [Supersoul] in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages.
Edited for style and brevity.
It’s fairly straightforward: first one executes his varṇāśrama duties with the goal of satisfying the Lord, which leads to constantly hearing and remembering Him. By taking shelter of pure devotees and serving them one develops the taste for such narrations. Once that taste is acquired and the urge to hear Lord’s pastimes is felt, Kṛṣṇa cleanses the heart of a devotee from material enjoyment.
Then comes one of our most popular verses (SB 1.2.18):
bhaktir bhavati naiṣṭhikī
- By regular attendance in classes on the Bhāgavatam and by rendering of service to the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is almost completely destroyed, and loving service unto the Personality of Godhead, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact.
Then come three following verses:
As soon as irrevocable loving service is established in the heart, the effects of nature’s modes of passion and ignorance, such as lust, desire and hankering, disappear from the heart. Then the devotee is established in goodness, and he becomes completely happy. Thus established in the mode of unalloyed goodness, the man whose mind has been enlivened by contact with devotional service to the Lord gains positive scientific knowledge of the Personality of Godhead in the stage of liberation from all material association. Thus the knot in the heart is pierced, and all misgivings are cut to pieces. The chain of fruitive actions is terminated when one sees the self as master.
That’s when devotional service truly starts. At this point there’s no trace of lust left in devotee’s heart, not for straight, not for same sex. That’s where we want to be, where we want to find ourselves before the expiration of this lifetime.
There’s no place for concessions to homosexuality here, it’s one of those misgivings that will be “cut to pieces”. It’s not a valid concern.
It is a valid concern on a much earlier stage, right in the beginning – what should be varṇāśrama duties for homosexuals? That we can reason about, cite scriptures and examples, negotiate, manipulate etc.
It should happen BEFORE we even start talking about devotion, we just have to make sure it’s easy to remember the Lord in whatever arrangements we make for homosexual people.
Even remembrance in itself won’t be fruitful until we surrender to devotees of the Lord who will infuse us with “affinity” to hearing messages of the Lord. Until then it will be forced and unnatural even if we theoretically know it’s beneficial.
Now, ask yourself, what scope for practicing homosexuality is there in serving one’s guru and in hearing about the Lord from Him? None whatsoever.
Even on that stage we should forget about it. Practically speaking, it would mean that we should leave homosexuality outside temple walls when we come to Bhāgavatam classes.
There’s no discrimination here, btw, straight people should leave out their sexuality, too – there’s no scope for ANY sexuality in devotional service, it’s not something we bring to Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Our fourth reg makes in completely clear, too – we swear not to indulge in any sexual behavior except for procreation, and that is in our entire life, not only during temple visits. We can’t have sex and make spiritual progress at the same time. I don’t mean exactly at the same time but more of a concession to ourselves, when we say “I will keep my sexual habits”. As soon as we agree to this we commit “maintaining material desires” offense against the Holy Name.
This is philosophically unacceptable and incompatible with spiritual progress. As long as we keep this permissive attitude we won’t make ANY progress, period. And it has nothing to do with homosexuality.
Devotees, however, try to reconcile their imagined varṇāśrama position with devotional service. They want “affinity for hearing the messages of Vāsudeva” while still performing their occupational duties. That won’t happen. Once the taste is acquired interest in following varṇāśrama disappears, and along with it greed, envy, and lust which varṇāśrama is supposed to regulate.
Again, straight devotees fall into this trap as easy as homosexual ones. It’s an easy mistake to understand because we all have residual material desires that seem important to us, so we try to accommodate them in our spiritual lives, but they are anarthas, literally “without value”. Holding onto them won’t do us any good, at some point we should all realize that and we should let them go, we’ll be all better for it.
Will they come back? Probably, but we should see the difference between existence of material desires and the wish to maintain them. First one is a fact of life in the material world, second one is an offense. First one cannot be attributed to us, second is clearly our fault.
One more thing – some greatest devotees were demons, like Prahlāda Mahārāja, but that does not mean they were filled with greed, envy, and lust, like ordinary demons are. Devotees of whatever extraction lose these qualities and stay pure, it’s not an excuse for us to maintain our sinful lifestyles.
There’s one more aspect to this but I’ll address it some other time.