Vanity thought #1519. Animated sex parts

No, I’m not talking about animated sex, I’m continuing with a shot animated summary of the debate about merits of the Catholic Church, the point where Stephen Fry turned to homosexuality. The speakers for the Church did not address this in the short and I don’t remember them saying anything particular in the rest of the debate either, so let’s try to make sense of it as presented. It’s not like Catholic Church has a definitive answer to homosexuality anyway .

Fry then quoted the then current Pope, Benedict XVI, who they, incidentally, always addressed by his civilian name, Joseph Ratzinger. Fry said the Pope called homosexuals disordered and morally evil while all he was trying to do was to fulfill his sexual destiny. He said that to achieve and receive love is a struggle and one certainly doesn’t need Pope to tell you how to do it and one certainly doesn’t need Pope to tell you that you are evil. With 6% of teenage suicides being gay teenage suicides we certainly don’t need stigmatization and victimization that leads to playground bullying when people tell you you are a disordered, morally evil individual. It isn’t nice.

Okay, sexual destiny is a powerful argument. Gays do feel natural attraction to people of their own gender, this has to be acknowledged, they are wired this way by their previous karma and they have to live it out. That does not describe the whole picture, though. First of all, only a small percentage of gays are truly hardwired, for most of them sexuality is fluid, most of them had times when they lived in heterosexual relationships, and then there are bisexuals, too. These people might object that their sexuality is a choice but the fact is that they can choose how to express it on each particular occasion. Most of the time people choose NOT to express it at all – on the streets or in the office, for example, and wait to the opportune moment instead. Eventually their sexuality would force them to act but they can always put up a struggle. To fight or not to fight is the choice, and they choose not to fight but embrace their sexuality instead.

This choice is morally evil – the choice to give up control over one’s sexual urges. Fry might say that he controls himself just fine and doesn’t masturbate in public but that is not enough, civilized human beings must impose tighter control over their sex lives, be they Catholics or Muslims or Hare Kṛṣṇas. Even procreation must have limits, as Śrīla Prabhupāda often mentioned “once a month”.

Sex orientation might be wired but sex indulgence is a habit, and it’s a bad and evil one. Fry might disagree but he is judging it by his experience, not by the Bible, and not by the standards of previous ages. He can, of course, find some examples of profligate kings and sexually uninhibited commoners in history but are they they examples we should aspire to? Why should the church look up to them instead of the lives of their saints? Fry himself, being a self-professed thinker, should probably choose better standards to aim for.

The point is that “morally evil” label is not spurious, people like Fry have to reflect on it and see whether it has any truth in it. Of course we know that in modern society homosexuality is not evil anymore, Popes, however, do not speak about modern norms but eternal spiritual obligations of every human being. There ARE standards by which homosexuality is evil and it’s not Fry’s place to impose his own instead.

The bit about receiving love is lost on me. Mundane love between two people probably doesn’t need Pope’s intervention but love as is understood in Christianity certainly needs a mediator – the Pope, your local priest – Catholics are big on proper succession, as Fry himself acknowledged. He can reject Pope’s authority, of course, but then he should also kiss good-bye to love of God and and not worry what Pope has said about people like him at all. Fry is an atheist so rejection of God is given but then what’s the point of him participating in this debate? If he rejects any spiritual dimension to Catholic contribution to the world then his view is incomplete. It’s like judging bank assets value by coins in bank teller’s drawer. Christians would also say that love of Christ enriches their love of their husbands and wives, as it should be.

The bit about teenage suicides is misguided. In modern society homosexuals comprise more than 6% of the population, that’s what they love to tell us, so it appears that proportionally speaking gays are less prone to suicides then straights. Probably a good point for homosexuality but that’s not how Fry presented it an no one called him on that, or simply didn’t have the time.

Schoolyard bullying is a problem and it is possible to blame it on the Pope but how many bullies cite Papal encyclicals in their taunts? Repulsion to homosexual behavior exists(ed) in every culture in the world regardless of their religion and it’s this repulsion that gives rise to bullying, ascribing it to the Catholic Church is simply intellectually dishonest on Fry’s part.

There was a part in the debate, not included in the short, where Fry defended his appeal to emotion, ie rhetoric, because the Church is all about saving souls and love, so emotional appeals are fair. Not true. When the Church debates atheists in public it does not preach love of God and does not try to open people’s hearts. It plays by the atheist rules – reason and logic. It’s a shame for atheists like Fry to abandon them then and battle for the hearts and minds instead. He just wants to be a better preacher, not a better thinker. He might have succeeded on this one occasion but that’s how he will be remembered and treated forever – as a shameless propagandist. Atheists would love to hear his propaganda, of course, but serious thinkers would never take him seriously, he is a bit of a clown. Of course serious thinking will not lead one to God realization but it’s the only thing going for atheism, really, Without commitment to logic and reason it has nothing, just a temporary sense indulgence, when things go bad it would be of no help whatsoever. It won’t be able to explain suffering and help people to get through, as true knowledge is expected to.

There were more arguments about sex in that debate, but use of condoms, for example, is better left for another day. I would just quote Catholic Anne Widdecombe on this:

“He [Fry] says that the Church is obsessed with sex. No, its critics are obsessed with sex. There’s no sex in the creed, there’s no sex in Lord’s prayer, there’s no sex in the liturgy, but when the critics start on the Catholic Church all they can talk about it sex.”

This is how atheists approached this debate in general – take a small part, blow it our of proportion, and declare the church evil. Intellectually dishonest? Yes, but what do they care as long as they win?

Hmm, there’s no honor among thieves, as they say, and all atheists are thieves by their very nature – īśāvāsyam idam sarvaṁ – everything in this universe belongs to the Lord (Iso 1), and there are more verses in Bhagavad Gīta describing the demoniac nature – pride, arrogance, conceit, etc. All we need to do is look beyond their veil of civility and realize that atheists can’t be trusted. People should know this, too, and exposing their devious thinking is our duty. Śrīla Prabhupāda never missed the opportunity and neither should we.

Vanity thought #1342. Gay marriage

I want to take a break from talking about Haridāsa Ṭhākura and write about something else instead.

It would have been nice if I had no compulsion to discuss anything but the pastimes of the Lord and His pure devotees but that is just not possible for me at the moment. I still look at the world around me with unhealthy interest and I need to satisfy hankerings of my mind. Keeping a lid on it artificially is not a solution. I’ve tried that, after a while the lid just blows off. Steam must be released under controlled conditions.

Alternatively, we often justify our indulgence by providing some excuse that it’s about Kṛṣṇa and not about our undying interest in material affairs. We lie to ourselves and to others when we imply that our diversions are inspired by Kṛṣṇa Himself. We follow urges of our minds and only then link them to the Lord, which we as well should, but we’d better do the same thing without indulging in duplicity regarding our motives.

Anyway, the US is caught in the anticipation of a major decision by the Supreme Court regarding legality of gay marriage. It’s a complex battle between state and federal legislature and it’s being fought against the background of, perhaps, unintended but totally predictable consequences of a decade old previous ruling by the Supreme Court. I don’t think trying untangle this knot would do us any good here.

The fight for legality of gay marriage, or, conversely, the fight to preserve God’s intended way, is a long one and progress, or retreat, happens in incremental steps. This upcoming decision, however, seems to be important. I’m not sure it would change the tide, however, even if it goes against proponents of the gay marriage on this one occasion, which it probably won’t, given the media coverage of the proceedings.

Right now it’s all about presentation by the opponents on why gay marriage should be illegal and there’s a general perception that it was unconvincing. Popular news presenter/comedian Jon Stewart covered it under the heading “We got nothin'” and ridiculed anti-gay marriage arguments one by one. Major editorials seem to agree.

Does it really matter, though? And how much exactly?

Anti-gay marriage people have lost the main battle a while ago – a battle for public space and battle for public consciousness. The laws will inevitably catch up, following “the arch of the moral universe” observation by Dr. M.L. King half a century ago. Once acceptance of gay relationships has become a moral thing to do the “moral universe” cast its decision, too.

These days, no matter what the laws say, disapproval of gays carries extremely negative connotations and is synonymous with bigotry, you just don’t do that in public anymore, and god save you if you let it slip that you entertain such thoughts in private either.

There are plenty of offensive words directed towards gays but what is interesting is that uttering them has an exactly opposite effect. The only person going away ashamed and socially sanctioned would be the offender himself. The space where people can safely express their condemnation of same sex relationships has shrunk dramatically, and maybe it’s a good thing in an unexpected way. More on that later.

When looking at the case currently debated in the Supreme Court we must step back and look at the big picture. Why should we care about Supreme Court anyway? The days when our rulers and our courts were serving the Lord and trying to protect God’s laws have long gone. Governments might have their legitimacy ultimately backed by the Lord but it doesn’t mean they act in God’s interests. God’s plan for this age is total degradation so that the world could be destroyed and the slate wiped clean. Modern governments serve this goal very well but it’s not the one we should be concerned about as devotees.

If we think that, ultimately, the government and the courts should be on our side we are wrong. Our only shelter is mercy of Lord Caitanya who came to save us from reliance on mundane rulers. They won’t help us unless directly prodded by the Lord so we should really lower our expectations.

Christians who oppose gay marriage still hope that their government and their courts somehow serve to fulfill the will of their Lord but they are in for a severe disappointment.

Truth is Supreme Court’s ruling has no effect on legitimacy of gay marriage in Lord’s eyes, and it’s the only legitimacy that should matter to us. The effect of court’s ruling on the society is far less important.

In relative terms we can easily argue for both sides. Marriage is meant for procreation but, otoh, commitment between gays is better than non-commitment. Anti-gay marriage lawyers are right in arguing that without procreation marriage makes little sense but the society moved past that goalpost a long time ago.

The reality of the modern life is that sex is an activity for personal pleasure and enjoyment, procreation is only an unintended consequence. Every now and then people might decide to have children but for many it’s practically a once in lifetime experience, the rest of the time children are a mistake that needs to be avoided.

In this atmosphere arguing for the sanctity of the marriage is pointless, the horse has already bolted.

We, as well as Christians, should concentrate on keeping our own congregation clean. Let the rest of the world do whatever it wants and go to hell, we can’t stop them, we should be responsible for our own lives first.

So, personally, I’m not against gay marriage for the rest of the society and, perhaps, it should be acceptable on the fringes of ISKCON, too, but we can’t accommodate our siddhānta – any sex not meant for procreation is illicit and detrimental to the spiritual life.

While we can argue how gay marriage is better than gay non-marriage or how it should be condemned altogether it would be largely a waste of time. The world is steadily sliding into complete darkness and trying to simply slow down this process is not a solution.

Our solution is to give people the Holy Name so that they can solve all their problems in one decisive strike. It works on everyone equally, it’s not a relative but an absolute power, there’s no sin that it could not wipe out. It’s not like accepting gay marriage will break some imaginary threshold and the Holy Name would stop working.

Naturally, chanting of the Holy Name as yuga dharma WILL improve people’s material conditions and that improvement will be relative but its real power is in taking people into the much better next life if not straight to the spiritual world. We shouldn’t close our minds to Holy Name’s spiritual potency just because we don’t see it with our material eyes.

If, instead of pontificating on advantages and disadvantages of gay marriage we tell people straight that nothing can help them but chanting of the Holy Name and everyone in any position of life can, or even must immediately take it up we’ll save far more people than if we sit and wait for the world to be purified through material means so that when they reach platform of goodness we can finally mention the mahāmantra.

Earlier I said that shrinking space for offending gays has hidden advantages. First of all, offending anybody is unacceptable for devotees, no loss there, but I’m alluding to the fact that if no one is prepared to listen to our preaching against gay sex then we can stop trying to drill this point and instead focus solely on propagating chanting of the Holy Name. The less distractions the better.

People love to talk about issues that concern their false egos – gay sex, meat-eating, drinking, taking drugs etc. We should not follow them there but break them out of their mind boxes and talk about what is important to us – chanting and the power of the Holy Name. Of course if we don’t think it’s important ourselves it makes our mission so much more difficult.

Vanity thought #1161. Will the Name help?

One of the most common answers to problems for both straight and gay devotees, and for all devotees in general, is that we just need to chant the mantra and everything will be okay. Hard to argue with that but this statement has caveats as well.

It’s enough to chant the Holy Name to achieve all kinds of material and spiritual success, true, but the result might not be what one expected. It is also possible to remain steadily in illusion despite the chanting. Not forever but for the foreseeable future and probably many lifetimes ahead.

The Name fulfills all desires, it’s fair and unbiased in that, so for practical purposes, when we make predictions, instead of blindly relying on the Holy Name we should evaluate our own desires first. In the long run the Holy Name will naturally correct everything, we are Kṛṣṇa’s eternal servants, sooner or later our spiritual nature will shine through, but none of us is probably prepared to wait that long, we just haven’t got the patience.

When we talk about success in chanting we mean now or at least “soon”. Our daily practical concerns do not extend beyond this lifetime anyway. If we talk about arrangements for gay devotees we talk about present time, not next birth. So, while technically all glory will eventually come to Śrī Kṛṣṇa saṅkīrtana it might come too late to solve our current problems.

That’s one of the reasons why we have our regulative principles and tons of other prescriptions – we need to make progress now, not thousands lifetimes in the future. If one decides to abandon regulative principles and just chant he might waste the rest of his life without making any progress even if in the end he will inevitably succeed.

Or think of it another way – chanting does not work like magic. Spiritual progress is not something that is there but impossible to see. One of the verses I quoted yesterday illustrates this point (SB 1.2.20):

    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.

Sanskrit words are bhagavat-tattva-vijñānaṁ – realization of the knowledge about the Lord – vijñāna. It’s not something intangible, an invisible bank balance like accumulated karma. The Lord is real and what Śrīla Prabhupāda called “positive scientific knowledge” is also real.

This knowledge is not a product of one’s imagination either. One can imagine having a wife or a husband, a couple of kids, one can even buy clothes and toys for his imaginary children and one can feel fairly close emotional experiences but that would be just imagination. It’s not real.

Knowledge about Kṛṣṇa is not like that at all. Those who have obtained it say that the world we see around us appears unreal compared to Kṛṣṇa. Those who have received His mercy experience Him directly, His presence in undeniable, even if it might not always be in His personal form but through His energies. Right now we understand Kṛṣṇa and His energies only theoretically but for real devotees they are real.

That’s what we want to achieve for ourselves, too – direct positive scientific knowledge about God. Right now what we hear are just words and we are asked to have faith in them and this leaves a lot of room for speculations.

We don’t know anything about spiritual world for sure and so we are free to propose this or that, find some supporting arguments either in our books or in the words of our ācāryas, and declare it as “truth”. Sometimes it might be, sometimes it might be just a hoax, we don’t have facilities to check. At best we can refer to “authorities” but anyone who followed such debates knows that one can find an “authority” for almost any statement and most of the time these things are open to interpretations.

If we see what happens with defense of the gay devotees in this light it becomes clear that most of the arguments here are just mental speculation based on irrelevant “feelings”. Usually proponents of gay relationships for devotees refer to sexual practices of the straights and say theirs are not much different. Basically, what they say is that it “feels” about the same, and I mean the same degree of righteousness, not sensual experiences.

What they fail to account for is that they use examples of non-compliant straights who treat the fourth reg as only “no sex outside of marriage”. These straights have found some sort of a balance in their lives, they chant, perform devotional service, and keep spiritual authorities outside their bedrooms. Everything looks okay, feels okay, and so it must be correct.

Not true. It’s just a certain level of material happiness and comfort. Either by one’s karma or by Kṛṣṇa’s grace it might last for a while and look stable but it will always remain an illusion. Just because Kṛṣṇa allows one to enjoy sex life with fellow devotees doesn’t mean it’s legitimate – He just fulfills our desires, we are not serving Him there.

We are not making any significant progress this way, we are just like karmis from Vedic times, or poor man’s demigods. Being complacent in such a situation does not lead to devotion, bhakt will simply not blossom in the heart attached to material pleasures.

Symptoms of spiritual progress are rather easy and complete and irreversible loss of interest in sex is one of them. One can’t remain a sexual being and be a devotee at the same time, it’s not possible.

We can’t invent another way even if it’s Kali Yuga or even if we rely on the mercy of Lord Caitanya. His mercy is not in allowing us to enjoy sex life while making spiritual progress. His mercy is in extinguishing our sexual desires.

His gift of the Holy Name is not a concession to stay attached to sex while chanting but to give up sex altogether. Just because it’s Kali Yuga it doesn’t mean that requirements for entering spiritual world have been lowered. Not at all, it’s just that it’s easier to meet them via chanting only.

It’s not that we don’t need to become paramahaṃsas anymore. No, we still must become pure devotees to attain Kṛṣṇa, it’s just we can do that simply by chanting unlike previous ages that required lots of tapasyās. The fact that we can’t do those tapasyās doesn’t mean we can remain materially attached, nope, we just have to lose our attachments through chanting.

So, what I am saying is that if our gay devotees are really sincere they should realize that they have to give up sex life altogether – gay, straight, married, casual, whatever.

What’s the point in making arrangements for something that must be abandoned? Just because our straights are fooling themselves into a false sense of progress doesn’t mean gays have to follow these clearly wrong footsteps. Two wrongs will not make a right here, too.

Lord Caitanya’s program is very simple – chant, forget about sex, become a devotee. Making arrangements for one’s sex life is not a part of it and is actually offensive towards the Holy Name.

Vanity thought #1160. But But But…

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

Bear with me

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):

naṣṭa-prāyeṣv abhadreṣu
nityaṁ bhāgavata-sevayā
bhagavaty uttama-śloke
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.

Vanity thought #1159. Pandering CC style

Pandering has become unspoken, self-evident truth, except now it’s called “democracy”. “People’s wishes”, they say, “it’s for the people”, “people have spoken”, and everyone must oblige.

In BBC news feed there’s a story about British couple murdered while on holiday in Thailand. “People” have spoken and the verdict is that the UK must send its own police team to investigate the case because they don’t believe Thai police caught the real murderers. “People” don’t believe DNA evidence, they want their own team to retest the samples, what to speak of the confession which was withdrawn under lawyers advice, and defense attorneys always speak truth and nothing but the truth, as far as “people” are concerned.

Silly notions like sovereignty of Thailand and dignity of Thai police do not matter, not when “people” thousands of miles away demand justice. Thais are not people anyway, they have a huge, nationwide conspiracy to cover up a crime by an “influential person”. Their national police can’t do anything about him, because he runs one out of thousands of bars in some hamlet on some island, and all Thais are on it, fellow bar owners, employees, local police who collect protection money, everyone else who pays the police, and the chain goes all they way up to Bangkok. Everyone “knows” but the entire country is so hopelessly corrupt that “people” of the UK must send their own investigative team and show them how it’s done.

The logic of it is unquestionable, there’s no point even in doubting this narrative, no one can go against “people” here, and the Prime Minster must demand Thais to give up their sovereignty. “People” have spoken, they even have a petition dutifully signed by 100,000 UK citizens, government must react. All hail to the powers of the Internet, ‘cos that’s where all this is coming from.

It’s not the details of the case that interest me here, I don’t know them anyway, I just came across one starry eyed representative of the “people” here. What interests me is all-pervasive, subconscious, fundamental assumption that “people” are always right and must be listened to at all times.

Of course “people” can be manipulated into supporting all kinds of nonsense ideas, that’s what PR companies are for, or Facebook experiments on people’s mood, but that is beside the point.

Latest to jump on “we must listen to the people” bandwagon is Catholic Church. It all started with the new Frankie the Pope, the man of the people who made it his mission to reconnect the church with the grassroots. He preaches humility and he practices it as well, from actually washing the feet of selected faithful to regularly picking up the phone and personally answering letters sent to his office.

Earlier this year he got in trouble for making concessions to a woman who married a divorced man in a civil, not church ceremony (divorce is still forbidden there) but that didn’t stop him. Recently he called the family of the man beheaded by ISIS fanatics in the Middle East.

All this listening to the people made him feel their concerns, which is a good thing, right? Well, what if this association rubbed off on him in the wrong way, like with homosexuality. Gays won full acceptance by the society and in “people’s” eyes there’s nothing wrong with homosexual relationships, gays are as sincere about approaching God as anyone else, and therefore they should be treated like anyone else.

Who is this “pope” man to argue? Well, this one actually said “who am I do judge” so he is “with the people” on this.

And so against this background that holy (and democratic) Synod, which is currently in session, has issued paper that calls for acceptance of homosexual relations. Gays are now to be valued, their sexual orientation must be valued, and their marriages recognized as some kind of support in people’s lives.

It was a preliminary report to be voted on and it didn’t pass, as had become known a few hours ago, so CC doctrine got saved by the skin of its teeth, but it appears that these controversial paragraphs still gathered over 50% of the vote, just not the required two-third majority.

It also appears that this push came from the Pope himself and that the issue will be raised again next year when Synod reconvenes in larger numbers and so would become open to lobbying.

People have spoken and they might also rewrite the Bible while they are at it. Who is this “God” character to argue with the people anyway? “People” invented him and he must follow them in every respect or lose all credibility.

There’s at least one unequivocal passage in the scripture (Cor 6.9):

    Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men

But that can’t stop “people revolution”. God must keep up with the times and if we say gays deserve Kingdom of God then God must comply. We’ll sign a petition with a million of signatures if necessary. Those medieval cardinals in Vatican cannot stop the flow of history, we’ll send them the message – approve homosexuality or else. Catholic Church must not be seen on the wrong side of history here.

Do I need to mention it was sarcasm?

The world has gone crazy, “people” got so drunk with their power that they can’t even fathom there’s another reality where their speculations and disgusting “culture” carries no weight whatsoever. They can’t even imagine such a place can exist.

Wait until they hear that God is the Supreme Autocrat and there’s no democracy in His KINGDOM. “People” would probably say they don’t need this god and his kingdom if they can’t vote him out.

The whole idea of unquestionable surrender is repulsive to them, it might as well be non-existent, they have successfully cut it out from collective consciousness and God must not be allowed back.

What it means for us is that we are also part of the same world where these same “people” dictate their will and so we must take them into consideration. Obviously, it affects how we preach and how we settle these matters within our own society, but it also means that atheists are drifting further and further away and we’ll start noticing irreconcilable differences that arise from such fundamental disagreements in our views of the world.

We would appeal to things and authorities but their value will not be understood or accepted by our opponents, like Thai sovereignty I mentioned earlier. There’s no such thing as sovereignty in public consciousness, all leaders all over the world must be answerable to “people”. This goes without questions, all arguments against it elicit only blank stares.

But, perhaps, we should pay more attention to our own purity first and how we can cope with rising acceptance of homosexuality. We can’t deny that it “feels good” and homosexual marriages feel righteous to the practitioners, and we don’t know what to say in response other than insistence on strict interpretation of our fourth reg. I don’t even know why we should be talking about “interpretations” here, it’s as clear as day, and it rules out all homosexual relations. Period.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, BUT..

No buts.

Vanity thought #974. Flooding the gates

Nārada Muni’s advice on conquering lust is too controversial to just let it go, there needs to be an attempt at reconciliation with our later ācāryas, so here it is.

Let’s start with quoting those verses again (SB 7.11.33-34) together with a short purport:

    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.

    PURPORT

    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.

The fact that the purport is so short and that in half of it Śrila Prabhupāda simply repeats Nārada Muni’s suggestion doesn’t make it easy. I certainly can’t think of any similar ideas expressed elsewhere in our books. There’s a verse in Bhagavad Gītā (2.59) but the purport there is similarly short and doesn’t directly prescribe Nārada Muni’s method, offering developing higher taste through bhakti instead:

    The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.

    PURPORT

    Unless one is transcendentally situated, it is not possible to cease from sense enjoyment. The process of restriction from sense enjoyment by rules and regulations is something like restricting a diseased person from certain types of eatables. The patient, however, neither likes such restrictions nor loses his taste for eatables. Similarly, sense restriction by some spiritual process like aṣṭāńga-yoga, in the matter of yama, niyama, āsana, prāṇāyāma, pratyāhāra, dhāraṇā, dhyāna, etc., is recommended for less intelligent persons who have no better knowledge. But one who has tasted the beauty of the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa, in the course of his advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, no longer has a taste for dead, material things. Therefore, restrictions are there for the less intelligent neophytes in the spiritual advancement of life, but such restrictions are only good until one actually has a taste for Kṛṣṇa consciousness. When one is actually Kṛṣṇa conscious, he automatically loses his taste for pale things.

In fact, here it appears that Nārada Muni’s method shouldn’t work at all – “Unless one is transcendentally situated, it is not possible to cease from sense enjoyment.”

So, does Nārada Muni contradict Kṛṣṇa? Or Śrila Prabhupāda contradicts Nārada? Neither of those, of course, it just gives us a bit of a headache to explain it away.

Both methods should work in the manner intended by the speaking authority, contradictions arise when we try to generalize too much and apply these methods outside of intended sphere. Context, therefore, is very important, as well as exact subject and exact expected results.

In Bhagavad Gītā Krṣṇa is speaking about all conditioned souls in general, dehinaḥ, and He is also the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself so His words should be taken in a more general, absolute sense. Taste for material life does not disappear unless one develops taste for serving the Lord in devotional service. Even liberated souls do not lose that taste forever and occasionally slip back down to conditioned state and let’s not forget that even liberated souls who do not for a moment experience attraction to material enjoyment are nevertheless attracted by the Lord – the famous ātmārāma verse (SB 1.7.10).

There are other conditions that attract an embodied soul to devotional service – “four kinds of pious men begin to render devotional service unto Me — the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute” which were also described by Kṛṣṇa (BG 7.16). Notice that he doesn’t mention those who have completely exhausted their sense organs as suggested by Nārada Muni.

Let’s look closely at Nārada’s advice. It comes almost at the end of the chapter, previous verses dealt with duties of brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, wives etc. This turn to overindulgence in lusty desires came in rather unexpectedly, though a śloka dealing with mixed classes was inserted three verses earlier (SB 7.11.30). That verse simply mentioned that lower classes have their hereditary customs, nothing else. In the purport Śrila Prabhupāda said that for members of some of those castes intermarriage and drinking is allowed because they do not consider it sinful themselves.

In the next verse Nārada doesn’t say anything about sin but Śrila Prabhupāda continues on the same topic in the purport:

    In Bhagavad-gītā (3.35) it is said, śreyān sva-dharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt svanuṣṭhitāt: “It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though they may be faulty, than another’s duties.” The antyajas, the men of the lower classes, are accustomed to stealing, drinking and illicit sex, but that is not considered sinful. For example, if a tiger kills a man, this is not sinful but if a man kills another man, this is considered sinful, and the killer is hanged. What is a daily affair among the animals is a sinful act in human society. Thus according to the symptoms of higher and lower sections of society, there are different varieties of occupational duties. According to the experts in Vedic knowledge, these duties are prescribed in terms of the age concerned.

This is very interesting in itself because in our preaching we insist on absolute nature of sinful activities such as drinking and illicit sex. Śrila Prabhupāda doesn’t mention meat eating here but I think it would be fair to assume that killing cows is indeed absolutely sinful while smaller animals, like chicken or fish, can fall under customs of each particular caste. Come to think of it, ritual slaughter of the cows and bulls in corrida traditions of Spanish speaking world should also fall under particular customs of certain people living in a certain age. We don’t usually allows for such relativity, maybe we should.

So, for several ślokas in a row Nārada Muni was talking about duties of people of lower classes and while he doesn’t specify who exactly he had in mind in verses 33 and 34 he must have meant those who fall outside general varṇāśrama. He was also talking about gradual elevation through the ranks, especially in immediately preceding verse 32:

    If one acts in his profession according to his position in the modes of nature and gradually gives up these activities, he attains the niṣkāma stage.

Notice that in this verse he specifically says “gradually gives up these activities”, overindulgence of the verse 34 comes later and should be considered in that context.

Now we can piece it altogether – lower classes of people have their own customs and they should follow those, which is not considered sinful. By doing so they will gradually lose their interests in these activities. How? By indulging in what is allowed in full.

As long as they do not step outside their natural boundaries they can engage their senses as much as they want, it’s beneficial for them, and flooding their senses will satisfy their most base desires, prompting interest in a more subtle and sophisticated enjoyment that will be available in next lives in higher castes.

This is how Vedic way of gradual elevation is supposed to work anyway, the only thing unusual here is that restrictions must be in the form of boundaries, not quantities of sense enjoyment.

Can we apply this method in our own lives? Yes, of course, but we should determine our positions first. As devotees we have our own boundaries and our own rules, part of which is making voluntary sacrifices for the Lord. If we cannot qualify as that kind of devotees we should not pretend to be on that level, and if we are on that level we should not do certain things that are allowed for everybody else.

In practical terms it means no illicit sex, for example, and even if we approach our partners for procreation we should not do so more often than once a month. There’s no restriction on a number of children and no restrictions on how long we can try – this month, next month, month after that and so on.

If we can’t follow – we are not there yet and so we should live by our own prescribed standards, not demanding any initiation rights or recognition as devotees in good standing.

As far as gays are concerned – if they feel like “gay marriage” is a right step for them there’s no reason to deny them this right but if they feel like they can’t live without casual sex with multiple partners – let them do it with whatever rules apply for this kind of “dating”.

Can we “bless” their relationships? Yes, why not, but claiming a right to be initiated is probably beyond their level yet.

At the end of the day – we are saved through chanting of the Holy Name and the Holy Name doesn’t ask us for vows, it’s there free for everybody who has ever met a devotee or read Prabhupāda’s book. Holy Name also works on the absolute level so if we don’t qualify for initiation in this life it doesn’t really matter, we’ll get there eventually. Perhaps our envy of those who appear as better devotees than us is a much bigger problem than our own lack of advancement – we should concentrate solely on our own relationship with the Lord and treat everybody else’s with utmost respect – amāninā mānadena. Then kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ.

We we get that we can’t ask for anything more.

Vanity thought #973. Unexpected twist

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.

    PURPORT

    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.

Vanity thought #970. Deontology vs Consequentialism

Who knew these two philosophical theories would be of great interest to devotees but that has happened. In the past month or so there has been a great deal of discussion, mostly criticism, about HH Hṛdayānanda Dāsa Goswāmī’s “Krishna West” initiative. It got attention of GBC and so concern is legitimate, and some try to present this duality of deontology and consequentialism as an underlying fundamental issue behind this new deviation. Is it, though?

Just as with any debate concerting best ways to preach, taking sides is probably not the best idea. Even in general – when two great personalities have differences of opinion we shouldn’t take sides. In this case, Hṛdayānanda Dāsa Gosvāmī has definitely earned the position where one must respect his views regardless of how one feels about them. He might not have been exemplary sannyāsī by some external standards but the fact is that he is still there, at the front of our global preaching effort, and it’s a testament to his devotion and his acceptance by Mahaprābhu. We don’t argue with those favored by the Lord, period.

So, whatever I’m going to say here is not to take sides and not pass judgment on anyone but for our personal consideration only. It’s a discussion of ideas, not personalities, and it should not affect our respect for anyone. It’s a message to oneself.

These two big sounding words that are not accepted even by my spellchecker have actually pretty simple meanings. Consequentialism basically means “end justifies the means” and deontology says that ethics and morality have inherent values and so “means” are more important than “ends”.

It’s an oversimplification that might not go down well with purists but for the purpose of this post it’s a close enough approximation. The only thing I would warn against is that “ends justifies the means” here does not carry the usual negative connotation, it’s just a judgment on relative value of ethics seeking the best possible outcome, not justification for immoral behavior.

First thing first – there’s no such dichotomy in Vedic literature and even in western thought these two concepts are often not mutually exclusive, so imposing this foreign values system on vaiṣṇava behavior and trying to make it into a black and white issue is quite a stretch but this is exactly what is happening here. We should not evaluate vaiṣṇavas by such artificial constructs.

This being the material world, however, it is impossible to single out anyone to blame – devotee who wrote a long essay (pdf) on Hṛḍayānanda Mahārāja falling for consequentialism was not the one who started it – it was the mahārāja himself who introduced these terms back in 2005 (pdf) and it was mahārāja himself who chose to take sides here. Or was he?

According to his critics mahārāja is firmly in consequentialist camp but he himself makes it clear that consequentialism is not ideal, that ideally our moral and religious duties must be straight as an arrow and inviolable but this is not what happens in real world where compromises must be made. He gives plenty of historical examples to illustrate his point, from Bhīṣma to Kṛṣṇa, and it’s hard to argue with them. Does it mean he is blameless?

My first thought was that this is exactly what happens when we read too much of non-Prabhupāda’s books. Our only śāstra is Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, the amala-purāṇa, the rest of the Vedic literature is considered contaminated by pursuits of dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa, and that includes Mahabhārata on which mahārāja worked extensively for many years. No wonder he spends so much time on intricacies of dharma, morality, and right things to do – the very values that Mahabhārata is supposed to promote.

If this shade is cast over our minds than we start reading even Bhāgavatam with the view of untangling those complex questions. Bhāgavatam covers a lot of topics, true, but their only mention is to stress superiority of loving devotional service to the Lord, not to teach us how to live happy married lives or how to build models of the universe, it is wrong of us to seek Bhāgavatam answers to our material problems. Likewise, Bhāgavatam is not a clarification on how to apply dharmic rules in our lives. Sarva dharmān parityajya is our starting point in approaching Bhāgavatam, not getting ourselves back into “which dharma is better” arguments.

Anyway, critics decided to cast Hṛdayānanda Mahārāja as an avowed consequentialist and made it sound like a bad thing. Well, there’s legitimate phalena paricīyate statement that Srila Prabhupāda quoted very often – actions must be judged by their results. Afaik, it was one of his last arguments when everything else fails. This is as consquentialist as ever, so there’s no fundamental deviation there.

Unfortunately, by placing this label on mahārāja his critics went on to argue that it leads to eventual rejection of both Prabhupāda and our paramparā. Really, I’m not making this up. It starts with mahārāja “implied”, then graduates to “asserts”, then concludes with “repudiation” and a call for immediate, GBC mandated rectification of his behavior, more or less in that order. All of that without a single shred of evidence that Hṛḍayānanda Dāsa Gosvāmī rejects Prabhupāda’s authority in any way. There’s mahārāja’s response to this allegation here, I really have nothing to add, except that he wisely refuses to dignify the most direct accusation with an answer, it’s patently obvious it’s a spurious one.

A couple of points – in his paper linked earlier mahārāja omits commenting on Srila Prabhupāda’s purport to SB 3.20.26 regarding homosexuality:

    … the homosexual appetite of a man for another man is demoniac and is not for any sane male in the ordinary course of life.

He instead spends considerable space elaborating how the demons in question were simply too lusty and not homosexual by nature. He therefore says that Bhāgavatam does not cite any specific references to homosexuality. Critics say that Prabhupāda’s comment should have been included, which sounds reasonable on surface, but two things must be kept in mind – this sentence is from purport, not Bhāgavatam itself, and this sentence does not constitute an actionable reference, it only says that homosexuality is insane. We all know that already, our problem is deciding how to deal with this insanity, and for that we don’t have scriptural evidence.

Critics point to Manu Saṃhitā where homosexuality is described as sinful and then prove that it’s a recognized śāstra but it’s still not actionable. We know it’s sinful, no one argues otherwise, and even if Manu Saṃhitā recommends some kind of punishment we are not going to implement it in this day and age, so this reference ultimately adds nothing to discussion.

Homosexuality and ISKCON is a very important issue here that sparked the whole debate but it’s still a separate subject, I don’t want to discuss it today.

Hmm, there’s so much to say here, both on deontology and consequentialism from vaiṣṇava perspective, and on the episode with disrobing Draupadī that serves as another pillar in the case against mahārāja, but I can’t do it all in one day.

It’s not like I disagree with critics, btw, a lot of what they say makes perfect sense but not necessarily when it’s projected on Hṛdayānanda Mahārāja. As I said earlier – we have to take all these arguments to our own heart and apply to our lives, not to judging others, especially senior vaiṣṇavas.

We should always avoid that, it’s the most important lesson we could take away from this debate, the rest doesn’t really matter, it’s just words that will escape our memory in a very short time.

Vanity thought #875. Varnashrama and homosexuality

I’m not going to replicate tons of research done by our GALVA community nor do I wish to argue with their interpretations. The site has been up for many years but I’ve never got around to reading it. I don’t know why exactly but something tells me it will be a waste of time. Maybe one day I’ll check into it again but for now I think their whole approach is of no interest to me.

They assume that by researching Vedic attitudes towards homosexuality they can propose “Vedic” solution to our current dilemmas, both inside ISKCON and outside it. I don’t think this is going to work.

Why? Because even mainstream prescriptions regarding marriage do not work in Kali yuga. Even devotees fail to implement most basic rules regarding sex life, for example, or any other aspect of grihastha life for that matter. We don’t walk out into the street and call anyone interested to come in for dinner nor do we donate fifty percent of our income to the brahmanas. There are many reasons for that and, perhaps, we all need just one giant push and a working example but until that happens we have the right to be skeptical about living our lives in a purely Vedic way.

If it doesn’t work for us, it won’t work for gays either.

Besides, there might be plenty of examples of third sex individuals in Vedic literature, as they call themselves on Galva, we don’t have any in the books relevant to us – Srimad Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita. These are the books by which we, aspiring Gaudiya Vaishnavas, guide our lives, not by Mahabharata or other Puranas. Whatever is acceptable for us has already been collected from those Puranas by our acharyas – in Sat Sandarbhas by Srila Jiva Goswami and in Hari Bhakti Vilasa by Srila Sanatana Goswami. If they didn’t include any information about homosexuality it might as well not exist.

It doesn’t matter what Kama Sutra says about gays, we don’t live by kama sutras.

Just yesterday I’ve read this quote on bvks.com:

..the Lord is not like a shopkeeper trying to please all sorts of customers..

It doesn’t really matter if Srila Prabhupada was talking about mayavadis and not gays – we don’t get to invent our own ways of worshiping Krishna, our sadhana bhakti is very strictly defined and we don’t get freedom of service until we reach liberated stage.

Point is that even if gays can theoretically engage in this or that service, the question is not in what they can but in what Krishna wants, as expressed by our acharyas, and there are no provisions for gay devotees there.

I quickly browsed though one Galva article and ran into this sentence:

Many Hindus suggest that marriage is intended only for procreation and rearing children, but is this really true?

What do we care what Hindus think and who they marry? Path to Krishna requires either total celibacy or sex only for procreation, there are no other opinions on this even if one manages to find a gay friendly guru somewhere. You can read through all of Srila Prabhupada’s books and there will be no provisions for gays in Krishna consciousness and one would be foolish to think that alternative ways of reaching Krishna exist elsewhere. Krishna is not a shopkeeper, as Prabhupada said.

Now, if we don’t have any special provisions for gays and if old Vedic solutions won’t work in Kali yuga, what should we do?

With devotees it’s pretty clear – get on with the program and leave your sexuality out of it.

With non-devotees, however, it’s far more complicated.

We want to establish varnashrama, okay, but what kind and for whom? If it’s for ISKCON then Srila Prabhupada wanted us to have self-sufficient farms and our own gurukulas, clearly suggesting that varnashrama and modern society do not mix. If it’s for our greater congregation then we might have to make some concessions and relax some rules. If it’s for the rest of the world then we better be prepared to kiss goodbye to all our good habits. Why?

Varnashrama means making everyone follow some sort of dharma with the idea of gradual spiritual elevation. Following varnashrama pleases Vishnu, as Ramananda Raya gave a text book answer to Lord Chaitanya’s inquiries into the meaning of life. This answer didn’t satisfy Mahaprabhu and we never forget to mention that but we should also remember that most people in this world are not on Lord Chaitanya’s level and they do not share His devotion to Krishna. Even pleasing Vishnu would puzzle them: “Why, what for? I just come here to have some fun with my own senses.”

If we deal with outside world we should greatly reduce our expectations. We can tell them chant and be happy but it won’t be long before they knock on our doors and say “I also want to drink and be happy? And I’m also too partial to bacon? Can I have some?”

When we read life stories of devotees from Srimad Bhagavatam we don’t see any examples of them dealing with requests like that. They simply weren’t very concerned with organizing the society, even though we do get “And he ruled the kingdom according to the laws of dharma happily ever after” quite often.

If we, like those Galva devotees, look into the details of how those kingdoms have operated we’d notice that there were drunkards, meat eaters, prostitutes etc living there, too. Srila Vyasadeva himself is a son of a fisherman’s daughter, after all. I seriously doubt she grew up on vegetarian diet.

We can say that in Vedic times all those deviations were regulated, like meat could be consumed only after performing a sacrifice (what about fish then?) and that liquor can be purified by offering it to Kali but that was then, we can’t seriously expect billions and billions of Christians, Muslims or Chinese to go into Kali worship or revive Vedic sacrifices. We’ve got to give them some other rules to follow.

Saying grace before meal or having a tradition of Thanksgiving serve the purpose rather well. It’s not a brahmanic way and it’s not acceptable for devotees but it still invokes the best in people and so it IS elevating, however little.

Coming back to homosexuality – I don’t think we have a better choice than organizing gay marriages. Gay culture started off with plain cruising, according to this book at least, and having them settle down in monogamous relationships would surely be a better option. I don’t think this needs any more explanation, really.

Modern times require modern rules.

Having said that – I don’t think we should concern ourselves very much about implementing that kind of varnashrama. We don’t have the adhikar to introduce any new rules nor should we make it our business. When to drink, what to smoke, how much, what prayers to say before drinking or smokinge etc etc. We are here to preach the glory of the Holy Name, gradual elevation of society is beyond our purvey.

Let them chant and when they die let Krishna sort out their sins. If He needs our help He’ll send someone to tell us what to do about it.

Vanity thought #874. Abortion and gay rights

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.