I’m taking a break form Bhaktivinoda Thakur, I just finished Svalikhita Jivani and only started The Seventh Goswami and need some time to put those two together in my head.
In the meantime, there as an article on Dandavats two days ago that was called Homosexuality and the New Age that made me stop and think about the third sex. When I was talking about asura varnashrama a week ago I totally forgot about the homosexuals and this is a nice reminder.
In general, I totally agree with almost each and every argument presented in that article but I can’t stop my head shaking in disagreement with the overall thrust and the conclusions.
Two things bother me in regard with homosexuality – blind insistence on following four regulative principles that outlaw homosexual relations outright, and the insistence of the homosexuals on ignoring the four regulative principles when it comes to their sex lives.
I believe I understand both positions fairly well and I think they are both wrong. This is a rather bold declaration on my part but the fact that they haven’t been able to find a workable solution yet implies that something is indeed wrong.
Before going into any details, lets look at what Srila Prabhupada had to say about homosexuals, I’m taking this straight from Dandavats article:
That is not enjoyment. Just like sex indulgence. If you indulge in more than necessary, then you will be impotent. Nature will stop. You know impotency? That will be there. Impotency. This homosex is also another sign of impotency. They do not feel sex impulse to woman. They feel sex impulse in man. That means he is impotent. It is impotency.
Arrival – Chicago, July 3, 1975
So it’s a form of impotency, okay, next.
Now this progeny is bother. It is sense enjoyment, homosex. Progeny, they don’t want. They’re not interested. Only sense gratification. This is another sign of impotency. When after enjoying so many women, they become impotent, then they artificially create another sex impulse in homosex. This is the psychology.
Arrival – Chicago, July 3, 1975
There is no limit of sense gratification. The sense gratification, homosex, they are supporting. Just see. Just see. At least, in animal society there is no homosex. They have created homosex, and that is being passed by the priest, the religious heads.
Room Conversation – August 25, 1971, London
So it doesn’t exist between animals and it’s a recent invention, okay.
Watchtower, it has criticized…one priest has allowed the marriage between man to man, homosex. So these things are going on. They take it purely for prostitution. That’s all. So therefore people are thinking, ‘What is the use of keeping a regular prostitution at a cost of heavy expenditure? Better not to have this.’
Talk with Bob Cohen – February 27-29, 1972, Mayapur
Homosexual marriage is compared to legalized prostitution, okay.
The animals also do not support homosex. They never have sex life between male to male. They are less than animal. People are becoming less than animal. This is all due to godlessness.
Conversation with the GBC – May 25, 1972, Los Angeles
Not natural, is not present between animals, and the cause of it is godlessness.
Nowadays, of course, they are thinking like that, that man should remain independent, and they’ll have homosex, and the woman also independent and they will make some… This is most immoral…
Morning Walk – December 10, 1975, Vrndavana
I am very sorry that you have taken to homosex. It will not help you advance in your attempt for spiritual life. In fact, it will only hamper your advancement. I do not know why you have taken to such abominable activities. What can I say? Anyway, try to render whatever service you can to Krishna. Even though you are in a very degraded condition Krishna, being pleased with your service attitude, can pick you up from your fallen state. You should stop this homosex immediately. It is illicit sex, otherwise, your chances of advancing in spiritual life are nil.
Letter to: Lalitananda – Hawaii 26 May, 1975
Chances of advancement are nil, but also note “I don’t know why you have taken to…”
While on the surface of it the verdict is pretty clear, and it’s the one the author of Dandavat’s article was hoping for, but on a closer inspection there’s more to the problem than meets the eye.
Take the nature of homosexual attraction, for example. In the first couple of quotes Prabhupada explains it as a kind of impotency, normally it happens when men lose interest in women due to old age, except in this case Prabhupada thought that they tried to transfer their sexual impulses on to other objects, like men, or it could be animals, I guess.
I understand it as if men have had too much enjoyment that their senses have become dull and worn out and so they need higher degree of stimulation to get them going again. I agree that it might be the reason in some cases but I don’t think it applies to the devotees, with all our abstinence. If some of our devotees experience homosexual attraction it’s not because they had way too much sex, that’s for sure.
Actually there could be a case made that confining young men to the company of each other for prolonged periods of time might make them look at each other as objects of sexual attraction. Body needs to express it even if there are no females around. I believe there have been studies that observed this effect in places like jails and army. If that happens it obviously needs a different approach than calling them old impotents looking for a sex fix.
Then there is a couple of references to the animals and how homosex is unnatural. It’s funny how my spellchecker red flags the word “homosex”, it’s not used in the modern English but I think Prabhupada’s choice was rather telling – something unnatural and strange and not deserving a proper term, would be giving it tacit acceptance if it was expressed in normal people language.
Some people might say that Prabhupada was too old fashioned, that his attitude and choice of words do not belong in the twenty first century, but that’s precisely the point – homosexuality does not belong in Prabhupada’s world. In the asura dominated society people might use all kinds of perverted ways of sense gratification, it doesn’t have a place where we, as devotees, are hoping to go.
Okay, I don’t think anyone of us can say with absolute confidence that homosexual relationships do not exist in the spiritual world but each one of us can also say with absolute confidence that none of our ways of satisfying our sex urges exists there either, homo or not. Sex as a means of procreation is a form of Krishna Himself but not sex as a means of satisfying our own senses. We can possibly put an elephant of our sex desires through the needle eye of Krishna’s definitions but homosex simply doesn’t stand a chance. It’s a way of self-gratification that has nothing to do with Krishna.
Having said that – it is also out there, up in our faces, there are people “suffering” from this condition and we have to do something about it. I put quotation marks around suffering because the word has a different meaning in the context of homosexuality as a disease that needs to be cured and in the context of sense enjoyment in general that prevents us from approaching Krishna. In the context of modern discourse on homosexuality suffering would be a bad choice of a word, in the discourse on Krishna Consciousness it’s perfectly normal and to the point.
What else was there in the quotes? Prostitution – okay, if people are engaged in illicit relationships they want to call it normal and acceptable, they don’t want to be ashamed of it anymore. From that point of view Prabhupada’s observation is correct – calling it a marriage doesn’t make it any more legal or spiritual.
Then there’s immoral. Okay, but norms of morality depend on the society, what is immoral here is perfectly acceptable in some other countries or places. Granted, in practically all human societies the basic norms of morality are the same, but I want to remind people here that all the societies we’ve observed and studied so far have been religion based, they were not influenced by the asuric desires for godless sense gratification. Hedonism is certainly nothing new but it has never been practiced in any religious societies and never on the scale of the modern western civilization.
The modern way of trying to satisfy our senses in the best possible ways and relying only on our own efforts has never been practiced before, at least in the modern history, and the ancient Vedic texts do not describe the life under Hiranyakashipu in great detail, for example. Perhaps homosexuality was as morally acceptable then as it is now.
So my point is that we are dealing with something we’ve never dealt before, it is unnatural from our point of view but it is VERY natural for people affected by it. Some hope to cure homosexuality but it’s only a symptom, it’s the prevailing modes of material nature that bring forward perversions like this. For some people the change might happen during their lives, for others it had already been inserted in their genes. Without reversing the gunas dealing with symptoms is futile so we must do something else.
First, we should recognize the change, not deny its existence, second, we should identify best practices under the current circumstances, as I said earlier, Krishna wouldn’t leave us without our duties, however perverted, so we must look at what specific set of behaviors could qualify as following this asuric varnashrama. Not surprisingly, monogamy would probably be at the top of the list. Raising adopted children in Krishna Conscious atmosphere would easily qualify, too.
Would it be enough to go Back to Godhead? That I cannot say, and that’s where I think some of the advocates of vaishnava homosexuality need to scale down their expectations. There’s no particular rule that would disqualify a spirit soul from receiving Krishna’s mercy simply due to its position in the material world, our chanting and other kinds of service will never go in vain, but there’s also our agreement with Srila Prabhupada – no illicit sex. He didn’t live long enough to “understand” our predicament, and I say “our” because it’s not only homosexuals who have illicit sex problem, straight devotees in this age find it just as hard to follow this regulative principle as any other third gender. We all have occasional thought in our heads – “he didn’t know what’s it like.”
Maybe he didn’t, but that’s the price of getting on his coattails. Maybe we are too sinful to receive his mercy but I think it’s a false proposition. We are too sinful to remodel our lives to qualify for the entrance to the spiritual world on his ticket. He met hallucinating hippies who had practiced as unrestricted sex as possible and they had to change their lives to qualify. He never said they could go back to Krishna while still living their sinful lives and they understood, they turned their lives around, as much as they could, and they have a clear shot at Krishnaloka.
What’s stopping us? Maybe we are too sinful to change in one lifetime, maybe our material affliction is far worse than that of those hippies. Maybe we need a new acharya who would inspire us to change our perverted ways, or maybe we should just keep our head down and pray for a better birth next time. What’s wrong with a little humility?
One thing we shouldn’t expect is a new acharya who would lower the bar and declare that homosex or any other perversion is perfectly acceptable in Krishna’s service and we don’t need to follow four regs as prescribed by Prabhupada. Once we go down that way there will be no end to it, you’d be surprised how many thing are considered “normal” these days in certain circles demanding recognition.
And what makes us think that we are so special that we deserve promotion to Krishnaloka within a single lifetime? Why do we expect our gurus and acharyas to guarantee that? Why do we feel qualified to judge this or that guru against this arbitrary and selfish criteria – “Can he give you love of God in a matter of minutes?” What nonsense is this? What incredibly self centered, customer always right, attitude is this?
Krishna is not our servant and if we think that getting us out of here is the sole point of His existence we are simply delusional. Krishna is not in love with our polluted, perverted hearts, we can’t blackmail Him with “but You love me as I am” arguments. We are not who we think we are, if we keep these selfish desires in our hearts we are still not ourselves and we are not the kind of material that attracts Krishna, it’s a delusion.
Wow, a rather long post, possibly my longest ever, I should stop ranting now.
Devotees fighting against homosexuality in our ranks should realize that simply outlawing it doesn’t do anyone any good and does little to encourage those afflicted by this particular material disease. They should also realize that it can’t be corrected at will, with some magic pills and maybe an extra round of japa, quite often it’s firmly embedded in those people’s nature and it’s not going to go away by issuing orders.
Devotees who argue for equal spiritual rights for all should realize that they have been put in less favorable position and they should realize that compared to straights they might have a bit more baggage they need to get rid of. How they manage their sexual lives now is one thing but in the end it has to be given up altogether and though one might argue it’s easier for straights.
I don’t necessarily agree. Straight people have an opportunity to fool themselves into thinking that their sex enjoyment is legitimate and they are making devotional progress. Gay people will never be under such illusion. Straight people might have their lives easier because they tell themselves they are great and totally legit while gay people will have to suffer the guilt of succumbing to their sex desires each and every time but who knows which approach is better for advancing in Krishna Consciousness? Krishna is always in full control of both the pleasures and the sufferings of His devotees, remember? He won’t make any devotee suffer any more than it is absolutely necessary, it would break His heart. Besides, in practice straight devotees also have plenty of reasons to suffer from guilt, there’s no innate advantage or disadvantage here.
Then there’s a sticky question of initiations – married straight people can get them, married homosexuals can’t. Formal initiation and recognition is a whole other topic that in itself has little to do with homosexuality, it needs to be sorted out independently and it’s too late for it today.