Homosexuality Raises Ethical and Practical Questions – Part I

During my touring of Brazil I came across the following administrative situation: an initiated devotee who had graduated from our 9 month Bhakti-shastri Seminary had been giving classes at the temple, and also teaching a bhakti-shastri course to the other devotees. She had been doing that for some time, to the satisfaction of the leaders and congregation. Then she decided to move in with her girlfriend and they signed some paperwork between themselves, making it as close to a legal marriage as they could. The other girl also became a devotee by her influence.

So, a female-female devotee couple was formed. Because she did not hide the situation, the local leaders became disturbed.  They then banned her from giving further classes and canceled her bhakti-shastri course to the local congregation.

(At the same time, in this same congregation, a male initiated devotee is living with a bhaktin, and they are not married. He not only teaches the bhakti-shastri course, but also cooks for the congregation.)

The general question I raised when discussing the issue with the local leaders, and for which they could not give me a satisfactory reply, is whether it is fair to ban someone from doing some kind of service on the basis of how they were born. That, it seems to me, would be grossly unfair and exactly like saying that, for example, blacks cannot be pujaris, or women cannot distribute books, etc.

So, IF it is the case (and I’m not saying it is or not, but that science can probably show this) that certain people are born homosexual AND not born with the inclination for lifelong celibacy, THEN is it fair to ban them from certain kinds of service to Prabhupada and Krishna when they naturally settle into a relationship?

The leadership argued that the homosexual devotees were breaking the illicit sex rule. I said, “how do you know?” I argued that any heterosexual couple could also be breaking the principle. But, just as we do not ask a married devotee what he and his wife have done in bed before allowing him to sit on the Vyasasana, we also cannot ask that of a homosexual couple. In other words, I cannot see how we can be any more sure that a homosexual couple is breaking the principle of illicit sex than a heterosexual couple. How about married heterosexual couples who can´t have children for medical reasons? Should we ban them from giving class too?

It seems to me that IF it is the case that homosexuals are BORN homosexuals (and as far as I am aware, science strongly supports this claim), then ISKCON must deal with this ethical issue urgently, lest we be guilty of the grossest kind of prejudice – that based on the way a person is born, regardless of his possessing all other qualifications.

18 Comments

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18 responses to “Homosexuality Raises Ethical and Practical Questions – Part I

  1. A very nice thought indeed! It was great to see the rational side of religious mind.
    But sir, do you really think pretentious religious leaders, who think that religion as an institution is far superior to science, who think that holy texts are final word on everything, will accept homosexuality as natural sexual orientation of some of the human beings? esp. when scriptures so overwhelmingly oppose the idea?
    Yet, I must congratulate you for bringing the issue to the forefront.

  2. Pingback: ISKCON and homosexuality « Beliefs, Religion and Reason - A perspective of Hindu Atheist

  3. Rock! Thanks for bringing this up.

    The recent Ted Haggard interview on Oprah is also an interesting study in socio-religious doctrinal conditioning vs being real about who you are.

  4. This is also interesting in this regard:
    http://www.chakra.org/announcements/persFeb01_09.html

    “Hridayananda Das Goswami Blesses Gay Male Couple”

    There was an interesting discussion on the GALVA mailing list a few months ago where one gay devotee was bemoaning the lack of long time success in gay marriage relationships. He gave the example of a gay (male) couple who married with the blessing of HH Swami BV Tripurari, but then divorced months later.

    There was some good discussion, and as usual good input from Amara das.

    Gay marriage that ends in divorce undermines the argument that it represents a stabilising social force.

  5. Bhakta Robert

    >> Gay marriage that ends in divorce undermines the argument that it represents a stabilising social force.

    So I suppose a corollary example could be:

    Straight marriage that ends in divorce undermines the argument that it represents a stabilizing social force.

    Divorce is an unhappy event. But a marriage straight or gay born of deceit, lies or misrepresentation will often go that route. People who are truly in love will always treasure their bond. Marriage is an important move … it must be made in an adult way. In my own marriage the entire idea of divorce is not even an option. I only wish my previous relationships were as strong as this one. Nevertheless I thank Krsna everyday for His blessing to have directed us two together for a lifetime of love and devotion.

  6. Pingback: Homosexuality Raises Ethical and Practical Questions - Part II « Giridhari’s Blog

  7. Somehow missing from this analysis is the fact that Srila Prabhupada specifically condemned gay marriage repeatedly, though making some individual accommodations in some circumstances. The overriding rule is to encourage development of krishna consciousness in everyone, but that means certain restrictions, not blessing perverse sexual attractions to be cool.

    Encouraging gay coupling in the name of preaching may be a way to get some new recruits, but will you notice those of us leaving who want nothing to do with it? It seems like another way of driving out Srila Prabhupada’s followers to further transfer power to the current self-proclaimed acaryas. It’s no surprise that Hrdayananda have this blessing of gay marriage just a few months after publishing a video on the Internet of himself finding fault with Srila Prabhupada.

    Personally, I would not want to attend a class given by a homosexual in that kind of relationship, celibate or not. A perverted lifestyle and perverted philosophy go hand in hand, and both are incompatible with Krishna consciousness.

    Next they’ll be at slaughterhouses blessing “humane” meat from locally grown cows.

    • Giridhari Das

      Dear Pandu, Hare Krishna!

      I found several of your comments off the mark, and I’d appreciate your feedback:

      1) My article at no point speaks in favor of gay marriage, it just raises the issue and points out some ethical issues we will have to deal with concerning the subject.
      2) I’d very much like to get from you the quotes where “Srila Prabhupada specifically condemned gay marriage”. I never saw one. I’ve seen several condemning illicit sex, gay or otherwise, but not gay marriage.
      3) Srila Hridayananda Maharaja did NOT bless gay marriage. He blessed the individuals to achieve true love of God. That is our duty as devotees, to bless all people to attain true love of God.
      4) Srila Hridayananda Maharaja never found fault in Prabhupada. He merely explains Prabhupada so we can better advance in KC. That is the duty of all gurus in ISKCON – to explain Prabhupada. If I find a grammatical error in Prabhupada’s English, does this mean I’m finding fault in Prabhupada? No. This just means I’m serving Prabhupada by correcting some mundane aspect of Prabhupada’s teachings, which he himself always asked his followers to do.

      Your servant,
      Giridhari Das

    • gaurish

      So sad to see how you put love between two humans in the same thinking as the killing of animals in a slaughterhouse. I am seeing your bigoted state of mind as more of a slaughterhouse than any relationship that might exist. The most ‘perverted’ lifestyle is one bathed in hate and pre-judgment of our brothers an sisters. that is what you are doing. Please chant and pray to LOVE and feel the sweetness of our Lord’s compassion.
      Blessings to you.
      Gaurish

  8. Hare Krishna, Giridhari Prabhu.

    I’m sorry for any disagreement but I’m surprised to see support by devotees for homosexual relationships. I first learned it was ok to dislike homosexuality when listening to a conversation with Srila Prabhupada.

    Actually there are so many times Srila Prabhupada spoke against homosexual relationships, although it’s apparent that he didn’t like the subject. Here, for example:
    “A person on religious category, he’s advocating something, oh, it is not to be uttered. Homosex. You see? He’s advocating homosex. Just see.”
    (Sunday Feast Lecture — Los Angeles, May 21, 1972)

    Here is another, “Now the priestly order supporting homosex. I was surprised. They are going to pass resolution for getting married between man to man. The human society has come down to such a degraded position. It is astonishing.”
    (Conversation with the GBC — May 25, 1972, Los Angeles)

    There are so many examples. Here is one that draws even more objections from one crowd: “Prabhupada: Watchtower. They have complained(?). So we have nothing to (indistinct) them. The world is degrading to the lowest status, even less than animal. The animal also do not support homosex. They have never sex life between male to male. They are less than animal. People are becoming less than animal.”
    (Conversation with the GBC — May 25, 1972, Los Angeles)

    I’ve heard many times devotees say that science has proven that there are some gay animals, so Srila Prabhupada was wrong. I don’t know how they figure the spiritual master’s knowledge is overruled by scientists, but that seems to be what they think. I believe HDG spoke like that in the video published here: http://www.prabhupada.org/rama/?p=4350
    I could only tolerate half the video before turning it off. There is a growing mood among many devotees of disregarding Srila Prabhupada’s instructions in favor of modern science, but then there is almost nothing left but Hindu atheism like the person who posted above (http://thehinduatheist.wordpress.com/2009/02/01/iskcon-and-homosexuality/).

    Regarding the “blessing” e-mail, I guess we read it differently. This, for example, “May Joshua and Stanley always please God through true love for each other.” looks to me like a blessing of the homosexual relationship. Where does Srila Prabhupada indicate that Krishna is pleased by homosexual attraction of men to each other? I find just the opposite.

    If they chant Hare Krishna, it is good of course, but we shouldn’t condone the gay relationships. ISKCON seems to be headed in that direction, though Srila Prabhuapda made it abundantly clear that he did not approve.

    Anyway, I’ve said enough about this. I pray that I have not offended you or your readers. Hare Krishna.
    Pandu das

  9. Dear Prabhu! Pamho, agtSP!

    I agree with Pandu Das!

    Here are a few comments:

    Dear Prabhu! Pamho, agtSP!

    I’ve been following these texts about homosexuality. The problem is that there is absolutely no evidence in support of the idea that people are born homosexuals as you are asserting. I think you have a burden of proof here that you have not lifted.

    All this so called science about the gay gene etc. is usually a product of materialism and political correctness. You are not allowed to make scientific claims about differences in intelligence amongst men and women and between races. And you are also not allowed to claim that homosexuality is a mental disturbance caused by social factors. This is materialistic, relativistic, hedonistic philosophy that wants to undermine religious teachings.

    Of course, anyone is allowed to practice KC, but in my opinion homosexuals should take therapy until they are cured – as quite a few homosexuals actually have been.

    If you want to push this agenda then I think you have to show that homosexuals are born that way. I don’t think you can.

    Your servant,
    Ajit Krishna Dasa

    • Giridhari Das

      Dera Ajit Krishna Prabhu, obeisances! Jaya Prabhupada!

      First of all, please re-read my post: I AM NOT PUSHING A GAY AGENDA. I’m merely pointing out some of the ethical and practical issues that arise from this issue and saying that, as a society, we should properly deal with them and not keep ignoring the subject and hoping it will go away. It won’t.

      As for what science proves, I know for a fact that I am not qualified to analyze this data, and, pardon my sincerity, but I doubt you are either. As for saying that “there is absolutely no evidence in support of the idea that people are born homosexuals”, I’m not so sure about that and I believe there is growing controversy about this.

      Further, I don’t see why the existence of born homosexuals should undermine anything! I certainly don’t see any threat to the Movement arising from the existence of gays. I’m more concerned about the plain old selfish desires (kama) which plagues us in general, of which homosexual illicit sex desire is but a tiny sub-category. This is what we must really campaign against.

      Your servant,
      Giridhari Das

    • gaurish

      So, here is the fact—You are gay…you made a choice to be straight.
      this is what you tell us all the time.
      we were born straight but made a choice to be gay…..when did you make your choice to be straight?
      you are gay…remember….? how would you know so much about it if you had not had to make the choice?
      it was hard for you to except your homosexuilty so you decided to “act” straight. although you are still gay you are ‘acting’ as if you weren’t. i was born gay but made the choice to be wht i am and not ‘act’ ..

      if you say ‘you have made this choice to be gay’ it is because YOU are gay and have made the choice to Act straight. your fear of your own homosexuality has caused you to point fingers and tell people ‘what is and what isn’t’….i am gay, so i know what being born gay is like….so do you, but you are not able to admit it.
      chant more and decide other people’s fate less….leave that the Our Lord Krishna.
      Remember –you are gay, you made a choice to be straight….right?
      this is what you tell us all the time….how does it feel. true!
      gaurish

  10. Sanjaya

    PAMHO. AGTSP.

    “So, a female-female devotee couple was formed. Because she did not hide the situation, the local leaders became disturbed. They then banned her from giving further classes and canceled her bhakti-shastri course to the local congregation.”

    If the local leaders have already approach her politely to “hide the situation”, explain the further impact of her actions, and agree to compassionately guide her in the long term regarding her situations, but she refused, then I support them, since that will reflects her state of advancement, her qualifications to teach other.

    I wonder if things like this can be isolated as cases and we don’t need to make general adjustment.

    The proper philosophies are there in Srila Prabhupada’s books, and we just need to handle the cases as wisely and as compassionately as possible, without generalization.

    Let’s keep things like this as our local challenges..

    Just a tiny piece…

  11. J.M

    Hello everyone, i just want to post some information on homosexuality in animals.
    It IS documentet countless times that alot of animals have homosexual beheaviour.
    So im afraid Srila Prabhupada is wrong when he says no animals have homosexual behaviour. (i still love him offcourse)

    If you read the wikipedia article and check the sources and the rapports you will be overwhelmed by evidence.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexual_behavior_in_animals

    It has been observed in close to 1500 diffrent species. It is documentet by photos also, so it IS a part of nature, still to denie this is kind of fanatical in my opinion.
    I hate discrimination and im very sad to hear about such sad discrimation like what happened to the lesbian teacher i thought love was more important.

  12. AYO

    Haribol Giridhari Muito me agrada as discurçOes ,sobre esses temas Polemencos ,isso demosntra avanço na compreençao do movimento de sankirtana de Sri caytania mahaprabhu .
    todas as glorias ao movimento de SRI Caytania
    Mahaprabhu que limpa do coraçAo a poeira acumulada de nacimentoS apos nacimento e extingui o fogo da vida condicionada …
    Todo aquele que leva esta mensagem de Mahaprabhu pertençE a esse real movimento de Prema Bhakty de Mahaprabhu ,Independente de Conceitos materiais, Somos almas bellas ,mas pensamos !!! eu sou cabra macho eu sou mulher ,eu sou gay, eu sou etero hahaha, eu sou inteligente ,eu sou bramana ,eu sou kshatrya .O que se pode logra com a repressao …..ahahahah ,( cante HARE KRISHINA E SEJA FELIZ .E QUE ,POSSAMOS SER MISERICODIOSOS PARA COM TODAS AS ENTIDADES VIVAS …OM SHANTY.
    PUREZA E A FORçA ESSE E O REQUESITO
    JAY SRILA PRABHUPADA…..
    AYODHYA RAJA DAS RAMA RAMA RAMA

  13. mahasimha

    Haribol

    As I mentioned before on some other forums, Kama sutra described gays, lesbians and so on types of people,
    The only issue here is that kama sutra was written for different kind of people, people who were trained in vedic culture in such a way, that this did not create social disturbance as it is going on now.
    That kind of gays or lesbians knew the place in vedic society, they did not demand equal rights, having children and so on.
    Nowadays, it is different, completely different and it is very deangeurs for the life of KC society.
    It can create havouc,
    History is repeating itself, before christianity and muslem religions was very similar situation- demoralisation.
    and this was the reason why that religions were so strick about it.

    Haribol

    Mahasimha das

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