Q&A with Srila Hridayananda das Goswami on Homosexuality and Spiritual Practice

Comments by Srila Hridayananda das Goswami when asked to review the article “A Hindu Response to Gay Rights” (Huffington Post):


A) The notion of a ‘trtiya prakrti’, or ‘third gender’ tends to distort the Shastra view. The Shastras do not explicitly speak of a 3rd gender/prakrti. The term is not traditional.

B) Interestingly, the Manu-samhita states that homosexuality is not a big sin. The text is overwhelmingly concerned with varna-sankara, varna-mixing that produces mixed progeny. Since gays don’t reproduce, there is not much concern with them.

C) I understand the militant gay response to oppression. At the same time, there is something unfortunate about identifying oneself by sexual orientation. Bodily-identification, with any orientation, is illusory,  and further identifying oneself not merely with the body, but with the body’s sexuality, is clearly not ‘the way.’

D) The abused become the abusers. I know of several cases, among my acquaintances, where gays discriminated against straight people. One case occurred with my disciple who is a straight, modern dancer. He was fired from his job, despite his qualifications, because the other dancers found out he was straight.

Conclusion: I believe we should support spirituality, and support gays within that framework.

With best wishes,

Hridayananda das Goswami

Click here to see an earlier essay on a similar theme.


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Q&A with Srila Hridayananda das Goswami on Philosophy and Religion

Questions: How to balance philosophy and religion in ISKCON?


Answer by Srila Hridayananda das Goswami:

Inevitably in every religion there will be a theological divide between those who seek to combine philosophy and religion, as Prabhupada recommended, and those who feel that religion without  rational consideration is better. Prabhupada taught us that we need reasonable devotion, and devoted reason. Otherwise, in the name of glorifying Prabhupada, some devotees drift into fanaticism and sentimentalism. And in the name of reason, others lose their understanding of Prabhupada’s unique contribution.

With best wishes,

Hridayananda das Goswami

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Q&A with Srila Hridayananda das Goswami on Karma and Remembering Past Lives

Question: If we cannot remember our previous lives, how are those previous experiences a learning experience?


Answer by Srila Hridayananda das Goswami:

I explain that Freud’s real contribution was the discovery that many of the primary forces that motivate and determine our behavior are actually subconscious or unconscious.

If you remembered the details of your past life, imagine the gender issues everyone would have! How could you establish committed relationships when you remember your previous 784 partners. How could you love your parents when you remember thousands of other parents.

In short, you would be totally dysfunctional and psychotic. The deep memory of our past, not the details but the tendencies, the attitudes, the good and evil, is still there in our deep psychology. So-called ‘phobias’, ie irrational fears, are actually reactions to previous experiences.

Thus acrophobia, fear of heights, arises because in a past life one fell from a high place. The real benefit of karmic reactions is that our subtle body is purified, refined, corrected. After all, the specific external behavior was simply a manifestation of our mental propensities. Thus we need not, should not, recuperate the external details. But we can access our deep mental states, and also benefit from the cure in the form of karmic reactions.

With best wishes,

Hridayananda das Goswami

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Q&A with Srila Hridayananda das Goswami on Protecting Women

Questions: What does it mean when the Vedas state that men should protect women?


Answer by Srila Hridayananda das Goswami:

Prabhupada and Shastras do teach the protection of women. Krishna also says in the Gita: yad yad acarati sresthas… “people follow the leader’s example.” Thus a man who sets the right Krishna conscious example will be able to guide and inspire a woman.

Men must also realize that to protect does not mean to subjugate, humiliate or dominate. It means to protect. Shastra gives many examples of husbands who protected their wives by occasionally accepting that in a particular case, the wife had a better understanding of a situation. Examples:

1. The brahmana wives fed Krishna’s friends, when their husbands refused and forbade them to do so.

2. The wives of Kaliya surrendered to Krishna before their husband.

3. The great Pandu gave up his determination that Kunti have more sons with demigods and accepted her argument.

Power corrupts and in this age, we have seen many instances not only of women becoming corrupted by seizing power, but of the same happening to men. In the name of Vedic culture, we have seen too many cases of domestic violence and other forms of marital abuse.

Vedic culture is sophisticated, nuanced and subtle. Ignoring those subtle, deep qualities, we are at times left with crude male chauvinism or mundane feminism, rather than true Vedic culture.

With best wishes,

Hridayananda das Goswami


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ISKCON Brazil Honors Srila Hridayananda Das Goswami

ISKCON Brasil published this statement today celebrating Srila Hridayananda Das Goswami’s 40th sannyasa anniversary and his innumerous achievements in Brazil and Latin America.

Dear devotees,

Please accept our sincere obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

The Executive Committee (EC) of ISKCON Brazil offers congratulations to Hridayananda Das Goswami, in this Nrsimha Caturdasi, for completing 40 years as a sannyasi.

The importance of Hridayananda Das Goswami’s missionary devotional service to Brazil is immeasurable.

ISKCON’s first leader not only in Brazil but throughout Latin America, Hridayananda Das Goswami – following the instructions of his spiritual master, the founder-acarya of ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada – coordinated the construction of temples and guided and initiated thousands of Brazilian devotees. Not to mention his achievements in the translation of the sastras.

To Hridayananda Goswami our eternal gratitude and sincere obeisances from the devotees of Brazil.

Your servants of the Executive Committee,

Dhavali Das (Chairman), Daruka Das, Mathura Natha Das, Sri Krishna Murti Das

Estimados devotos,

Reverências sinceras. Todas as glórias a Srila Prabhupada.

O Comitê Executivo (CE) da ISKCON Brasil oferece congratulações a Hridayananda Das Goswami por, neste Nrsimha Caturdasi, completar 40 anos dos seus votos de sannyasi.

A importância do serviço devocional missionário de Hridayananda Das Goswami para o Brasil é incomensurável.

Primeiro líder da ISKCON não apenas no Brasil, mas em toda América Latina, Hridayananda Das Goswami – seguindo as instruções do seu mestre espiritual, o acarya-fundador da ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada – coordenou a construções de templos, orientou e iniciou milhares de devotos brasileiros. Sem mencionar seus inúmeros trabalhos de tradução dos sastras.

A Hridayananda Goswami, eterna gratidão e sinceras reverências dos devotos do Brasil.

Seus servos do Comitê Executivo
Dhavali Das (presidente), Daruka Das, Mathura Natha Das, Sri Krsna Murti Das

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Q&A with Hridayananda das Goswami on Veils and Female Chastity

Questions: Is the use of a veil by women a standard Vedic practice confirmed by scriptures? We see the word “samvita” and it’s translated as veiled, is this correct? What is the standard of chastity in the Vedas for women?

Answer by Hridayananda das Goswami:

“Samvita” does not rule out a veil, but it certainly doesn’t rule it in. The literal meaning, “well covered/dressed” is relative. We know for example that in many conservative parts of India, during various periods, chaste, respectable women did not cover the top part of their body, not to speak of their heads and faces. We see this clearly in exterior temple sculpture where even goddesses, presumably the most respectable ladies, are very scantily dressed. I have seen this myself, in certain rural parts of India.

As a general point, we see throughout history that the “indecent” part of the anatomy shifts over time. For example, during some periods in Europe, a lady’s neck, or arms, was considered more erotic than her bust, which perhaps was seen as maternal.

Certainly there is a long history of respectable women covering themselves, so as not to be seen by unworthy, lower classes, but this tradition is not universal either in time or geography. Thus, although we know that sometimes Greek ladies covered parts of their head or face, most Greek statues show those ladies bare-headed, along with the normal bare-headed goddesses.

My conclusion: chastity is an eternal principle. How chaste women dress varies according to time and place. We do know that Draupadi and other chaste women of Krishna-lila were “well covered”.

We also have stories of Indra and Candra [demigods of Sun and Moon respectively] seducing the wives of others. It seems that only sometimes there is punishment for this behavior.

We also have the cases of heavenly ‘society girls’, as Prabhupada called them, Apsaras, who serve Indra by seducing ambitious yogis and reducing their shakti. Of course there were also the famous prostitutes of Dvaraka.

Apart from that, there are also cultural variations between city and village culture. When Krishna entered a big city like Indraprastha or Hastinapura, the women would go to the roof and worship Him as He passed on the road. In Vrindaban, there is no mention of this. Rather we find much more informal village culture. Of course in big cities, Krishna’s entrance was accompanied by heavily armed troops, huge animals such as elephants and war horses, loud, pushing crowds etc. Thus the women wisely went to the roofs.

Direct evidence for the difference in city and village culture comes from the greatest devotees, the Gopis, who say, “Now that Krishna has gone to the city and become sophisticated, he will no longer care for village girls.” In the Mahabharata, we also find clear differences between different regions. There are frequent references to the unusual customs of the Uttara Kurus, Northern Kurus, referring to those living in the Himalayan foothills, and in the mountains themselves. Similarly, there are different marriage customs in different regions. For example, when Bhishma goes to the Northwest to secure Madri as a second wife for Pandu, Madri’s brother Salya tells him that, “in our kingdom, we don’t give dowries with our women. The groom must give a dowry.” Bhishma, without opposition, gives a dowry on behalf of Pandu.

Similarly, in dress and other cultural details, there is variation, not only geographic, but also in different ages. For example, the Bhagavatam states in the 4th canto that Prthu Maharaja introduced urban planning, which did not exist before him. Also, in the Mahabharata, great sages like Shukra and Shvetaketu declare new “dharmas”, such as monogamy and brahminical abstinence from liquor, based on unpleasant consequences of those activities.

And of course non-sanatana dharma varies in various yugas.

Conclusion: great Acaryas emphasize Sanatana dharma, which is Bhagavata dharma.

With best wishes,

Hridayananda das Goswami


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Q&A with Hridayananda Maharaja on “Approaching Krishna”

Question: At the beginning of the purport of SB 1.6.21, Srila Prabhupada talks about not being able to approach Krishna if there is any tinge of material affection. I guess the question would be, what does he mean by approach?

Answer by Hridayananda Maharaja:

Prabhupada is using ‘approach’ here in a special sense, of actually coming directly into the association of Krishna with full consciousness.

The general rule is ‘ye yatha mam prapadyante…’ As I often explain, the verb prapad[yante] literally means ‘approach.’ In English, approach can mean ‘to come near’ or ‘to come nearer’. Generally, we use the 2nd sense, but Prabhupada in this special case uses the 1st sense.

With best wishes,

Hridayananda das Goswami

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