Reply to Hridayananda Maharaja - Homosexuality in ISKCON
Posted April 21, 2005
The contention of HH Hridayananda Goswami Maharaja is that homosexual devotees be allowed to stay together with a partner of their choice as a heterosexual couple would stay together in the grhasta asrama. His statement in a letter to Chakra and Dipika is this: "I am not convinced that marriage is the best means in all cases, but some serious, formal and public recognition and appreciation of gay monogamy is, in my view, in the best interest of ISKCON and its members" Although Maharaja says that he is not convinced that marriage is the best means in all cases, the suggestion here is that homosexual marriages should be accepted in some cases and recognition of monogamy relationships should be given in all other cases. Allowing homosexual marriages in some cases is a misnomer because all homosexual devotees will want this privilege so this actually means allowing homosexual marriages within ISKCON in all cases as part of the grhasta asrama. In one letter, Maharajah points out that his statements could lend themselves to interpretation and he says that we should read carefully. Actually, his statements do not need interpretation. They are clear in their meaning and the devotees that read them will understand them accordingly.
He further implies that this lifestyle should be formally accepted and accommodated in ISKCON even after initiation, where the disciple takes a vow to his spiritual master to follow the regulative principles strictly. He says that since many, many householder devotees, including respected grhastas take the "no illicit sex" rule to mean "no sex outside of marriage" instead of "no sex except for the procreation of children" the homosexual devotees should also have this privilege. It is dangerous for our leaders to publicly speak like this. Now even heterosexual grhastas following sincerely will feel encouraged and less guilty when breaking this particular regulative principle.
According to Maharaja's interpretation of ideal and real, real is living in maya, that is to say if one cannot follow the ideal (following rules and regulations strictly), then he can be real and have illicit sexual dealings. Ideal would mean someone living a pure lifestyle. In another place, Maharaja says that the real situation in ISKCON is that many, many householders follow the no sex outside of marriage rule instead of no illicit sex except for the procreation of children. He refers to this as the less ideal version of the rule. This is a contradiction. If ideal is pure, then how can anything be less pure? It is either pure or not pure. He also says that Prabhupada taught both the ideal and for many the real version of this rule. So this would mean that Prabhupada taught if you cannot follow the rules and regulations, then one is allowed to have sex within marriage for sense gratification. I did not hear of such a thing! For devotees, there is no difference between ideal and real. The ideal is the real. Following regulative principles strictly is the real thing for us. This brings us to the pure stage. Hunting and illicit sexual acts are maya and devotees should have no illusion about this.
Maharaja's conclusion is that we should try to understand through guru, sadhu and sastra and he questions that since sastra does not give any specific instruction on how to deal with homosexuality, should we reason our way to a conclusion on understanding how ISKCON should deal with this. He goes ahead and reasons how ISKCON should deal with this in his lengthy article and other letters that was published on Chakra and Dipika. However, although the sastras give no clear understanding on how we should deal with this, Maharaja fails to enter into the mood of understanding through guru and sadhu Ð that is to understand the mood of Prabhupada and the acaryas.
In all reference and discussions that Srila Prabhupada had on homosexuality, he never once suggested allowing same sex relationships or marriages and especially after initiation. Maharajah has quoted Prabhupada on the first part of this sentence to his purport of 3:20:26, "It appears here that the homosexual appetite of males for each other is created in this episode of the creation of the demons by Brahma." However, this is incomplete. The second part of Prabupada's sentence is: the homosexual appetite of a man for another man is demonic and is not for any sane male in the ordinary course of life. So since Prabhupada mentions that this is demonic, should we not be-careful in how we accept this into our practice. It is clearly different from heterosexual relationships. Prabhupada was critical in all his reference to homosexuality.
In the Nectar of Devotion, Srila Rupa Goswami explains briefly about principles and details and Srila Prabhupada gives this example: "A basic principle is that one has to accept a spiritual master. Exactly how one follows the instructions of his spiritual master is considered a detail. If one is following the instruction of his spiritual master and that instruction is different from the instructions of another spiritual master, this is called detailed information. But the basic principle of acceptance of a spiritual master is good everywhere, although the details may be different." Principles always remain the same, changing them is a deviation although details may change according to time, place and circumstance. Even to adjust details, one needs to be qualified in his understanding of the spiritual science of bhakti according to guru, sadhu and sastra. Prabhupada, being Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu's "senapati bhakta" is empowered to make changes and the four regulative principles given by him are especially for this age and should be included to the sixty four principles given by Srila Rupa Goswami. One of the principles given by Srila Prabhupada is "no illicit sex except for the procreation of children" and this does not need interpretation. This principle cannot be changed and speaking about any other reality is a deviation. In fact, to follow strictly the four basic regulative principles given by Srila Prabhupada will bring one to the platform of appreciating how the other sixty four are directly connected to worshiping Krsna personally and this will qualify one to follow with devotion. In other words, the four regulative principles given by Srila Prabhupada are more important than the sixty four given by Srila Rupa Goswami.
When we try to understand through our philosophy and common sense, we will find that heterosexuality is normal and homosexuality is abnormal. Brahma, the most intelligent person in this universe created the different species of life under the direction of Krsna. There is a man and there is a woman. Now according to the laws of material nature, man to woman sex is normal because the male produces the sperm and the female produces the egg and this combination bears a child. This understanding is simple for the simple and it gets complicated for the complicated.
For devotees, same sex marriage is unreasonable. A child cannot be procreated between unions of same sex partners. Sometime ago, in Vrndavana, a senior grhasta devotee gave a seminar. He mentioned how once when he met Srila Prabhupada, he was asked how many children he had. Immediately upon hearing that he had no children because his wife and he did not want children, Prabhupada told him that grhasta meant children and he should have children. From this statement, I could understand Prabhupada's mood that we should not take up grhasta just to satisfy the genitals but we should give Krsna and Prabhupada something in return, a child who will someday serve this mission.
In this so called "normal society", there is at least some goodness and many world leaders are against gay marriages. Indeed, the leader of the most influential country in the world, George W Bush of the USA won re-election recently and one of his promises was to work towards getting legislation passed which will make gay marriages illegal. If world leaders who are not even in the mode of goodness are resisting the homosexual activist's attempts to have their marriages legalized, where does that leave us? This Krsna consciousness movement is seeking the highest purity. Our goal is to go beyond the mode of goodness and become transcendental.
Many times, Prabhupada said that we are the true Christians because we follow the ten commandants properly. I have seen many worshippers of other faiths lighting up cigarettes as soon as they come out of their places of worship. No one raises an eyebrow to these transgressions but if a Krsna consciousness devotee in devotional clothing walks around smoking, people will criticize. The local newspaper may even run a headline saying "Krsna devotee lights up his life." Why is this? People know the level of purity we aspire for and they expect us to show that purity. We should lead the way.
So then if leaders of materialistic governments are against gay marriages, what should be the situation of our leaders? We should lead the way in purity! Gay devotees should just go about their chosen lifestyle without causing a disturbance but at the same time continue their devotional practice. Krsna is in their hearts and He knows their sincerity. It is not necessary to rewrite the rules, making all sorts of excuses just to enhance material enjoyment. Leave that to the sinful. Our spiritual leaders should be more responsible. Publicly, they should speak with one voice otherwise there will be confusion within our society, not that there isn't already.
Devotees cannot have tailor made rules to suit their desires. Rather, under the guidance of expert siksa or diksa gurus, they should sincerely see how to fit into these rules. There should be no compromise but we should be compassionate. Lord Caitanya came to deliver the Jagais and Madhais and Srila Rupa Goswami says that it is the birthright of everyone to accept devotional service and to take up Krsna consciousness but we cannot sacrifice our standard of purity. No one is more fallen than Jagai and Madhai and being homosexual is no big sin compared to what they got up to. It does not matter if someone tries to satisfy material desires while following some type of devotional practice, one is still getting purification. Just try to be sincere. Even if one says Krsna just once in a day is purifying in itself. However, the rules and regulations are most important and if one wants to sincerely make advancement, there should be no compromise.
The spiritual masters should not show their willingness to allow any type of sex, homosexual or heterosexual or to compromise the four regulative principles. They should encourage their disciples to strictly follow vows. If initiated disciples have sex within marriage for non procreation, this should be considered a fall down.
The guru cannot initiate anyone if he knows they are not following the regulative principles. The ideal should be that before initiation, devotees should practice devotional service under the guidance of siksa or prospective diksa gurus and gradually become ready for initiation where they will be sincere in their vows. If the initiated disciple later falls down, (heterosexual or homosexual), the spiritual master, with great care and compassion should personally guide the fallen disciple to give up his bad habits. The spiritual masters in our society do not give the disciples much personal association. Sometimes, they initiate disciples without even knowing who they are, with only some recommendation. Some of Prabhupada's disciples did not have any association with him but this is different. Prabhupada was on a special mission. Now there are many spiritual masters and their main responsibility should be towards their disciples.
Maharaja speaks about justice and mercy. He correctly implies that devotees should not look for justice and reprimand homosexual devotees but instead they should be merciful towards them. Actually devotees following in the footsteps of Lord Nityananda and Lord Caitanya, should be compassionate and merciful to the most fallen, just has our Lordships were towards Jagai and Madhai. However, this does not mean to compromise the principles. Being merciful does not mean that we should facilitate the material desires of devotees.
Maharaja's closing argument is that Krsna consciousness is a gradual process and he gives some dictionary meaning to what this word means. This is correct. However, gradual does not mean compromising our standards. Before initiation, the responsibility is the siksa or prospective diksha gurus to make sure that the devotees gradually advance in Krsna consciousness, up to the point where they will be able to follow their vows sincerely. After initiation the responsibility of the guru is also there, to make sure the disciple steadily and gradually advances. If the disciple breaks the regulative principles after taking the vow, then the guru has to deal with this confidentially and again gradually. Yes, Krsna consciousness is a gradual process and the devotees must be thought to follow the regulative principles gradually and eventually, strictly. Lots of devotees I know follow the regulative principles strictly. Weaker devotees should be encouraged to associate with the stronger devotees.
Maharaja mentions in his conclusion that Prabhupada says of the many regulative principles given in the sastras and of the directions given by the spiritual master, all should act as servants of the basic principle, that is "one should always remember Krsna and never forget Him." Here again, it is important to understand Prabhupada's mood. He himself never compromised, and especially on the four regulative principles. To come to the level of always remembering Krsna and never forgetting him, we have to follow the rules and regulations strictly so that our hearts will become purified and Krsna will reveal Himself within and then it will never be possible to ever forget Krsna, even if we try...
And finally, if we start to tamper with the principles - ever so subtly, using expert arguments and conclusions, there will be no end. Eventually our purest teachings will become watered down, just like the bible and other scriptures. This purity will be lost. There is a need for a brahaminical council of sadhus in ISKCON where leaders can take important opinions like this homosexual matter to for advice on what should be done before publicly speaking out. A sadhu is not necessarily scholarly but he understands simply, without interpretation. Quoting sastra is good but we have to understand the application in terms of the principles given by the acaryas. Our process is beyond Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam although these are most important scriptures for our purification. Ultimately, as Gaudiya Vaisnavas, our final word is Caitanya Caritamrita.