Response to the Letter From Bhaktin Ayu Dwi
by Amara dasa
Posted December 13, 2002
Dear Bhaktin Ayu Dwi,
Hare Krsna! Thank you for your comments and questions regarding the article “Why GALVA?”
Regarding GALVA’s understanding of illicit sex, the ideal goal of complete renunciation of all material sex life is certainly one that we strive for. Most people, however, including those of the third sex, need to tackle this goal gradually. Complete, life-long celibacy is a very serious undertaking and cannot be adopted artificially or forcibly imposed upon others. Srila Prabhupada’s definition of illicit sex was not simply “sex for begetting children,” because even the animals are doing that. His actual instruction was sex for begetting children only, within a religious marriage, and according to strict “garbhadana-samskara” regulations. This ideal goal is difficult even for most heterosexual couples to maintain, and in the end we can only do our best. Third-gender people who cannot immediately adopt strict celibacy will similarly have to do their best by minimizing sexual conduct as far as possible for them. Remaining in a committed same-sex relationship, for instance, is certainly spiritually preferable to unbridled promiscuity.
Another important point to remember is that intimate, loving relationships are a very basic human requirement for just about everyone. Sterile heterosexuals will most likely still require to marry and experience loving intimacy, even though they are incapable of begetting children. The same is certainly true for same-sex oriented persons. If these couples nevertheless engage themselves in Krsna consciousness, the sexual aspect of their relationship will naturally diminish as they grow older in age and mature spiritually. Alternatively, there is little hope or value in forced, artificial celibacy and renunciation, especially if it frustrates a person to the point of abandoning his or her spiritual practices altogether.
You have asked for an example of any third-sex community authorized by our parampara system. I actually presented one such example in the “Why GALVA?” article, but I will elaborate further about that example here. Srila Prabhupada has described that in Vedic culture there is a “system” wherein people of the third sex were allowed to keep their own societies. He describes this in a narration about the transvestite dancers who performed before the newborn baby Nimai (Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu). These dancers were from the third-gender community of Navadvipa, and they are described as Vaishnavas because they were “dancing and singing Hare Krsna.” They were also apparently qualified enough to appear within the Lord’s pastimes and offer Him their blessings. This enlightening pastime is briefly narrated in a taped conversation between Srila Prabhupada and Hayagriva dasa during a meeting in San Francisco.
In Vedic culture the genders are typically separated in various ways, especially in regard to living arrangements. This is no less true for the third gender. One should not be surprised that in Vedic society people of the third sex were allowed to keep their own subcultures. This is a natural arrangement that occurs within all varieties of human culture around the globe and throughout time. In any major town or city of the world, one will be sure to find a district or town quarter where people of the third sex live and congregate, albeit some more openly than others.
It is not the purpose of GALVA to form an exclusive community separated from the regular Vaishnava one. We are only speaking in terms of additional association and support, adding to what is already there. While ideally this should not be necessary, I still get the feeling that you and many others do not understand the full gravity and extent of prejudice and mistreatment that people of the third sex suffer within the Vaishnava communities as they now stand. Just a few months ago, a gay devotee committed suicide at the Potomac temple, and this is unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg! Try thinking about it like this: Imagine that you are the only woman living in a temple. You have no other female association or women to talk with. All of the men consider you inferior and sinful, and you have to pretend you are not a woman just to live there. Everyone makes jokes about people like you. On top of this, you are discouraged from meeting and making friends with other women. Plus, you will never be allowed to marrycelibacy is the only option for you. This is the unhealthy environment that gay and lesbian devotees face every day at your local Hare Krsna temple. If GALVA can help correct or improve this situation in any way, then why not at least let it try? By nourishing each segment of our society, the movement as a whole will flourish.
Wishing the best of Krsna consciousness not only for you, but for everyone…