by Edwin Bryant
Posted February 2, 2003
A comment on Hridayananda Goswami's article
If I were to question Hridayananda Goswami, it would be on the grounds of his claim: "We do not find in any known Vedic literature the term 'third sex.'" The evidence that he presents is coming from a significant but nonetheless small fraction of "known Vedic literature," and that therefore, at least on the grounds of the data in his position paper, this appears to be something of a sweeping statement. It is possible that a word like tritiya prakrti, or some other word with similar connotation, may take different nuances of meaning in different contexts. One becomes uncomfortable with sweeping generalizations about the meaning of Sanskrit words, since these change in different genres of literature, different linguistic periods, and different literary contexts. Of course, the burden of proof is on Amara to demonstrate that the specific term under consideration does explicitly mean homosexual in some contexts, but it seems a priori unlikely that a culture that was as comprehensive (sometimes obsessively so) in its classification of all aspects of reality as the classical Sanskrit one, had no term for homosexuals.
Apart from this, he seems to be making a fair case on the (admittedly rather limited) basis of the one verse of the Gita, one anecdote in the Mahabharata, and one entry in Monier Williams that he does present as data; hence, it is up to Amara to refute or problematize his argument. And I very encouraged by HDG's recognition of the rights of all living entities, irrespective of sexual orientation, to pursue their devotion to Krishna with dignity and respect.