Chakra Discussions


by Arati devi dasi

Posted September 28, 2005

I'm writing this letter to express my opinion about misunderstandings in ISKCON about gays and lesbians and the way they are described by some senior devotees. I would also like to express my appreciation for devotees like Hridayananda Maharaga, Bhakti Tirtha Swami, and others, who were intelligent enough to see the errors in their judgments toward gays in the past, and who changed their vision in a positive direction. Being able to change and adjust your own mistakes is a quality that is essential for staying in the spiritual process and making advancement. I consider these devotees very elevated. Also I wanted to thank my friend Amara who started this discussion and who did a lot for us over the years. In my town we had meetings for gay and bisexual devotees in the last two years and we realized how important it was to come together and to talk about our experiences, but also to talk about Krishna and how to serve best in Krishna conciousness.

Being gay and living in the temple is not the easiest thing, mainly because the social pressure is very high. Sometimes it's too much to deal with the gossip, prejudice and accusations we receive. This gets acted out by people pressuring us to marry a member of the opposite sex or by being abusive or disrespectful towards us, thinking we are perverts. The crazy thing about it is that me and some other gay devotees I know, were very young when we joined, so that we don't have actual experience in the gay scene. Still we have to deal with weird behavior every day.

Some temples have the policy that you can be gay as long as you keep quiet about it. Just pretend that you are straight, then it's okay. Don't ask, don't tell, like in the military. The other problem is that in most temples and communities the gay devotees are completely ignored. The married couples are recognized and have a place. Gay devotees are never considered, while many of them live inside and outside the temple, having a spiritual life. When that happens too long, you start to feel like a ghost. You are there, but actually you are not there. You are a person, but actually you are not a person. It's scary really. A more positive response is: "Yes nowadays in Kaliyuga, everything is mixed up, but just try to make a good use of a bad situation". But I really don't think that's very true either. Krishna sent so many devotees to this planet, especially now, to help the people out of their ignorance.

When I talk with other homosexuals about it, they say that they don't feel that Krishna/God is condemning them, but rather the people who grew up in a heteosexually-focussed society. The most stupid thing I ever heard was that if we would get married with the opposite sex, we would be "cured". Another really stupid thing is when we are compared with pedofiles during lectures. While actually abusing a child or a young teenager is a serious crime.

Urmila said that men with female tendencies and women with male tendencies are disgusting. She literally said that during a seminar. She directly insults some devotees I know, who are talented dancers and artists and homosexual. For myself and my lesbian friends, unless people know us, they have no clue we are gay. But it shouldn't really matter. My experience is, when the focus is too much on someone's external appearance, it tends to become a mundane judgment that doesn't match with the person's spiritual level.

Ravindra Svarup gave a seminar comparing homosexuality with porn. I don't even want to start about Danavir Swami. Even Kadamba Kanana Swami who I know personally and who I used to like very much, recently gave a class in Radhadesh saying that homosexuality in and outside ISKCON is a deviation.

It seems that some devotees try to explain everything logically, tend to analyze people and put them in categories. The truth is, sometimes you can't. Just as Prabhupada says in "Life Comes From Life", you cannot create a flower by chemicals, accept that there is a higher intelligence. Some things are just the way they are and I think that everyone is different for a reason. When people make up their own theories and try to explain things that are not easy to understand, the explanation becomes something mundane and because it's made up by the human mind, there are a lot of errors. Like when a kirtana is sung by someone without any shakti, you just hear a false ego.

Better we use our energy to pray to Krishna and to beg Him to protect us from maya and to please the devotees. After all it's a very, very fallen thing to take birth on this planet and to take up a material body and I consider it most important to take care that I don't have to stay here longer than nessecary. Devotees who are really humble won't even consider to look at someone else but rather look in their own heart, and try to improve themselves. Still people think we are lusty, while for me and probably others, following the principles is one of the easiest parts in Krishna conciousness. Actually I do think that following these vows is essential to obtain happiness in devotional service. To get a better understanding of what spiritual life is all about and to be able to get a personal relationship with Krishna and the sincere devotees, giving up sense gratification is essential.

For myself it has been an ongoing internal question, if I want to go through this in ISKCON or not. Everything in the world is changing right now. People change, situations change. Nowadays people worry about global warming and terrorism. I'm not going to fight a battle that has been fought already in the 60s in the West: rights for women. Or experience another coming out as a homosexual in ISKCON after having to go through the whole thing in the 80s. If people don't want to go with the time, then you could as well say, I don't use computers or phones because I want to live like in the Middle Ages. It's just not realistic.

I'm not writing this letter to point my finger towards someone else, but rather to make people aware that there are persons involved when they speak or act in an abusive way towards homosexuals. There are many gay and lesbian devotees living in and outside the temples. They are persons like anyone else with things they like and don't like. When they hear so much negative preaching, it's not likely that they are going to stay around. And most homosexuals don't choose to be the way they are. It's much more comfortable to be like anyone else and to live up to what people expect from you. If there are only people accepted in temples and the society in general who are so-called normal, there won't be anyone left. Because in this material world nothing is perfect. Just consider the divorce rate in ISKCON or the amount of people on this planet who are eating meat..maybe you get the picture.