Dhanurdhara Swami April 4th, 2016
I would like to share with the reader my understanding of homosexuality and Krishna consciousness in the form of my response to a letter I received from a person who is gay. Carla runs two successful yoga studios in New York City. She has visited the Bhakti Center, attended my Bhakti Immersion Retreat and also took a pilgrimage to India that included a visit to Vrindavan. I have also taught at her studio Jaya Yoga. She read what she felt was hurtful comments about homosexuality from devotees on Facebook and humbly inquired, “What is the Krishna view of homosexuality?” Her letter and my response below:
I hope this finds you well. What is the Krishna consciousness view on homosexuality? I am very concerned as I have just read some hateful posts from devotees of eastern European descent who live much of the time in beautiful Vrindavan. I hope you can help me with this. If you have no time of course I understand.
We just finished the Bhakti Immersion and I just saw your important letter.
Krishna consciousness, like Christianity, has many different groups with many different interpretations of the sacred texts – some liberal and some conservative. I feel very bad if you heard devotees with hateful and homophobic comments. I have not seen them. The Bhakti Center was formed specifically to present the beauty of bhakti in today’s language. I don’t find people judgmental there on the basis of one’s sexual preference. Your question, however, is “What is the Krishna conscious view on homosexuality?”
In traditional Vedic culture marriage was for raising children. Without children marriage was considered useless (putra-hīnaṁ gṛhaṁ śūnyam). Obviously, in such a culture there was no question of gay marriage.
Marriage today, however, serves other purposes such as companionship and legal protection, so I don’t see how it can exclude those who want it for the same reason. The only argument can be what one wants to call it.
Traditional yoga philosophy does consider sex desire as something that needs to be regulated and ultimately transcended because it tends to strongly deepen one’s identification with the body. That was the opinion of Patañjali.
Generally, the traditional yoga culture dealt with sex desire in the following ways:
- Regulating it within a monogamous relationship.
- Combining it with the responsibility of a life-long commitment to provide and care for one’s spouse.
- Establishing the act of carefully raising a child as an offering of sacrifice to God as a very central feature of sex and marriage.
In this way the act of sex, and consequentially marriage and raising a child, is karma-yoga an act that dovetails one’s ego/desire with wisdom, responsibility, and detachment and also offers the fruit of one’s action to God.
This central yogic element in karma-yoga, the offering of the fruit of one’s action to God (in this case a child), is obviously not part of the sexual union of a same-sex couple. For this reason, as well as the fact that the responsibilities to care for one’s spouse and children tends to be very gender specific (a certain set of responsibilities for the male and another set for the female), it is likely that homosexuality rested outside the mainstream culture based on the tradition or yoga, although there are different opinions about that.
As far as homophobic or hateful comments in the scriptures, you can prove anything you want by selecting isolated comments out of context. In July of 1999, the son of Nikita Khrushchev became a US citizen. Nikita Khrushchev was the president of the former Soviet Union who was famous for his virulent hate of America. Anyway, at the news conference on the day of his naturalization as a citizen, he was bluntly asked by the first reporter, “What would your father think of you taking United States citizenship?” I loved his answer: “You can’t judge one era of history from the perspective of another.”
We live in different world now. Those who profess traditional values thus have to be very, very thoughtful to see how such values apply now in another context. It takes great depth of realization to understand the depth of tradition and its application in modern life. Archconservatives who want to mold life today only by the form of tradition and liberals who disregard the weight of tradition will both likely miss the essence of dharma.
The essence of dharma is that which brings one closer to God. For a gay person who is pursuing a spiritual path that means a monogamous relationship that regulates his or her natural desires within a lifelong commitment of care for his or her partner.
That’s about all I can say now on this very emotionally charged issue that is difficult to discuss philosophically without people projecting much of their own history of hurt on the discussion.
On a personal level I have tons of respect and affection for you and Ramit who I find as some of the most loving and spiritual persons I know. Thank you for your friendship.
Again, please forgive us if you heard any hateful comments from devotees of Krishna. I pray that it was mostly a misunderstanding, although in any religion there are always people that use religion to mask their own problems.
This is a deep discussion. I am willing to continue the dialogue if my letter does not answer or cover your doubts
Wishing you well,
You cannot imagine how consoling this tender email is to read. Both Ramit and I deeply appreciate you taking the time to respond with such depth and sincerity.
We were rattled by comments we read on ……..’s Facebook page but hearing your reply has been a balm which has soothed us.
Thank you for restoring our faith in our connection to the NYC Krishna consciousness community.
We hope to see you this summer. Thank you for being our teacher and friend.
Planting a little seed for our Jaya teacher training graduation in mid-January of 2016 if you happen to be in the NYC area we would love for you to return to us to speak. There will be a large group like last year at Jaya East.
With respect and love,
Carla and Ramit
My letter to the generally respected person whose post Carla reacted to:
I was trying to understand the root of this misunderstanding. Here is what I think:
In Eastern countries, for whatever the reason, homosexuality, or public homosexuality, is repressed or discouraged. The result is that those who take to it or exhibit it tend to be those who are extreme or perverse in that their sexuality and their sexual preference is their identity rather than an aspect of their life. In contrast, in America, where it is more accepted, the sexual preference of gay people tends to be more an aspect of oneself, than one’s group or identity. Your neighbor, colleague, relative and so on could be gay but you wouldn’t identify or deal with them as such. You would relate to them as everyone else on the basis of common interest and their character. For example, my uncle is gay and has lived with his partner for many years. My mother who is a Republican and quite conservative doesn’t think anything more about him than him being just her relative. I am just sharing with you the frame of reference of the people you were writing to and why they feel strongly that gay people have a civil right to formalize their relationship with their partner for reasons of companionship and legal necessity just like everyone else. Yes, it seems a sign of modern times, but in such a society a person’s sexual preference hardly stands out as a major problem to anyone, especially when they don’t embrace or flaunt their sexuality as their identity and in general are very decent citizens. I am just trying to share with you an explanation why there was such a misunderstanding although I am sure you meant no harm.
As always, wishing you well,