The recent public screening of movies depicting homosexuality has brought to the forefront the vexed issue of what constitutes acceptable behavior in a rapidly changing world with mutable moral standards. Alarmed at the latest onslaught on traditional Indian cultural values, the conservatives protest vehemently, "Pornography and promiscuity were bad enough. This is taking things too far." The radical modernists retort, "If that’s the way we find pleasure in life, what’s wrong? We are not harming anyone. Why should we deprive ourselves of enjoyment just for the sake of some outdated moral norms?" Most people watch on, bemused, undecided or indifferent.
From the Vedic perspective, the current mess is no surprise. After all we are living in Kali Yuga, an age of moral anarchy and spiritual insanity. A Vedic seer would tell us that the roots of the present imbroglio lie in spiritual ignorance. Unless there is an objective spiritual purpose for life, how can we have objective moral codes deciding how we are to lead our lives? When people addicted to material enjoyment are left to decide for themselves the subjective goals of their respective lives, how can society have a standard set of moral principles to regulate enjoyment? Therefore spirituality is the foundation for the edifice of morality. Without being rooted in spiritual knowledge, moral standards will inevitably be shaken and shattered by the stormy winds of changing social trends.
The Vedic texts urge us, that before plunging into a frenzied fight for enjoyment, we take time out to inquire: Who is the ‘I’ whom we seek to offer enjoyment? When confronted with this fundamental question of identity, most modern people can only blink in bewilderment and even the best modern philosophers can only shrug in indifference. The Vedic texts however unequivocally assert that we are not products of matter; we are souls, spiritual beings encaged in material bodies. We belong to the spiritual realm, where we relish and rejoice eternally in a personal loving relationship with the supreme spiritual being, best known by the name Krishna (meaning the All-Attractive). By causeless misuse of our free will, when we refuse to love and serve Krishna, we are placed in the world of matter. Here we are offered a material body, which brings about a spiritual amnesia so that we can pursue unbridled our quest for happiness in forgetfulness of our eternal spiritual identity and purpose.
A clear white beam of a bulb, when passed through a crimson covering glass, emerges as a glaring red light. Similarly the pure selfless longing of the soul for Krishna, when passed through the covering of the material body, emerges as the perverted selfish craving of the flesh for the opposite sex. In other words, under the spell of the illusion created due to bodily misidentification, love of God distorts into lust for matter. Lust causes within all living beings the overpowering drive for gross sexual enjoyment in specific, and all forms of material enjoyment in general.
However all material enjoyment is temporary, illusory and miserable. The very body that promises erotic pleasure chokes that pleasure inescapably by its limited capacity for indulgence. Like a water-filled sponge, which gives out lesser and lesser water with every successive squeeze, the capacity of the body to enjoy diminishes irreversibly with indulgence, disease and age. Moreover, the soul being like the driver of the bodily car has needs which are completely different from those of the body. Therefore, just as fuelling the car can never nourish the driver, material gratification can never bring about spiritual fulfillment. Worse still, sex seals the soul’s misidentification with the body and consequently forces him to suffer multiple miseries as the body is repeatedly battered by nature on its distressful journey to disease, decrepitude and death. Due to his lack of spiritual fulfillment, every soul in the material world is haunted by feelings of innate dissatisfaction. To mistake this innate dissatisfaction to be due to the lack of material gratification is the bane of the soul. This fundamental blunder in diagnosing the cause of his suffering propels the soul headlong into the arena of matter, where he struggles futilely for happiness.
SEX - FOR RECREATION OR PROCREATION ?
Through this philosophical window, let us now see how the Vedic culture systematically arranged to rescue the soul from his existential predicament of material entanglement. Vedic education, apart from teaching students commercial, technical and physical skills, focussed on imparting them a deep philosophical understanding of their intrinsic spiritual identity so that they would not be victimized by the binding and blinding passions of youth. The Vedic social order was oriented to help every individual to progressively revert the misdirected longing of the soul back to its original pristine state. Sex is a basic bodily drive, which naturally results in procreation. Vedic science, being far more subtle and sophisticated than our modern matter-devoted version of science, recognized that the consciousness of the man and the woman at the time of union would determine the kind of soul that would enter the mother’s womb through the father’s semen. Equipped with this knowledge, a properly married couple would enter into sexual intercourse, not for bestial enjoyment, but as a sacred service to the family, society and God. The to-be parents knew that they had the grave responsibility of bringing into the world a pure soul, who would eventually grow up to be an exemplary, principled and selfless citizen and do immense good for the world. Such a sanctified union was a manifestation of the divine, as stated in the Bhagavad-gita (7.10), dharmaviruddho bhuteshu kamo ‘smi bharatarashabha "I am sex life that is not contrary to religious principles." In Vedic times sex was meant for procreation, not recreation. Sex-hungry moderns may consider all this sentimental imagination or impractical idealism, but we would do well to remember that our so-called primitive ancestors were not brainwashed by the maddening media blitz saturated with covert and overt sexual overtones. For them, sex was just a biological drive meant for reproduction – as it is even today for practically all "uncivilized" tribals and indeed almost all species of life. Except, of course, "advanced" modern humans, for whom sex is a psychological obsession. And the natural function of procreation, the actual purpose of sex, is most of the times scientifically suppressed through contraception and abortion in the maniac pursuit of recreation.
Apart from sanctified procreation, the institution of marriage was meant for gratification of the bodily sexual drive in a regulated, religious way. This would gradually help both the spouses to realize the futility of all bodily enjoyment and help each other to advance together on the journey back to Krishna. Srila Prabhupada writes, "Marriage is meant to regulate the human mind so that it becomes peaceful for spiritual advancement." Thus in Vedic culture, the goal of marriage was not bodily gratification, but spiritual purification.. Therefore even with marriage sex was kept the minimum. Needless to say, adultery as well as other perverted forms of sex, were ruled out. These regulations were not intended to deprive people of enjoyment and force them to live a torturous life of abnegation. Rather they were meant to create a stable springboard to help catapult the soul to the transcendental platform, where he could experience unlimited spiritual happiness, which is his constitutional right. The Vedic attitude was that material enjoyment rivets the consciousness of the soul to flesh and, while offering him only a drop of pleasure, cheats him of his rightful oceanic spiritual happiness. Thus it is absence of restriction, not restriction, that deprives the soul of happiness. Continence is a universal value enjoined not just in the Vedic scriptures, but also in the scriptures of all the great religions as it alone can protect the soul from material entanglement and raise him to spiritual salvation.
THE HISTORICAL DEGRADATION
With the gradual decline of spirituality over the centuries, the goal of Vedic culture – Krishna – was obscured and forgotten. Indians followed the regulations for self-restraint out of deference for social and religious tradition for some time, but with the onslaught of Western so-called culture, quasi-modern Indian started seeing these regulations as pointless and prohibitive. Divorces, pre-marital and extra-marital relationships became increasingly common. Now the wave of homosexuality seems set to batter further the tottering edifice of Vedic culture.
Below all this present frenzy and fury over rights for enjoyment lies the soul longing for his original relationship with Krishna. From a historical viewpoint, when the goal of Krishna was neglected or rejected, men, using their social and physical superiority, turned towards women to exploit them as sex machines. Outraged at the male chauvinism, women retaliated by using their feminine charms to seduce men and exploit them as money machines. Hence the well known saying, "Don’t ask a woman her age and a man his salary": because both women and men use their respective strengths to exploit the other sex. As promiscuity – occasional forays into illicit sex - degenerated into hedonism – reckless playing with relationships for pleasure, both men and women developed a deep distrust for each other. Consequently they decided to live without the opposite sex by forming a bodily relationship within their own sex. This then is the unfortunate genesis of the present perversion of homosexuality.
Sex, whether hetro or homo, is a delusion. The rubbing and squeezing of lifeless flesh and the ejection and reception of sticky, messy fluid in a rotting and dying body – whether male or female - can never satisfy the spiritual longing of the immortal soul. Sex, even within the framework of marriage, is unnatural; it takes the soul away from his natural loving relationship with Krishna and the unlimited happiness that comes naturally from serving Krishna. And the more unnatural the form of sex people take shelter of in their desperate search for happiness, the more they make that very happiness inaccessible to themselves. With homosexuality bombarding people through the media, the widespread sexual mania is likely to be further perverted, aggravated and perpetuated. Worse sexual horrors are likely to unfold as people succumb to the concoctions of passion-maddened minds in trying to extract pleasure from matter. Tragically enough, the spirit that can very easily offer them the happiness that they are frantically searching for will keep getting shrouded by layers and layers of forgetfulness.
Apart from aggravating the soul’s ignorance and suffering, homosexuality can have serious social consequences. Let us look at some of the well-researched medical studies documenting the health hazards associated with homosexuality. For example, Dr. Satinover asks us to consider what we would do for a friend who had a condition – a behavior - associated with the following list of adverse effects:
This condition, of course, is homosexuality. Thus medically speaking, the hazards associated with homosexuality are similar to those associated with alcoholism. While the participants may have been influenced by their environment, their genetics, their upbringing, and so forth, the condition of homosexuality, strictly speaking, is a behavior and the behavior has adverse effects (despite the powerful homo lobbies’ concerted attempts to wish away or suppress such incriminating medical findings). Homosexuals, like alcoholics, may continue their behavior in spite of its adverse consequences. Some may wish they could rid themselves of it, while others may deny that it is a problem. They may resist all suggestions that change is necessary or even possible.
The parallels between the effects of alcoholism and homosexuality are striking, yet our public policies toward the two conditions are radically different. Allowing homosexuality to be publicly portrayed is considered to be a sign of "tolerance" and "broad-mindedness", while no one with a sane mind would consider the same to be applicable to alcoholism. "Homophobia" is a word misused to prevent informed discussion on the subject. By publicly depicting homosexual behavior as acceptable and indeed fashionable, would we not be doing criminal disservice to people who would be misled into embracing it - and reaping all the health "benefits" as a result?
Worse still, a few decades down the line, can we imagine the plight of children with homo parents? Without the time-tested balanced blend of motherly affection and fatherly discipline, what will be the hope of proper psychological growth for children?
But still there is hope. If the homosexual attack on marital morality can stir intelligent people to examine the spiritual foundation of their traditional moral principles, they can still discover the lost wealth of their heart, the forgotten lover of their soul – Krishna. Krishna is forever waiting for us, playing on His flute, inviting us back to the sublime joys of an endless love, in His eternal abode, our original home, the spiritual world. In the current Dark Age of Kali, Krishna has made the channeling of our misdirected consciousness back to Him very easy by manifesting Himself as His Holy Names, especially as the maha mantra Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. When our heart is re-united with Krishna through the sublime medium of divine sound, all material enjoyment including homosexuality and even heterosexuality, will become disdainful. Irrespective of what degradation sweeps, swirls and storms around us, the profound wisdom of Srila Prabhupada’s supreme instruction holds eternally true, "Chant Hare Krishna and be happy."
Thus Vedic insights can help us to make sense out of the current social degradation and can also equip us to confront and counter it. The onus is on each one of us to choose. Will we let ourselves be swept away by the current wave of degradation into the ocean of sin and suffering? Or we will join hands with a crew of intrepid spiritual sailors who are navigating the sturdy ship of genuine spirituality towards the safe shores of immortality and bliss? Our choice may well determine the destiny of the world.
Investigating Reality from the Higher Dimensional
Perspective of Vedic Wisdom