Marriage Equality and Hinduism

You may have guessed from some of my previous posts that I am a liberal Hindu. I don’t like to draw strict lines of division, make battles of “us v.s. them” or dictate how anyone else should live. I err firmly on the side of letting others make their own mistakes and sorting it out with God and karma themselves.

As with any other hot-button issue, there are Hindus on both sides of the marriage equality question. When Hinduism Today interviewed various swamis about their opinion of same-sex marriage, they gave a wide range of opinions both positive and negative. Because Hinduism has no central authority, it is possible for teachers to debate and discuss without needing to claim that his way is The Hindu Way.

What is the purpose of marriage according to Hinduism?

It joins two people for four purposes:

  • dharma —> duty, harmony, balance
  • artha—> worldly possessions/wealth
  • kama—> passion, lust, desire
  • moksha—> spiritual liberation, enlightenment

{For the average Hindu, it is expected that he will fulfill different duties for different times in his life. Most are expected to be householders and work to build wealth and security for the family in the middle of their lives and then towards the end to become dedicated to spiritual development.}

I see nothing in those four purposes that would forbid same sex unions.

In my research of this subject I encountered some very interesting points:

  • A liberal view is presented by Mathematician Shakuntala Devi, in her 1977 book, The World of Homosexuals, in which she interviewed Srinivasa Raghavachariar, head priest of the Srirangam temple. He said that same-sex lovers must have been cross-sex lovers in a former life. The sex may change but the soul retains its attachments, hence the love impels these souls towards one another.
  •  In 2002, Ruth Vanita (writer/reporter for GALVA – The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association, Inc.) interviewed a Shaiva priest who performed the marriage of two women; having studied Hindu scriptures, he had concluded, “Marriage is a union of spirits, and the spirit is not male or female” (p. 147).

Both these quotes from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_on_same-sex_marriage#Liberal_Hindus

For the most part I think Hinduism is stuck a bit in the past with this issue. The culture around Hinduism is used to a world where procreation is critical. That is not the world we live in today where over population is an enormous threat. (Then again those who argue that 1) procreation is super important and 2) “it’s unnatural” to be gay seem to not know that 1) society has always had members who did not have children and 2) gay behavior is found in many animal species. We might not understand the purpose for either of those things, but that doesn’t mean that nature doesn’t have a purpose for it).

If we have fewer children, there is no problem within Hinduism because those souls will have other births and eventually make their way to human embodiments  but not all thought has caught up with this fact of modern life.

Gender identity within Hinduism can be quite fluid. Gods have female aspects, Arjuna the great warrior was turned into a woman for a year. The stories abound of people switching genders in mythology.

Hinduism has also long acknowledged a “third gender”:

To expand further, in Hinduism there is a belief of the third gender. This is a category outside male and female, it is one which includes a wide range of people with mixed male and female natures such as transgender, homosexuals, transsexuals, bisexuals and so on. Such persons are not considered fully male or female in Hindu tradition but being combinations of both. They are mentioned as third sex by nature and are not expected to behave like ordinary men and women. They often keep their own societies or quarters, perform specific occupations (such as masseurs, hairdressers, flower-seller, domestic servants, etc.) and are generally attributed with a semi-divine status. -http://spiritualityireland.org/blog/index.php/2011/07/asia-and-hinduism-makes-hallmark-with-first-same-sex-marriage/

You will often see trans women called hijras at Hindu festivals and events. It is considered auspicious by some to have them there. Hijras do struggle, from what I understand, being at or near the very bottom of the social totem pole of Indian life.

I’m sure you will not be surprised to hear that my opinion is that love is more important than anything else. Love is the cause and the reason for all of creation. Acts done in pure love will not have negative consequences. 

This is another issue that I was raised to believe differently. I was taught that acting on homosexuality was wrong. I was taught that someone with these feelings would have to be celibate or marry an opposite-gendered person in order to break the karma that made him gay so he could be born straight in the next life.

I no longer agree with these teachings. I had some of my own experiences that I don’t wish to go into, but they led me to realize what an enormous and unfair burden it is to ask someone to deny that part of himself for his entire life. If he himself believes that he must, then I wish him luck. I would never ask that sacrifice of another human being.

I have also come to believe that this sacrifice is unnecessary. The goal of life is not to be born straight. It is to attain unity with God. Being gay does not in any way stand in the way of that, in my opinion. The love that one feels for a partner is a very helpful stepping stone to help us begin to understand and to love God. Love for a partner can be a transcendent and spiritual experience. I see God in my soon-to-be husband. I see God in many people, male and female alike.

I do not feel that people of the same gender marrying in any way diminishes or harms my own upcoming marriage.

Bodies are just bodies, it is the soul that matters most and that soul should be experiencing love and giving love and embodying love. Practicing hating yourself will never lead you to find God within your soul. Hating yourself for being gay would be hating God. Whatever your nature is, it is an aspect of God. Hating others will never lead you to happiness or peace either. Hate has no place in my faith.

Some more voices:

Again turning to the wonderful Hinduism Today magazine, here is the result of their discussion on marriage equality: http://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=1300

The Hindu: The third gender’s right to dignity

The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association

“Hindu views of homosexuality are varying and diverse, in part because the accepted Hindu religious texts do not explicitly mention homosexuality.” -http://www.religionfacts.com/homosexuality/hinduism.htm

 

{Featured image from http://www.contemporarynomad.com/2009/06/the-curse-of-the-hijra/}

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About Ambaa Choate

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Pixie5

    Actually it does in the New Testament, although I do not subscribe to that belief. There is a story that Jesus told of a rich man who did not help a poor homeless man outside his door. The rich man went to hell and the poor man went to heaven. When the rich man went to hell he was in a firery place and begged for water from God, which he did not get.

    However hell is not described in the Old Testament. Rather there was a place called Sheol. Both the good and the bad were there but it wasn’t a place of punishment. The souls were “asleep” meaning little or no consciousness. They were to be resurrected physically at some point in the future when God would take over the earth. A verse in Psalms. written by King David talks about how God would be with him no matter what, even in the depths of Sheol.

    Most Christians are not aware of this dicotomy but the concept of hell came from the Greeks who believed in Hades.

    Since the bible is not one book but a collection of books written over hundreds of years there is a clear evolution in its theology. However most Christians miss that because they try to harmonize it and interpret the OT by the NT theology.

    • Ambaa

      Great points! I have to wonder also whether there was some amount of allegory involved, since Jesus was so known for teaching using stories and metaphors.

      • Pixie5

        Perhaps. People debate that all the time. However in this story the rich man did not believe in hell until he got there. Then he begged God to allow him to warn his relatives about hell but God said if Moses and the prophets were not enough to convince them then nothing will.

        Ironically though Moses and the prophets did not talk about hell. But this story appears to be a warning about the reality of hell.

        I am not a Christian and I do not believe that God has a religion, although religions can point to God. I would say that “hell” is simply a psychological place of being out of alignment with God. A good God would not punish people forever for finite crimes. I happen to think that reincarnation makes more sense because you have an unlimited amount ot time to make things right with God and your fellow man. We are not perfect beings and many times do wrong things based on false perceptions.

  • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

    Unless that was EXACTLY what the doctor intended for that patient. He probably assumed that since this patient was living that way, he must not be a real Hindu, ignorant of the karmic consequences of suicide, so he can be taught a lesson without realizing it beforehand. Very sneaky.

    However, I need to bring to your attention something. That Gay and Lesbian Hindu link up there? How do you reconcile with the fact that it’s a group influenced by neo-Hinduism? “Let me first offer my respectful obeisances unto my beloved gurudeva, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.” This comes from the article regarding the third sex. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is or was associated with ISKCON or “Hare Krishna.”

    Interesting that you brought up this article, because I fit in one of the categories mentioned in this article (LGBT – I’ll let you figure it out). I won’t mention here which one. The religion thing has always been a problem for me because of people’s western stand on these issues, as well as being on the wrong side of the political spectrum in regards to money, government, and human rights. In other words, I’m very open-minded and believe in human rights as noted in your article, BUT I have a thing about being vulnerable to being pushed around by thugs of governments exactly because a disarmed populace cannot fight back against a heavily-armed government, not without risking losing millions of people in the war, and I advocate being financially prudent in the Sound Money Principles (very similar to how Hindus view precious metals as not just jewelry or religious symbols, but as money, as savings in the face of a lost husband or a westernized government bent on stealing money from the people), which is something most liberal minds just don’t grasp.

    I thank you for posting this article from your perspective, because it’s given me a parallel view of sorts into the issue of acceptance in the face of Christianity, which many of my friends deal with across the USA, and it’s given me confidence that I could proceed further and find a way that is acceptable to me. I have a family member who is tritiya-prakriti and has a family of her own, and she is accepted. Another family member from a different side of my family had it a bit rough with her family in the beginning.

    Now, I continue on my journey with a bit more confidence in finding something that will fit me. I was driving into town to supply up again, and I was thinking again about my Ancient status and how it was mentioned that Sanatana Dharma is assumed to have been around since the beginning. It sounds like it was a progression from the primal state, which I lived in for much of my mental life, to acquisition of language, tools, and knowledge, and picking up and learning about the physical world prior to realizing the very beginnings of the Vedas and the earliest recognition that there was something more to it than what they say. I find myself in the very earliest days, if not the earliest, yet I have this knowledge, way of communicating, and experience. I don’t know what to make of this life of mine. It was fortunate that they caught my deafness in time, otherwise, I probably would have lost my ability to relate, to communicate as I do today. There are cases of feral children and how they fail to fully assimilate into society. I don’t know how much more time I would have had left before falling permanently into that state of being.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that the majority of religions aren’t a good fit for me because I don’t have the mindset that is required for assimilation into those faiths. I was deaf apparently after the first year (or maybe during that year), so I didn’t get very far in learning to talk, never mind understand what was going on around me. I was insulated from religion and social norms by this. It’s one thing if you are young enough to be impressionable, but another if you get older and your worldview forms before they “get to you.” Especially if it’s language-less, without form. I don’t know whether to say it is “wild, untamed,” or in a close-to-natural state, closer than typically civilized people will ever be. I have always gotten this feeling when people of various faiths would proselytize me; nope, this is wrong. That does not sound right. It doesn’t fit me anyway. This is an opportunity to listen to Hinduism and its message.

    Perhaps I need to see where I need to go in the history of Dharma in order to see if I have the proper base of awareness to progress further. To connect up with the earliest parts of it, like ganglia of two things looking for each other.

    Thank you…

    • Ambaa

      I am less worried than you about this “neo Hindu” thing. I don’t entirely understand even what that is. I do my best to live a Hindu life and I trust others to do their best to the best of their understanding.

      There are a lot of flavors of Hinduism and I don’t see it as my job to rule on which ones are allowed. Some may feel that we must be authentic to the lifestyle of 5,000 years ago. But others do not. I think that’s okay.

      I am influenced by many things, but everything that I study and learn and do is for the purpose of moving closer to moksha. I don’t find it useful to assign the labels of “pure Hinduism” v.s. “neo Hinduism.”

      I would really urge you to relax a little about getting the “right” answer. I know you feel like you’re short on time, but honestly traditionally Hindus were not expected to start their search for moksha until retirement, so you’re actually ahead of the game.

      • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

        I would like to relax a bit, but the fear of Christianity taking over the world is a very real one. Look what happened to my Native American ancestors; they didn’t know the language, converted to baptism, and didn’t know very much about the customs of their ancestors. By the mid-later 1800s, much of what was known before 1800 was largely forgotten by the Cherokees, and the only reason we know as much as we do now is because of missionary efforts to document what they saw among them before these factors disappeared later on. Had I been born of my half-siblings’ generation (25+) years, even my grandmother and great-grandmother would have been no help in this department, except for their personal family history, but not about the language, the beliefs, and the culture. My Dad could tell me very little of these things, and although he sided with the Native American Church in general, he wouldn’t wear his hair in the traditional Cherokee style and was otherwise conservative in his approach to things. This same thing will happen to Hindus if they don’t face up to this historical fact of the cultural extinction of my ancestors. Rajiv Malhotra, in his books and writings (I’m reading “Invasion of the Sacred” now), makes it very plain and clear that this is real, and it points to the urgency of stopping the Christian advance dead in its tracks. You ought to come down to east Texas, in Nacogdoches, Lufkin, etc., and then decide if it’s okay to be less worried about neo-Hinduism. You just have to see what it’s like to be on guard daily in the towns because you do not want to invite the kind of forceful proselytizing that these people are prone to.

        As to my feeling short on time in regards to Moksha; it’s not so much wanting to reach that within this lifetime. I’ll get there when I can, and not before. It can’t be forced. What I want is to feel like I’m on the right path for myself and dive in. I want my guard down. It comes up from decades of conditioning against proselytization. If I see any hint of Christian influence somewhere, this ball-shell pops up around me, and nothing gets in. NOTHING. This is how I’ve managed to protect myself all these years. I’m tired of doing it, but I can’t co-opt myself on my journey.

        • Ambaa

          People know a lot more about the evils of Christianity now than they did in the 1800s. People have access to a lot more information now and that has made most of us quite wary and careful of claims.

          I don’t think this crusade of yours is helping you. I really think you’d be a lot happier and able to focus on your own spiritual growth if you took a step back from the Internet communities, forums, and discussions and went to the source. Read the many many holy books. Get a translation that shows you the Sanskrit (Sargeant’s Gita is great for this. He gives the definition of each and every word and then puts it together). Why are you reading Malhotra’s work before you’ve read the actual basis of Hinduism? Read the primary sources first and then look at the interpretations and commentary.

          I really urge you to spend some months diving into the original writings of Hinduism and then go back to the forums and the Internet after that. You’ll have such a more solid foundation and you’ll feel so much more confident about what Hinduism is.

  • Pri

    Let’s look at Shikhandi and Arjuna in the Mahabaratha, anyone who is considered a Hijira in modern Indian society, Vishnu becoming Mohini and having Ayyappa (or Shasta, but I’m South Indian) with Shiva, etc. There is a degree of gender fluidity in the Hindu puranas and the people who ended up society’s grey area were not demonized or punished. If we see Hijiras as having the ability to bless people, then how can Hindu society also punish these very people?

    There are also counterpoints to all of this.. Shikhandi became who he was because of a vow he took as Amba in a previous life to kill Bishma, Arjuna was cursed by Urvashi for rejecting her advances (but eww, she was one of the founders of the Kuru race… in a word, “incest”), Vishnu is an all-powerful god and one can make the argument that in his female avatara he was fully female, and those who are considered Hijiras are maltreated in modern society and are reduced to prostitution and begging (ironically begging for alms while blessing people) for a living. I think it’s really hard to say there is a “Hindu” perspective, ever. Can one say that

    Hindus are a monolithic people? I would say no. We are heterodox, something that will naturally happen in a polytheistic culture (this is what makes me most angry about how the political conservatives in India interpret Hinduism… the kind of Hinduism they are representing is a very narrow definition of Hinduism in my opinion… one that favors a forward- caste, patriarchal, heterosexual, and Northern interpretation). I think ambiguity is the beauty of Hindu culture. There is way too much ambiguity and there are way too many sources and interpretations to say anything about gay marriage or anything else in Hinduism. We don’t have a Leviticus 18:22 or a Nicean canon like the Christians.

    Modern-day Indian culture is very negative towards the idea of transgendered people. It is often difficult to separate Indian culture from Hinduism (and I’m not even sure that there is a real purpose for doing this sometimes). Indian culture and even Hindu culture has been significantly influenced by Mughal culture (case-in point the purdah culture of Rajputs in Rajastan), Victorian British culture (read the Indian Penal Code–IPC, and take a look at the early descriptions of Nair women by British people while comparing them to modern ideas of what the “model Nair woman” should be), and movements within and from Hinduism. Even our texts, from the Vedas to the Upanishads and everything else were written at vastly different points in our history as a people. So not only do different texts show us different perspectives from different cultures, it also shows us the changes in mindsets in the same people across centuries.

    Unfortunately, the religious right is loud (not just the Hindu right by the way) and very influential. Questioning interpretations will be seen as blasphemous, and blasphemy can easily be bent into something punishable by IPC 295a. These things will keep us from critically and truly being able to answer questions like this. That, combined with a dearth of written non-religious historical sources make really seeing what Hinduism/Indian history says about these issues very complicated.

    If I were to express my thoughts in India, my Malayalee, matrilineal, non-Brahmin, but very Hindu nationalist family will disown me even though they themselves are actually heir to a very different history and brand of religion (ironic, na?).

    I’m so sorry, this has become a ramble, but I would love to write something more cogent and articulate some other time. Thanks so much for making me think about this!

    Just my two cents.

    PS. On a related note, Victorian British culture in a way introduced a new breed of homophobia that turned into the suppression of Urdu/Mughal literature. See “Queering India” by Ruth Vanitha. Some of the “conservative Indian values” are actually not actually Indian at all. I hope this doesn’t come across as British bashing (modern-day Britons think these Victorian beliefs are just as stupid).

    • Ambaa

      Thank you for your insight on this topic! I really appreciate your comment!

      I definitely agree that it is hugely challenging to separate Indian culture from Hinduism and vice versa. That’s been one of the big challenges in my life.

  • Trailblazer

    Most Indians (Hindus) would denounce homosexuality. India has always been a tolerant country and people of third gender are tolerated all over India. That being said, all this thing about gays is clearly a western disease. The very fact that you brought this into Hinduism is offensive. All major world religions including Islam, Christianity, Judaism etc denounce it rightly and Hinduism is no different in this matter. Just because Hinduism is tolerant does not mean something which undermines the very basic tenet of life, family and naturalness is to be tolerated. As I have said what you believe is your wish and its none of my business. But, spreading WESTERN DISEASES into a country already ravaged by poverty, famine, grief and sidestepping these important matters to give way for some discourse on unnatural western mental illnesses is not going to help. The minority religions in India esp. Islam and Christianity are already against this and Hinduism is going to be no different as and when the issue arises. As I said earlier, what you feel about an issue is your core belief. Don’t let others (including religion) dictate it to you. But, please leave Hinduism and India out of this drudgery.

    • Ambaa

      Homosexuality is not a western only thing. Nor is it a disease. Nor is it a mental illness.

      While I’ve met some Hindus like you who denounce homosexuality, I have also met Hindus who do not.

      While some gurus will denounce it others encourage the opposite. I’ll choose gurus who don’t make life miserable for people based on their birth.

      If that’s “western” of me, then so be it. I grew up being taught that homosexuality was wrong and now I am disgusted that I was taught that. Nothing is more adharmic, in my opinion.

      • Trailblazer

        Well, good for you then. It surely is a disease in every sense of the word to all sane people outside the western world. So, let’s just agree to disagree. You can keep your western principles to yourself. Please don’t spread your first-world diseases to the already impoverished third world countries who are already suffering on various fronts. And, please leave Hinduism out of this shit.

    • A.R.

      Wait, how is homosexuality a disease? If two people consensually decide to have a relationship, how does that affect anyone else’s relationship?

      How is it a disease if it can’t spread? It doesn’t harm the health; homosexuality has been recorded in humans for millennia, and homosexuality has been recorded in other species. How is it harmful or unnatural? If you think it undermines family, then don’t practice homosexuality, and keep your family “safe.” It’s not like if a family sees a homosexual couple, the whole family suddenly becomes sick or everyone becomes homosexuals in that family.

      Mental illness–the definition of a mental illness is that leads to emotional or mental distress to the patient. But most homosexuals are very happy in their relationships–they aren’t ill at all.

      If you can give me an example where someone suffered emotional, physical, or mental harm because of homosexuality (except where someone didn’t like someone else’s homosexuality and got unreasonably “distressed” because of that), I’ll consider your position.

  • A.R.

    Doug, the major problem I have with Christianity is the fact that it is human nature to sin.

    Humans can’t help it to sin. God is sinless, yes, but He didn’t create us, and then say, “Well, I created the way you are; now you have to do the impossible and become sinless to enter heaven.” Now, I know what you’ll say: “You’re right; man CAN’T become sinless on his own and that’s why Jesus Christ died for our sins.” But if Jesus died for my sins, why do I need to believe in him to make it work–why is God so obsessed with glorifying himself and getting our faith? Also, I don’t understand: Jesus died 2000 years, and I’ve never seen him, and Christian scripture records that he did things that cannot be replicated today and are unexplainable by science–but if I don’t believe in him, I suffer in eternal torment. That’s a pretty tall order to believe in someone in someone who, according to Christian understanding, literally contradicts science.

    Let me tell you something: no human wants to go to hell. Humans don’t choose to reject God. If the proof of Christ were so irrefutable then everyone would accept him. No man’s heart is hardened to the point (except when God says: “Oh, well, I don’t like this Egyptian king, so I will give up on trying to win him over, and condemn him and harden his heart so I can damn one group of people and save my ‘chosen’ people”–so much for “God wills all to be saved”!) where he actively wants to enter into everlasting hellfire.

    Therefore, God didn’t invite me into Heaven, as you say. If He came to me in a very vivid personal dream or performed a miracle for me and then said “I am God; join Me in Heaven!” I would believe you. But I can’t reject Jesus if I don’t have proof of Him. You assume that people know about Jesus and willingly reject him. But as I said in the previous paragraph, no one would reject Jesus if he was provable.

    You say God can’t force us to be with Him–why did he separate us from Him at all? Why did He plant the tree of knowledge? Why did he create humans with free will? To this last question, you might say it would be cruel to imprison us like this, but isn’t it crueler to condemn us to everlasting torment than to not create us at all? There is no point in allowing 7 billion humans to exist in 2015 if only 1 billion Catholics are going to heaven. God is omniscient–He knew that humans would be sinful, because no one is sinless besides God. He is omnibenevolent–He can’t punish us for all eternity because we acted according to normal human nature. He can rehabilitate us by offering direct proof, He can give us another try through something reincarnation, but everlasting punishment is a very primitive idea.

    If God wanted humans to be able to realize that Christ was God, he should have given us the ability to time-travel. Or He could have chosen not to create humans at all and not condemn the vast majority of humans to everlasting fire. (Which I don’t understand either. Christians say that God, in addition to being a God of love, is a God of wrath and righteousness, so he needs to punish the wicked. But is rejecting that which has no proof considered wicked? You admitted yourself that you couldn’t prove that Heaven and Hell exist. And why does justice need to include outright torture–like fire and brimstone? Why can’t it simply be rehabilitation, like in Hinduism, or temporary separation from God, like in HInduism? Why is life a one-time deal–an opportunity that could involve being born into a most religious Catholic family, or in an isolated Native American village in the 1500s where all you have heard of the Catholics is that they murder other Native Americans?)

    Faith is faith, yes. I know no one can fully prove any religion. But the difference is that I don’t need to prove it, because I don’t think anything bad will happen to anyone if they don’t believe in my God. I can accept you; you can’t accept me.

    Lastly this isn’t so much of an argument as a simple question of curiosity: what happened to humans before Christ? How were they saved? What about the Mongolian tribes who had never even heard of the Jews? Now, you have two options here: 1) you can say that everyone is damned if they don’t accept Christ. But that’s seems a bit unfair for obvious reasons. Jesus wasn’t fully known even in all of Europe until the latter half of the first millennium! 2) you can say that if they don’t hear the Gospel, they are saved. So what was the point in sending Christ in the first place? If Jesus hadn’t come, no one would have heard the Gospel and everyone would have been saved. And the Jews would have been happy and not persecuted, the Crusades wouldn’t have happened, Native Americans wouldn’t have been murdered in Christ’s name, the Spanish Inquisition wouldn’t have happened, and unfortunate evangelicals like you wouldn’t be so hopelessly deceived!

  • Veronica

    “You will often see transgendered men called hijras at Hindu festivals and events.”

    Ambaa, I am just beginning to read through your posts and was happy to find you,
    so I want to believe this is simply an innocent error on your part, but it is deeply injurious, offensive, and incorrect. These are not “transgendered men” as you claim, they are trans women. A transgender man was assigned female at birth, whereas a trans woman was assigned male. Also, “transgendered” is inappropriate, as transgender is an adjective, not a verb.

    I can provide links and additional information if you’d like to discuss this further, and I sincerely hope that you did not intend to offend.

    • Ambaa

      I apologize! I am not as well versed in these issues as I would like to be and I am trying to learn. I will attempt to edit to fix that!

      • Veronica

        Thank you, Ambaa! I am relieved to learn that this was an innocent mistake.
        My husband is half-Indian and his father’s family is mostly Hindu. I’ve always wanted to learn more about Hinduism, so I am glad to have found you.

  • Melanie

    Hi. I’m a bi sexual married, American recent “convert” ( 1yr) to Hinduism. You encourage me to continue one.. even when everyone else misunderstands. Nice to know I am not alone in the way I see life. :)

    • Ambaa

      Wonderful to meet you!

  • Veronica

    Hi again, Ambaa. I noticed that you edited your article. Thank you!

    This provides some good information on transgender people: http://www.glaad.org/transgender/transfaq

    There are a lot of other good resources on that website, as well.

    Here’s one about how to be a better ally:
    http://www.glaad.org/transgender/allies

    Finally, I have a question: What do you think is the best source for a beginner who wants to learn more about Hinduism? Is it best to start with your articles to get a feel for it, or should I dive right into the religious texts like the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads? I started the Bhagavad Gita and found it a bit harder to get into than I was hoping.

    My husband’s father gave us the books, but my husband has far less interest in learning about Hinduism than I do. I don’t know how to get him interested, if only for historical and familial reasons.

    • Ambaa

      Thank you! I really appreciate that you were willing to point out my errors and give me new resources.

      As far as your question, I think it is tough to just dive right in without guidance. This is the purpose of gurus, of course, but it can be hard to find ones that you trust.

      It’s also hard to dive in because a lot of the speeches that gurus give are not directed towards people who are completely new to the stories and scriptures.

      I guess I would suggest starting with The Everything Book: Hinduism ( http://amzn.to/1CJugpD ) Keeping in mind that it is an outsider perspective on it. It can help you get the basic concepts that you can then expand on. Also, the books from Himalayan Academy are HIGHLY recommended. How To Become a Hindu ( http://amzn.to/1TK7mT6 ) and Dancing With Shiva ( http://amzn.to/1OnXonv ) are favorites of mine.

      I’ve enjoyed discussion groups. I found one through a Sathya Sai Baba bhajan group. Every other week they have a Gita discussion. Chinmaya also has small group discussions and they are particularly known for being welcoming to non-Indians.

      • Veronica

        Thanks again! I will definitely look into these.

      • Veronica

        ‘How to Become a Hindu’ looks amazing!

        “Hinduism is not evangelical. It does not hawk its faith on street corners or wish to manipulate for converts. It makes conversion hard work and puts demands on the individual before they can enter the faith. It wants informed and reasoned conversions, not quick switches at the high of an emotional presentation.”

        This idea of “consensual conversion” is so important yet so oft overlooked.

  • rambabu

    I am surprised how the Caucasians who are said to be the explorers and discoverers and go to any length to unravel the truth fell so easily for Christianity which is a closed religion with beliefs like God has only one favored son and Humans are obliged to approach God only through him !

  • MjB

    Dear Ambaa, I think it’s important to make the following point. You stated that the goal of life is to attain unity with God. I’d like to offer my viewpoint that this is your goal for your life. Perhaps Unity is the ‘big picture’ goal of this eternal Creation. But, each individual incarnation is unique I believe, and striving for Unity may not be appropriate for some of us in this lifetime. As a person who allowed myself to take on another’s viewpoint of the purpose for life, which diminished my natural, and differing inclinations, I think it’s relevant to make this point and share.

    Sincerely and with best wishes.

    • Ambaa

      You make a very good point!

  • Veronica

    It could just as easily be said that what you believe is also a myth. Where does one draw the line between myth and religion? You use your beliefs to try to refute another’s. This is a very flawed way to argue and is lacking in any logic.

  • Veronica

    You are the naive one if you believe that christianity has ever been “proven”. Neither history nor science stands in your favor, at all. Once again, you are taking your personal beliefs and delusions and attempting to use them to argue against logic. The two cannot stand on equal footing.

  • Veronica

    I cannot presume to know Ambaa’s thoughts, but were I in her shoes I would have completely ignored your comment, as it’s clear you have no respect for either her or Hinduism. You’re clearly one of many who believe the bible, a book written many years ago by ordinary men, verbatim, despite its varied inconsistencies and flat-out lies. I am not one of those who rely upon some variety of “faith” to shape my world.
    As for your “facts”, please list sources that are not religious in nature that provide any evidence of the historical accuracy of the bible. You will either find ones that are only on religious websites or you will come up empty. There are no proven historical links.
    Here’s some information that begins to detail how archaeology disproves biblical history: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/12/24/1265119/-How-Archaeology-Disproves-Biblical-History

  • Veronica

    Further proof that you are mere fodder to be ignored and not worth my time: “Scientists believe that humans have come from monkeys.” Clearly you have no education and no understanding of evolutionary biology. No scientist has ever stated something so, as you called it, preposterous. The evidence points to the fact that all hominoids are descendents of a common ancestor. Denying science is one of many reasons why people of your blind faith are laughed at and mocked.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/faq/cat02.html

    You and those like you are one of the many reasons I tend to stay off forums: you are the loudest, most belligerent, and least informed minority. You wear your faith like bubble wrap, insulating you against the dangerous truths that can be found in science. You twist what few facts you come across to suit your horrid agenda. Education is one of the few known cures for what ails you, but, as the result of willful ignorance and brainwashing, you’re far past that point.

    Oh, and morality? Defunct. By rational beings, it was replaced by the notion of ethics many years ago. There is such a thing as “good without a god”. I would also add that those who live in fear of celestial retribution for “immoral” deeds are not at all good people to begin with. If you will only do good to prove your worth to someone, be he mortal or not, you’re clearly not worthy. The ethical standpoint is that we should be good for the sake of being good. Goodness is its own reward. An ethical society is far superior to a moral one.

  • Veronica

    Once again, you use nothing but theological texts to defend your argument.

    I have heard far too many times “I have faith so it must be true”.

    Of course I mock you and those like you: you’re ridiculous! Study your history if you want to learn of the harm of your religion. It has been slaughtering wholesale since its rise to power. Funny
    how the religion of “love” and “forgiveness” is
    anything but. The so-called teachings of Jesus are ignored by all but a handful, and those certainly do not include evangelists.

    You are correct on one thing: everyone is born agnostic. It is only through indoctrination that one becomes a christian.

    You keep talking about what your god wants and does and loves, but one of the main tenets of your religion is that you can never assume to know any of those things.

    If you honestly believe in the stories of Genesis, or any of the others, you are lost to all reason.

    Also, you mention heresies. A heresy by your usage seems to be anything with which you disagree. Had you actually studied history, archaeology, geology, and any other number of basic sciences, and not proven yourself so ignorant, you would understand that, despite our understanding of science changing, there are things you cannot disprove, such as carbon dating, studies of strata, and radiometric age dating.

    If you read your bible and know anything about your religion, you would know that the old testament is the book of the hebrews, and the new is supposedly that of the christians, yet the old is all that your ilk ever quote. Do you wear mixed fabrics? Eat shellfish? Enjoy football? All of those “sins” are acknowledged, as well as homosexuality. Being gay isn’t a choice, something anyone at least halfway versed in the sciences knows.

    The distinction between monkeys and apes is huge, and this misnomer clearly illustrates your scientific ignorance.

    No, I’m not going to look into your “sources”, no more than you will come to the light of reason.

    Of course religion and theology are two schools of thought that stand very much at odds with each other.

    Ethics are agreed upon by society and can certainly exist without religion-tainted morals. When I donate to a cause I believe in, it is because I want to achieve something positive, not because I fear my supposed “immortal soul”. It is much more likely that a humanist do humanitarian work than a christian, whose main “nonprofit” work relies heavily on coerced conversion.
    “Here, children of Africa: want fresh water? Pray to
    Jesus.” It’s disgusting.

    I am replying not for your sake, but for the sake of any others who may yet be open to reason and facts.

  • Veronica

    What shows [to you] that I am agitated and uncivil? That I do not show you deference based upon your apparent ignorance?

    You are willfully ignorant, regardless of your education. You choose to deny facts to fit your agenda. I will comment on that as I please, as I do all things.

    You have clearly proven my point, that faith and reason clash. You deny all scientific evidence based on your belief system, one that is highly flawed and based upon the philosophies of long-dead men.

  • Ambaa

    It is very sad when someone makes it seem inevitable for science and religion to clash :( That has not been my experience. I want no religion that denies what is actually happening in the world!

  • Veronica

    I agree with you.

    It is my opinion that if a belief system is incapable of evolving or “changing with the times” it is hurting both itself and those who follow it. At least in the case of Judeo-Christian religions, those who interpret their texts literally are missing out on a great deal of knowledge in science. I find science and the universe to be immense sources of wonder and hope. I also wholly believe that anyone who ignores scientific evidence in order to lie, either to themselves or to others, to be not only troubled but, in these troubling times, also dangerous. It is far too commonplace for people of a particular kind of faith to attempt to force it on others, at least in the United States. I respect everyone’s individual beliefs, but when that belief oversteps personal boundaries, and forces itself into legislation, it becomes harmful in the worst sort of ways.

    A lot of us throw around the phrase “freedom of religion” without truly understanding what that means. A lot of people will use it to their defense when they are actually being bigoted or acting out of fear or cowardice. Two primary components of freedom of religion are the facts that it is not limited to only the religion of one person’s choosing AND that freedom OF necessitates freedom FROM. The only way to ensure freedom of religion is to keep our laws and policies devoid of religious wording, intent, or bias. This also means that public schools should not favor one religion over any others and that public lands should be free of religious monuments, both things which are still somehow hotly debated.

    I encourage everyone to study world religions of both present and past times, but I do not tolerate proselytizing. I believe there are beneficial lessons to be learned from most, if not all, religions, but there is also a very sordid history of religion being the source of harm, particularly by those most fervently affected by it.


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