The Search for Acceptance: Homosexuality in Hinduism

du_01.1-300x249(Source: http://www.spiritualityireland.org/blog/index.php/2011/07/asia-and-hinduism-makes-hallmark-with-first-same-sex-marriage/)

As of June 2015, same sex marriage has been legal nationwide in the United States of America with the Supreme Court ruling in  Obergefell v. Hodges that state level bans on same sex marriage are unconstitutional. The court also ruled that the denial of marriage licenses to same sex couples and the refusal to recognize these marriages goes against the Constitution of the United States. As news of the ruling  spread across the land , many of the opposition were quick to reply. Their arguments were regarding many religious concerns and the definition of marriage.   The Southern Baptist Convention in 2003 said legalizing same sex relationships would “convey a societal approval of a homosexual lifestyle which the Bible calls sinful and dangerous both to the individuals involved and to society at large.” Many other opponents also  base their arguments on the grounds that their religion does not support equal rights marriage.

In Hinduism, deities can take many forms but all combine in the spirit of Brahman, Unlike many of the Abrahamic religious, which are based on the notion of having only  one lifetime, Hinduism supports  reincarnation. In the Hindu theory of reincarnation,  the true self passes from lifetime to lifetime beyond the limitations of the body until it achieves a state known as  Moksha. This process includes the release of all sensual experiences including sexuality.

Hindu texts, however do not differentiate between heterosexual and homosexual acts. Hindu texts also do not use the latter terms, and also do not distinguish between procreative sex and non procreative sex. However, these non-procreative sexual acts are discouraged only for Brahmins and priests, and not the common  man.  Due to the lack of Hindu authority on the matter, opinions regarding LGBT issues vary across  different ashrams and temples. The Hindu American Foundation says that “Hinduism does not provide a fundamental spiritual reason to reject or ostracize homosexuals,” and that, “…[they should] accept them as fellow sojourners on the path to moksha”. The Vedas also discuss a “third sex,” which describes people for whom sex is not procreative, either because of impotence or the lack of desire for the opposite sex. These members were not known to be ostracized in ancient Hindu society, but celebrated for having divine powers or insights. The Kama Sutra, a Hindu text on sexuality, states that “same sex experience is to be engaged in and enjoyed for its own sake as one of the arts.” According to the Dharma Shastras, marriage has many but very specific functions, including Prajaa, or procreation. Due to this, some view that same sex marriage as unacceptable. It is also clear, however, that the Dharma Shastras are only guides, not binding to anyone, and that there are multiple ways to define the idea of Prajaa.

Even though many of the above texts welcome LGBTQ people, it is apparent that many Hindu communities continue to be very unwelcoming. Attitudes of equal rights marriage continue to change through the world and challenge many views. With such a triumph in the United States, it is only clear that a free path is about to be paved for the LGBTQ community all over the world, including these Hindu communities.

Any opinions stated in this article do not reflect the views of The Hindu Students Association, but the writer herself. Thanks.