One often hears about the Christian religious right and its views on homosexuality and the position of mainstream Islam is fairly obvious too but what of the views of the over one billion Hindus? It seems the complex belief system of Hindus does not offer any easy answer on the subject.
This excellent article in Hinduism Today by Vidyaratha Kissoon takes a rare regional look at the subject in the case of Guyana. It is interesting to note that Trinidad & Tobago also has a sizable Hindu population and recently the Trinidad Express included the thoughts of a local Hindu leader on the matter:
“In response to this, Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Sat Maharaj, said although “the rest of the world is turning upside down to accommodate these people”, Trinidad and Tobago has more important things to address than “the rights of gays and lesbians”.
“We (as a Hindu organisation) recognise that there are these oddities in society that have odd behaviours, but we do not believe that is sufficient grounds to change the laws.
Notwithstanding the idiocly of such local views, the Guyana article notes that there is a diversity of opinion on the matter but many of those voices believe that there is no fundamental conflict between Hinduism and homosexuality:
“But community debate has uncovered a simple truth: there is no unified policy in Hinduism about homosexuality. In general, the matter is ruled by common sense, wisdom and tradition. But tradition can be a fluid concept, widely dependent on regional practices and collective memory; it shifts from generation to generation. One example is the strong influence of prudish British thought on Hindu morals in the last few centuries (see sidebar below).
“Indian culture has always had multiple expressions of gender identity and sexual orientation,” says Pandit Deodat Tillack, priest at the Shri Samayapuran Mariamma Temple. “The major festivals around Lord Aravan and the worship of Bahucharia Mata, called Murgi Mata in Guyana, reflect these views,” he claims. The festivals to Lord Aravan, are a favorite of the third-sex hijra in India, who attend en masse; Lord Krishna is believed to have assumed the form of Mohini to marry Aravan as a reward for his dedication. Bahucharia Mata is a patron Goddess of the hijra community.
Pandit Tillack’s views are echoed by many in Guyana. His colleague Pandit Rajin Balgobind feels that non-heterosexuals, who often question why they were born that way, should recognize that their sexual orientation is part of who they are. “Hindu scriptures do not discriminate against people; we are to be respected as our own decision makers. Everyone, including homosexual people, should lead disciplined lives that fulfill dharma, contribute to the well being of their society and do no harm to anyone.” In Balgobind’s opinion, sexual orientation falls into the category of kama (pleasure), one of the four goals of life, called purusharthas.