Amara das asks, “Same-sex Marriage in the USA: Are you ready, ISKCON?”. . .

. . . because he wants to give it good and hard to ISKCON in the butt.

Really.

Let’s be frank here: whenever someone extolls the alleged virtues of same-sex marriage, he is talking about same-sex sex. Yes, the kind of sex in which a man inserts his generative organ in an orifice other than where it is supposed to go (or a woman tries to do something similar). That’s the kind of sex he is talking about. If he were only talking about roommates, friends, which have almost always been “same sex” no matter the culture and without even the presumption of sex, there would be no controversy here. Amara is talking about a relationship in which sexual activity is presumed. That is what it even means to call it marriage, a relationship in which sexal activity is in fact presumed.

When he asks, “Are you ready?”, that’s something to take seriously because, in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, it’s not only a forewarning of impending public opprobrium but legal challenges as well. Even if it’s not him that takes ISKCON to court for not allowing same-sex marriages on its properties, he belongs to a community that approves of such persecution by legal or sometimes extra-legal means.

Does this sound alarmist? Far from it. A recent article in the Federalist makes mention of popular, state-sanctioned animus toward conservative Christians.

In 2012, New Jersey judge Solomon A. Metzger ruled against a Christian retreat house associated with the United Methodist Church that refused to allow a same-sex civil union ceremony on its premises. Just a few months ago, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed sacked fire chief Kelvin Cochran, an African-American Baptist church deacon, for expressing his personal religious beliefs on marriage in a Bible study publication.

In Washington DC, religiously affiliated education institutions are now forced to allow gay advocacy groups to use their facilities, and parents have been disallowed from helping their children who feel unwanted sexual attractions in California and New Jersey.

Even the federal government is not innocent of wrongdoing here. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told state attorneys general they can ignore state laws about marriage (in violation of their oaths of office), and President Obama has decided support for natural marriage is reason to discriminate against religious organizations when handing out federal grants. His administration is also attempting to punish a Navy chaplain for expressing his faith. With the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision today, one can only imagine what is coming next, although Canada, Britain, and elsewhere offer disturbing prospects.

(John-Henry Westen, “Same-Sex Marriage Won’t Bring Us Peace”, 26 Jun 2015 The Federalist 28 Jun 2015 <http://thefederalist.com/2015/06/26/same-sex-marriage-wont-bring-us-peace/>)

What does this mean for us who are in ISKCON, North America? It’s not a matter of if but when the persecution begins. It will not be quite like the hostility of American Christians in the 1970s and 80s towards us, or the deprogrammers of that era. But in some important ways it will be worse and more debilitating, because the politics of sexual liberation that is at the heart of American leftist politics is something that many American devotees continue to self-identify with–even if out of sentiment for their time as hippies before joining the movement. That is, the vanguard for enforcing conformity with the sexual mores of mainstream American society are already within ISKCON North America. Amara is but one voice of this vanguard, but one that has been more frank than most.

Moreover, ISKCON’s Founder-Acharya Srila Prabhupada was unequivocal both in his condemnation of the gay lifestyle and his view that women should not have social, political or economic independence. Just his position alone on women has prompted a politically progressive “long march” through ISKCON’s institutions in an attempt to disestablish Srila Prabhupada’s authority, with the objective of jettisoning his stance on issues disfavored by today’s social and political classes but retaining him as a figurehead and spokesman for ideas he was in fact against. It is therefore no accident that ISKCON’s growing tryst with homosexual sexual liberation has followed women’s liberation within ISKCON. In society at large, many mainstream religious institutions have already followed the same trajectory. (Bolding added)

For many Evangelicals, the marriage debate isn’t really about marriage or families or sex—it is about the Bible itself. And that makes many evangelicals all the more uncompromising. The roots of the conflict are deeply theological. Evangelical faith prizes the Bible’s authority, and that has meant a core commitment to biblical inerrancy—the belief that the words of the Bible are without error. Genesis Chapter 1 says God created male and female for one another, and the Apostle Paul calls homosexuality a sin, inerrantists say, and for groups like the Southern Baptist Convention and its 50,000 churches nationwide, that is the biblical trump card. It doesn’t matter if the views are out of step with society or other Christian traditions. “We believe even stranger things than that,” Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, points out. “We believe a previously dead man is going to arrive in the sky on a horse.”

And there is another, just as fundamental, obstacle. So far no Christian tradition has been able to embrace the LGBT community without first changing its views about women. The same reasoning that concludes that homosexuality is sin is also behind the traditional evangelical view that husbands are the spiritual leaders of marriages and men are the leaders in church. It is one reason gay men have an easier time as evangelical reformers. Lesbians face the double whammy—an evangelical world where leadership has long revolved around straight men has twice the trouble hearing them because they are both female and gay. “It is not an accident that the women’s-liberation movement preceded the gay-liberation movement,” Robinson says. “Discriminatory attitudes and treatment of LGBT people is rooted in patriarchy, and in order to embrace and affirm gays, evangelicals will have to address their own patriarchy and sexism, not just their condemnation of LGBT people.”

(Dias, Elizabeth. “A Change Of Heart.” Time 185.2 (2015): 44­48. Academic Search Complete. Web. 29
June 2015.)

In ISKCON we have similar though not identical matters of authority in our own part of the Western culture war. And let us make no mistake about it, we are a part of their culture war whether we want to be or not. We may not be interested in their war, but their war is interested in us.

Nevertheless, more than any other religious tradition in the world, our Vaishnava tradition is most clear on the point that the fundamental principle of illusory (ungodly) life is the attraction between male and female. Pumsah striyah mithuni bhavam etam. Varnasrama principles are warranted on this principle alone. Indeed, Srila Prabhupada himself says,

So these regulative principles are there. So what is, what is the big plan behind these regulative principles? The big plan is: here is the attraction, pumsah striya mithuni-bhavam etam to cut down this attraction between male and female. This is the big plan. Otherwise there is no need of the varnasrama.

Lecture, Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.8, Vrindavan Oct 30, 1976.

It is because our theology is so clear on this point that it will be more difficult to subvert than has been Christian theology, whatever kind it is. Any attempt to change our Vaishnava principles more readily exposes itself as bald contempt on the part of the so-called reformers. If corruption of our understanding and religious principles concerning women is defended successfully, we will also be able to defend ourselves from the attempted persecutions from the pro-homosexual lobby.

There is hope after all.

And since we are part of a culture war, we could stand to make some progress against Maya where no other spiritual movement can prevail.

A modest proposal for increasing the number of brahmanas within the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and within Society at Large

ISKCON’s mission not only includes the propagation of pure devotion to Lord Sri Krishna but also includes the reestablishment of brahmanas within society at large.

People in general are being guided into hellish condition of life by the rascal leaders, so we must establish qualified brahmanas at the head of the society, and widely distribute Krishna conscious principles. (Letter to Balavanta 17 June 1972)

We have enough of technological and other types of educational institutions, but perhaps there is none where actual brahmanas and Vaisnavas are produced. So we will have to establish an educational institution for that purpose. (Letter to Kirtanananda 12 January 1969)

Your idea to recruit many brahmacaris is nice. We need a class of men purely brahmanas. The whole world is full of sudras. The Krishna Consciousness movement is meant for re-establishing the system of four varnas and asramas, then there will be progress of civilization. (Letter to Rupanuga 3 May 1972)

I am so pleased to know that you have been recommended by Sriman Bhagavan das Prabhu for gayatri mantra initiation. Actually that is what I am trying to do in your country is to establish a brahminical society. So when I see that these young American boys are becoming eligible by qualification to take second initiation and become qualified Brahmins, I become very much pleased and my Guru Maharaja becomes pleased also.  (Letter to Laksmi Narayana 8 July 1971)

However, in many of the countries throughout the world where there are ISKCON centers there are many twice initiated devotees who live outside of the temple but who on account of their professions are unable to devote substantial time to preaching. The vast majority of these have jobs and accept a salary, which according to the shastras and our parampara is forbidden for a brahmana.

In time of emergency, one may accept any of the various types of professions known as rta, amrta, mrta, pramrta and satyanrta, but one should not at any time accept the profession of a dog. The profession of uñchasila, collecting grains from the field, is called rta. Collecting without begging is called amrta, begging grains is called mrta, tilling the ground is called pramrta, and trade is called satyanrta. Engaging in the service of low-grade persons, however, is called sva-vrtti, the profession of the dogs. Specifically, brahmanas and ksatriyas should not engage in the low and abominable service of sudras. Brahmanas should be well acquainted with all the Vedic knowledge, and ksatriyas should be well acquainted with the worship of demigods. (SB 7.11.18-20)

[Purport to SB 7.11.18-20:] As stated in Bhagavad-gita (4.13), catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah: the four divisions of human society were created by the Supreme Lord according to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them. Formerly, the principle of dividing human society into four sections — brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra — was strictly followed, but because of gradual neglect of the varnasrama principles, varna-sankara population developed, and the entire institution has now been lost. In this Age of Kali, practically everyone is a sudra (kalau sudra-sambhavah), and finding anyone who is a brahmana, ksatriya or vaisya is very difficult. Although the Krsna consciousness movement is a movement of brahmanas and Vaisnavas, it is trying to reestablish the divine varnasrama institution, for without this division of society there cannot be peace and prosperity anywhere. [end of purport]

Srila Prabhupada: No, they are not brahmanas. Those who give education in exchange for money—they are not brahmanas. For instance, we are lecturing, educating people. We don’t say, “Give us a salary.” We simply ask them, “Please come.” That is why we are cooking food and holding so many free festivals. “We’ll give you food. We’ll give you a comfortable seat. Please come and hear about self-realization and God consciousness.” We are not asking money—“First of all pay the fee; then you can come and learn Bhagavad-gita.” We never say that. But these so-called teachers who first of all bargain for a salary—“What salary will you give me?”—that is a dog’s concern. That is not a brahmana’s concern. A brahmana will never ask about a salary. A brahmana is eager to see that people are educated. “Take free education and be educated; be a human being”—this is a brahmana’s concern: You see? I came here not to ask for any money but to give instruction. (Journey of Self-Discovery, Chapter 6, Slaughterhouse Civilization)

In India, schoolchildren are taught Canakya Pandita’s instructions. Although he was the prime minister, Canakya Pandita maintained his brahma?a spirit; he did not accept any salary. If a brahmana accepts a salary, it is understood that he has become a dog. That is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He can advise, but he cannot accept employment. (Science of Self-Realization, Chapter 6, Spiritual Communism)

Not only do we see from these statements that establishing brahmanas in society is fundamental to Srila Prabhuapda’s mission, and therefore fundamental to ISKCON’s mission, we see that being a brahmana means not accepting a salary. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (4.13), “According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me.” Therefore work itself is an essential qualification for a brahmana. That is why according to authorized parampara understanding we see that those who accept a salary are no longer considered brahmanas.

Yet salaried brahmanas who contribute little to preaching are common among ISKCON’s members. The proliferation of brahmanas who have jobs, and who therefore do not follow brahminical principles, is one of the most significant reasons for lower levels of preaching in various countries around the world.

To correct this problem, a modest proposal is made along the lines of Srila Prabhupada’s statement to Professor Kotovsky in his famous conversation with him in Moscow:

As I told you, this propaganda is meant for creating brahmanas all over the world, because the brahmana element is lacking. One who seriously comes to us has to become a brahmana, so he should adopt the occupation of a brahmana and give up the occupation of a ksatriya or sudra.

Of course, Srila Prabhupada accepted as twice-initiated disciples people who did not give up their non-brahminical occupations, and he made them brahmanas. Following from what Srila Prabhupada says, he immediately also says that anyone from any social or occupational position can be a spiritual master:

But if one wants to keep his profession and also at the same time understand our movement, that is allowed. We have many professors following our movement. There is Howard Wheeler, a professor at Ohio State University. He is my disciple. He is continuing with his professorship, but almost all the money he is getting he is spending for this Krsna consciousness. Grhasthas, those who are in householder life outside, are expected to contribute fifty percent of their income for our society, keep twenty-five percent for family, and keep twenty-five percent for personal emergencies. But Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaches that it does not matter whether one is a grhastha (householder), or in the renounced order, or a brahmana, or a sudra. Lord Caitanya says, “Anyone who understands the science of Krsna becomes My spiritual master.” The actual words in Bengali are kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya.

Yet the problem we face today is that most who decide to remain in their salaried professions are not exceptions in terms of the standards that Srila Prabhupada describes above—someone who gives 50% of his salary to the Krishna consciousness movement. The problem, though circumstantial, is nonetheless formidable, and it requires corrective action in the following time, place, and circumstance recommendation.

The following modest proposal is thus made:

  1. New initiates will be required to either give up their occupations for a brahminical one, as outlined in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, or contribute 50% of their salary on a sustained, indefinite basis, to the Krishna consciousness movement as a prerequisite for being considered for second initiation.
  2. Older second-initiates who are “out of compliance” will be given five years to make the necessary arrangements for their livelihoods to bring them in compliance. Those who remain out of compliance will no longer be regarded as brahmanas, nor should they be called brahmanas, call themselves brahmanas or expect to be called brahmanas. Their status will be similar to that of dvija-bandhus. Standard brahminical activities like worshiping the Deities in the temple or cooking for Them should be reserved for those who are in compliance, though the out-of-compliance brahmanas should still be encouraged to continue serving the Lord in whatever capacity they can.

It is expected that this policy will achieve the following:

  1. Increase the number of full and part-time preachers.
  2. Increase the purity of existing and new brahmanas.
  3. Please Srila Prabhupada, as he has stated that reestablishing brahmanas in society is one of his main objectives.

Respectfully,

Your servant, Krishna-kirti das