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GAY & LESBIAN VAISHNAVA ASSOCIATION
Information & Support for LGBTI Vaishnavas & Hindus
Please join us! You can join GALVA-108 any time by liking our Facebook page and following the up-to-date posts. If you'd like to participate more actively, ask to be added to our private Facebook discussion group. There you can pose questions, discuss current events and so on. We also have a private Singles group for members interested in finding a serious, God-centered relationship. Hope to see you there soon!
Note: We do not accept anonymous members into the private Facebook discussion or Singles groups. Your Facebook profile must have your real name, pictures and other basic information in order to be allowed into the group.
How To Help
There are many simple and easy ways you can help GALVA-108 end bigotry and prejudice towards gays and other third-gender people in Vaishnavism and Hinduism. Here are a few:
1. If you are a gay Vaishnava or Hindu, live honestly and be straightforward about yourself to others. Set a good example as a religious person and be friendly and respectful toward all others.
2. Stand up against bigotry and hatred toward gays whenever it rears its ugly head. Do not tolerate any joking, mistreatment, or exclusion of gay people, especially at temples and religious gatherings.
3. Talk to temple leaders about making sure your local temple is “gay-friendly” and all-inclusive.
4. Tell as many people as you can about GALVA and talk to them about the importance of all-inclusiveness in spiritual life. Explain to them about the Vedic third gender and direct them to our website.
5. Join our GALVA discussion groups on Facebook. Or, if you wish to remain anonymous, follow our Facebook posts at www.facebook.com/galva108.
6. Add the GALVA link to your personal website or submit it to other websites.
7. Help translate the GALVA research into another language or set up a new GALVA website.
8. Set up a local chapter of GALVA in your area where you can meet, plan activities and engage in spiritual practices together.
9. Preach to the LGBTI community about spiritual life and welcome them to visit your local temple. Maintain a presence at parades, festivals, and other venues where you can set up booths, distribute books, GALVA pamphlets, prasadam, etc.
Thank you very much for helping GALVA-108 in whatever way you can.
May the Divine Couple, Sri Sri Radha and Krsna, bless you always!
The following guidelines have been compiled by GALVA to help our members in their cultivation of spiritual life and renunciation:
Selecting a Temple
It is important that third-gender devotees and guests find a temple where they are genuinely welcomed and treated equally. The following guidelines should be present when considering membership at any Vaishnava or Hindu temple:
1. Third-gender members or guests are equally welcomed and befriended. This includes those who may stand out as different such as transsexuals, gay and lesbian couples, etc.
2. Third-gender persons inspired to follow the path of bhakti and live a monastic lifestyle are equally invited to join and move into the temple ashrama.
3. People are viewed according to their devotional qualities and spiritual advancement, not by body type. Ridicule, disparagement, alienation or any unfair treatment of third-gender people is never tolerated and promptly addressed when it occurs.
4. Temple authorities exhibit genuine kindness and flexibility to help accommodate third-gender members and guests. They are completely straightforward and never force anyone into silence or self-denial.
5. Third-gender devotees who can’t follow monastic vows are not rejected by the temple or pressured into artificial renunciation. Rather, they are offered realistic counseling and advice. They are encouraged to keep their ties with the temple as congregational members, continue their devotional practices, become responsible citizens and establish committed, monogamous relationships.
Selecting a Guru
Finding a highly qualified guru or spiritual master who is sympathetic toward third-gender devotees and issues is also very important. Here are some of the most important qualifications to look for when selecting a guru:
1. The guru must be a madhyama or uttama devotee. Madhyama means that he or she has impeccable faith in Krsna or God, spotless sadhana (regulative practice) and great expertise in the Vedic scriptures. An uttama guru is furthermore situated in raganuga-bhakti or the topmost mellows of loving devotional service to God.
2. The guru must be firmly dedicated to his own spiritual master and imbibe the essence of his teachings. He should be reasonably accessible for association and inquiry.
3. The guru must be a sama-darsi—he sees all living entities equally as spirit-soul and is expert at engaging all types of people (including the third sex) in devotional service to God.
4. The guru is dear to everyone (dhiradhira jana-priyau). He is kind and merciful to all living entities whether they are renounced, fallen, or anywhere in-between.
5. The guru should be open-minded, flexible and innovative in his preaching. He should imbibe the liberality of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and previous acaryas.
6. The guru should firmly practice all-inclusiveness and immediately check anyone exhibiting bigotry or hatred toward others.
7. Ideally, the guru should have some practical understanding of third-gender issues such as same-sex marriage, transsexuality and so on, which are otherwise not relevant to ordinary heterosexual devotees.
Find Your Place
Everyone has a place in Vaishnavism and finding the most conducive environment for spiritual life is very important. For some, this may involve living in the temple as a celibate and doing full-time devotional service; for others, it may be within a marital situation outside the temple, owning a home, raising a family, going to work, etc. In any case, the cultivation of spiritual life and renunciation is best executed from a position where one is most peaceful, happily engaged, and surrounded by supportive friends and well-wishers.
Stress The Positive
In spiritual life there are both positive instructions (chanting, studying scripture, associating with devotees, etc.) and negative ones (refraining from meat-eating, gambling, intoxication, sex, and so on). While both are important, the positive instructions should always be given precedence over the negative. For instance, people should begin hearing and chanting about Krsna even if they cannot follow all of the prohibitions. It is not that one must first give up all bad habits, and then after that he or she may begin Krsna consciousness. Rather, by immediately adopting the positive practices of spiritual life, a person will gradually become inspired to follow the various prohibitions.
Srila Rupa Goswami advises us to neither over-emphasize nor neglect the various rules and regulations of spiritual life. Religious fundamentalists (smarta-brahmanas) overstress scriptural regulations and indiscriminately impose them in a harsh manner that is dispiriting to others. Religious sentimentalists, on the other hand (known as sahajiyas), casually neglect or omit the various rules and regulations to their own spiritual detriment. In reality, there must be a fine balance between these two extremes. Regulations should be adopted when they are helpful and realistic, but rejected when they are counterproductive or unrealistic.
Seek Proper Guidance
GALVA cautions its members to avoid the fundamentalist and sahajiya types of devotees mentioned above. In particular, fundamentalists are often hateful toward gays and their bad association can be very discouraging in spiritual life. Members should instead seek out the thoughtful, pure-hearted souls who view everyone equally and are expert at engaging all types of people. Such good and inspiring association (sadhu-sanga) is the most important secret for achieving spiritual success.
Honesty and straightforwardness are important Vaishnava principles that everyone should adhere to. Devotees should be truthful about who they are and where they stand spiritually. GALVA advises its members to be straightforward about their psychophysical selves as gay, bisexual, or whatever. They should not lie about this or pretend to be something they are not. If a person is dishonest and pretentious in spiritual life, all sorts of problems and obstacles will ensue: “O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”
Know Where You Stand
Spiritual aspirants should truthfully assess their own capabilities in terms of renunciation and move forward from there. Srila Prabhupada often stated that it is better to be an honest sweeper in the street than a highly-positioned charlatan or hypocrite. It is not possible to make progress in spiritual life if we do not confront our actual position and deal with it realistically. In this regard, Swami B.V. Tripurari has stated: “Daiva-varnasrama refers to the importance of situating devotees in consideration of their psychological and physiological makeup so that they can gradually tread the topmost path of pure bhakti by eliminating the danger of artificial renunciation. False renunciation (phalgu-vairagya) involves not only artificially leaving one’s family, but more so, being out of touch with the reality of one’s material identity. One thereby ignores or denies much that one has to work through to attain freedom from the karmic realm and develop love of God. False renunciation does not mean to merely artificially accept a renounced formal posture. It involves misunderstanding one’s actual standing in bhakti and avoiding the difficult task of dealing with one’s material responsibilities and shortcomings through appropriate means, even when those means appear to be outside of the realm of bhakti proper.”
Never Offend Others
In our practice of spiritual life and renunciation it is important never to offend other living entities. In particular, offending fellow devotees is the foremost of all prohibitions and is even more detrimental to one’s spiritual life than engaging in sex or other restrictions. Sometimes it is seen that devotees become agitated due to false renunciation and, obsessed with the behavior of others, continuously criticize and offend them. Such a demeanor is highly detrimental in spiritual life and needs to be checked immediately. Devotees should peacefully focus on their own spiritual practices and learn to see only the good qualities in others.
Remain Humble and Hopeful
Devotees should always remain humble and hopeful that they will one day attain the mercy of their venerated Deity despite any shortcomings. In this regard, Srila Prabhupada writes:
"In the beginning of Krishna consciousness, one may not fully discharge the injunctions of the Lord, but because one is not resentful of this principle and works sincerely without consideration of defeat and hopelessness, he will surely be promoted to the stage of pure Krishna consciousness." (Bhagavad Gita As It Is 3.32, purport)
Similarly, Lord Krsna explains how His devotee should remain happy and faithful, even if he cannot be completely renounced:
"Having awakened faith in the narrations of My glory, being disgusted with all material activities, knowing that all sense gratification leads to misery, but being unable to renounce all sense enjoyment, My devotee should remain happy and worship Me with great faith and conviction. Even though he is sometimes engaged in sense enjoyment, My devotee knows that all sense gratification leads to a miserable result, and he sincerely repents such activities." (Srimad Bhagavatam 11.20.27-28)
In the verse below, Srila Rupa Goswami expresses his own humility and hope in a prayer to Sri Krsna:
"I have no love for Krsna, nor for the causes of developing love of Krsna—namely, hearing and chanting. And the process of bhakti-yoga, by which one is always thinking of Krsna and fixing His lotus feet in the heart, is also lacking in me. As far as philosophical knowledge or pious works are concerned, I don’t see any opportunity for me to execute such activities. But above all, I am not even born of a nice family. Therefore I must pray to You, Gopijana-vallabha [Krsna]. I simply wish and hope that some way or other I may be able to approach Your lotus feet, and this hope is giving me pain, because I think myself quite incompetent to approach that transcendental goal of life." (The Nectar of Devotion, p. 137)
According to Srila Rupa Goswami, real renunciation (yukta-vairagya) involves not simply giving things up but rather utilizing them in the service of Krsna or God. A devotee should therefore accept the minimal requirements for peaceful living, without attachment, and dovetail one’s natural propensities in the Lord’s service. All three genders—male, female and third sex—can serve Krsna peacefully by employing their own specific qualities in this way. Below is a list of some of the special advantages commonly associated with the third sex:
1) Purifies one of previous karma or allows one to work out material desires.
2) Gives one the special insight that comes from belonging to a minority group.
3) Affords detachment from the encumbrances of family life, children, etc.
4) Affords a better opportunity for living a celibate lifestyle.
5) Affords more time for spiritual life and perfecting special talents.
6) Often characterized by unique skills, such as in the fine arts and sciences (for men) or leadership and business roles (for women).
7) Often psychically attuned and able to serve as shamans, fortune-tellers, healers, bestowers of blessings, temple priests, etc.
8) Able to judge the spiritual advancement of others according to how they are treated or mistreated by them.
9) When open and visible, able to set a good example, inspire others, preach to the gay community and improve relations in one’s social or religious sphere.
10) Having unique relationships with men and women.
11) Able to mediate between the sexes and serve as go-betweens.
12) Having a deeper attraction for male Deities (as men) or female Deities (as women).
13) Associated with third-gender Deities such as Sri Ardhanarisvara, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, etc.
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