Philadelphia, PA – Following a meeting with a delegation appointed by ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission (GBC) here, ISKCON leader Hridayananda Dasa Goswami issued a letter upholding the traditional Krishna conscious view of sex and marriage, and apologizing for acting and speaking in a way to lead some to believe that he did not uphold this view.
The letter addresses controversy stemming from a blessing that Hridayananda Goswami gave to a same-sex couple during a commitment ceremony held in California in November 2008. The blessing, conveyed through email, reminded the couple that “our love for each other is a reflection of God’s love for us. Thus, the perfection of every relationship is to see God in each other.” It went on to invoke God’s blessings upon the couple, “as they commit themselves to each other in the spirit of God’s love for them.” Hridayananda Goswami also gave the benediction that the two men “always be, each for the other, a source of spiritual inspiration and happiness” such that their “relationship lead them, patiently and steadily, back to our real home in the spiritual world.”
Although the blessing did not speak directly to the issue of whether homosexual relationships could be accommodated within ISKCON, critics felt that it was tantamount to an ISKCON endorsement of same-sex marriage.
Not surprisingly, the blessing generated a great deal of backlash within Krishna devotee communities and on the internet, feeding fuel to what many regard as a full-blown “culture war” between conservative and liberal viewpoints in ISKCON today. The matter eventually reached the GBC, ISKCON’s ecclesiastic board (which Hridayananda Goswami also serves on); that body passed a resolution this year specifying that it did not “endorse or support” Hridayananda Goswami’s actions, and tasking a delegation to meet with him in hopes of reaching “a common understanding.”
The delegation, consisting of GBC members Ravindra-svarupa Dasa and Bir Krishna Goswami, met with Hridayananda Goswami on April 11.
In a succinct letter to the GBC also dated April 11, Hridayananda Goswami wrote that they had in fact reached “a common understanding,” adding that he had already expressed this understanding prior to the GBC meetings, in dialogue with some of its members.
“I am writing to reaffirm that I uphold the Krishna conscious principle that sexual union is for procreation within marriage,” he wrote, “and that no spiritual leader should encourage or endorse any other form of sexual relation.”
”¨While not commenting as to whether the blessing was itself inappropriate, Hridayananda Goswami did apologize for not being more clear in his intentions.
“I regret that I acted and spoke in such a way as to give many an impression to the contrary,” he concluded. “I am sorry.”
Hridayananda Goswami is no stranger to this controversy. In 2004, he authored a paper on gay monogamy, arguing that Vaisnava moral theology ought to encourage homosexuals to commit to monogamous relationships as an alternative to leading promiscuous lifestyles. The paper continues to spawn heated debate.
Like many religious organizations, ISKCON does not hold an official position on how homosexual couples can participate in ISKCON, with members (and leaders) holding a range of views on the topic.
For the full text of Hridayananda Goswami’s letter, click here