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Hinduism and LGBTQIA+

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

When we think about the phrase “space for everyone” in religious contexts, the first name that pops up in mind is Hinduism (more appropriately called Sanatan Dharma). Hinduism, being a polytheistic religion, comprises the most accepting and diverse set of beliefs and thoughts. It has no one central authority that determines the rules and the interpretations of the scriptural texts; for example, there are several versions of Ramayana and Mahabharata, the two most well known scriptures of Hinduism. The core of Hinduism lies in the concept of soul and not the outer attributes (body); it focuses on spirituality, the attainment of Moksha, for which the outer appearances i.e. the body, which a soul inhabits, is of no consequence.

Hinduism advocates for equal treatment and rights for all. So, how can the LGBTQIA+ community be left out when it comes to equal treatment and rights?

Quoting H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who said , “Homosexuality has never been considered a crime in Hindu culture. In fact, Lord Ayyappa was born of Hari-Hara (Vishnu & Shiva). It is not a crime in any Smriti. Everyone has male & female elements. According to their dominance, tendencies show up & may change. Nobody should face discrimination because of their sexual preferences. To be branded a criminal for this is absurd.” ; I want to take you through some basics of Hinduism which talks about homosexuality so that you can make your opinion when it comes to LGBTQIA+ communities and their place in Hinduism.

Homosexuality has never been a topic that was hushed in ancient India and Hindu scriptures. It was a well-studied topic that engaged conversations and intrigued many writers who wrote about in Vedas, Smritis, etc. There are two distinct sets of religious texts that help in understanding Hinduism. One set known as the Sruti, which comprises Vedas and Upanishads, is believed to pronounce the eternal truths. The other set called the Smriti, a collection of writings, determine the socio-religious laws and customs that are bound by time, place and circumstances. Srutis focus mainly on Moksha, the freedom from eternal cycle of life and death, which can be attained by the acts of soul. These don’t focus on body, caste or any outer attribute. It focuses only on the spiritual practices and in light of that I can say that anyone regardless of their body, sexual orientation and gender can attain Moksha if they follow the principles mentioned in Srutis. The path for attainment of Moksha is the same for both heterosexuals and LGBTQIA+ people. I hope that by now, you have an understanding that whoever claims LGBTQIA+ people as sinners or of low quality when it comes to receiving love of God and Moksha, is someone who doesn’t have an understanding of Hinduism. There is a phrase, “Insta-Kids”, that me and my friend group uses for such people who claim to be woke and liberal but in reality are ignorant of the truth. So, the next time you come across any such person, you know how not to take their claims at heart and how to laugh it off. Yep! You got it right, just remember this phrase “Insta-Kids”.

Before you get lost in counting the number of “Insta-Kids'' you have come across in life, let me bring your attention to the second time of religious texts i.e. Smritis. The Smritis are the books that help in setting up the socio-religious laws that are crucial in maintaining law and order in the society. The Narada-smriti , the Sushruta Samhita and the Kama Sutra ( the first two mentioned might be new for you, but who hasn't heard about Kama Sutra !) are three of the main Smritis that talk about homosexuality. The Narada-Smriti tells about the mukhebhaga (who performs oral sex on men), the sevyaka (men who are sexually enjoyed by other men) and the irshyaka (someone who is aroused by seeing other men in the act of sexual union). The Sushruta Samhita talks about Kliba : the asekya (who swallows the semen of other men), the saugandhika (who smells the genitals or pheromones of other men), the kumbhika (who takes the passive role in anal sex), the irshyaka (similar to irshyaka) tand the shandha (who has the qualities and behaviour of a woman). The Kama Sutra employs the use of tritiya-prakriti (third sex or nature) to define men with homosexual desire and describes their practices in great detail. The Kama Sutra also tells about the svairini (independent woman) who engages in sexual practices with other women. Lesbians have been given several terms (e.g. nastriya, stripumsa, shandhi, etc.) in the Hindu scriptures.

There is a lot left to cover when it comes to Hinduism and LGBTQIA+ and it is impossible to cover it in one article. But I hope that by now you know that the statement, “Homosexuality is a western concept” is a big farce and is only into play to force the ideologies of men who believe/believed that everything and everyone should be straight and who think of love only as a foreplay to sexual intercourse comprising only of penis and vagina and not as the union of hearts and souls as is described by every religious and spiritual text.

P.S. I hope you remember the phrase “Insta-kids” and now you can get back to counting the number of “insta-kids” in your life.

Here is another article which gives and overview of Overview of Hinduism and various sexualities

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