Friday, 16 March 2012

Marriage Amendment -- a Hindu perspective

In November, Minnesotans will approve or reject a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. Many belonging to long-established religions in Minnesota have joined the debate over this matter. Jews and Christians, liberal and conservative, have expressed positions.
Our state is home also to significant numbers of people of other world religions, including my own Hindu tradition. It is important that our voices also be offered in the public square. This amendment threatens to enshrine in law the perspective of particular religions and marginalize others.
There are important teachings in the Hindu tradition that affirm the equal worth of all sexual orientations. In the Hindu tradition, the value of the human person is not located in his or her sexual identity. It proceeds from the teaching that God is present equally and identically in all beings. No being is excluded, and awareness of this truth is regarded as the highest religious wisdom.
In relation to the attainment of life's highest goal, spiritual liberation, the Hindu tradition does not discriminate between heterosexuals and homosexuals. Its sacred scriptures positively mention the accessibility of liberation for gays. What stands in the way of liberation is ignorance of God existing in the heart of all beings, expressing itself in greed, violence and injustice.
One of the most remarkable statements about the inclusivity of God's love in the Hindu tradition occurs in the Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit epic. The Ramayana tells the life story of Rama, revered by Hindus as an incarnation of God. In speaking about the nature of divine love, Rama mentions also gays:
One who worships me in thought, word and action, relinquishing deceit, whether man, gay or woman is supremely dear to me.
There is good evidence that Hindu culture was one of the earliest to recognize that human sexual identity is not just heterosexual. Ancient texts refer to a third gender, different from the traditional male or female. Gender diversity is seen as part of the natural diversity of humanity and inherited at birth.

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