In the book Tough Questions, Difficult Answers by Kaunteya (JPS) Prabhu, at the beginning of the third chapter, titled “Homophobia,” the author defines the word “homophobia” and its different meanings. Then, when it comes to scriptural analysis, he mentions it as sin, often compares it with heterosexism, and says that it is also natural like heterosexism. Since heterosexual marriages are accepted in ISKCON, homosexual marriage should also be endorsed and encouraged in ISKCON. So, in this way, he recommends that ISKCON should institutionalise gay and lesbian marriages.
However, the main point that he misses is that the attraction between men and women and marriage between them are widely talked about in Vedic scriptures, and the authorized union between them is constituted as vivāha-saṁskāra. The culture of formal gay marriage is not mentioned anywhere in Vedic scriptures as vivāha-saṁskāra. If it was not formalised in Vedic times, why do it now in ISKCON? We do not see examples of gay marriages in Vedic scriptures. That itself means that it was not as common or natural as the author speculates. Homosexual sex was indeed there during that time but not as natural and widespread as heterosexual marriages. So, comparing both on the same level of sin is itself an error on the part of the author. In actuality, homo sex is not as natural as hetero sex. Homosexual tendencies are increasing due to the continual degradation of human society. Previously it was less, now it is more. But the author tries to say that it is as natural as hetero sex, which is a mistaken idea.
He says that the Manu-saṁhitā says that gay sex is a sin but not a mahāpātaka, a great sin. It is a sin with reformatory measures (prāyaścitta). And he further says homo sex is like hetero sex and both acts are sinful. He also mentioned that Śrīla Prabhupāda classified both types of sex as sinful. But if both are the same then why in Vedic culture so many examples of homo sex are not found? The scriptures are full with the descriptions of the attraction between men and women and their relationships, but why is there very scanty information on homo sex? If it was so common previously, then why it was not so seen in the scriptures approved by our ācāryas? So, for homo sex, institutionalising and endorsing by the ISKCON society will bring a deviation in the institution.
Every soul can be engaged in devotional service. ISKCON gives chance to everyone to chant, take prasādam and serve, but legalising and institutionalising gay marriages will be a serious deviation. It will be the approval of this sinful act.
ISKCON priests and leaders should be compassionate toward homosexuals and give them the chance to serve. But when it comes to official relationships like marriage, ISKCON should not endorse them. They should be told that they need to become free of this disease eventually.
From page 315 onwards, he proposes that Śrīla Prabhupāda gave spiritual information perfectly but that there are errors in his information on some material topics. It is a highly controversial and debatable idea. The author is exercising his mental speculation to prove that Lord Krishna wanted that ISKCON devotees should not worship Prabhupāda as perfect, so he kept these errors in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s presentation on material subjects.
On Śrīla Prabhupāda’s statement that no sane male should have a homosexual appetite (SB 3.20.26 purport), the author says that Śrīla Prabhupāda’s view on that topic was not coming from the scriptures but instead was coming from the British culture in which he was born and brought up and contemporary medically available information on the topic of homosexuality. So basically, he is trying to prove that we should accept Śrīla Prabhupāda’s spiritual instructions and information as 100% perfect but his material instructions and information may be erroneous in some cases. This is a gross offence and a mistaken attitude for an ISKCON follower. It gives the room to speculate regarding any instruction and then mould it to our mental whims.
Also, the author says that Śrīla Prabhupāda’s contributions will be marred by his mistakes in these kinds of instructions, which he considers erroneous. He says that in the future, more elevated personalities may come into ISKCON who will be greater than Śrīla Prabhupāda and will be best suited to address modern people and their problems. Śrīla Prabhupāda will be seen as irrelevant and not capable of guiding modern people in appropriate ways. This section is disrespectful and offensive to Śrīla Prabhupāda because Śrīla Prabhupāda himself has mentioned that his books will be the law books for 10000 years. So, Kaunteya Prabhu seriously is on the path of deviation with such kind of offensive mentality towards Śrīla Prabhupāda, our Founder-Ācārya.
Even more offensive is that he is trying to judge Śrīla Prabhupāda’s statements as merely mundane and lacking information, and he is no less offensive in trying to prove Śrīla Prabhupāda’s statements wrong by taking references from Wikipedia and various new-age sources. When Śrīla Prabhupāda mentions demoniac in this particular case of homosexual tendencies, he is not merely using it socially, he is lamenting about the fallen condition of the Age of Kali.
ISKCON continues to grow exponentially only because of following Śrīla Prabhupāda. To the degree ISKCON members stick to the teachings and example shown by Śrīla Prabhupāda, to that degree they will be pure. So, to endorse this type of critical analysis as has been done in this book is very dangerous for ISKCON’s future. If we try to change Śrīla Prabhupāda’s work according to our views, one day it will no longer be ISKCON. It will become a mundane organization.