Three Categories of Gender

Transgender Citizens

A Matter of Semantics

Transgender Roles

Lesbians (Svairini)

Gay Men (Napumsaka)

Neuters and Asexuals

Bisexuals (Kami)

Sexual Accomodation vs. Puritanism

Adhorata and Scriptural Law

Social Morality

The Third Sex and Vedic Astrology

Celibacy and Spiritual Life

The Appearance of Lord Caitanya

Conclusion and Appendices

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People of the Third Sex
By Amara Das Wilhelm

"Presenting the Third Gender As Described in Ancient Vedic (Hindu) Texts"

        Welcome to the "Tritiya-prakriti: People of the Third Sex" website. This site has been provided in cooperation with GALVA, the Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association of Honolulu, Hawaii. Its purpose is to educate Hindus, Vaishnavas and the public in general about the "third sex" as described in the Vedic literatures. This knowledge explains the nature of homosexuality and will help to correct many of the common misconceptions that people hold today concerning gay and lesbian people.


Let me first offer my respectful obeisances unto my beloved gurudeva A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Mindful of his desire to see all classes of human society included within the Vedic system of spiritual upliftment, I humbly attempt to write this paper. It is also my desire to help steer readers away from the pitfalls of discrimination and hate based upon bodily distinctions, so often the trap of mundane religionists.

        In modern times, there has been much controversy concerning the position and rights of gay and other transgender groups within society. Should they be feared and eliminated as a harmful, corruptive force within our midst? Should they be ignored and hidden away, being denied the basic rights and privileges that other citizens enjoy? Or should they be welcomed as simply another color within the rainbow of human variety? The answer to this question can be found in the ancient Vedic literatures of India, which have thoroughly analyzed and recorded all aspects of human behavior and knowledge since time immemorial.

        After the Vedas were issued forth from Brahma at the beginning of creation, Manu set aside the verses concerning civic virtues and ethics, thus compiling the Dharma Shastra. Similarly, Brhaspati set aside the verses concerning politics, economy and prosperity to compile the Artha Shastra. Nandi, the companion of Lord Siva, set aside the verses concerning sense pleasure and sexuality, thus compiling the Kama Shastra. The great sage Vyasadeva put this Kama Shastra into writing approximately five thousand years ago along with all other Vedic literatures. It was then subsequently divided into many parts and almost lost until recompiled by the brahmana sage Vatsyayana during the Gupta period or about 300 A.D. The result was the famed Kama-sutra or "codes of sensual pleasure". Although commonly presented to westerners in the format of an exotic sex manual, the actual unabridged Kama-sutra gives us a rare glimpse into the sexual understandings of ancient Vedic India.

Three Categories of Gender

        Throughout Vedic literature, the sex or gender of the human being is clearly divided into three separate categories according to prakriti or nature. These are: "pums-prakriti" or male, "stri-prakriti" or female, and "tritiya-prakriti" or the third sex. This third sex or nature is analyzed in the Kama-sutra and broken down into several categories of people that are still visible today and generally referred to as gay males and lesbians. They are typically characterized by a transgender behavior that can often be recognized within childhood, and are identified by an inherent homosexual orientation that manifests at puberty.

        I find the word "transgender" best suits the Vedic descriptions of this third sex. Keep in mind that terms such as "transgender", "gay" and even "homosexual" have all been recently coined out of necessity, coming from a culture which has been extremely reluctant to acknowledge any gender other than male or female. Transgender implies a mixing or combination of the male and female sexes to the point in which they can no longer be categorized as male or female in the traditional sense of the word. The example of mixing white and black paint can be used, wherein the resulting color gray, in all its many shades, can no longer be considered either white or black although it is simply a combination of both. This tritiya-prakriti, or transgender sex, is mentioned throughout the Vedic literature in different ways due to its variety of manifestations.

        The third sex is also typically referred to as the neutral gender, and its members are called "napumsaka", or "those who do not engage in procreation". There are five different types of napumsaka people: children, the elderly, the neutered, the celibate and the transgender sex (homosexuals). They were all considered to be "sexually neutral" by Vedic definition and were protected and believed to bring good luck. Out of these five, only those belonging to the transgender sex engaged in sexual activity. For this reason, they alone are described and referred to within the Kama Shastra as tritiya-prakriti, or people of the third sex.

Transgender Citizens

        Vedic society was all encompassing and each individual was seen as an integral part of the greater whole. Thus all classes of men were accommodated according to their nature. Transgender citizens were neither persecuted nor denied basic rights. They were allowed to keep their own societies or town quarters, live together within marriage and engage in all means of livelihood. Gay men could either blend into society as ordinary males or they could dress and behave as females, living as transvestites. They are especially mentioned as being expert in dancing, singing and acting, as barbers or hairstylists, masseurs, and house servants. They were often used within the female sections of royal palaces, and also engaged in various types of prostitution. Transvestites were invited to attend all birth, marriage and religious ceremonies as their presence was a symbol of good luck and considered to be auspicious. This tradition still continues in India even today. Lesbians were known as "svairini" or independent women, and were permitted to earn their own livelihood. They were not expected to accept a husband. Citizens of the third gender represented only a very small portion of the overall population, which most estimates place at approximately five percent. They were not perceived to be a threat in any way and were generally considered to be aloof from the ordinary attachments of procreation and family life. In this way, transgender citizens were awarded their own particular status and welcomed as a part of civilized Vedic society.

A Matter of Semantics

        There is a strange being described within early British translations of Vedic literature. These beings are comic, mythical creatures that appear to have lost their relevance in modern times. They are described as neither man nor woman, or sometimes as both man and woman. They are compared to the "gandharva" or fairy, and they are believed to be asexual or without sex desire. Even Arjuna, the eternal companion of Lord Krsna and the hero of the Mahabharata, became one of these beings while hiding during his last year of exile, according to the Lords plan. There, dressed as a woman, he wore his hair in braids, behaved in a feminine manner, and taught dancing and singing to young girls with no attraction for them.

        Welcome to the world of the so-called "Vedic eunuch", a term so archaic and disingenuous that it provides a good lesson both in semantics and social denial. First of all, there is no recorded evidence of any system of male castration either in ancient or contemporary India. The English word "eunuch", or castrated male, is Greek in origin and was used to refer to homosexuals during the Middle Ages. When the term homosexual was coined with the advent of modern psychiatry in the late nineteenth century, British writers continued to cling to the word eunuch, which was considered more polite by Victorian standards. Thus they used the word to describe transgender people all over the world in regions ranging from Greece, Persia, India, China, Polynesia, etc. During the nineteenth century, when Great Britain was the major world power and had subjugated India, homosexuality was considered a sin so horrific that it was not even to be mentioned, let alone discussed. The result was the use of vague, inappropriate terms to describe transgender people such as eunuch, neuter, impotent, asexual, hermaphrodite, etc. While these types of people may have existed to some degree and are generally included within the third sex category, they hardly would have made up its mass. Rather, by behavior and as described in the Kama Shastra, members of the tritiya-prakriti engage almost exclusively in homosexuality.

        The avoidance of this fact has lead to an incomplete understanding as to who the Vedic eunuchs actually were and what their role continues to be today. Words used to describe transgender citizens in Sanskrit were inaccurately translated in order to skirt homosexual issues and to impose puritan ethics upon Vedic literatures where they did not otherwise exist. There are many examples of this, the most common of which is the Sanskrit word "napumsaka" or literally "not male", which is used to refer to a man who has no taste for women and thus does not procreate. While this may technically include diseased, old or castrated men, it most commonly refers to the gay or transgender male, depending of course upon the context and behavior of the character being described. Other Sanskrit words for the gay male include "sandha" or "half man, half woman" and "kliba" or "effeminate male". It is highly unlikely that so many words would be coined to describe and classify castrated men in a society where castration was not practiced.

        Another good example of inaccurate translating can be found in the Sanskrit word referring to lesbians or "svairini". Literally meaning "independent woman", this word was commonly mistranslated by early British scholars as "corrupt woman". And when mentioning "maithunam pumsi", or simply "sexual union between men", the so-called scholars have chosen as their translation "the unnatural crime or offense between men".

        Mistranslations such as these have only served to confuse and cover the acknowledgement of transgender roles in Vedic literature, roles that were nonetheless clearly defined and outlined in the Kama Shastra. We hope that future scholars and translators will be more accurate and forthright in their work.

Transgender Roles

        The Vedic literatures are comprised of voluminous Sanskrit texts numbering in the thousands, and their priestly authors were renowned for their detailed descriptions of all sciences, both godly and mundane. To obtain a clear understanding of human sexuality, behavior and practice, one is advised to consult the Kama Shastra, which thoroughly covers this field. It is within these texts where the most information is found regarding the third gender including its members, their behaviors and practices, and their roles within society. A brief description will be given here, taken mostly from the fourth and fifth chapters of the second part of the Kama-sutra.

        "People of the third sex (tritiya-prakriti) are of two kinds, according to whether their appearance is masculine or feminine." (KS 2.5.1) Members of the third gender are first categorized according to whether their physical characteristics are either male or female. These are known as "napumsaka", or gay males, and "svairini", or lesbians. Each of these categories is then divided into two, depending upon whether their psychological nature is either masculine or feminine. They are then further divided into many sub-categories numbering well over twenty.

Lesbians (Svairini)

        Under the heading of tritiya-prakriti, or transgender people, the lesbian is first described in the chapter concerning aggressive behavior in women (purushayita). She is defined as an independent or liberated woman who has refused a husband, earns her own livelihood and lives either alone or in marriage with another woman. Her various types of homosexual behavior and practices are described in great detail within this chapter.

        Lesbians were more likely to marry and raise children than their male counterparts and were readily accommodated both within the transgender community and ordinary society. Women of the third sex were engaged in all means of livelihood including trade, government, entertainment, as courtesans or prostitutes, and as maidservants. Sometimes they would live as renunciants and follow ascetic vows.

Gay Men (Napumsaka)

        Gay men are thoroughly described in the chapter concerning oral sex (auparishtaka). Oral sex is not recommended for heterosexuals and is forbidden to brahmanas (priests), but it is acknowledged as the natural practice among those of the third sex who are not otherwise engaged in celibacy.

        Gay men with feminine qualities are first described. "Those with a feminine appearance show it by their dress, speech, laughter, behavior, gentleness, lack of courage, silliness, patience, and modesty." (KS 2.5.2.) Gay men with feminine qualities are the most recognizable members of the third sex. For this reason, they have often kept their own societies within all cultures of the world. They generally keep long hair and arrange it in braids or in a womanly fashion. Those who dress up as females are known as transvestites (kliba). Feminine gay males were often professionally employed by aristocratic women and commonly served within the royal palace. They are proficient in the arts, entertainment and most notably dancing. As mentioned earlier, their presence at marriage and religious ceremonies was considered to invoke auspiciousness, and their blessings were much sought after.

        The masculine gay male is next described. "Those who like men but dissimulate the fact maintain a manly appearance and earn their living as barbers or masseurs." (KS 2.5.6) The masculine gay male is not as easily recognizable and would often blend into ordinary society, living either independently or within a feigned marriage to a woman. To achieve satisfaction, he would frequent male prostitutes who worked as masseurs. The technique of these masseurs is described in much detail. While effeminate gay men would keep smooth skin, apply make-up and sometimes grow breasts, the masculine gay male would keep bodily hairs, grow moustaches or small beards and maintain a muscular physique. They would often wear gold earrings. Gay men were talented in many different ways and were engaged in all means of livelihood. They often served as house attendants to wealthy vaishyas (merchants) and were known for their loyalty. Sometimes gay men would live as renunciants and develop clairvoyant powers. Those practicing celibacy were often used as "pujaris" (temple priests).

        Gay males typically engaged in fraternal or casual love, but were sometimes known to marry one another. "There are also third gender citizens, sometimes greatly attached to each other and with complete faith in one another, who get married (parigraha) together." (KS 2.5.36) There were eight different types of marriage according to the Vedic system, and the homosexual marriage that occurred between gay males or lesbians was classified under the gandharva or celestial variety. This type of marriage was not permitted for members of the brahmana community but was often practiced by heterosexual men and women belonging to the lower classes. The gandharva marriage is defined as a union of love and co-habitation, recognized under common law, but without the need of parental consent or religious ceremony.

Neuters and Asexuals

         Neutered and asexual people are frequently confused with homosexuals in Sanskrit writings because they were both classified as napumsaka or "those who do not engage in procreation". They are, however, two distinctly separate categories, and each refrained from procreation for entirely different reasons. Neuters are impotent or barren individuals who are either born with defective sexual organs or have had them damaged or removed. Asexuals are people whose sexual desires are unable to manifest, typically due to psychological illness or repression. These people were fairly uncommon, and they are mentioned as being neutered due to past sinful activities. Castration was never a regular practice in India and mutilation of the body is considered by Vedic literatures to be in the mode of darkness. It may have occurred rarely as a primitive form of sex change for gay males. In any case, although neuters are included within the third sex category due to their napumsaka status, most are in fact heterosexual by nature.

Bisexuals (Kami)

        The Kama-sutra thoroughly describes all types of sexual behavior and practices between heterosexual or first and second gender men and women. This is by far the major portion of the text. Within these chapters, bisexuality is occasionally mentioned. Apparently, in Vedic times, bisexuality was considered more as a variation for heterosexual men and women who were so inclined, and not as a characteristic of the third gender. Bisexual feelings are not particularly common either for heterosexual or homosexual people and most estimates place it at about ten percent for either group. These feelings may range from very mild ones that are easy to ignore, on up to stronger ones that require satisfaction. Bisexuality is a curious nature in that it can move back and forth, thus involving the question of choice, which is not an issue with heterosexuals or homosexuals. Heterosexuals often confuse the homosexual nature with bisexuality, falsely considering homosexuality to be merely a "choice" or "tendency". They are unaware that the vast majority of homosexuals, or roughly ninety percent, have absolutely no attraction, natural or otherwise, for members of the opposite sex.

        In any case, bisexuals were typically accommodated within the heterosexual community. Topics discussed in the Kama Shastra pertaining to them include: men who visit transvestites working as prostitutes, men in the company of lesbians, transvestites within the kings harem, women of the harem satisfying themselves in lieu of the kings absence, and male servants who practice homosexuality in their youth but then later develop an attraction for women.

        Bisexual women (kamini) are also mentioned in the Srimad Bhagavatam (5.24) within the chapter describing heavenly realms situated below the earth. In those beautiful regions, within celestial gardens and accompanied by lesbians and nymphs (pumscali), bisexual women would entice men with a cannabis beverage and enjoy sex to their full satisfaction.

Sexual Accommodation Versus Puritanism

        In the Vedic system, different standards of behavior and sexual conduct are prescribed for different classes of men. For example, the priestly order was held to high standards of conduct, followed by the government officials. Merchants and farmers were given more leniency, and ordinary workers and artisans, who made up more than half of the population, were given more leniency still. This contrasts greatly with most modern systems whereby all citizens are expected to follow the same laws. The advantage of the Vedic system is that it is able to accommodate all varieties of men within society according to their different natures.

        It should be understood that the sexual behaviors described in the Kama Shastra are intended for the Vedic citizen pursuing worldly enjoyment, which is generally the aim of most people. They are not intended for those engaged in vows, austerities and other penances that are recommended in the Vedas as a means of attaining "moksha" or liberation from material bondage. For this class of men only celibacy is prescribed, even within marriage, and this is considered to be the highest standard of conduct for those in the human form of life. However, Vedic culture is all encompassing and thus, while ultimately encouraging renunciation, also realistically accommodates other standards of behavior among the common man.

        In modern times, laws are drawn which artificially attempt to force all citizens to adopt standards of conduct that are normally assigned to the priestly class. From the Vedic perspective, however, sexual restraint is only fully effective when it is voluntary. Laws were used to regulate "vice" by establishing designated areas within the city or town and strictly prohibiting it elsewhere, such as in the brahmana or temple districts. Responsible family life and celibacy were publicly encouraged and promoted by the government, but at the same time other forms of sexual behavior were acknowledged and accommodated accordingly. These include a wide variety of activities such as prostitution, polygamy, sexually explicit art, homosexual practices, the keeping of concubines, courtesans, etc. Anyone familiar with Vedic literature will be well aware that these activities were allotted a limited space within its culture. They also continue to flourish even in modern times despite centuries of prohibition. The puritanical concept of total prohibition of vice is a failed, unrealistic system that causes widespread hypocrisy, disrespect for law and injustice for many citizens. People of the third sex have especially suffered under this system.

Adhorata and Scriptural Law

        The sage Vatsyayana recognizes that sexual behaviors vary from country to country. People of the southern and western regions tend to be more relaxed in their attitudes concerning sexual variation. Adhorata (anal intercourse), for instance, is particularly practiced by people in the south. While acknowledged as being occasionally practiced by all three genders, it is not recommended for any of them, including members of the third sex, and is of course forbidden to brahmanas. Its practice is said to divert the life-airs downwards and cause disease.

        Regarding scriptural law, there are only two verses in the Dharma Shastra that concern intercourse between men, and both pertain only to brahmanas or those belonging to the twice-born class. "A twice-born man who engages in intercourse with a male, or with a female in a cart drawn by oxen, in water, or in the daytime, shall bathe, dressed in his clothes." (Manusmriti 11.175) "Striking a brahmana, smelling obnoxious items such as liquor, cheating, and engaging in intercourse with a male, are declared to cause the loss of caste." (Manusmriti 11.68) This loss of caste was not permanent since it could be atoned for, but it is generally accepted that third gender citizens in the roles of priests were expected to be celibate. Heterosexual priests were also expected to be celibate unless specifically engaged in an act for procreation only, after being duly married.

        There are also two laws in the Dharma Shastra concerning sexual acts between women. Both involve the violation of virgin brahmana girls awaiting marriage. The first, if committed by the same, requires a fine; the second, if committed by an older woman, requires her head to be shaved.

        In the Artha Shastra fines are given as the punishment for homosexual acts committed in public view or within prohibited areas. The fines for males are considerably more than the fines for females. It should also be noted that heterosexual crimes, such as adultery or the pollution of women, were dealt with much more harshly and were thus considered to be more detrimental to society than homosexuality.

        Sometimes, in the absence of women, heterosexual men forcibly engage in homosexual rape with other men. This is forbidden activity according to the Vedas. In the Srimad Bhagavatam (3.20) it is narrated that at the beginning of the universe Lord Brahma generated the godless class of men from his buttocks, and that they then forcibly approached him for sex. To appease them, he created twilight in the form of a beautiful woman who completely captivated their lusty desires. This point of the story is important to note because it clearly demonstrates that the demons were not members of the third sex. This type of apparent homosexual behavior between first gender males, as seen in prisons for instance where there are no females available, is considered "demoniac and is not for any sane male in the ordinary course of life." It should not be confused with the natural homosexuality described in the Kama Shastra and practiced by people belonging to the third gender, acting according to their nature and with affection.

        In another well-known verse from the Mahabharata, Lord Siva explains to Goddess Parvati why some men are born with severe physical handicaps such as blindness, chronic illnesses, or as neuters. In his answer to the latter category, Lord Siva describes the fate of heterosexual men who indiscriminately engage in any form of intercourse without restriction. "Those foolish men of evil conduct who engage in all forms of intercourse, taking advantage of improper wombs, and forcing themselves upon other men (pumsaka), are born again without their organs as neuters." (MB 13.145.52) The word "viyoni", or improper womb, refers to the womb of another man's wife, the mother, sister, animal or child. It is commonly mistranslated to mean "anything other than the female organ", which then neglects serious crimes against women and children in order to unfairly associate natural homosexuality with criminal behavior.

        Scriptural narrations such as the ones mentioned above have been written to discourage unrestricted and unnatural sexual behavior amongst heterosexual males (pumsaka). They should not be mistranslated or quoted out of context in order to vilify and condemn members of the third sex. Gay males, specifically known in Sanskrit as napumsaka or "not male", were considered to be gentle and non-aggressive by nature. They were not classified amongst heterosexual men of the first gender, and they were not expected or forced by law to behave as ordinary males under the Vedic social system.

Social Morality

        It is said that a society can be judged by how it treats its minorities and gentler classes. In Vedic civilization the cows, the brahmanas, women and those belonging to the third or neutral gender (children, the elderly, neuters, the celibate and the transgender sex) were all offered protection as an important social principle. In modern times, however, everything is topsy-turvy and thus these groups are now ridiculed, exploited, persecuted and even killed, often under government sanction.

        In Vedic society, people were familiar with the third sex and could normally recognize its characteristics within their transgender offspring. Since everyone was accommodated under the Vedic system, transgender youth could find their place within society according to their nature and thus grow healthfully into adulthood. In modern society, however, people are afraid to even discuss third-sex issues. Parents deny that their children are gay and try to force them to be "straight". This causes psychological harm because it is against the child's nature and creates friction and the fear of disappointing the parents. In school, third gender children are ostracized by others and abused both verbally and physically. During adolescence, when others are dating and learning how to form relationships, third gender youths are isolated, forced to hide their nature out of fear or shame. Alienated and confused in this way, they contemplate suicide, and it has been found that the suicide rate for gay teens is four times higher than that of their heterosexual peers. Those reaching adulthood are discriminated against in the work force, legally denied housing, scorned when they couple and forbidden the joys of marriage. Shunned by both their relatives and society at large, people of the third sex are forced into self-denial, often under the threat of criminal prosecution.

        The most remarkable aspect of this gross mistreatment of third-sexed people in modern times is that it is all being done under the banner of so-called morality and religion. Third gender citizens are rejected as immoral and undeserving of human rights solely on the basis of their sexual nature, which many people mistakenly consider to be merely a "choice". This type of social rejection and mistreatment is due to ignorance. Not understanding the nature of the third sex, people become suspicious and fearful of their sexual differences. This produces bigotry, which then festers into hatred and eventually violence. The disrespect and persecution of the third sex is a clear sign of Kali-yuga, or the modern era of irreligion and hypocrisy described in Vedic literatures. Under the Vedic system, transgender citizens were symbols of good luck. They were protected and would bestow their blessings upon society. The fact that they are now mistreated and oppressed can be seen as an omen of bad times, and it is a poor measure of our humanity.

        It is a common misconception among some that in Kali-yuga there is an increase in the ratio of homosexual people. Having researched this thoroughly, I have yet to find any Vedic verse supporting this claim. Rather, in the Vayu Purana it is stated, "in the Kali-yuga there will be more women than men." The foremost symptom of the Kali-yuga described is the marked increase in promiscuity amongst people of all genders. In the Bhagavad-gita it is stated that when irreligion is prominent, women become degraded and produce unwanted progeny, which then destroy the family tradition and become harmful to society at large. While homosexual promiscuity leads to disease, heterosexual promiscuity leads to disease, adultery, unwanted children, contraception, divorce, broken families, abortion and so many social problems. For this reason, the Dharma Shastra and other Vedic literatures strictly enforced the institution of marriage amongst heterosexual couples for the maintenance of the social structure. Homosexuality, on the other hand, was not taken as seriously under Vedic law and was not considered to be a social threat. In fact, there were no laws prohibiting it in India prior to 1947.

        As a natural gender, the third sex has maintained a relatively fixed presence within human society since time immemorial, despite varying social policies. Indeed, its members will exist wherever there are males and females themselves. This will be true regardless of any fear, rejection or hate that we may project upon them and cause them to suffer. For our own good, therefore, and by following the Vedic example of social morality and acceptance, we should respect and treat all living entities equally, without consideration of gender.

The Third Sex and Vedic Astrology

        In Vedic astrology, the nine planets are each assigned to one of the three genders. The Sun, Jupiter and Mars are assigned to the masculine gender; the Moon, Venus and Rahu are assigned to the feminine gender; and Mercury, Saturn and Ketu are assigned to the third or neutral gender. These last three planets, labeled "napumsaka", are considered by nature to be "sexually neutral". This neutrality refers to the fact that their natures are aloof from the business of procreating life as compared to the male and female planets. For instance, Mercury governs children, who have not yet entered puberty and do not become sexually aroused. Saturn governs neuters and the elderly, who are by nature restricted from sexual reproduction. Ketu, on the other hand, specifically concerns those who are sexually fit but have no interest in the act of sexual procreation. These include the celibate and the transgender sex. These five types of napumsaka or sexually neutral people were respected in Vedic culture and believed to bring good luck.

        There are also twenty-seven nakshatras or stars that are important in Vedic astrology. Of these, Mrgashira, Mula and Satabhisa are assigned to the neutral gender. Some astrological texts state that certain planetary alignments can cause bisexual tendencies in otherwise ordinary men and women. Such alignments include Venus in the sign of Virgo for women, or having Mars or Saturn posited in the seventh house for men.
        Ketu, or the Moons south node, is a subtle planet that cannot be seen with the physical eye except indirectly during the lunar or solar eclipses. It is represented by the tail of the snake or the lower portion of the body. While considered mysterious and inauspicious in the material sense, it is a "moksha karaka", or indicator for enlightenment. People influenced by this planet are often psychic and spiritually inclined, and they frequently become monks, nuns and renunciants. Ketu is the only planet that is not assigned an earthly direction. Rather, it signifies the direction inward or "heavenward".

Celibacy and Spiritual Life

        The practice of celibacy, or voluntary restraint from sexual activity, is an important and much revered aspect of spiritual life within Vedic religion. Its practice is said to conserve the stamina of the body, strengthen mental resolve and direct the life-airs upward. It also helps to minimize bodily and worldly demands in order to fully immerse oneself in spiritual rapture. Celibacy is prescribed for the priestly class, the elderly and for those engaged in study. It is highly recommended for sincere souls who are truly eager to make advancement in spiritual life. According to Vedic tradition, the practice of celibacy does not necessarily have to be life-long. It may also be practiced within limited frames of time such as one year, one month, one fortnight, etc., according to one's vow, and much benefit can still be reaped.

        One of the advantages for people of the third sex is that the practice of celibacy often comes easily for them. This is due to their lack of attraction for the opposite sex and the subsequent urge to couple, produce offspring and engage in family life. It may be observed that the ratio of gay and lesbian people living within temples and monasteries is generally higher than it is within the ordinary population. Many cultures of the world specifically encourage and train their transgender children to enter into the priestly order.

        From a practical point of view, however, it is important to note that most people will not be interested or able to engage themselves in strict celibacy, especially during youth. Such people should not be unnecessarily discouraged or rejected. Those who desire spiritual advancement are advised to avoid sexual indulgence as far as possible, according to their ability. For members of the third sex, this may be accomplished in various ways such as minimizing sexual conduct, committing oneself to a single partner or refraining from practices such as adhorata. The institution of religious marriage, which unites heterosexual couples for the production of good progeny and protects the social fabric, was not considered a necessary or relevant function for people of the third sex within Vedic tradition.

        It is the duty of the brahmanas to encourage and engage all members of society in the many spiritual practices recommended in the Vedas. This includes people of the third sex. No one is to be excluded or discouraged from these practices because of class, character, social standing, gender, race, etc. These practices gradually purify the heart and remove all bad, unwanted qualities. Their importance exceeds and corrects all personal disqualifications. They promote spiritual upliftment for society as a whole and awaken true love for God in His multitude of forms such as Krsna, Rama, Vishnu, Narayana, etc. These practices include: the chanting of the holy names of God, reading important scriptures like the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, hearing from self-realized souls, accepting a bona fide spiritual master or guru, viewing the temple Deity, offering gifts and service to the temple Deity, watering the Tulasi plant, visiting holy places of pilgrimage, bathing in sacred rivers like the Ganges, observing festivals connected with the Lord, offering prayers to the Lord, always remembering the Lord, and considering the Lord to be one's best friend and most dearly beloved.

The Appearance of Lord Caitanya

        Lord Caitanya, considered to be an avatar (incarnation) of God in the Vedic scriptures, appeared in this world in Mayapura, India, in the year 1486 A.D. His mission was to deliver the downtrodden souls of the Kali-yuga age by introducing the chanting of the holy names of God or Hare Krsna. Although appearing in a male form, He displayed the highest sentiments of love for God by accepting the mood of the supreme Goddess, known as Radhika. This divine combination of supreme God and supreme Goddess in the form of Lord Caitanya is considered to be amongst the most confidential teachings of the Vedic literature.

        As He appeared in this world, apparently just like an ordinary child, the full moon was rising above the plains of the sacred Ganges River, accompanied by Ketu, in the form of a lunar eclipse. In all places, the holy names of God were resounded again and again. The following day, according to custom, all the area residents crowded around to see the newborn child. Sages and rishis were aware that a great event had just taken place. Many residents brought precious gifts, and the father, Jagannatha Misra, also gave profusely in charity to the brahmanas and the poor. Not least amongst the guests were the dancers of the transvestite community, known as the "natabaris" or professional gay male dancers, who happily performed before the Lord. These dancers were especially used for religious occasions because at such events it was not considered proper for ordinary men and women to dance together since many brahmanas and renunciants would be present. All of these transvestites from the napumsaka or gay community were devotees of the Lord, and they prayed to God to bless the child and grant Him a long life, as was the custom. Jagannatha Misra then gave them some precious jewelry and beautiful silks, and they continued with their dancing and singing of Hare Krsna.

        This story, and others such as the year spent by Arjuna as a transvestite during exile, are significant because they demonstrate that not only were transgender people present hundreds and even thousands of years ago, but they were present within the Lords transcendental pastimes as well. It shows that from the Vedic perspective, God does not discriminate against gays but on the contrary welcomes their service and devotion, just as He does for all. Another important point to note is that transgender people were utilized to bestow blessings. Blessings can only be bestowed by people who are auspicious, yet transvestites were well known for their homosexual behavior and often served as prostitutes. The answer to this apparent anomaly is that since they belonged to the third gender, transvestites were considered sexually neutral. In Vedic literature, the strongest bond within this material world is said to be the attraction between man and woman. Combined, they create so many attachments such as home, property, children, grandchildren, etc., all of which serve as distractions from the cultivation of spiritual life. Transgender people were considered to be aloof from this attachment, particularly gay males. They typically did not engage in procreation or family life, and this was a special quality that made their status unique within civilized Vedic culture.

        It is important that we appreciate a world filled with variety. There will never be just one race, one gender, one color, one sound, or one anything. The Vedas describe this material world as a reflection of an infinitely beautiful, perfect and eternal spiritual world that has even more variety than we can imagine. We are all a part of this variegatedness, and we all have our own unique role to play. It is therefore pointless to argue over who is higher, lower, more important, less important, etc.

        You may ask someone, "Why are you gay?" and that someone may reply, "Why are you a man or a woman?" In the material world, we are all trying to enjoy in so many ways, and that may be one answer. Spiritually, however, we all have our own individual, intrinsic nature, and part of that nature is that we all serve God (Krsna) in the mood of a particular gender.

        Thank you for reading this paper. Please do not mistreat anyone, anywhere. We are all brothers and sisters!

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

Appendix 1

        The following is a summary of ten important facts presented in this paper according to the Vedic understanding, accompanied by their corresponding myths or common misconceptions that have arisen in recent years.

  1. Fact- There are three categories of sex according to the Vedas: male, female and transgender (mixed).
    Myth- There are only two categories of sex: male and female.

  2. Fact- Transgender citizens had a role to play in Vedic society.
    Myth- Transgender citizens were not allowed to participate in Vedic society.

  3. Fact- The "Vedic eunuch" was actually what is known today as the gay or homosexual male.
    Myth- The Vedic eunuch was an asexual, castrated male no longer relevant to modern society.

  4. Fact- The third sex is a natural order that has always and will always be with us, generally at a ratio of five per cent of the population.
    Myth- Homosexuality is a modern day occurrence that is dangerously on the rise and could overtake us if not checked.

  5. Fact- The third sex or nature is an inherent quality that its members are born with.
    Myth- Everyone is born heterosexual, but some of us are corrupted and decide or choose to become gay.

  6. Fact- Gender, in and of itself, plays no role in determining whether a person is either good or bad.
    Myth- People of the third gender (homosexuals) are by nature sinful, immoral and corrupted persons.

  7. Fact- Promiscuity in general is a major symptom of Kali-yuga.
    Myth- Kali-yuga is marked by an increase in the number of homosexuals.

  8. Fact- Vedic society accommodated a wide variety of sexual conduct that was regulated by the government.
    Myth- All members of Vedic society were forced by law to follow strict brahminical standards of sexual conduct.

  9. Fact- Transgender people were considered to be aloof from and unimportant to matters concerning procreation and family life.
    Myth- Homosexuals pose a serious threat to the order and tradition of family life.

  10. Fact- People of the third sex were given all the rights and privileges afforded to other citizens.
    Myth- Homosexuals should be denied certain rights in order to keep them in check and to protect society from corruption.

Appendix 2
Tape #67-002 San Francisco 04/05/67

SP: (Srila Prabhupada) Jagannatha Misra is father. He was… whatever money and cloth and gold and silver… they were coming… he was also distributing to poor man, some dancers. In India there is a system… what do you call the eunuchs? Those who are neither male or female? What do you call them? What is their name?

HD: (Hayagriva dasa) A combination of both?

SP: Yes.

HD: Male and female? Hermaphrodite.

SP: Eunuchs? What is the eunuch?

HD: Eunuch. A eunuch is a…

SP: Tell me that.

HD: Impotent… someone who's been castrated.

SP: Oh. That is called a eunuch.

HD: Eunuch.

SP: Rather, by nature, neither man nor woman.

HD: Oh. This is also called asexual. That is to say, no sex.

SP: No sex?

HD: Hermaphrodite means they have the physical characteristics of both man and woman.

SP: Oh? At the same time?

HD: At the same time.

SP: I do not know exactly, but such people, they have their own society, and their means of livelihood is, that whenever there is some good occasion… marriage or childbirth, like that, so, they go there and pray to God that this child may be very long-living. In this way they make some prayer and get some…

HD: These people. Now, I don't understand…

SP: …Yes. Saci devi is the mother of Lord Caitanya. She is sitting with the child. And everyone is greeting and visiting and everyone is saying, "Oh! Look how nice a child He is!"

HD: And these "asexual" people?

SP: They are dancing.

HD: They are dancing.

SP: Yes. They are chanting Hare Krsna. Like that. So. Hare Krsna dancing is going there and visitors are coming and presenting very nice things. Yes.

         His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the Hare Krsna movement in the western world, rarely discussed gay or transgender issues, but mentions it here in a conversation with one of his disciples. He is referring to the transgender dancers and their societies that still exist in India even today. He is obviously trying to find a more appropriate word for the outdated term "eunuch", which he had used in his writings when referring to people of the third gender. He also acknowledges herein that he does not exactly know the nature of these people.

        As was proper for a sannyasi, His Divine Grace avoided discussing sexual topics except in regard to their renunciation. He did, however, recognize the Kama Shastra as "the science of sex", but gave it little regard in comparison to other more important scriptures. He rarely discussed homosexuality, and the few times he did were always in context as to how it applied to first gender or heterosexual males.

        Despite this, and more importantly, was Srila Prabhupada's shining example of conduct in dealing with his third gender disciples and friends. He always gave them full support, encouragement and love. He never rejected anyone as a candidate for Krsna consciousness. His warm friendships with openly gay people such as Allen Ginsberg set an example that we would all do well to follow.

Appendix 3

"Kama-sutra" (original Sanskrit text) by Vatsyayana

"The Complete Kama Sutra" (English) by Alain Danielou

"Jayamangala" by Yashodhara

"Homosexuality and Hinduism" by Arvind Sharma

"Bhagavad-gita As It Is" by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

"Srimad Bhagavatam" by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

"Krsna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead" by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

"Outline of Lord Caitanya Play, Part One" by the Bhaktivedanta Tape Ministry

"Mahabharata" by Krishna Dharma

"Mahabharata" by Kamala Subramaniam

"Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta" by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami

"Beneath a Vedic Sky" by William R. Levacy