Have a question about Hinduism? E-mail Swami Tripurari.

My mother cheated on my dad for over twenty-five years. I caught her when I was nine years old but was afraid to tell anyone because I knew it would cause trouble. I felt sorry for my dad because he loves my mom and I broke down one day and the truth came out. Now my mom swears to my dad that I am a liar and resents me. She told me that I told the truth and gained nothing because my dad is still with her.

The scriptures say to honor one's mother but how can I honor my mother after all she did? Please give me some religious advice. I truly appreciate your help.

It is difficult to honor one's mother when she acts dishonorably. Still, this embarrassing affair should not stop you from honoring your mother for everything else she has done for you. If you continue to honor her for those things, perhaps in time she will realize her mistakes--both the affair itself and her response to your knowledge of it. Hopefully at that time she will be sincerely sorry for having hurt you. The Bhagavad Gita tells us that our pure consciousness is covered by lust, the great enemy of spiritual progress. From lust, anger arises, which leads one further into ignorance and delusion. Your experience with your mother should inspire you in your own life to follow the Gita's advice on control of the lower self. The qualities of the lower self are lust, anger, greed, and delusion; the qualities of the higher self are goodness, compassion, tolerance, and forgiveness. Practicing forgiveness in the face of adversity is the natural inclination of one in touch with the higher self. I've been reading about the incarnations (avataras) of Visnu and also watched a movie on the subject. There seems to be some confusion about the ninth avatara of Visnu. Buddha is in some places described as the ninth avatara but in other places Buddha is not mentioned. Who is the ninth incarnation of Visnu?

There are different lists of avataras. The most reliable one is that found in the first canto, third chapter of Srimad-Bhagavatam. The Bhagavatam lists Prthu Maharaja, a saktyavesa avatara, as the ninth incarnation. Gautama Buddha is often described as the ninth incarnation because he is listed ninth in the famous song by Jayadeva Goswami about the dasa avataras (ten incarnations). Ultimately, the number of incarnations is not significant because in the final analysis they are uncountable, avatara hy asankhyeya. In every way they are beyond material calculation.

I would like to know if it is necessary to recite prayers in Sanskrit. I am a Slovak and do not know this language. At this time I recite the prayer Krishnasraya by Sri Vallabhacarya in Sanskrit but if I could recite it in Slovak I could understand the meaning of the prayer directly.

It is important to know the meaning of the prayers one chants. Good translations of Sanskrit prayers are essential if spiritual traditions whose literary heritage is largely in Sanskrit are to take hold in Western countries. At the same time, if we are interested in a spiritual culture steeped in Sanskrit, it makes sense to learn at least something of this language. As limited as language (Sanskrit included) is in its capacity to convey spirituality, the extent that it does so in terms of theoretical knowledge is often considerable. Language is also more than just words. It conveys the feelings of the people who speak it. Knowing the language of another helps us to understand them. If our spiritual teachers have written extensively in Sanskrit, learning this language will better acquaint us with the teachers themselves. However, learning Sanskrit is a daunting task, and while beneficial, it is not absolutely essential for your spiritual progress. What is your opinion on cloning? What happens to the soul? Regarding cloning, similar concepts are mentioned in the scripture. For example, it is stated in the Bhagavatam that sages produced a new body--and subsequently a person named Bahuka--out of the dead body of Maharaja Venu, mamanthur urum tarasa. While this does not appear to be an instance of cloning per say, there are enough similarities to conjecture that the concept of cloning was not unheard of among the sages of ancient times. In any event, cloning appears to be another way of facilitating the soul's appearance within a material body. Where there is life, there is consciousness. As for the moral and ethical arguments for and against cloning in today's world, I have not taken the time to study these arguments in any depth, and thus I cannot comment on them at this time.Could you tell me exactly what Hinduism's view is on sexuality and homosexuality?

Hindu religious scripture clearly mandates that for sexual relationships to be spiritually progressive they must be tied to commitment, generally in the form of sacred vows of marriage. The spirit behind this policy is that the sexual urge, which animates the world, must be regulated if it is to be transcended. Hindu scripture is largely silent on homosexuality, although it may be acknowledged in books such as the Kama Sutra, but not with regard to spiritual progress. Modern Hinduism, for the most part, condemns homosexuality--yet misunderstands it as being an improper choice, rather than a psycho-physical reality that some people are born with, rendering them as attracted to the same sex as heterosexuals are attracted to the opposite sex. As modern society has come to better understand this phenomenon, it is also imperative that Hindu spiritual traditions do the same if they are to remain vital. A dynamic approach in doing so might involve encouraging homosexuals to also establish committed relationships in an effort to help them transcend sexuality altogether, as is done in the case of heterosexuals. Of course, such relationships would not include raising children, which is a significant consequence, if not deterrent, to continued sexuality. However, committed homosexual relationships may provide other impetuses for spirituality such as more time for spiritual practice and seva to compensate for this. Although my Guru Maharaja frowned on homosexuality in general, he was also very practical, flexible, and compassionate.
One of his earliest disciples was a gay man who once related how he had ultimately discussed his sexual orientation with Srila Prabhupada. He said that at that point Srila Prabhupada said "Then just find a nice boy, stay with him and practice Krsna consciousness." I also had the experience of meeting a transexual who explained her sexual orientation and confusion to Srila Prabhupada before committing to an operation. She told me that Prabhupada told her. "Just pick one or the other [sex] and stick with it." Those who knew him well would have expected him to say something like this in both of these incidences. Again he was very flexible and compassionate.

I believe that Hinduism originally held a much more broadminded view on sexuality than many of its expressions do today. Over the years Muslim and Victorian standards have had some influence on socioreligious aspects of Hinduism, examples of which are the covering of a women's body from head to toe.

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