Awakened Living Study Program, Lesson 52: HOMOSEXUALITY

A just person knows when to give up his own interests, so that
everybody else in world can live happily and peacefully.
Listening Snow Tower TV Series

Introduction
Dear brothers and sisters: Good morning and thank you for attending our weekly Awakened Living Study Program. My name is Alaye Soteme and I will be your host. Our topic for today’s Study is HOMOSEXUALITY. May we focus our full attention on this study for the lessons of life because knowledge is POWER, knowledge is SUCCESS, knowledge is FORGIVENESS, knowledge is WISDOM, knowledge is ENLIGHTENMENT and knowledge is AWAKENED LIVING.

All quotes relating to GOD are interpreted in a Universal sense; in other words our use of the word GOD does not refer to any religion, cultural Gods, saviors, or created Gods. GOD is the underlying ESSENCE of the Universe. GOD has no chosen people, GOD has no Sacred Text and GOD has no Sacred Place! The Universe is the Sacred Text, the Universe is the Sacred Place and all creatures are Testaments of GOD! 

Further you are here to look at life from a different angle. You are not here to follow what others have put in place be it their religion, their Gods, their sacred texts, their beliefs or their way of thinking. You are here to share your LIGHT with the world.  The beliefs of our ancestors are our liabilities. Our challenge is to look at life in ways that promote interdependence and destroy all forms of discrimination including racism, tribalism, nationalism, nepotism, fundamentalism, fanaticism, favoritism, exclusivism, chosen people and racial superiority. 

Lastly, none of the quotes here is absolute or written in blood. They are all human thoughts and ideas based on their experiences and according to their levels of consciousness. The Awakened Living Study Program is a platform to study what others have said and improve on them. Do not for any reason use the quotes as mantra for life because you are the LIGHT!

Opening Meditation
You may offer an appropriate prayer before reading, discussing and reflecting on the famous quotes and the Sacred Texts verses. You may use the following prayer:

O LOVE who pervades the universe, we thank you for this opportunity to learn. We pray for LOVE to manifest amongst us to guide our readings, discussions and reflections. We specially pray for peace of mind and save us from all distractions and concerns of mind and body so that we may learn the lessons of life for our guidance and the transformation of our lives. In the name of Love, the Earth and the Universe, Amen.

Announcements
The Study Leader may make announcements at this time. Welcome new members, recognize birthdays or anniversaries; make an award or recognize a contribution; announce Circle of Life successes. This is also an opportunity for anyone to share an experience, give thanks or make a request for special prayers.

Opening Thoughts
The leader or an appointed person will stand and read the opening thoughts. The opening thoughts explain the topic of discussion. You may use the information below or explain it in your own words.

Today’s meditation is on same sex relationships. This presentation is in response to questions about homosexuality. Some young people have asked why many people are opposed to same sex relationships when the sacred texts teach about unconditional love? We tried to answer the questions but same sex relationship is not something anyone could answer in a brief moment especially when many people oppose it for personal reasons or because of the teachings in their sacred texts. Further the fact that the young people who asked this question will soon become adults makes it very important for us to address this issue so that the values of self-reliance, independence, unconditional love, compassion, generosity and the belief that we are all part of the Universe guides and protects young people from the thoughts and beliefs of others irrespective of where they may come from. In this way they will be able to take a stand according to the dictates of their hearts instead of from books and from others but at the same time taking into consideration our history of discrimination, racism, nationalism, fanaticism and exclusivism. As a background for this presentation let us learn from the life of Mahatma Gandhi: He wrote at the end of his Autobiography;

“... a perfect vision of Truth can only follow a complete realization of ahimsa... identification with everything that lives is impossible without self purification... God can never be realized by one who is not pure of heart.”

This presentation will attempt to explore the faces of same sex relationships and how to deal with the challenges on the path.

Famous Quotes
Take turns to read the famous quotes and discuss what you have learned from each quote.  Please give credit to the author of the quote and as an assignment for presentations each person may choose an author and find out more about the author to share with the group during the next session.

1 "Never be bullied into silence.  Never allow yourself to be made a victim.  Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself.  ~Harvey Fierstein
2 Every time you don't follow your inner guidance, you feel a loss of energy, loss of power, a sense of spiritual deadness.  Shakti Gawain
3 For a long time I thought I wanted to be a nun.  Then I realized that what I really wanted to be was a lesbian.  Mabel Maney
4 There's this illusion that homosexuals have sex and heterosexuals fall in love.  That's completely untrue.  Everybody wants to be loved.  Boy George
5 Some churches see themselves as virtuous because they are willing to condemn homosexuality. Others congratulate themselves for not being homophobes. But who is clothing the naked? Feeding the hungry? Visiting those in prison? Mark Osler, Professor of Law, University of St. Thomas.
6 Why do we endlessly recycle the old conflicts: first we fought about slavery, then segregation, then gender, and now sexual orientation, while gender identity is in the wings waiting. Why can't people look at the phrase 'liberty and justice for all' and simply accept that 'all' means 'all.'" Anonymous
7 Resolve to be thyself; and know that he who finds himself, loses his misery. Matthew Arnold
8 "The epitome of evil is having spiritual leaders condone hate, in the name of God, against others such as our gay brothers and sisters." Rory Lewis
8  "We struggled against apartheid because we were being blamed and made to suffer for something we could do nothing about. It is the same with homosexuality. The orientation is a given, not a matter of choice. It would be crazy for someone to choose to be gay, given the homophobia that is present." Desmond Tutu
10 I don't think homosexuality is a choice. Society forces you to think it's a choice, but in fact, it's in one's nature. The choice is whether one expresses one's nature truthfully or spends the rest of one's life lying about it. Marlo Thomas
11 
“Love him and let him love you. Do you think anything else under heaven really matters?” – James Baldwin
12 “If I wait for someone else to validate my existence, it will mean that I’m shortchanging myself.” – Zanele Muholi
13 “It is absolutely imperative that every human being’s freedom and human rights are respected, all over the world.”– Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir

Sacred Texts Quotes
Take turns to read all the sacred text quotes and discuss what you have learned from each quote. In your discussion compare and contrast the quotes. What did you learn from the similarities and differences? What quote inspires you? What life lessons did you learn from the quote? Please give credit to the sacred text during your reading by mentioning the name of the text and where the quote could be found. 

1 And a man who lies with a male as one would with a woman both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon themselves. Judaism, Tanakh: Leviticus 20:13
2 Whatever the sexual orientation of the child whether it be male, female or homosexual (napumsaka) it is born in the ninth or the tenth month. Garuda Purana. 2.32.29
“Now then the intense longing of love stimulated by the gods. When one (m) desires to be loved (priya) by a man or a woman or by men and women, he shall offer to the above mentioned gods oblations in the sacred fire”. Kaushitaki Brahmana Upanishad 2:4
4 The Self which is enveloped by ignorance, is sometimes embodied as a man, sometimes as a woman, sometimes as a homosexual (ubhaya). According to its deeds and the nature one acquires thereby, one may be born as a god, a human or a beast. Hinduism: Bhagavatam 4.29.29.
5 Mencius said, "Slight is the difference between man and the brutes. The common man loses this distinguishing feature, while the gentleman retains it." Confucianism. Mencius IV.B.19
6  ‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable. Judaism, Tanakh: Leviticus 18:22
7 Having attained human birth, which is an open gateway to Brahman, one who... remains attached to the ties of the world is not fit to be called human. Pleasures of sense may be had in all lives: leave them, then, to the brutes! Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.3
8 Have benevolence towards all living beings, joy at the sight of the virtuous, compassion and sympathy for the afflicted, and tolerance towards the indolent and ill-behaved. Jainism. Tattvarthasutra 7.11
9 Of the adage, Only a Good Man knows how to like people, knows how to dislike them, Confucius said, "He whose heart is in the smallest degree set upon Goodness will dislike no one." Confucianism. Analects 4.3-4
10  To the addict, nothing is like his dope; to the fish, nothing is like water. But those immersed in the love of God feel love for all things. Sikhism. Adi Granth, Wadhans, M.1, p. 557

Teaching Story
The teaching story is a story, a parable or thoughts related to the topic of discussion. An appointed person will read each story and the group will take turns and discuss. What does the story mean to you? What did you learn from the story? Did the story add anything new to the topic of discussion? How has this study enriched your life?

Our teaching story is a parable from Sri Ramakrishna and I have titled it Self-Righteous and Judgmental People Go to Hell. The original Title is “Brood over other’s sins and you sin yourself”

Once upon a time a Sannyasin dwelt by the side of a temple. A Sannyasin is a spiritual seeker who has attained the last stage of life in the Hindu world view. Across from the temple also lived a harlot. One day the Sannyasin called the harlot and read her sins to her. “You are a great sinner. You sin day and night. Oh how miserable will be your lot hereafter.” These admonitions touched the harlot’s heart and she became very remorseful for her deeds and prayed to God for forgiveness. Since prostitution was her profession and the fact that she couldn’t get another job she continued the trade hoping that she might one day get a real job and quit for good. Meanwhile the Sannyasin was still watching her every movement and seeing that she has not stopped he decided to make an impression on her by putting aside a pebble each time a client visits her. In time he gathered a heap of pebbles and decided to show the heap to the prostitute. He said to her “woman, don’t you see this heap? Each pebble in it stands for every commission of the deadly sin you have been indulging in since I advised you last to desist from the evil course. Even now I tell you: Beware of your evil deeds!” The woman trembled when she saw the pebbles and prayed to God to end her life and free her from her mystery. God answered her prayer and she died. By a strange coincidence the Sannyasin also died on the same day. Meanwhile the messengers of Lord Vishnu came down from heaven and carried the spirit-body of the woman into heaven and the messengers of Lord Yama also came and bound the spirit of the Sannyasin and took him to hell.

Here is our second teaching story:

For those of us who rely on society and books for our answers it is easy to hate homosexuals or any group of people outside the norm. However if you want to find out your truth about homosexuals or any subject at all you need to do the research. Then after doing the research you need to think about it and make up your mind. My understanding of homosexuality began after some research. I went through a learning process or a re-learning process with my research and exposure to homosexuality discussions. First was at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where a gay person spoke to us in our sociology class emphasizing how he tried to be heterosexual and even got married but failed. Later I read about some of the research studies on the subject and after studying the teachings of Buddha Amitaba I realized that it was not my place to judge. Currently the issue of homosexual marriage has been settled by the US Supreme Court. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 5–4 decision that the Fourteenth Amendment requires all states to grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states.

However we are also hearing about the end of civilization because of gay marriage. One thing I know about cultures and groups who make absolute statements about the world is that it never happens. It never happens because a group of people are using their values as universal standards, which of course is not true. So we can readily ignore the doomsayers or any culture that pretends to use their values as the values of the universe. It is however important to note that homosexuality has been a national issue and one of the organizations at the fore front is Soul Force, a non violence movement. I didn’t know that any organization existed in support of homosexuality until I checked out a DVD titled Sole Journey, A Film by Kate Burns & Sheila Schroeder. Two clips caught my attention in this film. One of them concerns a family trying to make sense of homosexuality. Here is a quote from the mother:

“When Jake came out to us we knew nothing about homosexuality. We had to educate ourselves. We read many books but more important we talked to psychologists and psychiatrists about understanding homosexuality. We were told to love and accept Jake as a Gay Man”

What this experience is telling us is that we need to re-educate ourselves about being gay and the earlier we did that the better it would be for us so that when it happens in our families we would be better prepared to handle it.

The other clip concerns a woman and her grandson at a Walmart Pro Marriage between a man and a woman stand. One of the participants in the film talked about his experience with the woman and her grandson. The grandson was about 4 to 6 years old and was telling the grandmother that

“they are going to burn” and the grandmother agreed. “Tell them baby, they are going to burn”.

At that point the man tried to draw her attention to the fact that American Africans went through similar discrimination in the 1960s. The woman ignored his statement and said “You are queer but I love you baby”. What bothers me in this clip is that our children are taught to hate and calling anyone queer goes against all Universal Spiritual Teachings.

 Homosexuality in Sacred Texts
The most cited verse for the condemnation of homosexuality is in the Bible, Leviticus 20:13

‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Generally no sacred text actually condemns homosexuality. Many scholars argue that the condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible for example is taken out of context. They contend that when you take the cultural background into consideration you might feel differently about the biblical condemnation of homosexuality. Please go to the following website for more information on this subject: https://sacred-texts.com/lgbt/index.htm#intro.

Now let us assume that GOD actually said that we should stone homosexuals to death; would you really do that given our present knowledge of what it means to be alive? If you are thinking the first thoughts that would cross your mind  would be cruelty, violence or murder. The truth is GOD did not write the sacred texts. Sacred Texts are human experiences and we cannot use ancient experiences to solve our present challenges. The idea is backward, cruel and unimaginable.

I understand why many people look up to sacred texts for answers on how to live in this world but sacred texts are the least source of information for anyone who wants to improve the world. For starters sacred texts divide us and what divides us is not good for our cooperation. Further sacred texts are dead or they are stuck in time; it is foolish to try to figure out what dead writers of an ancient document meant in any situation. You are in a better position than any ancient text to provide a solution to the problems the world faces because you are alive.

Lastly sacred texts are not the words of GOD. The Almighty GOD has given you everything you need to triumph over the challenges you face on this planet. Humans compiled some of the sacred texts mostly to control and to deceive. Actually given human wickedness and human corruption the Almighty GOD will never trust any human being to put together GOD's words in a book. Instead the word of GOD pervades the Universe and it is there for everyone to observe and interpret according to his or her understanding.  The UNIVERSE or GOD can never be defined by all the cultures put together let alone by just one culture. You have been deceived! 

Until we take responsibility for our lives we will always fall for the scams of our fellow human beings. The writers of some of these texts provide answers to existential questions because many people do not want to face life. But the worst thing that could happen to you in this life is to have answers! The preachers and the religious functionaries give you the answers in order to discourage you from thinking. If you do not think you lock the door of inspiration; if you do not think you can never find out new ways of looking at the world; if you do not think you will always recycle old ideas of slavery, colonization, apartheid, discrimination, segregation and every evil committed by the human mind; if you do not think you are stuck and you are dying at a very rapid rate.

The most important thing you should note about statements in sacred texts is that they cannot save you in our courts. You may have a lot of your fellow believers supporting you when you violate another person's human rights based on your religious beliefs like stoning a homosexual to death, but our court system does not recognize your beliefs. You may sing hallelujah and die if you are convicted and sentenced to death but is it really worth it to die for another person's idea of what it means to be alive when you have been give  the opportunity to make a difference in the world? I know you think you are carrying out GOD'S word like the people who stormed the capital in the United States; they thought they were carrying out the words of the president. In the same way you will also be prosecuted for carrying out the so called words of GOD. The word of GOD is not in any book created by humans! Just take a minute and consider how the word of GOD could fit into any text created by humans. Can you really fit the INFINITE into the finite? The word of GOD pervades the Universe and it is there for each of us to observe and interpret according to our understanding; there is no need to read a cultural text! You have been scammed!

It seems easier for people to hide under a book than to face life with open eyes because the book helps you so shift responsibility from yourself to the book. When people say “it is in the Bible” or it is in the Qur’an” they are shifting responsibility! The truth is that you are still responsible because you committed the act. And when you refuse to 'bake cake' for a homosexual it was your decision so you are also responsible. But this singular act of refusing to 'bake cake' for a homosexual could translate into destroying the bridge that would have helped you to cross to the other side. At the crossroads of life no sacred text will come to save you. Sacred texts have no legs, so they cannot walk; sacred texts have no emotions, so they cannot relate to you; in short sacred texts are dead! No one with a functioning mind takes orders from a book more especially dead books!

What Would Jesus Do?
I really do not care so much about what anyone would do about my life even if the person is a savior or a God. As far as I am concerned the saviors did what they needed to do when they were alive and this is my turn to use my life in whatever way I want. The same is true for you. It is really very foolish to listen  to saviors or Gods of long ago for things that are happening in my lifetime. As for the Gods...they are cultural and I have nothing in common with them because I am from a different culture. However there are many people who live their lives based on what cultural Gods and Saviors said in their books so I am going to use the deeds of Christ to address the fire and brimstone in homosexuality.

Once upon a time Jesus went to the temple and he taught the people who came to meet him. Meanwhile the Scribes and the Pharisees brought an adulterous woman to Jesus. They told him that the woman was caught in an adulterous act and that according to the Law of Moses the woman ought to be stoned to death. They wanted to know what he thought in an attempt to trap him but Jesus pretended not to have heard them and instead stooped down and began to write on the ground. As he wrote they continued to ask the same question and at a point he lifted up himself and asked any of them without sin to throw the first stone. Jesus stooped down and began to write again. Knowing that they have all sinned they dropped their stones and left the place one after the other until only Jesus and the woman were left. When Jesus lifted up himself and saw that the woman’s accusers have all left he asked her if no one condemned her? The woman replied that no one had condemned her because they all left. “And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Humans have always been quick to judge their fellow creatures in order to feel superior but beneath their judgment are lots of corpses. The preaching against homosexuality mostly centers on human wickedness and humans have been known to kill, lynch, mutilate, enslave, colonize, dehumanize, demonize, exploit, torture, deceive, rape and cause unimaginable atrocities. The next time you judge your fellow creature first take a look at yourself and when you do that you will realize that you are really not different from the person you are judging!

Closing Meditation
The closing meditation presents the highlights of the Study.  The highlights should include among others what you have learned and what aspects of the study are worth noting. The leader or an appointed person may share the closing meditation. You may use the thoughts and information provided below but I encourage you to use the contributions of the participants and current relevant information.

Our closing meditation will examine teenagers and adults regarding homosexuality.

Teenagers
Adolescence is a period of developmental changes. The most noticeable changes are physical. Girls begin to grow breasts and have a regular menstrual cycle. Boys begin to develop facial hairs, have a deep voice and begin to produce semen. So for the first time in his or her life the teenager begins to wonder what is happening to him or her. Parents are encouraged to be closer to their children at this time to answer their questions, to support them and to allay their fears and concerns. One of the most important concerns is their sexuality. Most teenagers would reflect or fantasize about the opposite sex only while a few teenagers may consider same sex relationship as an option. But the truth is that you are not developed enough to make a decision about your sexuality. We encourage you to make that decision when you are an adult. Meanwhile you may be friends with the opposite sex but that is where it ends…just friends and no ulterior motives.

The way to manage your sexual fantasies is to concentrate on what interests you like music, drawing, computing, entrepreneurship, public speaking, leadership, or writing. These creative outlets are more stimulating than sex if you could give them a chance to manifest in your life. However, for a fulfilling life you need the complete package and at the apex of the complete package is LOVE. I am not a professional but I do not think I need to be one in other to guide a teenager that is battling with his or her sexuality. A family member of about 19 years old once posted on Facebook that he was gay. In consultation with my wife we advised him to remove the posting and he did. Our reasoning was that he was not old enough to determine his sexuality. We found out later that it was his way of coping with a recent breakup with his girlfriend. Today he is a father. There is help everywhere if not from your family members and we advise you to seek counseling if our recommendation does not work for you. But by all means do not keep the challenges you face to yourself.

Adults
I first met a gay person in my sociology class in Indiana, Pennsylvania in the eighties. At the time I did not know what to make of it. I could not believe that anyone would prefer the same sex as a life partner and coming from Nigeria did not prepare me for that experience. For me it was natural to be attracted to the opposite sex and that any other tendency was abnormal. But after reading more and more of these stories I have come to accept that we may be connected on a spiritual level but our tendencies might be different. However, my caution centers on respect and human dignity. Let your relationship be based on Love and love alone and if you are a bisexual decide and define where you belong. For those who oppose homosexuality because it is a sin against their Gods I encourage you to learn from our teaching story. And for those who think that homosexuality is an illness here is a quote from Sigmund Freud:

 "Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness." Sigmund Freud (1935).

Finally for those who want more information on the subject I encourage you to read about homosexual behavior in animals. The study is not conclusive but that did not prevent the American Psychiatric Association and other groups for citing it in the brief to the United States Supreme Court in Lawrence Vs. Texas which removed sodomy laws from 14 states. In conclusion what is at stake is about freedom, individual freedom within the limits of our laws and if you support individual freedom learn from the following quote originated by Martin Niemöller:

They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Homosexuality is not a sin and homosexuality is not a disease. However if you really want to change let it be your choice and not because a religious person wants to heal you or a medical doctor wants to cure you. None of them have the stuff for your life; your life is in your hands! Finally it is very important for you to know that you are not a homosexual and I am not a heterosexual; you are not a Christian and I am not a Moslem; You are not a sinner and I am not faithful; you are not black and I am not white; instead both of us are human beings. When next you meet another person manage the separateness in you mind and welcome him or her as a fellow human being; anything that divides us separates us!

Donations
You may accept gifts and donations at this time for the work you are doing. It takes effort, time and money to put the Study Program together so I encourage attendants to give. An appointed person may now pass the donation bag. The leader may bless the gifts after the donations.

Closing Prayer
Always close your Study Program with a prayer or an affirmation. Pray for guidance and direction during the week. Pray for everyone present. The leader or an appointed person may offer the closing prayer.

Refreshments
You may serve refreshments after the Study. This is a time to relax and socialize. Get to know the people in the Program with you and I mean really know them well. One of the secrets of success is connection so I encourage you to know the people around you. The host may decide what to serve or he or she may ask the attendants what they want for refreshments before each Study Program.

Talent Contribution
You may now entertain the group with your talent in music, songs, dance and poetry including playing musical instruments. This is also a good time to share some Awakened Living tips for the benefit of the group. 

Circle of Life
The Circle of Life depicts different aspects of your life. You are at the center and the different aspects radiate outwards to form a circle as long as they are in harmony. You can pinpoint an aspect of your life at any given time and find out if you are in harmony with the rest of the circle. If an aspect needs improvement you may have an uneven circle. Your challenge then is to work on the area that needs improvement in order to keep it in harmony with the rest of the circle.

There are 12 aspects in this version of the Wheel of Life including Health, Spirituality, Family, Relationships, Education, Mission, Finances, Work, Play, Personal Development, Environment, and creativity. Take time to answer the following questions and begin to work on the areas that need improvement.

Health
1. Are you healthy?
2. Do you have any bad habits like drinking, smoking, pornography, fast foods, etc?

Spirituality
1. Are you spiritual?
2. When was the last time you meditated, chanted, affirmed or prayed?

Family
1. Do you have a family?
2. Are you happy with your spouse, children, and parents?

Relationships
1. Do you have friends?
2. Are you happy with your friends, co-workers, boss?

Education
1. Do you have a degree?
2. When was the last time you read a book?

Mission
1. Do you have a mission statement?
2. What is your life mission?

Finances
1 Are you financially stable?
2. Do you have any debts?

Work
1. Do you have a job, career?
2. Are you happy with your job, career?

Play
1. Do you play regularly?
2. When was the last time you played with your friends, children, spouse, parents or pet?

Personal Development
1. Do you lose your temper often?
2. When was the last time you took a class on human development?

Environment
1 Are you happy with your environment?
2. How are you reducing pollution?

Creativity
1. Are you sharing your creativity?
2. When was the last time you wrote a poem, painted, sang, danced, or played a musical instrument?

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