According to general definition, ‘Marriage is a legally sanctioned contract between a man and a woman. Entering into a marriage contract changes the legal status of both the parties, giving the husband and the wife new rights and obligations. Public policies are strongly in favour of marriage, based on the belief that it preserves the family unit”.
Traditionally, marriage has been viewed as vital to the preservation of morals and civilisation. There are many ways in which marriage, as an institution, can be defined.
If you asked them the reason for choosing to tie the knot, most people in the world would stare at you with a bewildering look on their faces, as if you had asked them the dumbest question on Earth. If you prod them further, the typical answer you would get would be: “Quite simply, aren’t you supposed to get married?”
The same would be the case if you asked them why they chose to produce children! Again, the answer would be similar if you asked them why they sent their children to school?
Likewise, whatever be your question, the answer would be the same. This is because just like the docile sheep, nobody has bothered to dig deep to find out why one should be getting into any of these. The way people generally go about it, it would seem as if all these were laws engraved on stones! However, this is never the case with a mature person. A man of maturity always knows why he is doing what he is doing. He would always put his God-given intellect to its appropriate use.
One of the foremost reasons for getting into a married life, I believe, is to experience a life of constant companionship. Companionship is a beautiful idea. Companionship is basically about enjoying each other’s company to the fullest, but it also has a lot of other flavours in it — that of friendship, love, caring and fellowship.
It is worth mentioning, however, that there are some other equally important dimensions to marriage.
During India’s golden past, all children were sent to be with a Guru for at least twelve years so that they could walk into the outside world as mature individuals who are complete from within. The value of detachment (non-clinging behaviour) and its offshoots — service and humility — would be inculcated in them during this stay with their Guru. This training was typically called a training in vairagya. Once they are found fit in vairagya, they become eligible to go back and enter the material world.
In other words, the growth should first be within and then without. One should first be a master of his senses and emotions before exposing oneself to the pleasures of the world. This is exactly why rishis, as a rule, are seen to be getting married at later ages; till the time they master the virtue of fullness from within — which gives rise to a non-clinging approach towards the world and its objects — they refrain from entering matrimony.
To me, another important dimension of marriage is that it is a litmus test for the spirit of vairagya. Vairagya gets tested through one’s moha (clinging attitude) towards one’s spouse and children.
In many marriages, under the false garb of love and protection, plenty of torture is often meted out to the spouse and the children in subtle ways. A beautiful marriage naturally involves boundless freedom as well as reverence for the spouse and the children.
Thus, the relationship with the spouse and the children acts a mirror that reflects the real spiritual or human values of a person. It is very easy to speak of unconditional love and values, and to put up an appearance of being spiritual. But your relationships with your spouse and your child will give away the true picture.
You are only as spiritual as the amount of ease with which you get along with your spouse or your child.
This litmus test is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it shows a person the depth of his own values and, on the other hand, it offers him an opportunity for his own growth.
This opportunity is again two-fold. On one side, this opportunity for self-growth presents itself in the form of the patience and wisdom one displays when the relationship goes through a period of turbulence. On the other, this opportunity exists when your partner acts as your spiritual buddy.
It is very difficult for us to see our own vices and limitations, whereas it is very easy to observe and point out the same in others. If the husband or wife could locate the limiting patterns of the spouse (without discounting for all the great qualities they have) and could compassionately point them out, their relationship would prove to be a fruitful marriage that brings about great growth.
If a husband or wife could truly put before themselves the spiritual needs of their partner, then the marriage would be an ideal one.