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.
In my own case, when I joined SSY in 1989, I had been married only for a year. Owing to the way in which the power of SSY had simply blown me away, I was also very much inclined then to go for more and more advanced programmes. Though Nina, my wife, herself, was very keen to pursue these advanced trainings, she would get very upset and would always be very apprehensive that in the pursuit of all these spiritual endeavours, there would come a day when I would leave her for good. But I was very clear in my conscience. With all empathy for her feelings, I very much assured her that there was no such possibility. On the contrary, at every available opportunity, I would take her along and, if need be, owing to any practical constraints, I would stay back but let her go on.
However, due to my facilitation and because of her own spiritual thirst, the more she grew inwards as a person, the more she started to relax. She began to feel secure as the fact that I would be there with her all the time became evident to her. I give this particular example to show the power the institution of marriage has in propelling both the partners to higher stages of spiritual growth.
We have been married for 23 years now and our marriage only gets better by the day. There exists in both of us an element of the quality of total surrender for each other — so much so that she is free, totally free, to be, do and have whatever she wants in her life, and so am I in mine. This, however, doesn’t mean that in pursuit of our individual goals and aspirations, we choose to be islands unto each other. On the contrary, this ambience of space has created for us rich opportunities to choose to spend time with each other rather than be compelled to do the same only because we are man and wife — which is, unfortunately, the case in most of the present marriages.
In this context, I remember this famous song from the Hindi movie Kabhi Kabhi. The song begins thus:
Kabhi Kabhi mere dil main khayal aata hai… (meaning ‘I sometimes get this thought in my mind’).
Then the first verse of the song defines how beautiful the girl is, the second verse speaks of marriage and honeymoon, and, in the third verse, the song culminates into something so beautiful:
Ki jai se tu mujhe chahegi umra-bhar yoon hi. Uthegi meri taraf pyaar ki nazar yoon hi… (meaning ‘I feel that you will love me as much forever and you will keep casting this glance full of love towards me’).
Then the next line, which is the most beautiful one:
Main jaanta hu ki tu gair hai, magar yu hi…(meaning, ‘I know that you are separate from me, not a part of me, and, hence, not going to be my permanent companion, but yet’).
Yu hi kabhi kabhi mere dil main khayal aata hai… (I get this thought every once in a while that you would love me this way forever and forever).
The first line shows the maturity of the protagonist, that he fully understands that permanence is not in the nature of things even though the love may be very deep. The second line is an icing on the cake, meaning that though the intellect has all this wisdom, yet the heart knows not the language of the mind. The heart still pines for its love’s perpetual company.
Thus, this is what I call an ideal marriage: So very attached, yet detached.
Like a lotus in the pond: In the pond, but not of the pond; yet, in the pond, but not of the pond…
To me, this song sums up the whole philosophy of marriage: a bond of love without the slightest element of clinging.
However, this kind of a lofty relationship cannot come about unless the husband and wife spend a lot of their time pursuing sadhana (going inwards through formal spiritual endeavours).
According to me, there are five levels of marriages:
The lowest level is the one in which a person marries purely for fulfilling his or her sensual and material needs.
In this type of marriage, one uses the other out of sensual or material lust. Lust is fatal.
The next level is that when the partner is not just an object for sensual or material gratification but is also looked upon as someone who provides for the family or takes care of the home, which is meant to serve the purpose of a fort for the whole family.
In this type of marriage, lust is mixed with an element of mild respect and tolerance.
Then comes the level of marriage when the partners firmly believe that the other person will live with him or her in a reasonable manner and provide for him or her and nurture their kids well. In this type of marriage, everything is kind of contractual, and each partner trusts that the other will honour the tacit contract.
Here, everything is based on the system of give and take: You love me, so I love you; if you don’t love me, then I won’t love you. These are your rights and these are mine. I respect your rights if you will respect mine. These are your duties and obligations, and these are mine. I will stick to my duties and obligations if you will stick to yours. These are your limits and these are mine. I won’t cross my limits if you don’t cross yours.
Such a couple live together somewhat peacefully but not joyously, for sure.
In this type of marriage, there is lust plus some respect plus some peace plus some trust, although it is all contractual.
A higher level, the fourth level of marriage is when two souls really love each other, operate from the heart and give each other complete freedom to be, do and have what each one wants. Here, one has gone beyond the desperation of sex, and each loves the other for the sake of love itself. There’s a tremendous understanding between each other and reverence for each other.
In this type of marriage, love between two bodies has given way to love between two hearts, contractual trust has given way to unconditional trust, peace has given way to joy, and respect has given way to reverence for each other.
Then there’s the highest type of marriage. It goes beyond reverence for each other, to seeing Godliness in each other. This relationship is that of complete devotion and surrender. Here the couple have a shared purpose in life: relentless service or seva to the world. This is the kind of marriage that our rishis and rishikas have had.
In this type of marriage, love changes into devotion, trust changes into surrender, joy becomes ecstasy and reverence towards each other transcends into service for the whole world.
I chose to speak on the subject of marriage not without a reason. Only a beautiful marriage can produce a beautiful child. A beautiful marriage acts like a bedrock for successful parenting which, in turn, gives rise to an immensely beautiful child.
May you, the reader, take your relationship with your spouse to raise it to this level of marriage, and, mind you, this wouldn’t happen without constant sadhana, or, what may be called, devotion, to personal growth. I sincerely pray to God that each of us experiences such great marital bliss.
Inviting a divine soul into your life.