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Thread: The Dharma for Love and Marriage
15-04-07, 08:10 AM #1
The Dharma for Love and Marriage
''The Dharma for Love and Marriage''
By Phra Dharmakosajarn (2549)
One of the wonderful things about Buddhism is that it includes such a wide variety of teachings, or Dharma. Like a garden with flowers of many colours from which to fashion a beautiful bouquet, Buddhism includes many teachings among which we may select and practice according to our individual needs. For those who would achieve Nirvana there is the transcendent Dharma for going beyond the world. For those who hope to achieve the fullness of life in the world, there is the worldly Dharma, to be practiced for a better life in the future. For husbands and wives who seek the fullness of married life, there is the practical Dharma of the householder.
The purpose of marriage is to build an enduring harmonious family filled with love. Husbands and wives can achieve that purpose by practicing the Dharma together. Practicing Dharma together will help to create a firm and lasting partnership, strong enough to weather the storms of life.
By Dharma here, I mean virtue and morality.
Virtue is an inward treasure held in the heart, such as love and compassion. With virtue, husbands and wives can perform their duties effortlessly.
Morality refers to the good and lovely principles of conduct that we put into practice for the benefit and happiness of ourselves, our families and society. The rules of morality defined by religion, culture, custom and law, specify what husbands and wives must do to for happiness in the family.
Rules of morality regulate outer conduct, in both action and in speech. Others can observe and judge the level of our morality. For example, husbands and wives should honour each other. Anyone may observe them and discover whether they honour each other or not. On the other hand, it is difficult for others to discern inner virtue. Love, for example, is a virtue. Others cannot see whether there is much or little our hearts. All they can do is to guess from our outer behaviour how much love we may have.
Virtue is the foundation of morality. When a husband has virtue he loves his wife in his heart and he will effortlessly perform the duties of a husband toward his wife. Love will motivate him to sacrifice his own happiness for his family. Love, then, is the indispensable foundation of married life. Married couples with love in their hearts are able to adjust to each other better than married couples without love, because love makes them to yield each to the other and to bear with each other.
Two kinds of love are recognized by Buddhism.
Pema is desiring love, or romantic love. Romantic love arises from two sources. A man and woman who were together in a previous life, meet again in their new lives. They feel as though they were of the same flesh and naturally love each other. But when a man and woman help each other in this lifetime they may come to love each other though they had not been together in any previous lifetime. They come to love each other because the help that each offers gives rise to affection in the other.
Metta is desire and hope for the happiness of the other. The goodness and loveliness of the other touches one's heart to the point that one's thoughts are of supporting the other and enhancing his or her goodness and beauty.
A marriage will be enduring if it is based in both the romantic type of love and the metta type of love. Romantic love makes one happy and absorbed in the presence of the loved one, but the splendour of new love does not last for long. It becomes commonplace and familiarity dulls the force of love and desire. For this reason along with desiring love, we need metta to make love endure.
Romantic love is inspired by the desirability and loveliness of the beloved. Such a love is naturally unstable. When the beloved makes himself lovely and desirable, feelings of love and desire blossom forth in full strength. But when the he brings only his heart, without having made himself beautiful, desiring love will wilt and fade. Romantic love waxes and wanes with external conditions, giving primary importance to the style and appearance of the beloved.
In the time of the Buddha, when Lord Pasenadi, King of Kosala, was in the fullness of his reign, along with his Queen, Lady Mallikadevi, Lord Pasenadi asked the Queen, "Who do you love best?"
No doubt Lord Pasenadi was feeling romantic at that moment and wanted a romantic response from the Queen. She, however, said, "I love myself the best."
His romantic feelings evaporated. Lord Pasenadi sought out the Buddha and recounted the story. "Why would the Queen have said such a thing?" he asked the Buddha. The Buddha answered that Lady Mallikadevi was a straightforward woman who was not afraid to say out loud what was the truth for everyone: everyone loves himself the best. The Buddha, indeed, had already said on other occasions that nowhere is there love stronger than self-love.
Romantic love, desiring love, aroused by external features of the one loved, is by nature inconstant. Couples who wish for their desiring love to be strong and enduring should temper romance with metta.
Romantic love may be compared to an automobile that depends upon others for fuel. It must wait for its tank to be filled before it can travel. The love that is metta, however, is like an automobile whose owner produces unlimited amounts of fuel. That automobile can travel at any time. This is so, because we ourselves cause metta to arise through contemplating the good qualities of the other. To cultivate metta in our hearts, we must view the world from the proper perspective. If the husband and the wife learn to view each other from the proper perspective, each will love the other with constancy. Even though after being together for some time, faults begin to appear in the husband and the wife, they learn to look beyond the faults and to see the goodness each of the other, as in the poem:
A good perspective yields fruit
The human worth of others is seen
Faith is planted and grows in the heart
Set on what is right and good
The way to see the world from the proper perspective is to extend metta from the heart. The heart of one who extends metta is full of unconditional love, like that of a mother towards her only child. As a mother loves her own child overlooking his faults, so one who extends metta is able to love and to forgive others.
Husbands and wives should extend metta to each other. Metta-love is not aroused by the stimulation of the partner, but from the concern that each has for the welfare of the other. Metta-love continues without ceasing and is known in Pali as appamanna, that is, boundless, illimitable. To the extent that the husband and the wife continue to be concerned each with the other's well being, to that extent, metta-love will remain with them.
Romantic love loses its excitement when good looks fade in the course of time, but metta persists, because it did not enter the heart only by way of external, physical beauty, but also by looking upon the inner beauty of the beloved's heart. The love for another that is metta enters the heart through the other's status as a human being and as a friend for life.
Thai weddings include a ceremony in which water is poured from a conch shell over the hands of the bride and groom. This is a Dharma teaching, teaching the couple to have love and metta toward each other, and to remain together without separation, like the stream of water pouring over their hands. In former times a blessing was recited over the couple: Idang udakang viya samaggha abhinna hotha, "May you both be in harmony without division, like this water." As in the poem:
May you be united as one
As this water, clear and clean
Does not divide, but remains one stream
May your two hearts likewise be one
Nevertheless, metta is but one of four virtues that together form the foundations of married life. These four virtues are known as the Brahmaviharas, literally, the dwelling place of Brahma, that is, the superb, excellent one. Along with metta (love), there are karuna (compassion), mudita (happiness in the well-being of others) and upekkha (equanimity).
The term Brahmavihara, the dwelling place of Brahma, calls to mind the four faces of the deity Brahma. Brahma employs each face to look in one of the four directions. Just so, husbands and wives should see their partners through the eyes of each of the four Brahmaviharas. These four virtues are practiced in the same way, in that we ourselves generate these virtues in our hearts, utilizing each in turn as the way in which we understand the qualities of others. Doing so cultivates love, compassion, happiness in the well being of others, and equanimity. For example, when we notice with interest the goodness of others, we have love, metta towards them. When we notice with concern the suffering and sorrow of others, we feel compassion, or karuna, for them.
The second Brahmavihara is karuna. That is, compassion and an apprehensive desire to help others out of their suffering. When our partner suffers from illness, we temporarily cease contemplating her beauty, and turn our attention to her illness in order to care for her in her time of need. Partners do not abandon each other in times of poverty or in times of pain. What is important is that partners stand by each other, helping, assisting, supporting each the other, to overcome troubles and obstacles. Like in the saying, "Sorrowing together, rejoicing together," we suffer together through karuna, we rejoice together through metta.
The third Brahmavihara is mudita. That is, joy in the happiness of others. When our partner achieves success in life, we show genuine happiness as well. With mudita, husbands and wives will not be jealous of each other, because they see the success of one as the success of the family. The one gives such encouragement to the other's efforts, that it can fully be said that behind her every success was her partner's constant support.
The fourth Brahmavihara is upekkha. That means a neutral attitude towards qualities in others that might seem less than desirable. When the husband and wife are from different lands, different in education, society and culture, they must accept differences with upekkha. Each must allow the other to be himself without too much interference. When they see faults in others, upekkha will help them to be patient. As Buddhadassa Bhikkhu wrote:
Who has something of evil: avoid it
But choose that of the good in him
For the benefit of the world, good to see
As for the bad: don't go looking for it!
The two sets of relatives and friends can be the source of headaches if we do not know how to settle our hearts in upekkha while learning to accept each other. Though the relatives and friends may not like each other, the dislike need not become hatred. Though there may be disputes, they need not go so far as separation. Upekkha enables husbands and wives to bear with each other and avoid divorce, because they can bear with any situation that arises.
The four Brahmaviharas are fundamental inner virtues that enable the bride and groom to carry out the duties of a husband and wife without having to force themselves. Carrying out those duties is morality, because they are performed as overt actions. The Buddha enumerated the duties of husbands and wives in the Sigalaka Sutta. They are:
The husband must care for his wife in the following ways:
By honouring her in her role as a wife;
By not disparaging her;
By giving her authority over household affairs;
By giving her ornaments and gifts on suitable occasions.
The wife must care for her husband in the following ways:
By properly managing household affairs;
By hospitality to friends and relatives on both sides;
By protecting the wealth that comes to them;
By being industrious and not lazy in all her tasks.
At Buddhist weddings, the bride and groom commit to following the advice of the Sigalaka Sutta, reciting these duties before the Triple Gem: the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha. First the groom recites:
I request permission to make a resolution before the Triple Gem: I will love and be truthful towards my wife throughout my life. I will honour her, not disparage her, be faithful, give her authority over affairs of the household, and give her ornaments and gifts on appropriate occasions.
Then the bride recites:
I request permission to make a resolution before the Triple Gem: I will love and be truthful towards my husband throughout my life. I will properly manage household affairs, provide hospitality to relatives and friends of both sides, be faithful, protect the wealth that comes to us, and be industrious and not lazy in all undertakings.
The resolutions of the bride and groom should be considered the heart of the Buddhist wedding ceremony.
The Sigalaka Sutta divides the duties of the husband and wife in an important way. The husband is responsible for working to bring income into the home while the wife manages household affairs. Today however may help and support each other in their roles. The wife, for example, may seek gainful employment outside the home while the husband helps with housework without a clear division of roles. What is most important is the commitment of time for love and warmth among husband and wife, sons and daughters. Love and warmth is the most important thing for family unity. Achievement and success in ones career cannot substitute for love and warmth in the home.
One evening, in the cold season, a mother was preparing the evening meal at home. Looking out the window, she saw three elderly men sitting under the bridge in front of the house, shivering with cold. She told her son to invite the three men into the house for some hot soup.
The boy went, but came back shortly. "Those three uncles," he said, "say that they've never been invited into a house all together. They all say you must choose just one. Which one should we choose?"
Mother sent the boy to ask for the uncles' names to help her make a decision.
He ran out to get their names and told Mother when he came back that the first was named Love, the second was Success and the third was Prosperity.
"Please invite Mr. Love in," Mother said.
The son was gone for just a moment before coming back, with all three uncles.
Mother could not stop herself from asking, "At first you said that only one of you would accept the invitation. But now, why have you all come?"
The uncles answered, "When you invited us in, if you had chosen Mr. Success, or Mr. Prosperity, you would have gotten only that one. But since you chose Mr. Love, Mr. Success and Mr. Prosperity followed him into your home."
Wherever there is love, there you will find success and prosperity; but where you find success or prosperity, you can't be sure of finding love.
Love is the foundation of the family. When there is love in the home, success and prosperity will quickly follow.
Wherever there is love, there you will find success and prosperity.
(Source: Magha Puja day)" Every morning dedicate positive things, and during the whole day make a wish that we will always be of benefits to sentient beings. We will be helpful to any being in different ways."
15-04-07, 10:29 AM #2Senior Member
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Re: The Dharma for Love and Marriage
Beauty,,,the words of a poet; so well expressed.
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