MARRIAGE – as it is, and what it could be
Marriage unites a man and a woman for life. Irrespective of how the match was made, they always make the commitment in spite of not knowing each other half as well as they should. This is true even of couples who have been seeing each other for years before they tie the knot. Having long conversations over cups of tea or watching movies together is quite different from living together as husband and wife. It has been said that a marriage is like a game of cards. First, it is all hearts, then diamonds, later clubs, and finally spades. Almost all marriages go through a romantic phase of high expectations, a phase full of hopes that the partners will live happily ever after. The marriage ceremony brings glamour to the event. Then reality hits the couple. They realize that the partner no longer gives them the same happiness as earlier. Instead, the partner asks for love, care, time and material comforts. On top of that the marriage turns out to be a package deal. Along with the partner come the in-laws, the partner’s friends, and sometimes even pets! The partners are seldom fully prepared for the reality. The disillusionment leads to disappointment, frustration and arguments, all aimed at proving that it is the other person’s fault – in other words, ‘clubs’. Finally, they reconcile with reality, and settle down to ‘spades’. The reconciliation involves seeing the other person’s point of view, accepting that one cannot have one’s way all the time, and above all experiencing the joy of giving instead of expecting the thrill of getting. The children that the couple gets may play an important role in their coming to terms with reality. Children both the partners love, and to children they both express their love by giving. The children teach them best what love is really about: giving, not getting.
Marriage, as an institution, has survived the vicissitudes of history. The survival of marriage as an institution is because of the security it gives to the unit called the family. Sharing the drudgery of family life provides an ideal arrangement for meeting the physical and emotional needs of both the husband and the wife, as well as their children. If the entire burden has to be carried by one individual – no matter how competent, hardworking and prosperous – the situation is invariably less than satisfactory. But does marriage have to be just an arrangement that brings some convenience and security into the difficult process of perpetuating the human race? Man is more than a feeding and breeding animal. The purpose of human life is spiritual growth, and the vehicle available to us for fulfilling the purpose is life itself. Marriage is an important part of that vehicle. When two persons get married, the first lesson they learn is that their sharply pointed individualities need to dissolve into a larger circle. This often comes after the egos of the two individuals put up a valiant fight. That is the phase of clubs. After a prolonged and painful battle, in which nobody is the winner, the egos settle for a truce. The children facilitate the process of dissolving the ego barrier by enlarging the circle further. The circle now includes not only the partners but also the children. That is the phase of spades. An ideal marriage, should not however, stop there. In spiritual terms, dissolving the ego barriers is one important step in spiritual growth; the love showered by the partners on each other, and on the children, is another. Of course, the two steps are interdependent; erosion of egos is a prerequisite for showering true love. It is in marriage that partners realize that true love is about giving rather than getting. They learn that true love brings joy when it is given, and also when it is received. They learn that true love is unconditional, and does not expect anything in return. Love for the partner and children, which comes naturally and instinctively, is a major instrument for spiritual growth. The love is further strengthened by crises, such as illness, accident, or bereavement – a few such crises are also inevitable in life. These crises then become periods of accelerated spiritual growth. Thus, without realizing it, the partners address the purpose of life while negotiating the labyrinth of a householder’s life. The partners may not always look at it this way, but what they see is how much they have changed over the years. On the whole, they find themselves much more compassionate, loving, tolerant, and if further proof is needed of ego erosion, they find that they have taken on some characteristics of the partner. Thus, if marriage is a game of cards, it should not stop with spades; it should go to the next stage of celebrating the game itself! Marriage is excellent training for carrying on the process of spiritual growth even after the children have grown up, and do not need the partners any more. The experience acquired through loving the children for a few decades makes the partners an expert on love. The expertise can be used for continuing with the process of spiritual growth by showering love on those who may not be related to us by marriage or blood.
The Mother has said that marriage is more than the partners uniting their physical existences, material interests, feelings and thoughts. All that is very good and necessary, but not enough. Marriage should also unite the partners at the level of their Supreme Truths, their souls. The partners should unite in their aspiration for spiritual growth, and walk together towards the goal. A truly creative marriage is one in which the partners together move towards the goal faster than they could on their own. This is the partnership Gary Zukav has called spiritual partnership. According to Zukav, a spiritual partnership is a partnership between equals for the purpose of spiritual growth. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have visualized a rise in the level of consciousness of the human race in the very near future. As that vision takes shape, marriage based on convenience and necessity is likely to give way to spiritual partnership based on a free and mutually uplifting relationship.