Everybody is doing it everywhere in the world - getting married. So you might be pardoned for thinking that it's all in a day's work for you: your grandparents were married; your parents were married; you are married; so your children will eventually marry ... and live happily ever after!
This delightful book will make you sit up and realise that there is more to marriage than meets the eye. Dada J. P. Vaswani's approach to the topic is, as always, thorough, systematic, practical and holistic. He talks about the Hindu ideal of marriage, the great value attached to the grihasta ashrama as it is called.
He draws our attention to the spiritual aspect of marriage and tells us how we may evolve towards self-realization in partnership with our spouse. The nitty-gritty of daily life is not neglected either.
Look out for the 10 Commandments of A Successful Marriage found in these pages. They are Dada's unbeatable, inimitable practical suggestions that will help you make a success of your marriage!
The Hindu scriptures refer to the married state as Grihasta Ashrama. May I draw your attention to the use of the word ashram a here; the ashram a is a place or a state that denotes discipline and restraint. Thus, marriage according to the Hindu ideals is not a pleasure hunting ground. It is not a license to do as one pleases. It is at once a discipline and a responsibility. In marriage, two persons - a man and a woman - offer the whole of their self, mind, body, and feelings to each other. They cease to live for their selfish ends; they live for each other, for their families and for the promotion and propagation of dharma or righteousness.
Hindu shastras emphasise the value of grihasta ashram a as fundamental to the well-being of society. This is because the people in the other three ashramas depend on the grihasta (householder) for sustenance 7 and support. They need the grihasta's help to carry out their duties. As for the grihasta, he is permitted to earn his living by the right means in order to support his family, raise his children and perform those acts of charity and compassion that assist others in the three ashram as.
I often tell my married friends that they are lucky to be in the grihasta ashrama , where all they have to do is perform their duty well, in order to attain salvation. However, this is not as easy as it sounds! Saints and sages refer to the life of the grihasta as jivayagna - a life-long saga of service and sacrifice for family and society.
A Hindu marriage is also referred to as kanyadaan - a beautiful, but much misunderstood term.
There are very many daans or dhanas advocated by the Hindu scriptures. Of these, kanyadaan - the gift of a virgin girl - is stated to be the supreme daan. It is said that he who is blessed with the opportunity of bestowing this supreme daan in his lifetime, and he who is bestowed with this gift, are truly beloved of the Lord. The bride's parents 'give her away' to the groom, entrusting her to his loving care.
Significant are the words that accompany this wonderful gesture: "I have nurtured this child up to this age, and am now handing her over to you for the progeny and prosperity of your family. Consider her as your own and be her guide and philosopher till she lives with you."
On the bridegroom's side, marriage is termed as Pani-grahan (acceptance of the hand). By this beautiful and significant gesture, the groom's family welcomes the bride into their home, and the groom enters the holy state of matrimony with her. He accepts her as his partner for life, vowing to protect her and look after her, invoking God's grace to help them both follow the path of virtue.
Another Sanskrit term for marriage is vivaha, which literally means "what supports or carries". The vivaha ceremony thus creates a union which supports and sustains a man and woman throughout their married life in the pursuit of dharma (righteousness.)
Of the sixteen samskaras (sacraments) associated with Hinduism, vivaha or marriage is considered to be the most sacred,' for the grihasta ashram a is considered to be the basis of all the other ashram as. Therefore, Hindu scriptures eulogize vivaha in glowing terms.
Marriage is not meant to satisfy carnal desires. Rather, it is meant to assist one's spiritual progress, leading to God-realisation through a disciplined life. In marriage, a young man and woman practise selfdiscipline and self-control, even as they find support and companionship with the spouse and other members of the family, and learn to offer selfless service to society.
Marriage may be said to be a co-operative venture between husband and wife in the field of the four purusharthas - dharma, artha, kama, and moksha. It is the union of two souls, and this sacred union is formalised through sacrament.
Vivaha is also literally translated to mean upliftment. Marriage helps young couples to raise themselves towards God. The bond of marriage unites two souls so firmly that though they are physically two separate entities, their souls are merged into one harmonious whole. Together, they vow always to:
• Have faith in the Divine.
• Show love, devotion and compassion to one another.
• Help in each other's good deeds.
• Strive to keep their minds pure and virtuous.
• Be strong and righteous.
• Show respect and affection to each other's parents and families.
• Raise their children to be strong in body and mind and pure in spirit.
• Welcome guests to their home.
It is significant that in one of the rituals that form part of the Hindu marriage called laja homa (prayer for shared prosperity), husband and wife take turns to lead one another around the fire, signifying that both are capable of leadership and guidance.
The saptapati or seven steps which form part of the Hindu marriage ceremony symbolise the couple's commitment:
• To cherish each other
• To grow and evolve together in strength
• To preserve their blessings
• To share their happiness
• To care for their children
• To live long and happy lives together
• To remain lifelong partners and friends,
making two imperfect halves into one perfect whole.
Socrates, the yogi of ancient Greece, was asked: "Which is better, to marry or not to marry?" In answer, he said, "Whichever you do, you will ultimately repent." He meant to say that marriage is like a Delhi ka laddu, khayega to bhi pachtayega, nahi khayega to bhi pachtayega. Whether you marry or whether you do not marry - both ways you will repent.
On another occasion when he was asked the same question "Which is better, to marry or not to marry?" he answered, "By all means, marry. If you get a good wife you will become very happy. But if you get a bad one, you will become a philosopher - and that is good for any man."
He himself did not get a good wife. Xanthippe was her name. She troubled her husband, again and again. One day, in anger, she abused her husband, and out of her lips flowed a stream of coarse invectives. Socrates quietly left the house. When Xanthippe found that her husband was gone, she took up a bucket of dirty water and threw it on him as he walked underneath the balcony of their house. The good man that he was, he looked up and said, "Formerly it thundered, now it pours!"
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