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“Learn something from marriage. Marriage represents the whole world in a miniature form, it teaches you many things. It is only the mediocre one who learn nothing. Otherwise it will teach you that you don’t know what love is, that you don’t know how to relate, that you don’t know how to commune, that you don’t know how to live with another.”
“It is a mirror: it shows your face to you in all its different aspects. And it is all needed for your maturity. But a person who remains clinging to it forever remains immature. One has to go beyond it too.”
Acharya Prashant: There are many questions on marriage. I’ll take them as one. One of the question says, “Marriage comes with a sweet promise to eliminate loneliness, but seems to strengthen it more. It’s definitely a mirror in showing that we don’t know how to communicate, love or even live. For there is no understanding of oneself at the first place.” This is probably a quote. The question is asking, “What is it to be intimate in reality?”
Then there is another question that says that “Marriage has become a battlefield, more of an insecurity, pretension of love, and an arrangement for permanent prostitution. Now, this is the fact and we are in the middle of this situation. I can’t get out of it, even if I understand this mess. And with children and their education in progress, if I leave this in the middle, it will be like an escape leaving the battlefield in the middle of war, a hypocrisy. How does one deal with such a situation?”
Another one that says that “The ancient sages made marriage compulsory for mankind so as to be a creator. They said that we must find the best spouse for the sake of the society. Were they misguiding us? Similarly, there are the sixteen Samskaars, are they useless in the modern era? Or, are they basics of a successful life?”
Stillness before we enter choppy waters – an expectant silence. Why talk of marriage? Why marriage in particular?
We have a strange habit of continuing to talk of particular events and actions, without ever bothering to point out the constant underlying theme behind all the event and actions. It’s like having a water pipe that is running through the entire boundary of this room. And the pipe is a leaky pipe, a weak leaky pipe, oozing out water from several places. The floor is all wet, covered with water, the walls are all marked with wet stains at several places. And we prefer to keep talking of the individual and particular stains. We prefer to keep talking of the particular places, where the floor is wet.
We, at our active best, even try to wipe the floor, sometimes from here, sometimes from there. When we are even more sincere, we try to coat the walls with an anti-wetness paint. We try all kinds of tricks and tactics, but never do we want to talk about the leaky pipe.
The pipe runs through the entire boundary, we don’t want to talk about it. The room has not been left comfortable. It is wet and cold and slippery. The walls are damp. The paint has already come off, even the plaster is about to come off. We keep giving the walls, some temporary treatment. Wherever they appear to be immediately crumbling, we rush to that place and do some emergency healing. And by the time we are finished taking care of one spot, some other spot starts crying for attention.
And that is the story of our life. Rushing from catastrophe to catastrophe. Like a firefighter, who is dowsing one flame after another. Like a Doctor, in an area visited by an epidemic, who is rushing from one patient to the other. That room, is the room of our life.
Marriage is just one of the big wet spot. Marriage is a wetness that refuses to dry down. But how would it help to talk of that one particular wetness? Aren’t there enough ugly spots elsewhere as well? Or, is the rest of the room, the rest of the life, neat and clean. There is chaos everywhere. There is dis-order, ugliness, and unholiness, everywhere. There is strife in marriage and there is strife in the profession. Are you unhappy only with your spouse? Aren’t you unhappy with the entire world? Do you fight only with your husband? You have expectations even from the neighbor, and from the grocer, and from the milkman, and from the dog on the road, and from God almighty himself. Nobody seems to fulfill your expectations and you fight with everybody.
It’s just that the poor husband, happens to be more frequently in your firing range. He is more often in the purview of your senses. So he receives, just coincidentally, the brunt of your assault. Otherwise you are prepared to fight with everybody. I saw you, last time you were fighting with the coolie at the platform. Were you not? Did you not haggle with the fruit vendor? He could as well have been your husband.
The pipe is running through the entire place. Don’t talk of just marriage. Marriage appears like the most important problem, only because you happen to spend the maximum time with your family, with your wife, with your kids, and because you have invested largely in them. Move away from your family for a few months, and you will find that you have several other problems as well. There are only problems. It’s just that some problems get your focus and the others do not.
Shift your focus from one problem and you will discover that there are? Problems and problems and problems galore. The entire room is stinking, the entire room is turning into some kind of a cesspool. But, we like to find justifications for our suffering. Every justification is a ploy to prove that we are innocent and the world is the culprit. So, you, with great taste, pick up your husband or wife as the culprit, “You destroyed my life, otherwise I was destined to be the president of the world. You have confined me to two kids, otherwise I would have been the queen of two Universes.”
Don’t you see that life is one? Don’t you see that fundamentally your behavior and your relationship towards and with your husband and wife, is just the same, fundamentally the same, as your relationship with anything or anybody else.
You claim that you do not understand your wife. Do you understand anything? Do you understand anybody? And if you do not understand anybody, why pick your wife for special treatment? Why complain particularly against her? You say that your husband does not quite love you. Does anybody love you? You say, you cannot love your wife, can you love anybody? It’s not a question of the object of love. Do you know love? No you don’t know love.
And when you don’t know love, be it the wife, or be it the kid on the road, how would you love anybody? But we like to talk of particular problems, because particular problems help us to remain in the illusion that everything else is alright. It’s like going to a doctor, when your kidney, liver, heart, all have conked off. You have half a kidney left, your liver has enlarged to become ten livers, instead of blood some unknown dirty fluid is flowing through your veins. Instead of intestines, you have rubber tubes. And you go to the doctor and complain, I have a pimple on my nose, that is my problem.
Don’t you see, why you complain about particular things? So that you don’t have to pay attention to the real problem. The real problem is that your entire system is defective. But you would rather talk of the pimple. The poor pimple, like the poor husband. The poor pimple who finds a way to appear on your face, in spite of all the insult and drubbing that you give him, like the poor husband. The husband is omnipresent in your life, just like the pimple. The husband refuses to go away, in spite of being beaten and pinched and bled. Just like the pimple. You would rather talk of the little pimple, why don’t you talk of everything that is defective?
The pimple is there because the blood has gone impure. Talk of the entire bloodstream. Talk of the whole system that has become toxic. But, spouses are always one’s favorite scapegoats. Are they not?
“I am caught in a bad marriage.”
No sir, you are caught in a bad self.
“My wife is a problem.”
No sir, your cleverness is the problem.
“Now I am stuck, what do I do, I have a family.”
No sir, you are stuck because you have an ego.
“I do not know how to raise my kids!”
Have you known how to raise yourself?
But You won’t talk about the real problem. You will talk about something peripheral, something secondary. So that the real problem may remain hidden. And, the real problem is ‘you’. The real problem is the ego itself. You will not talk of that.
You will talk of your kids going bad – “My kids are getting spoilt. The elder one is merely a brat. The younger one is already a Don. And the daughter, at 6 months, she appears like having joined the Mafiosi.” There must be something particularly criminal about you and your methods of upbringing.
Rather than seeing the mafia in your 6 month old daughter, but you would not talk of yourself. Who chose to marry? Was the man or the woman heaped upon you, in your sleep? Were you anesthetized at the time of your marriage? Were you given some sweet rose that was chloroformed? Was that how she proposed to you? “I love you.”, with the red rose and the rose is chloroformed. And just as you faint, a priest parachutes down, picks you up like a wrestler, ignites the fire using a cigarette lighter. And quick seven rounds of the fire and you have fallen to the conspiracy. Was that how it happened? No sir, you made a decision in all your wisdom. Probably after dating the man or the woman for months or years. And if you didn’t date, that too was your decision. I trust my father. I don’t need to date.
First of all you see what your father picked for himself!
Even if you didn’t date your dear would-be, you are still making a decision, to trust somebody else with your marriage. It was always ‘your decision’. Would you for once, kindly question this faculty inside you that keeps on making decisions? But no, you want to trust and confide in that faculty, even now. Then, you trusted that faculty to choose your spouse, now you are trusting that faculty to blame your spouse. But it’s the same you, the same pipe that is running through the room.
I am still asking you, what were you smoking when you decided to marry? What exactly? Who cast a spell? Or did both of you cast a spell upon each other? And if you indeed know black magic then use the same magic to get out of your problems. Go back to yourself of those days. Go back to the eve of your wedding. Remember, how delighted you were, and excited. All gooey and wet. And now you say that life is like an arid desert, not even a drop of water anywhere. Well all the water has been exhausted. You have wet, just about everything else.
No new decision can be a correction for a previous decision, when the decision maker is the same. Is that not obvious? There is nothing wrong with marriage as such. There is anything wrong with anything. We always keep talking of particular actions, no particular action is ever wrong. It is the actor, who is either right or wrong. Marriage can be a beautiful thing. Let the Buddha decide to marry; remarry, that is. Let Krishna marry and marry again and again. It would be a beautiful marriage, because Krishna is beautiful. Let the wise one marry. It would be a beautiful marriage because wisdom is beautiful. If Krishna marries, nothing can go wrong in that marriage. And even if an idiot doesn’t marry, all is going to go wrong with him.
So, marriage cannot be blamed. It is like blaming a pothole for your blindness. Yes, the hole was there, but why did you fall in it? It’s like blaming the valleys, when you fall into them while driving through the hills. The same valley can be a death trap and the same valley can be the most beautiful and peaceful sight. It depends on you. If you are not in your senses, then the valley means death. If you are in your senses then the valley means peace.
Don’t blame marriage. Marriage is neither good, nor bad. It is what you make of it. Your marriage will exactly be the same, as you are. Every relationship that you have will be just as you are. The world is in fact, ‘just as you are.’
If you get wedded to the other, because you feel lonely, what is going to be the result of such a marriage? You are only going to possess and dominate the other. You are going to latch on to the other. You will be a parasite. You are dependent on the other. The point where you begin the marriage, is exactly the point marriage will keep returning to, again and again and again. If you got into the marriage, because you were under social pressure, because you were afraid then your marriage will keep returning to fear again and again. If you got into the marriage because you were lonely, then in spite of your marriage, loneliness will haunt you again and again. If you got into the marriage, because you were sexually desirous, then in spite of the marriage, your desire would never be quenched.
The beginning of anything is also the result of that thing. See who you are. Don’t blame specific things, specific events, others, or the world. Don’t unnecessarily hassle your spouse. He or she is probably as clueless as you are. He needs your support. She needs your light. Take care of yourself, and then you will be able to take care of everybody.
If there is one topic I keep receiving the most questions on, if there is one thing that seems to be a problem with everybody, it is the family. Or, something related to the family, family members. And whenever people talk of their family, which does not only include the spouse – it also includes the parents, the kids, hardly do they ever talk of themselves. The problem always seems to lie with the other.
And, even if people do talk of themselves as involved in the problems, they talk of themselves as unwilling participants who have somehow been dragged into the problem. They never talk of themselves as the originator of the problem, or even the co-originator of the problem. No, no, just to please the ego I am using the term “co-originator”, there is nothing called co-originator. A kid is never co-fathered, is it? A problem is also never co-fathered.
Then the question comes, “yes we understand that we were drunk when we decided to marry.” “Yes we understand that it was under the impact of marijuana that I conceived my elder one.” Look at his eyes, it is obvious how he was born. But now what to do? That is the next question that one receives. Yes it is true, that had I been in my senses I would have never chosen this lady. Yes, it is true, that had I not been half faint that night, the younger one would never have been conceived. But now, what to do? Are you in your senses even now?
When it was your day to decide the marriage, you were asking your father and the mother. You remember that day? And if you didn’t consult anybody outside, you consulted your own ego. And even now, you want to consult somebody else. Would you pause a little? Is it about marriage or is it about individuals?
There is a lady in front of you, she is a lady. She is not necessarily your wife. Drop the idea that the marriage is the problem, and then you would be able to look at her as an individual. Drop the image that she must be a wife, and then you will be able to more sympathetically, more intimately, look at her. Now, you will be two individuals living under the same roof, two individuals who have probably given birth; not husband and wife. Because what else is a husband? A husband is an image that must fulfill your expectations. What else is a wife? A wife is a picture that must fulfill your desires. Stories, that’s what they are. Drop the stories and look at the person in front of you.
That person struggles just as you do. That person is in need of a healing touch, just as you need that touch. That person has given birth to kids, just as you have given birth to kids. And forget for a while that her kids are your kids. Look at her just as one would look at a stranger. And it is a very strange thing that when you are able to look at someone, as one looks at a stranger, with detachment, then you are able to come very close. That strangeness disappears when you look at somebody as a stranger. And, when you look at somebody as a known entity then it is guaranteed that you will know nothing about that person.
Look at your husband like you would look at a stranger. He would appear less of a demon then. Look at your wife, as you look at a woman you are meeting for the first time. Is she still the vamp of your nightmares? Do you still freak out upon looking at her face? No. You might even fall in love again. And this time, it would be a rising.
The best way to save a marriage is to forget that you are married.
Till the time, you remain married, the marriage is doomed to fail. If you want to redeem your wife, drop the wife, you will get a lover. If you want to save your husband, drop the husband, you will get a suitor.
The quarrel is always between husband and wife, never between individuals. The quarrel is always between the images. It’s the images that fight. The fact of the individual never is in quarrel or strife or contradiction. Never.
Most of the people who ask this question, at least those who have their kids, are already in their 30s and 40s. Some are even in more advanced ages. How many years are you really left with? If you are 35 or 40, you probably have 20 or 25 more active years. How do you want to spend them – nagging, grudging, complaining, and weeping? Yes?
Look at the face of your husband, he is dead, he is gone. Now keep complaining. He is lying there, in front of you and that day is not far off. He is gone. Look at the face of your wife. She is gone. Now hate that face. Now curse that face. That day is again not far off. Both of you have to go, and one of you will go before the other. What is all this fuss about? Why must you break each other’s head? If you must fight, why don’t you fight the real challenge? Real challenge is neither the husband, nor the wife. Real challenge is one’s pettiness, one’s ego. Can you fight that? Is bringing up kids, such a massive problem as we make it out to be? Is it really?
Or, does the real problem lie in overcoming one’s own self-imposed limitations. Your husband does not want to strangulate you.
There were hundreds of nights when you were lying by his side, undefended, unprotected, and even naked. He didn’t strangulate you. Your wife does not mean to poison you. Hundreds and thousands of times, she has cooked your meals. She could have poisoned you any day. The husband means you well. The wife too means you well. Both of you are unnecessarily locked into a totally stupid battle. It is a battle of dominance, it is a battle of expectations.
Nobody is obliged to live as per your fancies. Are “you” able to fulfill your own expectations? And if even you cannot meet your self-image, how is the poor wife or husband going to live up to what you expect from him or her? If you think that it is feasible to live up to expectations, demonstrate. First of all, show that through your own life.
You cannot lose weight, but you resent the fact that your wife is overweight. Yes, the wife will drop weight, first of all you take the lead and demonstrate. You cannot do one thing right in the office, but you find it disgusting that the chapatti is a little browner than you would want it to be. Why such biased expectations from the other?
Let the other ‘be’. Nobody is born to be a husband, nobody is born to be a wife. You are born free individuals. Relate to the other, as you would relate to a free being. Don’t shackle the other. In fact, that is the only way to your own freedom. Let the other be free. If you feel enslaved, for sure you are enslaving somebody.
If you find that your husband is overzealous in protecting you, for sure you are acting like a mother to him in the house.
Let the other be free of you, and you will get the other. And not only will you get the other, you will get a lot more. The more you try to own the other, the more you try to use the other as a means to fulfill your personal expectations, the more you find that the other is just a source of misery to you. Are you getting it? I assure you that you are bothered with the wrong problems.
My task here is not to solve the problems that you present to me, but instead point to that which is the real problem, and hence point to that which is real.
The kids will grow up beautifully, almost on their own, with very little guidance from you, provided, you yourself are not misguided. Don’t make the other the center of your universe. Don’t think so much of the husband. If 24 hours a day, the husband or the wife is dominating your thoughts, your mind, then surely the husband or the wife is in grave danger. Always be cautious of the one who is all the time thinking of you. He will kill you. If you are all the time thinking of somebody, then you have become dependent on that person for your mental sustenance. Now you will not let him go away, now you will not let him be free. Because, now he is necessary for you, to mentally survive.
So, don’t make the other your universe. Stop thinking so much. About the kids, about the family, about the husband, about the wife. Stop, just stop. They are not so important. By thinking so much of them, by bothering so much about them, you are only troubling them. Instead, pay attention to reality. Instead, go close to the Truth, read the scriptures, live in meditation, know the world, go out of the boundaries and travel, meet new people, get a life, fulfill your passions, and spare the poor spouse. Travel alone and don’t keep complaining that the wife is not getting leaves from her job. Shop alone, instead of complaining that the husband cannot find time for you.
The more you are capable of aloneness, the more you are capable of love.
It is a paradox, but go into it.
Meet as you meet a lover. Don’t take the other for granted. Don’t expect that the other would answer the doorbell. Don’t expect that the other would always be available when you knock. Instead, meet as lovers do, date each other. Then there is a freshness. Relationships get spoilt when people cling to each other. Then there is just sweat, physical contact and stink. Then all that you want is a little separation, a little distance. If you really want heart to heart contact, let the bodies be a little separated. And by that I do not mean sexual abstinence, by that I mean that you do not really have to be in the same physical space, the shared physical space all the time.
Nobody can bear to keep looking at the same face, again and again 24 hours a day. Give decent space to each other. Sometimes, disappear from each other’s life. Don’t keep clinging, “Tu jahaan jahaan chalega, mera saayaa saath hogaa.” To the extent that, we have a double commode. That is the height of love. How can I leave my poor spouse unattended? I am not going to leave her even after death, not even Yamraj can take her away from me. How can the washroom dare to do, that not even Yamraj can do. Even the idea stinks. Does it not?
We all need space. Man’s inner nature is freedom. When I say, “Man”, I mean both man and woman, mankind. Just as you need free mental space, you also need free physical space. In fact I find the idea of a shared bed, quite vulgar. The double bed is an invitation to trouble. The double bed makes it mandatory that you will sleep next to the designated person. Now this can never be a mandate. There must only be single beds, and preferably in separate rooms. When you want to meet, then only you should meet as lovers do. Sometimes they decide to be in union. And only when sometimes you decide to be in physical union, then you are in perpetual Aatmic union.
When sex and physical nearness of all kind start dominating a relationship, then the juice dries down. Now the other is just a body for you. Body for the sake of having sex, body for the sake of upkeep. To treat somebody as a body does not necessarily mean that you are always looking sexually at the other. It also means, that you are concerned with nothing else but the body of the other.
So, when the husband says that all that I have is lust towards you. Of course, he is looking at the wife as the body. But equally, when the wife is bothered only about the physical health of the husband, she too is just looking at the husband as a body. Have you not seen mothers? All that they are bothered about is the health of the child. You ask them, is the child growing in wisdom? They would not know. All that they know is whether the child had his meals, is dressed properly, has been taking regular baths. They would know the weight of the child, they would never know the soul of the child.
Same with the husband. Internally the husband is being strangulated, but externally, you want to keep him healthy and shining. You very well know that he must have all the vitamins and proteins in breakfast. But you do not know what the nourishment that the mind needs is. That too is just the treatment of the other as merely a body. You worry a lot, when the husband falls sick, physically sick. If he has fever. But you do not worry when you see that the husband has no inclination towards spirituality. You do not worry when the husband is corrupt and violent, just mechanical.
Stop seeing other as merely a body. Then you would not bother about the other’s physical presence so much. Then it will be alright for you to sleep on single beds. Then it will be alright for you to sometimes not cook meals for him or her. Then marriage will not be a problem. Marriage will not be a problem when your own life is not a problem to you. First of all, solve your own life.
Children, pick up from what they see. You are so bothered about your kids. And the kids are only getting afflicted by your botherations. Take care of yourself, and you have taken care of the kids. When the kids see a radiant mother, a radiant father, their darkness disappears. Be first of all, concerned about discovering your own radiance. If you have nothing but darkness, all that your kids would get from you is darkness.
But, strange is our situation, preserving our darkness we want to bring light to our kids. That is an impossibility that is never going to happen. That is why almost all parents have always failed. They want to bring that to the kids that they themselves do not have. That cannot happen.
To not to look at that woman, just as your wife, to not to look at that man, just as your husband, you will have to change your eye itself. If your eye remains the same, then your vision also remains the same. If you continue to look at the world as you used to look at it, then you will continue to look at your wife, just as you used to look at her.
Therefore, wisdom is the only solution. Therefore, Krishna, and Ashtavakra, and Kabir, and Nanak, are the only solutions. Nobody else is going to save you.
Be married to God and then let God save your marriage. Accept God as your spouse and then God will take care of your earthly, carnal spouse as well. Remember your first husband, remember your only father, and then all will be taken care of.
Go for a vacation alone. And then when you go for a vacation, with your spouse, it would be lovely.
Cook for your husband, but not as a duty, not as an obligation. Sometimes, refuse to cook. Oh, that you anyway do (Audience laughs). Sometimes, in love, refuse to cook. Sometimes refuse to return home, not because you are drunk, but because you are sober. In your sanity, refuse to return home sometimes. Then when you return home, it would be beautiful. Only a free mind has the right and the capacity to love. If you are not free, where is love?
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
Watch the session video: Is marriage your real problem? || Acharya Prashant (2017)
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