July 16, 1996
frustrated for a long time, in trying to know about the roots of our culture.
They're steeped in the Vedas, and the language is Sanskrit, it's not a
spoken language anymore. And I go
and asked the priest who performed my marriage,
"What is the meaning of the mantras that you recite in the
marriage?". And they say,
"Well, we study the vedas, but we don't study the meaning of the
Vedas." That was the standard
reply I used to get. And I used to
get frustrated, because I wanted to know about my culture, but I didn't know how
to go about it. Learning from
firsthand was not possible; from
knowledgeable people, it was not
forthcoming. And I wondered why the
information was being held back, what is the reason. When I was a young kid I
did study a little bit of Sanskrit, from ages 5 to 11, I was involved in
Sanskrit studies, and later I gave it up when I entered school.
Well, today what I want to talk about to you is the importance of our
understanding about what really a Hindu marriage means.
And what we should look for in it, and how we should apply it to our
lives. What's really involved, why
do we go through all that ceremony, and what is the meaning of saying that we
don't have the concept of divorce in Hindu marriage and why is it so?
I'd like to delve into some of these questions here.
But let me start off on a philosophical note.
Many of you
understand probably, that we are all one. Many
of you know already that the body is a temple where God resides.
God resides in me, in you, in you, in you, in everyone.
Not only in the human beings , but also in the animals, the trees, the
birds that fly in the air, in the air that we breathe, in the clouds that give
us rain, in the stars in space. There
is not a single place or a single time where God is not.
We do understand this in principle, but when it comes to practice , we
tend to differentiate a lot. We
accept God is there, but we do not accept God's creation.
We start saying, "If there's God, why is it there is so much
disparity, why is it there is so much disharmony, why are these fights are going
on all the time, Why should hate be
there, malevolent forces ruling the world and not love?
Two thousand years after the Prince of Love, Christ, died, still we are
trying to find love among our hearts. So
there's a great wall that divides man from man, man from woman, man from beast,
man from everything. We should
first look into the causes of why and how these divides come into existence.
The great Indian philosopher Sankara says, Advaita, non-duality, means there is only one entity, and
that is God. No matter where you
look, you can only see God and
nothing else. But as I said, we are
not able to accept God in his manifested state.
We say that God doesn't know how to make the world properly. If only I had the power, I would eliminate all this strife,
all this violence, and I would show God how I can improve his creation.
We become so full of ahamkara, I can do better than God.
This is not a surrender. The
first principle is that God exists not only in his pure, enlarged state of
oneness, but also in the divided state where you see differences.
And I would want a balance, where these differences are
coming from and why and how. How
do we come to know about this world? Through our sense of sight; either we see
the world or we read about it, or we touch it, or feel it, feel its
warmth. So all these sensory
and motor perceptions are the channels through which we communicate to the
world, we know about the world. But
all these are deceptive. What is
near to us appears bigger than what is far away. That is called inverse square
law; that is how our sense of sight works. You can hear me in this room, but
people outside cannot hear me. That is how our sense of hearing works.
So all these senses or motor organs are acting as local magnifiers.
So given this mode of knowing this world, there's no way we can
get away from the attachment from the localizing perceptions, It is very
hard to get away from that.
In order to get away from that, and to be able to see the oneness and to
break down the barriers between man and man, we have to somehow reach a state in
which our vision is universal, not localized, where the far appears as close as
the near appears to us; where with your consciousness, your awareness, you are
able to penetrate the whole world and embrace the whole world in its perception.
That is the state in which you can perceive God as being yourself.
down to a little lower level for illustration.
I say I am one, one being, but in me there are billions of living cells
which are born in me, they're growing in me, they're dying in me.
I have not given them names, I have not married them, I do not even know
who they are, why they are there, what they are doing; I am not even aware of
them. But I still have an
experience of this continuous life of all these living cells together which is
what I call my life. I see through my eyes, and I hear through my ears; so I say
this is my eye and this is my ear. I
do not say this is my ear and this is my eye.
See, the world I perceive through my eyes is totally different from the
world I perceive through my ears. Both
these pieces of awareness are unified in my consciousness.
It is I who am perceiving these different fields of awareness, but
the seer is the same. So it
makes sense to call this an eye and this an ear, different names for sub parts
of my awareness. They are both parts of me; they are parts of me because they
are attached to me in some sense. My
hands are attached to my body, my legs are attached, my heart is attached. So all these are attached to me.
So, can you find this attachment that we all have together?
I have life, you have life. We
are both attached to life. I can
speak, you can speak, we are both attached to speech.
And there are so many factors which are common to the seer and the seen.
This is what brings about the
unity, the experience of unity as compared to the state of diversity. We see that the division that we look at is superficial, but
if we go deep, we see the unity. The
ability to see both the diversity and the unity at the same time is given to us.
And your birthright is to experience that unity.
And the concept of marriage as it exists now in the Hindu culture tells
you how to translate this experience of
unity in diversity. If you know how to make two into one, then you know how to
make three into one; by induction process, and then you know how to make four
into one and so on. So you
experience the whole entire world collapsing into you.
So this is the foundation of the concept of marriage.
So let me go
over some details about some of the vedic
mantras that we recite and why recite them.
So I will start with the
idea that the God is in me. So it
makes sense for every one of us to
say that I am God. But, if I said
God is really in me and not in you, I am God and you're the Devil, then the
problem comes. I should
able to say I am God and you are also God. It is then that the oneness, the unity comes about.
So in the
marriage, who is the bridegroom? The father of the bride worships the feet of
the bridegroom in the marriage saying the following stanza:
anantaya sahasramurtaye Sahasrapadakshi shira uru bahave sahasranamne purushaya
shashvate sahasrakoti yuga dharine
bridegroom is none other than MahaVishnu, physically present as an individual
here, I am washing his feet. Namostu,
I bow down to him. Anantaya, one
who has no ending. Sahasra murtaye,
the one who has a thousand forms. In
Sanskrit, the word thousand is used in a different sense than we normally
understand . The three zeros are the three illusions of our wakefulness,
of our dreaming and sleeping state. The
reality, the one is you; you are experiencing all these three states.
One thousand is meant to represent infinity of experiences in these three
states of our being. Sahasramurtaye, having
a thousand forms. Sahasra shira
purushaya, having a thousand heads, because all of our heads belong to him, all
of our hands belong to him. Sahasrapadaksi
shiraurubahave. He has got a thousand rays coming from him, and infinity of
rays, an infinity of ways of knowing the world.
Purushaya. He is the seer.
Shashvate, he is existing forever, through all life.
Sahasrakoti yugadharine namah. For
thousands of crores of eras, he has been there, and that is the Maha Vishnu who
is the bridegroom.
So you see,
you are not seeing the bridegroom as an individual.
You are considereing him as a manifestation of Maha Vishnu directly.
And it is to him the Kanya, the bride is being offered.
And what does the bride represent? The
wealth of the lord, Maha Laksmi, aishvarya.
All the wealth in the world, all the enjoyment, all the riches, all the
experiences, they are the Maha Laksmi. Kanyam
kanaka sampannam sakala abharanih yutam. This
bride is offered as the wealth of
the world unto thee, unto the God who owns this wealth.
Then you may say, what is this giving of the bride to the bridegroom? Is it not a sense of distortion?
Should the bridegroom not be given to the bride?
Why this superiority of the
male? Does it not interfere with the relationship?
But it's not so. To see this, let us go on with the concept of marriage.
muhurta, when the people get married, is
when they put their hands on each others' heads, it's called sumuhurta.
At that time, what happens? You
have a betel leaf, some jaggery, and some seeds, and that is kept on the heads
of the bride and bridegroom mutually. Now
who puts the hand on your head? Putting
a hand on your head is a blessing. And
who blesses you? The guru
blesses you. So the meaning of that
sumuhurta, the real meaning of marriage is implicit there.
That you , the bride becomes the guru of the bridegroom, and the
bridegroom becomes the guru of the bride. So
you are mutual guru and sishya. But
you have to understand this. Where
normally, we tend to place the guru on a pedestal, high up above, and think that
we have obey or listen to whatever he or she says.
That is not the real meaning. The real meaning of the guru and sishya
relationship is that like a transmitter and receiver. When I'm talking and you're
listening, I'm the guru and you are the chela or sishya.
But when you're talking and I'm listening, you're the transmitter and I'm
the receiver; so you're the guru and I'm the sishya.
See, in advaita, it becomes very clear that you're not really talking to
somebody else when you're talking to somebody else.
You're talking to yourself when you're talking to somebody else because
the talker and listener are one. You learn to see the oneness of yourself with
the other. Therefore,
the talker and the listener become one.
In that sense the relationship between guru and sishya is just a
resonance with your self, being in tune with yourself.
here, people say, that girls are not entitled to study the Veda.
Many people of the ascetic order say girls should not recite Vedas.
That's not true. The boy goes through a state called upanayana.
Upanayana means taking you near God.
nayana means taking, upa means near.
You're being taken near the Goddess, the mother Gayatri,
by the thread ceremony. The
thread ceremony entitles you to recite Gayatri Mantra.
Gayatri is a Shakti who is ruling the whole world.
She is the creatrix, she is the sustainer, she is also the destroyer.
She combines all these powers into her.
And if you get the right to recite the Gayatri, you become a Shakti
upasaka, then you go through the transition called upanayana. The dynamic nature
you have to understand, and implement, and expose yourself to in your
Gayatri mantra upasana, the woman get the right too during the marriage
Because, from the husband, who becomes her guru, she's entitled to learn
this Gayatri mantra. So, what is
considered upanayana for the male is
equal to the Kalyana or marriage ceremony, for the bride.
So from that moment onward, she is entitled to learn all the Vedas, all
the Shastras he has learned. And
what ever she has learned, she can be a guru to him and she can teach him.
So this mutual guru sishya relationship is what we call the marriage.
You have to understand this. If
I say, I am always the guru and you're always the disciple, there's a
superiority / inferiority relationship there.
But that's not true. The
relationship is built on total equality. You're
sometimes the guru, sometimes I'm the guru.
Sometimes you're the sishya, sometimes I'm the sishya.
So where's the question of superiority there? If A contains B and B contains A, then we say A is equal to
B, right? It is this relationship
which is the essence of our Hindu marriage.
If in this
relationship of marriage, if we assume the dominant male or the dominant female
attitude, then the concept of the marriage is totally lost.
The marriage is supposed to be like a cart that has two wheels, and both
wheels have to move forward at the same speed so that the cart can go forward.
If one wheel stops and the other is moving,
it goes round and round, it doesn't move forward.
But equality of the two wheels which are the husband and the wife, that
is being established by this relationship, and that is the essence of the
So I told
you that the roots of marriage is friendship, right?
So, explore this friendship a little further. If I am friend to you, and somebody else is a friend to you,
should it mean that somebody must be enemy to me? Not so. Marriage is like an equality. If A=B and B=C then it does not mean that A is not equal to
C, but it means that A is equal to C. So
to establish this relationship more completely, the Vedic mantras that are used
in the marriage have what is called saptapadi, the seven steps that you walk
together around the fire. And in
this saptapadi the following statements are there:
Sakha saptipadi bhava- be my
friend who walks these seven steps together.
Sakhyam te gameyam- may I aspire to your friendship.
Look at the words carefully - may I ASPIRE to your friendship.
It's not there now, we have to reach that understanding.
Sakhyam temayoshah; sakhyam me ma yoshtyas. That means, the bridegroom is
telling the bride "You may have friends, they may be girls or
they may be boys, it does not mean therefore that they're my enemies.
So I aspire to your friendship, and your friends are my friends, they're
not my enemies. And similarly, I
may have friends, girl friends or boy friends, and they're not your enemies,
even if we were to make love to them. The fundamental cause for breaking up of
marriages is to become jealous when you're talking to somebody else, when you're
looking at somebody else, when you want to make love to somebody other than your
married partner. It is denounced as adultery in our days, and is the cause of
divorce. It's this kind of
jealousy which breaks up the marriage. It root is cut off in a vedic marriage.
So total freedom to have any number of friends is permitted in the Vedic
marriage. And then the great Rishis
ask the question, for what purpose is the marriage?
Dharma praja sampatti artham striyam udvahe.
The spark of life was given
to us by our parents. And we
have to repay that debt. And how do
repay that debt? By procreation. By creating another spark of life, we repay that debt
to our parents. And that reason is
one of the prime reasons for marriage. So
if you want to have children, you
must beget them through a married
partner. That is the dictum.
Now we got what are called four purushartas, which are called dharma,
artha, kama, moksha. In every
samkalpa we say "Dharma, artha,, kama, moksha, cathur vidha phala
purusharta siddharthyam. I want to
do my duty, I want to earn money, I want to fulfill my desires, and I want to be
liberated. These are the four basic
desires that everyone has. So
dharma is defined as giving the spark of life which have received from your
father and mother, and pass on that life to a new life. Because in the Convocation
address given to the disciple after education is completed, it
says, "Praja tantum ma vyavachetsih".
It says, life is so precious, please do not cut it short by not having
children. Life is so precious, in
this whole wide world, there is a very little part where life really manifests
in its full state. So you have the
bounden duty to continue this spark of life unbroken.
And let the life evolve into higher an higher forms.
So your defined purpose is to generate children and that is one of the
prime reasons for marriage.
Kama and moksha are there. Kama is
desire. We have desires. What are these desires?
We want to build a home, we want to raise good children,
we want to acquire wealth and peace of mind, we want to have friends, all
these things are desires. These
desires can take the forms of lusts; lust for money, lust for life, lust
for enjoyment, lust for anything. If
you have a desire in a relationship
as intimate as a marriage is, then it cannot be called love.
Love is that which arises when the desire is not there.
Love is what we like to do and we simply do it.
Loving is loving yourself, basically, because you do not see the other
person as different from you when you are in love, or when you are making love.
You are connected, attached when making love; you know the other's feelings
through the connectedness. So when
I love somebody, then whatever I do to that person I'm doing to myself.
Because love is that which
integrates, which unites. It is not
that which separates. Love is a
connection, a resonance. So you see, if you are giving to somebody something,
say somebody has come to take alms from you, and
you give some money; if then you have a pride that you are giving that
money, then it is not an expression of love towards that person.
If there is no pride, then it becomes an expression of love.
So love is that where you discover the real needs of the other person and
you try to fulfill those needs. Not
because you're in a position where you can help and that person needs the help,
but because it's your nature to help, and it hurts you not to help those whom
you're helping. So you see, love is
a very delicate thing which blurs the sense of distinction between the giver and
the given, or the receiver and the received.
So it is in total unity only that you can love.
If you feel separateness, then you cannot experience this love.
The purpose of marriage was to achieve the state where you make two into
one, make three into one, make many into one, and to take you into that state
where you are connected to the whole world, and become truly a divine person, a
Goddess or a God.
think you are two separate bodies, you and your wife, or you and your husband.
But these two are connected so totally, that I know your thoughts as if
they are my own thoughts. I'm able
to see through your eyes. I'm able
to hear through your ears. I'm able
to feel what you're experiencing without your having to communicate with me.
It is that total union of the spirit which enables you to circulate into
the other state of consciousness, that is the aim of the marriage, to make two
into one. To realize that in a real
life situation, that is the real purpose of marriage.
steps that you go around the fire are supposed to be the seven chakras in your
body, if you are aware of the psychic chakras, they are supposed to be seven
centers where you're connected to the cosmos. By keeping your awareness in these
centers you're able to connect to the
cosmos. Those who are practicing
yoga become the cosmos. Marriage is
considered as yoga. Yoga is a part
of samyoga, where two are merging together in total love, and then they practice
Then we come
to the question of how this friendship is produced.
Can they have desires and how do they express their desires?
There is a freedom given and there is a freedom not given.
These are issues which are resolved in the marriage.
As I said, the marriage is between God and the world; between Maha Vishnu
and this world. Where does Maha
Vishnu reside? In everyone, right?
And where does Maha Laksmi reside? In
everyone. So, you see, how can there be a divorce in such a situation?
When the bridegroom is the God and God exists in everyone.
The wealth of God also exists in everyone.
And the unity of these two, how can it be disturbed by separation? There is no concept of divorce in the Hindu marriage.
Whomever marries whomever else, it still is the marriage of Maha Vishnu
and Maha Laksmi.
there is the concept of worshiping the women who come to our house.
We give them gifts and say, "Who is it that is giving gifts?" .
We tell them , Devi, it is you who are giving gifts, who are also
receiving gifts. This is Devi puja. So, though the names of the people are different, it is the
same Goddess who is giving and the Goddess who is receiving.
So this non-distinction is built from the beginning of our life to the
end of our life, and throughout our life. This
is the real basis of Hindu marriage. In
the olden days, the Vedic times, in the Tantric times, they used to marry the
girls eight years after menstruation. Eight
years after she became a woman, she is married.
What happens between these eight years?
There used to be called Gandharva vivaha, which means you love somebody,
so you are with that somebody. In
modern terms, it is called dating. In
olden times it was called Gandharva vivaha.
and bridegroom are married. So who
is the bride married to? She's
married to everyone, the whole world. Who
is the bridegroom married to? He's
married to the whole world. Explicitly,
the vedic mantras say, the bride is married to the purohit who is performing the
marriage. She's married to the
Gandharvas. Gandharvas are those
with whom she had contact earlier, before her marriage. She's married to all of them.
She's married to agni, the fire. She's
married to vayu, pritivi, apah, tejas, vayu, akasha.
All these things, she's married to.
And the priest had the first right of opening her up to the maritial
bliss if she remained a virgin.
marriage concept is totally different. In
fact, we are using the same mantras, but we don't understand what they really
mean. So they give us the
discipline. They asked the
question, for whom is this marriage required?
The world tried different approaches to marriage.
They tried, "I'll get whomever I can," that type of marriage.
The group marriage they tried. And
finally they have decided on monogamy. Polyandry
and polygamy were there, and finally they decided on this monogamy as the
standard one for the lifestyles.
happens to the desires that are left in you?
Now, if you understand properly our Hindu culture, we worship the Siva
Linga. Siva Linga is the union of
the universal male and the universal female.
The Linga and the Yoni are united together.
We are worshiping that, which means we are worshiping the universal male
and universal female.
the broadest context, let us understand Siva Linga at four different levels.
The lowest level at which we understand the Siva Linga is at the level of
physical union. It is the male
phallus which is called Siva and the female yoni which is called Parvati.
It is their union that we are worshiping.
There, the union is for procreation. At the next highest level, the fire
in the navel center and the love in the heart center, their union is called Siva
and Shakti. In the next higher
level still, space is considered the womb and time is the linga which is moving.
The universe of space and time is called the Siva Linga.
All the five elements, all the ways in which we perceive, all these are
considered to be lingas.