Marriage, as it is practiced today, is another institution that has become quite redundant and decadent and we, as a race, need to take a very close look at its efficacy and what to do with it. Spiritually, I see it as having become another one of those poisonous gifts of the ego-based lives and societies that we have created. (See my earlier post titled, ‘Family: A Poisonous Gift From The Ego’ in the same vein.)
In this post, lets try to take a quick look at the history of marriage, how it has evolved over time, why it is spiritually more damaging than beneficial to us and whether we can move on to better ways of mating, raising children, finding peace, security and fulfilment in life and, most importantly, ensuring the continuity of the human race.
There was a time when man used to live in caves and was a hunter gatherer. This before we started agriculture and started living in settled communities. Anthropologists have found evidence from 40,000 – 30,000 years ago that we had discovered the disadvantages of in-breeding and had started developing relations with other tribes to get mates for child-bearing.
Between 30,000 years and 5,000 years back, we started growing our own food, i.e., discovery of agriculture. Just as in hunter-gatherer societies, in agricultural societies also, there developed a division of labour between the two sexes. Men would plough big fields and women would stay closer to the house and gather fruits and nuts and other edible plants and look after children and do other domestic chores.
With agriculture came surplus food. For the first time in human society, we had more food than we needed and we began storing food and exchanging it and trading it. And also for the first time we began to have extra time on our hands. We could now turn our attention to culture, education and civilization and other businesses.
Another development was ownership of the land and ownership of this surplus food. Also, agriculture needed more people. It was not as it used to be in the hunting days that two or three people could team up to hunt down an animal for food. Now you needed bigger groups with lots of males to work hard to plough the fields. And then for planting and harvesting, both males and females would be needed.
All this eventually led to a need to ensure reproduction of labour (marriage – own the women) and to ensure that one’s kids were one’s own (to keep the ownership of property in the family).
The beginning of agriculture and surplus food was a trigger not only for culture, education and so-called civilization, it was also the point in human history when human personality and ego started developing. We started becoming greedy, acquisitive and possessive. Now, it was not just a matter of staying alive. Now we had to become bigger and better and stronger and richer and more powerful and we needed to control everything around us. The ‘I’ / the ego had started its perilous journey. The well had been poisoned, so to speak. Man would never be the same again. The journey away from a more simpler human nature had begun.
Taking a parallel from the Bible, Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of knowledge. They had become wiser and discovered their nakedness. Was it bound to happen to Adam and Eve? Maybe, yes.
Was it bound to happen to us? Maybe, yes!
Anyways, back to marriage… it became a tool for ownership of women (as means of reproduction and slaves for doing domestic labour) and children (as free future agricultural labour). It became a tool to satisfy our greed and advance our control on bigger and bigger tracts of land.
Now, fast forward to today. Around 70 – 80% of people of the age of marriage are married in Asia and the Middle East. The numbers are lower in Russia, North America and Europe (mid-50s to mid-60s). Conversely, the divorce rates are much higher in the latter parts of the world and lower in the former.
In the US, as per 2017 records, marriage rate was 6.9 per 1,000 people and divorce rate was 2.9 per 1,000 (45 states and DC reporting, as per CDC / National Center For Health Statistics). So, almost half of all marriages are ending in divorce.
Keeping aside the stats and the scholarship on marriage, lets zoom into the more important aspects, i.e., the spiritual aspect!
Lets start with the question, what is marriage?
From a more common perspective, marriage is considered the culmination of a process whereby two people fall in so-called ‘love’ and if and when they fall so much in love with one another that they want to live together, then one of them proposes and the other accepts and they end up signing a piece of paper (in the presence of attending witnesses) declaring them to be spouses.
Whats wrong with this? Nothing, if thats what makes people happy, then so be it. Here are my views about this:
Firstly, there is no one but you. The ‘other’ is a myth and a false perception created by the ego. It is a trap set up by the ego and you fall into it. The ego knows only one thing: how to grow and acquire power and possessions. The ego is blind to the innate oneness of everything and everyone. It sees things and people as separate individuals and things. And it tries to acquire and own everything and everyone. That is the ultimate ruthless game played by the ego. So the concept of loving someone is misconceived from the beginning.
Secondly, any love that is directed towards one or more specific persons is fake love and not real at all. It is nothing but a business tool designed to undertake a commercial transaction. It is probably well-suited to achieve a give-n-take relationship. Mother nature wants us to mate and reproduce. It is a genetic requirement and we are designed to fulfil it. The fake love helps us to fulfil that. But beyond that, it will not result in any kind of truly fulfilling relationship.
The only real love is when you love without distinction and without needing anything from anyone. As long as there are needs and expectations, you are only doing a business. Hence, if a marriage is based on such a love, then its foundations are weak, to begin with.
Thirdly, marriage itself is a legal relationship. Law is an artificial setup. It is not a natural phenomenon. When we try to use law to deal with love or to control love, it is like a bull in a china shop. The bull will smash and break everything. And thats what happens to love in a marriage. It is another example of the continued utter stupidity of mankind over the millennia. It is like trying to control the fragrance of a flower through a contract. Can you control it? No, the fragrance will flow as per nature. You cannot stop it, you cannot control it. Similarly for love, you cannot stop it, you cannot control it, you cannot make it subservient to laws and contracts. It will flow as per its own nature. You cannot put it in a cage and you cannot shackle it. You cannot restrict its movement and you cannot own it. The moment you try to do that, it will die. It is like people who love flowers and try to conserve them in books. After sometime, all thats left is a dead reminder of something that was once living and fragrant and so beautiful. Most marriages are like those dead flowers conserved in books. I feel sad looking at such dead flowers.
Finally, the only positive thing marriage and love can do is to act as doorways to something eternally more beautiful… true love. What is true love? It is the rarest of flowers which blooms in the soil of total oneness and total let go. As long as you hold on to things and people and try to control and possess, you cannot love. You can possess and own only. You are a collector and user. You are not a lover. As long as there is attachment and fear of losing something or someone, there is no love!
Love begins where fear and attachment and separation end. Marriage is the highest form of fear and of attachment to people. As long as marriage is, love cannot be. There can be business and exchange of services, but there cannot be love. Marriage and love are mutually exclusive. And thats the problem with marriage. If you can understand this and keep your expectations from marriage reasonable, then it can probably work. But when you start thinking that you love someone and thats why you two should get married, you have set yourself up for failure somewhere down the line.
Having said that, love (even fake love, if taken to another level) and marriage have this amazing potential to turn into something from the beyond. And the indication of that is when you stop loving any one or more specific individuals and start loving everything and everyone around you. Yes, marriage does have that amazing potential. But in most cases, that potential remains unfulfilled. It is like going to church, which has the potential of setting you up for a great spiritual journey. But most people think that going to church is an end in itself. They end up going to church all their lives and never understanding an iota of their own faith or, for that matter, any other faith. They fail to understand that the church was a tool, a bridge to be crossed, on a long and beautiful journey. No, they stop on the bridge and then they stay there all their life. The same thing happens with marriage. It is a step on the journey of love. It can be a bridge, but not the destination. It has to be used as an opportunity to understand love and to move towards a much greater and all-encompassing and universal love.
Going back to true love, it is a magic that happens when fear and attachment and separation give way to a blissful togetherness which does not try to bind or possess or control and which sees no boundaries between ‘I’ and ‘you’ and ‘others’. There is no give and take involved and there is no reason to love someone. There is no reason to do something for someone. There is no ‘family’ and everyone is family.
In true love, there is no ring on the finger and no contract signed in the presence of witnesses. There is no cage, there is no prison and there are no chains.
In true love, we are not like dead flowers conserved in books, we are like living, fragrant flowers. We are (as Osho said somewhere) like strangers who meet on the path, hold hands for a while, embrace and then depart lovingly, letting each other go wherever our paths are taking us, all the time realizing that we are actually one, there is no ‘we’, there is only me. Only me!