“My dear beautiful wife, what you have said is befitting the occasion and also indicative of the greatness of your family heritage. You are dearer to Me than My life, for you are My companion in the performance of religious duties.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.21)Download this episode (right click and save)
He had left home. He took practically nothing with Him. He didn’t want His wife or His younger brother to suffer, yet they insisted on accompanying Him. He was there on patrol; sort of like a police officer. The area was the tapo-vana, the forest conducive to the practice of austerity and penance. The people residing there were under a constant threat of attack, and they were not equipped to defend themselves.
His wife had concerns, however. She presented them very mildly, but to any husband even the softest rebuke from the wife can cause an argument. Shri Rama responded very nicely, however. He knew that Sita was simply worried about Him; she hoped that He would not veer off the righteous path, dharma. In praising her, Rama referred to her as a sadharma-charini.
This is the wife who follows the path of dharma with her husband; she is the partner in observance of religious duties. Marriage advice is a tough thing to offer, since circumstances vary. What works for one couple may not for another, and vice versa. There are horror stories that in the beginning were like fairytale romances. Sometimes people who never met at the time of marriage turn into the most dedicated and loyal partners.
The Vedas take away a lot of the guesswork by referring to married life as the grihastha-ashrama. It is the second of four stages that the human being ideally goes through. Each stage is an ashrama, or spiritual institution. There are many reasons to have a marriage in dharma instead of kama.
1. Kama changes
Kama has several different translations in English. At the root level, it is desire. Kama is also sense gratification. In its strongest form, it is lust. All three translations are basically the same when the nature of the desire is understood. Kama is material desire, wanting pleasure for the temporary body. The individual is spirit soul, which is transcendental to the changing body.
One reason marriage shouldn’t be in kama is that kama changes. Desires don’t always remain. Sometimes satisfying them only increases their intensity going forward. That is how lust develops. Another phenomenon observed is that once satisfied, the same desire requires much more to bring the same satisfaction the next time around.
Relations with the opposite sex are the perfect example. You fall in love. You get married. But one day you may fall out of love. If kama were steady, no couples would ever break up. Dharma, on the other hand, never changes. It is at the very core of the soul.
2. Kama is for the dogs and the monkeys
A rather harsh assessment. What is wrong with desire? To desire is to live, is it not? Why should kama be criticized in such a way? Actually, kama can be fulfilled in the lower species. The spirit soul travels through different kinds of bodies. The human form targets dharma as the primary objective.
The dogs and the monkeys enjoy unlimited sex. They don’t worry about the feelings of the partner. They are not concerned with remaining faithful, either. Whatever itch in sense gratification needs to be scratched, that urge is followed.
Human beings have discrimination. They can acquire knowledge and renunciation. Both are extremely valuable, and both are damaged greatly by kama. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna declares kama, which transforms into krodha, or wrath, to be the all-devouring enemy of this world.
“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)
3. Dharma is the bedrock of good culture
When you visit certain areas of the country, you are amazed at how nice the people are. They don’t walk around with an angry face. They say “hello” to strangers. The adults are typically married with several children. In a particular foreign country that you visit, the people are similar. Their kindness is something you’ve never experienced before.
The difference is good culture, and at the foundation is dharma. Religious principles are not exclusive to one people or to one area. All around the world dharma can be found to some degree, and there are also people who ignore it. The human being always has this choice: sense gratification or righteousness. It is like a constant tug of war. A marriage in dharma has a much better chance for success than one in kama.
4. It is sex life identical to the Supreme Lord
In kama sex life is illicit. It is prohibited for the reason that it leads to continued rebirth. The spirit souls fell to this world due to kama. It is the cause of the continued stay in the material world. The toughest thing to control is the urge for sex life. That is why all religious traditions have some sort of regulation on it. Marriage was created by God for essentially this reason.
“I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O Lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.11)
Yet the potency is there in man. He has the ability to pass on a seed, and the woman is the only person who can nurture that seed to bring forth a new life. Even sex can be religious, or in line with dharma. Shri Krishna says that such sex life is identical to Him. Dharma is the chance to not only save yourself and your spouse, but also future souls who appear in this world. Through dharma the offspring can escape from the cycle of birth and death.
5. Brings progress towards enlightenment
By living with a spouse, through compromising desires on a daily basis, by raising children, and by always following dharma a person can become fully enlightened. Though renunciation is typically easier to strengthen through complete celibacy and secluded living, even in the grihastha-ashrama a person can make tremendous progress. Otherwise this stage of life would never be recommended at all.
In kama there is no progress. The marriage in kama is really no different than simply keeping a boyfriend or girlfriend. Dharma is where the relationship can make a truly positive impact. Sita Devi was a sadharma-charini to her most pious husband Rama. Parvati is the most chaste wife to the venerable Mahadeva. There are so many examples from history to look to. When husband and wife are both dedicated to the Supreme Lord in thought, word and deed, their partnership delivers both of them to the spiritual world.
Marriage advice difficult to give,
Since in unique situations to live.
One rule safe to obey,
That dharma better than kama’s way.
Sense enjoyment varying and for lower species reserved,
Higher goal when getting human birth deserved.
Even with partner spiritual progress making,
Adherence both to higher world taking.