The Spirit of Health: Shining a Vedic Light on Marriage
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments: love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds.
— William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616), Sonnet cxvi
It is said that a woman enters into marriage convinced she will change her groom into the man of her dreams and a man enters the pact believing his bride will always remain just like she is. The second law of thermodynamics states that both scenarios are unlikely. Entropy increases over time and the more probable state is the one with more possibilities. If you throw bricks off a truck, there are innumerable ways they can fall into a heap, but few ways they might fall into a perfect pile. Similarly, there are innumerable ways your partner might change in the direction of less health, strength, patience, beauty and sweetness, but only a few ways he/she might stay the same or improve. It is therefore inevitable that your partner will change in a way you didn’t plan.
Modern physics describes two fields in life: absolute (the unified field) and relative (the constantly changing matter and force fields). Since there is only entropy and imperfection in the relative, if love is to endure, it must be based on love for the absolute, non-changing aspect of your beloved, which is not easy when he’s a nag or she’s a slob.
Vedic science gets around this dilemma in a practical way. When you married your spouse, if you had had a Vedic wedding, you did not actually marry her or him. If you are a man, you married Mother Divine. If you are a woman, you married the Divine in His male aspect. But Mother Divine, being otherwise occupied (or perhaps having set everything in motion and now being uninvolved with the world), tells you, “Look, you’ll make me a great husband, but I can’t physically be with you 24/7. So, take this woman as my understudy. Devote yourself to her, serve her, adore her, surrender yourself totally to her, as if she were Me.”
Likewise, the woman is told by God in His masculine form, “This man will be my stand in. He may have a few defects, but for you, let him be the Divine. Cater to his whims; spoil him a bit. Be flexible and tolerant, because after all, who can fathom the ways of the Divine.” The Vedic wedding ceremony involves the two parties accepting the other as God’s understudy for this particular performance we call our lifetime, and accepting in turn to be God’s stand in.
Two useful things happen when the attitude toward one’s partner is seen in this light. First, each partner reaps the benefit of the other falling over himself in eagerness to do something for the Divine. But second, and most importantly, everything you do that is remotely related to your marriage, including earning your family a living, becomes an act of divine service, transforming what could be a banal life into something cosmic. Every action becomes imbued with devotion even when your beloved may be having a bad day and is not very endearing.
To make the Vedic attitude toward marriage work, you have to see service to God’s understudy for what it is: a selfish opportunity to gain more than your spouse who is reaping the fruits of your devotion. She gets a tidy car but you get an hour of joy waxing Mother Divine’s dash. He gets a clean bathroom, but you feel your nesting hormones twinkle as you contemplate the temple you are consecrating. If you don’t regard your sacred service as selfish, the day will surely come when you say to yourself, “I’m killing myself for this egocentric jerk for nothing.”
All giving and no getting is hard work, but that is the nature of the marital sacrifice. You gave up your freedom and expected something more in return: companionship, a lover, kids, shared trials and tribulations, love. It is the second biggest sacrifice you can make, right after giving your life for your country, and way ahead of giving away all your assets. After all, you can always earn more assets, but when other lives are at stake, you can’t simply reclaim your freedom. A sacred life is about sacrifices.
In a lousy marriage, you can’t see that you are getting your due for your sacrifice of freedom. It’s hard to fathom how your flatulent, belching, walking deity can be anything approaching saintly. Just as they say “You are never a prophet in your motherland,” there are those who say, “You are never a saint in your own home.” The media is littered with stories of great souls worshipped as living saints — including television evangelists, rabbis, imams, gurus, life coaches, motivational speakers, and other visionaries — who got an extra 15 minutes of infamy for their marital infidelities and worse.
This extent of indiscretion may not be what is standing between your spouse and sainthood. More likely, the two of you struggle with dysfunctional ways of dealing with stressors, inconsiderate manners, destructive habits, lack of support, persistent criticism and other more ordinary issues that would never interest the media.
Consideration is the key to getting what you both want in your marriage without feeling the pinch of the sacrifice. If you are in love, you consider at every moment what could please your lover. If you are married but not in love, consideration makes you fall in love. Consideration puts in motion the flow of attention that turns a plain relationship into something more.
Through diplomacy and tact, you can have your life and still serve the divine. In every religion’s liturgy, you follow diplomatic protocols (bow, kneel, stand, cross yourself, say “Amen”) because you are addressing a supreme head of state. Kindness and tact, with total honesty, like a prayer, are similarly required to deal with the divine under your own roof.
If your marriage is on the rocks, before taking the final decision to split, do a six-month experiment. Unilaterally adopt this Vedic attitude without any fanfare. (Fanfare means telling your spouse how devoted and loving you are, turning that joyful divine service into a hint or supplication for something in return, a quid pro quo.) To make the experiment valid, you have to non-judgmentally observe whether being a devoted spouse with no reciprocation will make your life fulfilling. If yes, you can happily endure the slings and arrows of your outrageous fortune, not minding that your friends and family tell you that you’re a chump.
Bottom line: treat your spouse like a god but don’t expect her or him to be a saint.
Jay Glaser, MD is a board certified internist in Massachusetts.