ANAND KARAJ (THE MARRIAGE CEREMONY)
We live in a society where marriage has lost it’s value. Fifty percent of marriages are ending in divorce. Why? Because the purpose of marriage is not understood. Furthermore, people have little support in the journey of their soul and little support in their community.
In the Sikh marriage ceremony we are offered a way to bring this support into our lives. Guru Ram Das has given us a formula for a successful marriage in the form of four rounds (Laava(n)), four concepts. In fact, he describes for us the sacred journey of the soul merging with the infinite. When applied to marriage it results in happiness and fulfillment.
The Sikh man and woman marry to help one another on the spiritual path, surely. Marriage is also a cozy haven of love and joy in this world. However, one's main support and mainstay is God and in one's ability to access that Source of Life. The gift to the Sikh is the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. Why does the couple circle the Siri Guru Granth Sahib as they commit to each round? It is not just a ritual. You are making a commitment with the Guru as witness. And as you circle the Siri Guru Granth Sahib you are reminded that the Guru is the center of your life, from which springs your life and the understanding of the journey of the soul crossing this world ocean. The Siri Guru Granth Sahib represents the core of you. The Sadh Sangat is your support system.
Marriage is a spiritual identity, not just a love affair between two people. The focus of marriage is not romantic love or physical liaison, though these aspects of marriage naturally bring their own delight. The Sikh marriage is all about love, but what kind of love? It is the Love of the Soul-bride for God, that longing to merge with the Infinite. A Sikh marriage is two people trying to help one another in this merger. The highest love is assisting another in the merger of the soul with the infinite, helping the Beloved to find the true purpose of their life.
The four nuptial rounds were written by Guru Ram Das for his own wedding. In them he tells us that the first commitment is for one to be true to one's own soul, to be committed to righteousness, be on the spiritual path and communicate with the soul through personal spiritual practice.
Then he tells the couple that they have met the True Guru, they can get out of their ego identification and sacrifice to the unity, to the merger, and rise above their personalities and judgements. Commit to the institution of marriage as part of one’s spiritual path.
Next, he or she tells the couple that they have been blessed to be a part of the Sadh Sangat, and that their lives should be an example of service and divinity to all around them, to fulfill the great destiny they have been given.
Finally, the Guru says that the merger has taken place with the Infinite, because one has followed his advice. Each has inspired the other towards that merger.
Here is a small "welcome packet" which has an introduction to the Gurdwara and the English translation of the Anand Karaj (Lavaan)