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Summary of Question:Should Marriage Or (Non-Fraternal) Love Be Necessary Or Important For Sikhs?
Category:Love & Marriage
Date Posted:Wednesday, 3/08/2000 7:27 PM MST

Dear Sikh Youth,


I know many questions about marriage have already been asked, but no one has tackled an issue I have been thinking a lot about: Whether marriage as an institution has grown outdated. While I was growing up my parents and everyone else told me not to think about marriage and love until I was older. Now, when I am older I don't feel that marriage and love (other than fraternal) is important. Yet, over and over again I see references which seem to imply that marriage is the ideal lifestyle for the Sikh. Indeed, often individuals will refer to it the life of the householder--and call it the ideal life promoted by the Gurus. I don't think that getting married and/or having children necessarily helps the individual. In fact, I think it may lead to unecessary entanglements and attachments to this physical world. In addition it may separate one from living their own life and achieving their spiritual destiny. It may also cause a great deal of harm considering all the emotional and psychological pressures it c

reates. Also considering the high rate of divorce, is marriage really the option of the considerate individual?
Sure everyone hopes they will be one of the lucky ones or that they will be able to work to make themselves one of the lucky ones, but, in the end, Sikhism is a religion which has always faced reality and has always embraced truth. Indeed, Sikhism has never approved of gambling. If all this is true, why do so many Sikhs stick with the outdated notion of "marriage as ideal" in a world where it so risky and so fraught with peril. Sikhs need to understand that promoting marriage as an ideal or even as a favorable option might be harming a great many Sikhs out there. After all, if 50% of marriages end in divorce -- the marriages of some Sikhs, just like you and me, will end in divorce. Considering the problematic consequences, isn't it time that Sikhism embraced its fundamental connection to truth, and dropped the emphasis that it gives to marriage?
To add, today marriage is not as necessary as it might have been in the past. Today, a single individual can survive in the West living by his or her self. There are many resources which they can count on for security and for care as they age. Indeed considering the large increase in the rate of admissions to elder care homes for older parents, having children or not having children does not seem to make a large difference in their care when they are older. Overall, though in the past marriage and children may have been important to one's well being when he or she was older I do not think it is true today.
Overall, I do not think there is really any strong reason for taking the large risks involved in marriage today. (I know that many of my male and female friends agree with me.) I believe that it is important for Sikhs to acknowledge the fact that a changed social and political reality should change the focus of Sikh society from marriage to single life.
I know I have brought up many of points. If anyone has any critiques, I hope that they would take into account all my statements and not merely focus on only one part.

I know to some extent that many people feel that the man and the woman have separate "polarities". In other words they feel that the external differences (and the karmic bases for them) in the man and the woman create or are representative of differences in the souls, etc. between them. This I garnered from the response to the homosexuality question raised earlier. This leads me to believe that individuals may need to be married and to become one in order to become complete. However, I do not feel satisified with this response.

I also know that some people feel that Sikhs need to live the life of the 'householder' in order to be true Sikhs. They may point out that the life of the Gurus emphasized marriage and family for Sikhs. That these things are essential to the Sikh way of life. In the end, Sikhs are not merely living for themselves, they are living as part of the world. Marriage and family are the way in which the Gurus have shown us to live this life. We shouldn't try to move away from a way of life that the Gurus themselves lived. This seems more satisfying, but I am not convinced.

I also know that some Sikhs would say that marriage and family are part of the human condition. As a Sikh we need to live out our lives as humans and not try to deny our relationship to our brothers. Our karma has brought us to our human life. We need to accept our karma and accept marriage, at least until we move to another stage in our karmic life where marriage and family are not important. This seems reasonable.

Another strategy would be to say that marriage and family are important to our growth and development as Sikhs. It is not our place to question marriage and family but to embrace it. It is our job to accept God's will. He knows what life is best for us -- marriage and family are part of that life. Marriage and family can and may very well bring much good to our soul. In the end, they may be essential to our growth. Finally, it is not our place to question the possibilities the future holds -- we must accept the will of God. This seems more reasonable.


Still, I am not satisfied. I think that marriage and family aren't essential to our growth. After all, in many of the Sakhis I remember reading people achieved salvation without having been married or having families. In addition, I think that salvation is an individual thing. In fact, these are some lines from the Guru Granth Sahib,

Family and worldly affairs are an ocean of fire. Through doubt, emotional attachment and ignorance, we are enveloped in darkness. High and low, pleasure and pain. Hunger and thirst are not satisfied. The mind is engrossed in passion, and the disease of corruption. The five thieves, the companions, are totally incorrigible. The beings and souls and wealth of the world are all Yours. O Nanak, know that the Lord is always near at hand (sggs 675 ).
**
In the pool of the world is the mud of attachment.
Stuck in it, his feet cannot walk towards the Lord.
The fool is stuck; he cannot do anything else.
Only by entering the Lord?s Sanctuary,
O my companion, you will be released (sggs 409).

In the end, marriage and family can be attachments holding you to the material world. Sure they don't have to be, but in truth they often are -- Even the Guru Granth Sahib acknowledges this, as the quotes above note. In the end, as many have noted we have to go to God alone -- none of the people we are attached to here will come along.

Also, attachments to people in this world can bring a great deal of pain and may thus divert our focus from God. Losing a person you are attached to can disturb an individual greatly. Even staying with an individual can divert one's attention from God. This is true even if they are great individuals. What happens if they aren't devoted to God or if they are abusive, etc? What then?

Also, what about sex. Sex can bring about a great deal of problems. Firstly, as many people have noted it tends to emphasize the lower parts of our soul. In addition, it tends to make us think of our physical selves more and to emphasize how we appear to others (physically and in other ways) instead of to God. Finally, sex can lead to many precarious situations. For example, what if the child you conceive is not healthy...is abortion a good idea?...should you live out the rest of your life taking care of a handicapped child? What if the mother doesn't want to have anything to do with you...do you now have to (1) deal with divorce (supposing you are married) and (2) deal with being part of the great trend towards single parent households. What about if your child isn't a good individual...do you have to stay with this bad sangat?

Sure you can say these are mere possibilities and we have to trust in God. But does God really want us to take all this responsibility. Sure the Gurus had families and children -- but they could deal with the responsibility. Should we really try to? Isn't it just inviting problems...Isn't inviting problems just being egotistical, short-sited, and self-aggrandizing.

I think getting marriage and having a family is just too risky. It is as unecessary. Sikhs don't eat meat because there is no reason to do it (previous response via Sikhnet) and I assume because it causes suffering. Why should we get married when there is no reason to do it and when it can also lead to a great deal of suffering (e.g. divorce, abortion, interfamily conflict, malraised children, suicidal children, etc.)?

Overall, I feel that it is important for Sikhs to be part of social change. For example, the Sakhi where Guru Nanak throwing water towards his fields, etc. I think that Sikhs should fight against doing things merely because it is the status quo. Today getting married and having children seems to be given high priority in many Sikh families and media such as Sikhnet. Is this right?

I know no one has all the answers, and I know we are all different and have different needs. But, in the end, should getting married and having a family really be emphasized as much as it is? Doesn't it emphasize the wrong things?

Sincerely,
A Young Sikh Thinking About Marriage

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REPLY
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Sat Siri Akaal, Ji.

Guru made us householders for a reason. He said we do not need to live in caves as ascetics to become liberated. He gave us the technology of bani, bana, simran, and seva, and said if you practice these things sincerely, Guru will carry you AND YOUR FAMILY across. Guru tells us that ATTACHMENT to our spouses and children will mire us in mud, but he is not telling us to avoid spouses and children. He is telling us to remember that Guru gives us these things, that putting them BEFORE Guru will only mire us. Our task as householders is to put Guru first in all things, and teach this to our families.

It sounds to me like deep down, you are afraid of marriage, sex, and/or children. I can understand that. The first thing to remember is that marriage is WORK, but it is noble work. Men and women are different for a reason, and the polarities that attract in them also repel. So, when two marry before the Guru, Guru makes them one soul in two bodies. So long as this concept is honored, AND so long as the two remember God and Guru in their daily life together, they will survive and have a loving marriage.

Sex is an expression of love. Dominant cultural media such as ads, TV, movies, make sex all about passion and hot times. While sex is also these things, sex should be treated as a sacred act about loving the GOD in the other. Sex is not just about the lower chakras. Loving sex between people who love each other can elevate the spirit and expand the vision, literally. This has been documented in the ancient text called the Kama Sutra. If Guruji thought that sex would keep us from God, then we would probably have a different approach to living as householders.

Practically speaking, children need parents, both of them. While this certainly doesn't always happen, it is Guruji's design that two parents raise their children TOGETHER. Children are as big a responsibility as marriage. Without question, no one should bear children who thinks they are not up to the task! As Sikhs, if we are to marry, if we are to bear children, then we must do so with the consciousness that Guruji would want us to have: that the Other is a reflection of ourself, and must be honored. That the child is a gift from Guru, and we are to serve as trustees for that soul's life and spirit. While the 'bad' that is found in children is often a result of karms from past lives, loving and supportive parents can help a child transmute that bad and clear the karma. It is no easy task. I am personally convinced that gray hair in parents comes from children: I come from a family of 6 children and believe me, we were not easy on my parents. Still we all survived to tell about it and all ended up being good
upstanding citizens. My point is that it can be done and shall be done if we are to continue as a race and a panth.

But if you or anyone is afraid of marriage or childbirth, then by all means don't do it! Don't enter into arranged or love marriage without being ready and don't have sex without birth control! Guru didn't ORDER his Gursikhs to be married householders. There is nothing I have seen in Siri Guru that REQUIRES one to marry anyone but Guru (for we are His soul-brides). While MOST people marry, there are those of us who have not for one reason or another. We do not, however, live in caves as ascetics and hermits. We live as single householders, and have jobs, social lives, and serve dharma in our communities. One doesn't HAVE to be married to be Gursikh.

I hope this clarifies matters for you.
Guru rakha,
-DKK



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