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A fundamental tenet of Buddhism is freedom from attachments. If that is so, what is the purpose of the Buddhist marriage ceremony? It seems to be a contradiction, a celebration of attachment within a philosophy that avoids attachment.


In Buddhism, there is no spiritual ceremony for marriage. Buddhists are concerned with experiencing Enlightenment and generally are not too interested in the physical world. However, the world is where we work on perfecting our awareness, so in that sense we are very interested in the world. Marriage is a personal decision that often has more to do with how we wish to interact with and in society than with the pursuit of Enlightenment.

There is no contradiction between practicing Buddhism and marriage. The problem arises, as you have pointed out, when love becomes an attachment rather than an expression of the universe through our physical form.

Buddhist monks do perform marriage ceremonies - in fact, I just did one myself! The ceremony is something done for a couple out of courtesy. In some cases, a Buddhist monk may attend the wedding ceremony to recite mantras or prayers to bless the couple's joining, and then leave the rest of the ceremony to a judge who performs the legal service.

There are no rules within Buddhism that states a couple must be married to have sex, as there is in Catholic religion. The couple whose ceremony I did wanted to honor their spiritual beliefs by making them a part of their marriage, as do many other couples.

For the ceremony I created, I drew upon Rama's teaching about love. Love is an important part of spiritual practice. There are levels of ecstasy that can only be experienced by cultivating love and by giving that love freely to others.

Here is a short excerpt from the ceremony I performed:

Love is the force that moves the Universe. It is the power that maintains all that we know. Love unites us all. Love is what brings us into ecstasy; love completes our being.

When we first learn to love, that love is focused on ourselves. The child is concerned only with fulfilling his or her own need; there is no regard for others. When things don't work out, the child is unhappy and cries. When its wants and needs are met, the child is happy and smiles. This self-love is an important first step.

As the child grows, love for others begins to develop. There is concern for another's happiness. We do things or create things for others because we know it will make them happy. And when we give the other person this gift, we expect something in return. It is deeper than self-love. This level of love, the love of being concerned for others, brings us more joy. In this second stage of love, however, we are very fragile because we base our happiness on the reaction we get from the person we have given our love to. If they don't show appreciation for the gift we have given, we suffer. Hopefully, we continue to love despite the pain.

In the next level of love, we move past the desire to get something back from the one we love. We love for the sake of loving. Often this stage of love develops when we meet someone who is very special to us. Just the act of loving this person brings us into joy and ecstasy. It doesn't matter what they do or do not do; the love flows out of you and into them effortlessly.

When a marriage is based on this type of love, the relationship is at its strongest. There are no scorecards; there is no bargaining of feelings. It is true love without conditions. This love is not rational. It is an overwhelming force that flows through us and elevates us into unlimited joy.

So, from a Buddhist perspective, marriage can be a most excellent arena to practice selfless love. We can come face to face with our attachments each time we do something for our beloved by acknowledging that we need nothing in return for our actions - including appreciation that we have done something. By committing to and dealing day in and day out with another person who knows all of our games, we can speed up the development of our selfless giving and our compassion.




Attachment and marriage are not necessarily related. A marriage is a celebration of love and union between two people. Love is love and attachment is attachment. We should not confuse these two as being the same. It is true that two people can become attached within a relationship, and confuse love with feelings of need and attachment, but that does not need to be the case. That kind of love is not true unconditional love, but rather conditional love. Two people can share a life together and love each other, but at the same time, be completely free and unattached. This has been demonstrated by the lives of many enlightened masters throughout history who had lived as married householders. Two examples are Marpa, who was Milarepa's Guru, and Lahiri Mahasaya.


First of all, I think that our children deserve to have a stable family in which to grow up, hence marriage. It is more a vow to work together, a business deal. Second, just because one gets married does not mean one has to become and stay attached. Attachment is an inner attitude. So, if I have a husband today, fine. If he dies tomorrow, fine. Just because I am married does not mean I have to become an extension of him. However, we all know that a woman's status in Buddhism is rather low. Almost as in Hinduism, the holy cow has more value than the woman. The woman does good deeds for her entire life and serves her husband and then she may be reborn as a man and then she may think about enlightenment. Truly, I see it more as a business deal. You have to sign a lease on an apartment, are you now attached? You have to stay on your job, does that make you attached to your job, maybe even identify as that is what you are? Attachment is as they say in Buddhism the most favorite tendency or the nature of the mind. We have to work with it all the time.





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