Marriage Practice

As a longtime Buddhist, I was reluctant to marry. So much so that I waited until later in life to go into that covenant with someone. My first marriage proposal came when I was 18. From there, there were several more engagements. Yet, I believed that marriage would tie me to the world, something I didn’t want. So I stalled. (So glad I did, because the man I finally married is a blessing in my life!)

But marriage itself implies attachment to the physical world, which in Buddhist practice, is something to be avoided. And since attachment – craving – is at the root of all suffering, it is natural that when we have to consider the needs of another person and to give in to his or her desires, we will suffer.

My marriage has compelled me into an even deeper analysis of the nature of self and the nature of the worldly life. What married Buddhists call ‘Marriage Practice’ is a simple approach to the roles, responsibilities, challenges, and personal growth that married people face and experience.

My husband and I were married three years ago in a civil ceremony at my house on the Connecticut shoreline. I’m now hoping to convince him to join me in a Buddhist marriage ceremony at the Mahayana Temple in New York City. The Buddhist marriage ceremony is not a religious affair, just as Buddhism is not a religion. But it is a beautiful affirmation of a core set of beliefs that guide all Buddhists through the cycle of Samsara.

My husband and I have rituals that we follow, all of which form the common bond that marriage needs to thrive. Tea, silence, talk, gardening, meaningful work, and creating beauty – all these things pull us out of our otherwise mundane lives. Call it the ‘Practice of Living’.

The Eightfold Path – right view, right intent, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration – are all to be applied to married as well as single life. As a Zen Buddhist, nothing about following the right path changed when I married. But in fact, the path walk has been strengthened by the daily work of sharing life with another person.

In the darkness of dawn today, I awoke, said ‘good morning’ to the world, and ‘I’m alive again’, drank tea, and sat. Ritual. Practice of Living. Sharing your life with another, and with the world. We’re all one.


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