From time immemorial, man has been preoccupied with the pursuit of happiness in life, from the cradle to the grave. He works and struggles very hard to attain happiness, very often without knowing exactly what happiness means because of his ignorance of the nature of life. Although all religions provide advice and guidelines for their adherents to practice in order to attain happiness in life, more often than not, these advices and guidelines are ignored owing to mans craving, hatred and illusion. Many people who experienced frustrations and sufferings hope and pray to find happiness for present life and here after; others, though enjoying a large measure of happiness on earth, are still not contented and crave for eternal bliss in heaven after leaving this world. For the ordinary man, as for the child, it is difficult to make a distinction between happiness and pleasure. To him, that which gives pleasure give happiness, and to be happy is to experience pleasure.
Very often, we consider childhood days to be a period of happiness. In reality, as children we do not understand what happiness is. Under the protection of our parents, we pass our days in a perpetual round of enjoyment which undoubtedly gives us pleasure. As we enter adolescence, changes take place in the mind and physical body causing us to become aware of the existence of the opposite sex and we begin to experience a new kind of attraction giving rise to disturbing emotions. At the same time, curiosity drives us to find out about the facts of life, through peer discussion and book reading. Before long, we find ourselves on the threshold of adulthood, the crucial time in our life when we look for a suitable life partner to begin a relationship that will put to the test all the qualities that we have acquired earlier in life. Love, sex, and marriage then become matters of great importance that will determine the quality of the married life we will have.
Young people today are exposed to a large variety of "Western" influences which are disseminated through the mass media such as books and magazines, television, video cassettes and movies, resulting in the acquisition of distorted ideas regarding love, sex, and marriage. The age old "Eastern" moral virtues and values are being gradually eroded in the face of these influences. Practices unheard of and never carried out by the older generation have become common place among young people today. Are the "Western" influences really responsible for this state of affairs or should the parents be blamed for the misdeeds of their children for not exercising proper control and supervision over them? In this book, it is explained that most television programs and movies do not represent the way most decent people in the West think or behave and that there is a vast "silent majority" of decent couples who are as deeply religious and "conservative" about love, sex and marriage as any "Eastern" couple. If young people want to ape the West, they are advised to ape this "silent majority" who are no different from their decent neighbor who lives next door to them.
Modern life is fraught with all kinds of tension and stress. Doubtless, very often it is tension and stress that creates problems in many a marriage. If a proper analysis is made into the root causes of such social problems as pre marital sex, teenage pregnancies, unhappy marriages and divorces, child abuse and wife battering, we inevitably discover that it is due mainly to selfishness and lack of patience, tolerance and mutual understanding. In the Sigalovada Sutta, the Buddha gives good advice on how to maintain peace and harmony in the home between husband and wife in order to achieve a happy married life. Parental responsibilities for children and the childrens duties toward parents are also clearly mentioned in the Sutta as useful guidelines for the attainment of a happy home. In this book, the Ven. Author stresses the important point that marriage is a partnership of two individuals and that this partnership is enriched and enhanced when it allows the personalities involved to grow. In the Buddhist perspective, marriage means understanding and respecting each others beliefs and privacy. The present time is most opportune for a book of this nature to be published to provide the followers of the Buddhist religion, in particular the young, with a clear understanding of lifes important matters like love, sex and marriage which will not only help them to live a happy married life but also assist them to lead peaceful and contented lives.
On behalf of the Buddhist Missionary Society I wish to express our sincere gratitude and appreciation to many of our devoted members for all the help and services rendered in the preparation of this book. Our special thanks are due to: Mr. Vijaya Samarawickrama for undertaking the editorial work, Mr. Teh Thean Choo, Miss Quah Pin Pin and Mrs. Chong Hong Choo for their valuable assistance and Mr. Paw Oo Thett of Burma for the cover design.
Tan Teik Beng
JSM, SMS, KMN, PKT
Vice President, Buddhist Missionary Society
Former Director, Department of Education, Selangor.
20 December 1986