A Happy Married Life

A Buddhist Perspective

by Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda | 1986 | 12,516 words

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Celibacy Versus Responsibility

The Buddha's Experience

The Buddha experienced his worldly life as a prince, husband and a father before his Renunciation and he knew what married life entailed. People may question the Buddhas renunciation by saying that he was selfish and cruel and that it was not fair for him to desert his wife and child. In actual fact, the Buddha did not desert his family without a sense of responsibility.

He never had any misunderstanding with his wife. He too had the same love and attachment towards his wife and child as any normal man would have, perhaps even greater. The difference was that his love was not mere physical and selfish love; he had the courage and understanding to detach that emotional and selfish love for a good cause. His sacrifice is considered all the more noble because he set aside his personal needs and desires in order to serve all of mankind for all time.

The main aim of his renunciation was not only for his own happiness, peace or salvation but for the sake of mankind. Had he remained in the royal palace, his service would have been confined to only his own family or his kingdom. That was why he decided to renounce everything m order to maintain peace and purity to gain Enlightenment and then to enlighten others who were suffering in ignorance.

One of the Buddhas earliest tasks after gaining his Enlightenment was to return to his palace to enlighten the members of his family. In fact, when his young son, Rahula asked the Buddha for his inheritance, the Buddha said that Rahula was heir to the richest wealth, the treasure of the Dhamma. In this way, the Buddha served his family, and he paved the way for their salvation, peace and happiness. Therefore, no one can say that the Buddha was a cruel or selfish father. He was in fact more compassionate and self sacrificing than anybody else. With his high degree of spiritual development, the Buddha knew that marriage was a temporary phase while Enlightenment was eternal and for the good of all mankind.

Another important fact was that the Buddha knew that his wife and son would not starve in his absence. During the time of the Buddha it was considered quite normal and honorable for a young man to retire from the life of a householder. Other members of the family would willingly look after his dependents. When he gained his enlightenment, he was able to give them something no other father could give — the freedom from slavery to attachment.

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