Marriage, the Starting Point…

(The following lecture was given by Ven. Pomnyun at a wedding ceremony)
Today, these two people are happily getting married. It would be wonderful if their love for each other lasted for ten, twenty or thirty years. However, among all of us here, how many of us are keeping our wedding vows?

“I take thee - to have, and to hold, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part…”

At your own wedding, you made a promise when you said that statement. What has it been like trying to keep that promise? When was the last time you thought, “I cannot stand my spouse?” When was the last time you had some kind of conflict with your spouse?

Some of us who live with marital conflicts may feel regret. They may ask themselves, “Why did I get married? If I knew it was going to be like this, then I would not have gotten married.” These people can just get a divorce. However, since they took their vows in front of so many people on their wedding day, they will be reluctant to do so. Also, they may have had children during their time together. This will be another factor that will sway them to not get a divorce.

As these conditions continue to convince the couple that they cannot get a divorce, the resentment that they have for each other could grow. At first, they may fight and try to change each other. However, they will eventually give up trying to change each other and find ways to stay married. The problems that they had with each other before will be passed down to their children. Conflicts will begin once their children go through puberty and will continue until the couple dies. This is life.

On our wedding day, we say we are so happy and we envy no one. However, as life goes on after the wedding day, we start to say that we envy monks, even thinking that, “the life of a monk is looking good right now.” This is a problem. If you envy the life of a monk then you should have become a monk. Why did you get married and now envy the life of monk? There is a reason why life is an endless cycle of suffering. I will tell you that reason today, so that this newlywed couple does not follow a similar path.

If all of you have gotten married because of your love for each other, what was going through your mind at that time? We date many people and evaluate what they have. We measure things such as financial stability, educational background, social status, personality, and health because there is an unconscious motive within us of wanting to get something beneficial out of a relationship. We have no intentions of becoming the losing party. Therefore, we search and search to find the perfect match. If we live using this selective and egocentric mind, then eventually fights will break out in the relationship. Each spouse only gives 30%, but wants 70% in return. However, this also means that you will only get 30% of the 70% you expected. Thus, many married people feel that they are being shortchanged and furthermore, have doubts about their marriage.

If we do not have an egotistical mind, then how will the marriage be? If we are at least less egotistical to some degree, then how will it be? “I want to help this person for the rest of my life because their health is not good.” “This person is poor, so let me support them.” “This person has a temper, so let me help them be calm.” If we can have this type of generosity, then we are capable of marrying and living with a complete stranger with no problems. However, if we only think about how we can benefit ourselves, then we will end up marrying the wrong person. A long time ago in Korea, people got married without knowing who they were marrying, but they lived okay. At the time, women thought that marriage was like death. However, once they got married, they realized that their lives were okay and lived a satisfactory life.

These days, people expect too much out of marriage. Once they are actually married, they realize that it is not as great as they once thought and they become regretful. Many start to regret right after marriage. For some, such feelings begin even before their marriage. During the planning process for the wedding, some brides and grooms end up having big arguments, see their differences and clash with each other. I have seen some, who at this point wanted to cancel their wedding, still go through with their marriage because their planning was already in progress.

However, these two, who are getting married today, met at the Jungto Youth group and, since they have learned the Dharma, they will be firm in their dedication to each other. The most important thing is to get rid of the egocentric mind. Both spouses should think of what they can do for the other. “I should behave in a way that helps this person think that I am beneficial to their lives.” If you think like this, then there will be no problems in your marriage.

All the people who are here today likely have encountered failure a few times so when they see a loving couple, they might feel jealous. They might think, “Why are you so afraid of your spouse? It seems like you are the weaker link, you should not live like that. You are such a wonderful person. You can do better.” They are slowly encouraging you to be a fighter. They might clap their hands today, but starting tomorrow, they are going to be encouraging your fights. You two should never listen to these words. They are words coming from people who do not like to see others happier than themselves. State firmly that you intend to only think about each other and how to be more helpful to each other, no matter what your family and friends may think. Do not make a scene of wanting a divorce after having children. Are you willing to do it? Should you be a beneficiary or benefactor? A benefactor, at times, seems like they are the losing party. However, in reality, a benefactor is actually a winner. You have to be a firm believer of this.

Just like this, if two people have a harmonious mind, then the wife’s health will be well balanced physically and mentally. If the wife’s mind is very calm, she will be connected to a calm energy when she becomes pregnant. This will allow her baby to also be calm. However, if she becomes nervous, she will connect to a nervous energy that will transfer to her baby. The mind of the mother at the time of “conception” can determine the virtue of the baby. Therefore, the mother’s attitude at the time of “conception” is very important. Often times, we have a mindset of being the beneficiary in a relationship, which causes us to transfer a crooked attitude. Most of the time, we do not think about the importance of conceiving a baby with purity and devotion. Instead, we tend to conceive a baby without careful planning. This causes us to miss a good opportunity to provide good prenatal care. Conceiving babies without careful planning will make it hard for them to be virtuous.

Marriage should be beneficial to both partners. As for children, the most important growing period for them is their first three years of life, which starts from the time of their conception. As parents, we should be in a harmonious and calm state of mind for our children. However, in reality we typically start to have conflicts in our marriage around the same time period when conceiving a baby. When we think, “I cannot live with that man” or “I cannot live with that woman” and start having an attitude of staying in the marriage just for our children’s sake, a new rebellious mindset will form in the marriage and transfer to our children. This rebellious mindset will display itself within our children when they go through puberty.

When the children start becoming rebellious towards their parents, the parents often assume that external influences, such as their children hanging out with the wrong crowd, is causing their children’s change in attitude. However, this is not true. The seeds we plant are what we will harvest. The same is true for our children. What we have planted into their unconsciousness during their early years is what will sprout out of them. For those of you in the audience who might have had children who are rebellious, you might need to reflect back on the past and see if you need to let go of any pains that you have transferred to the other people in your lives.

You two who are getting married today, if you want to have children, then you should live in this manner. Both of you should consider each other as the number one priority in this marriage. The second priority should be your parents. The third priority should be your children. If you set your priorities in this manner, you will have a harmonious household. Afterwards, you should return back to your community. If so, then even if you have financial hardship, you will live happily. Even if you live in a house on the verge of collapse, you will live happily. Even when eating just bread and milk, you will live happily. We live our lives to be happy and not suffer, right? If you are blindsided by money, power, selfishness or a stubbornly egotistical mind, then marriage might not be for you. Please keep this happy mind you have today continuously until death and if you want to continue having it until your next life, then please keep what I said in mind. If you live this way, even if you do not choose to live a monastic life, you can attain nirvana.

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