Marriage is a vessel that holds love. It is a vessel in which love is cultivated, nurtured, protected, and magnified, and then used to serve, to celebrate, and to grow.

Instead of the word vessel, you might also think of marriage as a cauldron in which transformation is brewed; a sovereign realm in which you are free to roam and are safe to be your true self; a temple where the divine is illumined and honored. However you might describe it, marriage is a structure built to contain, protect, and magnify love at its core. It becomes a distinct entity that functions in the world. Just as your sadhana is not complete when you receive diksha from your guru, so too, the vessel of marriage is not just formed and completed at a wedding ceremony. It is practiced every day and is strengthened through your intention and actions. Marriage is a discipline, a practice.

Yes, you fall in love, you do not create love; it seems to happen to you. Falling in love may appear to be a gift from the divine, like stepping into a river of grace and just following the flow; it is natural and easy. But over time, if you do not create a container for your love, if you do not build a structure to hold it, it can just as easily dissipate. It is easy to fall out of love. In marriage, staying in love takes constant effort. You must work at it if you want to maintain and expand the gift. Kindling the spark of love becomes a conscious undertaking after you have become married. The work is both hard and rewarding: hard because you must grow and change in very personal, unexpected and, perhaps, in unwelcome ways; but rewarding because love is not only uplifting and fulfilling, it helps you to discover within yourself new dimensions, new capacities, new ways of living. The fire of love not only warms you, it has a way of illuminating your entire being, and it challenges you to grow. Like a beacon, it shines its light throughout your interior, revealing dark corners within yourself that you have kept in hiding. It exposes the shadows that you are uncomfortable letting anyone see. Yet it gives you an opportunity to understand and embrace these parts of yourself that ultimately stand between your limited perception and the infinite love that you are.

This work takes tremendous effort. For a marriage to thrive, grow and evolve, you must devote significant time and energy to it. If you and your spouse were to go to a monthly counseling session and then attend an occasional couples’ retreat, you cannot expect to penetrate the depths of life any more than if a Saturday Hatha Yoga class and an occasional satsang were the extent of your sadhana. You must practice your marriage on a daily basis for it to flourish and deepen. When faced with raising children, managing work schedules, keeping a home, having a social life, and all the other demands of life, you may find scarce time for more than the minimum effort. Perhaps the only practice you can manage is a few daily gestures at “keeping the flame alive”. So be it, if that is what you manage right now; the hard work required of raising a family in and of itself deepens and strengthens you. But when you want and need to go deeper, to commit your marriage to the fullest spiritual growth, you must make it the highest priority in your life and commit the time it takes to build your practice.

It is also worth noting that there are no guarantees, no formulas, in marriage. Just as you cannot expect to attain the experience of enlightenment simply by repeating a certain mantra a given number of times or by worshiping some deity for so long, there are no promises of marital bliss or enduring partnership if you apply yourselves to the philosophy and practices described in these essays. Marriage as a spiritual practice requires that both partners be fully engaged and committed, and even then, there is no predicting how your paths will unfold. Marriage is as mysterious and complex as are the inner realms of your being, and as such, is an uncertain proposition. That being said, marriage is not about attaining some goal at the end of a hard journey; it is about the process of dancing with your partner, in love, and the power that has to propel your growth and evolution. And, it contains the potential for being the vehicle for realizing your deepest truth.

Next essay, Polarity and Union: Shiva and Shakti

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