Book Extract - The Path of Marriage
by Dada Vasvani
There is a story narrated to us in the Mahabharata which emphasises the greatness of marriage.
A Brahmin tapasvi who had successfully conquered the senses and passions, was seated in the shade of a tree, performing his daily austerities. A bird sitting on the branch of the tree happened to drop its excreta on to his head at that moment. Startled, he opened his eyes and gazed in anger at the bird. Such was the power of his tapasya that the bird dropped down dead before him, burnt down and reduced to ashes! He was grieved at the death of the bird but amazed at his own power. It actually made him feel very egotistical and superior that he had acquired such power through his own efforts.
Shortly afterwards, he entered a nearby village where he wished to seek bikshu (alms) as was his wont. He was used to women reaching out to touch his feet, bow down before him and seek his blessings before offering him the best, the choicest food from their homes.
Today, he faced a different experience. He was received with great respect and devotion by a young wife who said to him, "O Tapasvi, I humbly request you to wait a while, for I am serving my husband at the moment."
Taken aback by the legitimate request, the tapsvi waited for some time, but became angry and impatient that a woman of no consequence was subjecting him to such delay. How dare she neglect him to serve her husband – who was he anyway?
Presently he called out to her in anger, "Look, woman! I have asked you for food and I want it now because I have no time to waste! I have devoted myself to the Lord and I lead a life of renunciation. It is the duty of a grihasti like you to provide me with food. Obviously, you are ignorant of the spiritual power of a tapasvi. It can burn you to cinders if you are not careful!"
The woman took her time to complete what she was doing and came out with food for him. Calmly, she said to him, "O Tapasvi, I did not keep you waiting without good reason. I was only doing my ordained duty, serving my husband with love and devotion. Your anger does you little good. I know you caused a little bird to be burnt to ashes just a while ago. But I am not like that poor bird!"
The tapasvi was taken aback by the realisation that she knew all about him, even though she was just an ordinary housewife, as we put it. He fell at her feet humbly. "Thank you mother, for enlightening me," he said. "I now realise that the path you walk as a grihasti is as great and valuable as the path I have trod as an ascetic!"
True indeed! The path of marriage and parenthood, of living in the world can also be a path of love and service, of seeking and attaining self-realisation. It is not necessarily inferior to other paths that seek God. In fact, marriage is a great institution that helps to teach and establish the values and ideals that will contribute to a good society. Husbands and wives who create a home where peace and serenity prevail, deserve to be credited with great achievement. When children grow up in an atmosphere of love and joy and imbibe good values, these homes contribute to the future of society. When married love matures, it becomes familial love; as familial love evolves, it grows further to encompass the society and community. In its final fulfilment, it achieves the capacity to love all – all people, all creation, all creatures that breathe the breath of life. When we become capable of such selfless, unconditional, undemanding love, surely we have reached the highest state of consciousness!
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