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Monday, 20 May 2013

Divorce in Spiritual Organisations

It seems to me that unreasonable expectations and irresponsible behaviour are two main causes for divorce. In spiritual organisations, the expectations can get really beyond any justifiable limits: a devotee starts expecting his/ her spouse to behave like the ideal man/ woman described in the scriptures or like the most highly rated devotee in the organisation.

Irresponsibility takes the form of ignoring the bodily and mental needs of the spouse, seeing everyone as the soul, as they say. Then, there is the fear of intimacy and guilt about sex-life, which really spoils the relationship.

Both these problems may extend to the children, whom the parents may expect to behave like Prahlad or Dhruva; if they don't, the former brand them as product of their sinful act, i.e., accidental sex. How can we expect marriages and families to survive in such conditions?

But spiritual organisations can also be the basis of stable and happy married lives, if we have reasonable expectations (which can be verified by prior knowledge about the spouse) and responsible behaviour (which means the commitment to fulfil the desires of our spouse). The first point implies that we respect the person of our spouse for what he/ she is, not what we want him/ her to be. We respect, not just tolerate, his/ her failures in the process of devotional service and instead of being patronising, see what he/ she really needs from us.

The second point means that we satisfy the needs of our spouse in all possible ways and not behave like a stranger or a rival. Suppose, my wife has fever. I may sulk because she did not get up in time for mangala arati and did not prepare my breakfast; then I may rush out to work without speaking a word to her; and finally, after work, I may criticise her for being lazy and refuse to have dinner with her. Where is love? If someone thinks family is same as office, where you speak only the language of duties and performance-record, please don't marry. Why don't you join full-time, if you are so disciplined and self-controlled? Indeed, such a person can never even remain a fixed celibate because our sexual tendencies need to be converted to loving tendencies to be fixed.

If spiritual persons get this thing right, I think they are suitable for any kind of life, marriage or celibacy (according to their psychophysical condition, as they say). They do not carry the baggage of all the material requirements of an ordinary person. With simple needs and higher thoughts about service to God, they can live a most happy life and be an example for the general society.

Some devotees treat their spouses as strangers and they think of marriage as performing their respective duties; at best, chanting and reading together; and of course, they may have sex to produce children. But there is no love. Everything is mechanical. Some of these marriages last a life-time, may be one of the spouses really loves the other, or they are so busy with their respective services that they don't even realise that something is wrong. But more often, especially in modern societies, tension starts to creep in.

In some cases, the situation is worse, when the spouses treat each other as rivals. They want to prove that they are a better devotee than their husband/ wife. If a spouse makes a mistake, the other would jump in to prove how the former is not upto the mark as a devotee. Then, they try to show off how absorbed they are in chanting or how much service they render. This not only spoils the marriage and has bad impact on the children, but this is no devotion at all.

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