November 29, 2009

Likes and Dislikes – Bagavad gita and love marriages

As a sequel to my post on Bagavad Gita, I thought I would extend the discussion on looking beyond the ephemeral body, to human relationships. In an era of consumerism we find people developing strong likes and dislikes, but likes and dislikes are themselves false. Consider for example cigarette smoking –people who love to smoke enjoy the habit, while there are others who can’t stand its nauseating smell. How is it that the same cigarette induces happiness in some and misery in others? Similarly, we find many divorcees remarrying, how is it that someone hated this person so much to warrant a divorce while someone else wanted to tie the nuptial knot? This clearly shows that likes and dislikes are born out of our senses and thus have nothing to do with the object that is being liked or disliked. Like our senses they are also temporary and are subject to change over time. What we like today, we may hate tomorrow. Therefore, likes and dislikes are attributes of an immature mind.

However, we find in the modern times that people have been increasing their baggage of likes and dislikes. It is very common find people waiting for someone with “similar tastes (likes)” to marry. If they do find such a person with a similar baggage of likes and dislikes they feel excited in finding a ‘true’ life partner. But since this association rests on a false foundation, it crumbles soon and the relationship ends. This is perhaps why majority of the marriages in western nations fail, as they are founded on false reasons such as ‘similar tastes’, ‘my kind of person’ etc.

I think the arranged marriage system in India must be rooted in the gita. In this system, you marry a person chosen by elders, sometimes without even speaking a word before marriage. Marriage in Indian culture is more out of the need to perform one’s karma yoga – that of being a ‘grahastha’( raising a family ) than out of living ‘happily ever after’ with a person of similar likes and dislikes - That’s probably why it didn’t matter whom they married. However since the situation is changing now with more ‘love’ (similar likes) marriages, the number of divorce cases are also increasing.

One of my friends, member of a certain spiritual organization, told me about a unique way of getting married in his society. The boys and girls who want to get married are randomly chosen and their marriage is performed immediately afterwards. Surprisingly, the success rate of this system of marriage is phenomenally high. Though I was astonished then, somehow it is all starting to make sense now – the ‘unique’ system is after all our arranged marriage system with a different name.


annacoder said...

The topic of arranged vs. love marriages is something close to my heart, so I found your post very thought provoking. First question that comes to my mind is: what is the "success" of a marriage? Is a marriage considered successful when the couple rarely talk to each other but stay together to raise a family? If they have kids, I can understand. I think it is only moral to shut the hell up and stick together against all odds for the sake of kids. But, what if they don't have kids?

2. Modern arranged marriage, like almost every other institution is a joke in India. You can only call it a poor version of dating arranged by parents! sad! Are arranged marriages blind like they used to be? I would only agree if the bride and groom meet each other just before marriage and not go out like they are dating (movies, beaches, shopping).. I am not saying it is wrong or anything. I am just saying that it's not arranged marriage anymore. And arranged marriage is a wrong name for that.

3. I take the relationships I am "born" into as a good reference for my perspective on relationships. It is not a question of "like-mindedness" with my parents or bother. I just blindly love them and will do anything for them. How is that possible with a stranger? And how is it possible to expect a stranger will want do the same?

4. Living alone is better than living with someone who you don't even bother talking to anymore. I see lot of "arranged" couples in my life who live close to that situation. What is the point of such a relationship?

5. Most arranged marriages are not based on any deep values, but on shallow things like salary, looks, height, education etc., if compatibility is not a big deal, why do parents take astrological compatibility so seriously? If compatibility is so important, can't we agree that a couple who have spent months or years together and still want to live for ever together have a better "chance" of compatibility?

6. Marriages have their base in friendship (like any other relationship). Aren't we friends with everyone? Aren't we long-time friends with some and some people who were once friends with and don't even want to meet them or talk to them now? Why should the same thing not apply to marriages?

7. I am not saying that a couple being together for 4-5 years before marriage would automatically mean that they'll be together forever. But, it does increase the probability, I think.

8. The contention, for me, is most "successful" arranged marriages, in reality are failed marriages and only appear successful just because they live in the same home as loners! Why do they live together like that? Just for the fake reason of keeping their status in the society, I think.

9. Do guys and girls blindly agree to what the parents "arrange" for them? From what I understand, parents serve as "dating" agents, who do the "background check" before they let the guy and girl talk to each other and make a decision for themselves! It is more a combined decision of the guy, girl and their families based on shallow parameters! I would agree that it is arranged marriage only if the bride and groom are not involved in the decision making process!

Srikar said...

Vikraman, Lots of assumptions on your part in this post... Likes & dislikes are for the most part subjective & should not be generalised...

Very valid points pointed by my esteemed former-colleague.

But tell me this, isn't being attracted to a female a part of procreation? How can you start a family with someone if you are not attracted to them (physically or intellectually)? If you term this 'attraction' as a mere clouding of senses, then you are going against some fundamental things that make us human i.e. 'emotions'. Where does this fit into your 'theory' here?

vikraman said...


ans 2. True, the arranged marriages of today are not the ones i'm talking about. People these days need a guy "earning 10 lakhs minimum" , "atleast a postgrad, not a mere UG" etc. Perhaps we must look at our grandfather's generation to find some close examples.

ans 3. There is no concept of "loving" someone or "hating" someone as far as the Gita is concerned. You do the duties of a son, husband, father without the slightest expectation of any returns. Because although love and hate may seem poles apart, they are after all two sides of the same coin. When what you love is denied to you, hate is born.

ans 4. " Living alone is better than living with someone who you don't even bother talking to anymore" - Like i said in ans3, this situation is due to certain expectations not being fulfilled.

ans5. Looking for "compatibility" is another expectation. You may say how can I remain without expecting anything from even MY wife. A true karma yogi will ask you what does "I" and "MY" mean.

I didn't mean successful to mean living together. It is living together with a knowledge that each of you help the other in the path of karma yoga.

"How can you start a family with someone if you are not attracted to them (physically or intellectually)?"
-Bagavad Gita says one must look beyond body and the mind (intellect) which are temporary. However, The gita doesn't say you must lead the life of an ascetic and abstain from sex, it merely asks you to perform Karma yoga.
If you ask me how to do this, i suggest you read the Gita. I can promise the answers are in it. This is too small a space to say it, and neither do i consider myself any authority in the subject.

Vinay Dora said...

Insightful for sure.. just that I disagree that the so-called 'grandfather's generation' being the benchmark or idealistic.. how many women of those generations were independent and educated? How many women thought the only purpose in life was to raise kids and serve their husbands? Did they ever have a choice of walking away from a tyrant?.. another example would the british raj levying outrageous taxes and the subjects having no say.. yet you could say those were the times when people never disobeyed

hence isn't it better to have the freedom of choice and make them rather than accept situations citing one's 'karma'

vikraman said...

It is true that there were some aberrations. But it won't be right to say that EVERY women stayed in a marriage only because she had no other way.
Also, i think your understanding of karma is not correct. I didn't mean to say one must accept the partner as a reward or punishment for their karma. Karma yoga is entirely different. It is about doing your sanctioned actions with a sense of detachment.

Sashi said...

As my understanding from Bhagavat Geeta and Vikraman's article, i agree with the ways it has been put here.

How often do you get to 'choose' or is just a choice already made and we are here to understand it.

So it in that state that gives up choices and compatibility factor to align oneself in a relationship.

of-course one begins with looks and compatibility but these are factors which are not forever. Also emotions when high can lead to good and bad.

If one has a relationship, emotions will be born and learning to control it will help one in maintaining a karma yoga and a peaceful insightful life.

islandgal246 said...

How can you say that under the unique system that the success rate is very high. What do you mean by success rate? Couples who have remained married yet live separate lives? Couples who have remained married and are very unhappy? Or couples who have remained married and if they had a choice they will do it all over again with the same person? In the past many women in the West remained in unhappy and abusive marriages because of the stigma of divorce. That supported the myth that the divorce rate was a lot lower than today and marriages lasted. Were these marriages considered a success? The human aspect of marriage is the most important aspect when it comes to a relationship. You are saying that in the past duty was more important than whether you like the person you are marrying and the marriage was considered more successful because there were no divorce. The increasing number of divorces is due to women and men not being afraid to say that their marriage has not worked and they have refused to suffer in silence. That it is better to go their separate ways than to live as strangers under one roof. Many see divorce as a failure, I see it as a liberation. People make mistakes when choosing mates and some mistakes are correctable and marriage is one of them.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Island gal here Vikraman.
I would like to know what your answer to this post would be -

Also consider why exactly do we marry? Do all siblings and families live in peace? Do you know a lot of people say that friends are better then relatives, because you can choose friends... you can't choose your relatives.
Brothers - even the Ambani brothers, even the Gandhi cousins, even the Kauravas and Pandavas, the entire village of Yadavs, and then we have men marrying multiple times, also having concubines and mistresses. Marriages were not always successful (i.e. did not always make the two people married happy)- generally a few powerful members in the family controlled everybody lives (and called it social good!)- like Kaikaeyi dictated what would happen to a dutiful son and changed the course of a family's history... Kunti decided her sons would share a wife (the sons and the wife's happiness became irrelevant) The system permitted whims and fancies of a few to ruin the lives of many. Today we are moving towards a fairer and just system, but there are some who are refusing to move forward and still live in the times of a Savitri and Gandhari who asked for a hundred sons but not a single daughter. We have made having a daughter difficult by making a system where daughters have to be raised to go and care for their spouse's parents (and stay dependent on them despite all the thankless hard work) while sons bring a care-giving spouse and financial support... Patriarchy is biased against daughters. We need a system where all the children care for the parents. No child is called paraya dhan. Do take a look,

vikraman said...

I never asked women to stay in a marriage in which they are abused by their husbands. I think you both completely missed the point.
What is discussed in this post is that one should not marry because that will 'bring' happiness to them.

Forget the abusers for a while and consider normal people. Lets say in a marriage, the focus is not on each other but it is rather on accomplishing some other task (karma yoga). As long as your focus is on a common goal, and not on the relationship itself, the relationship will succeed.

Most divorces happen these days because there is a lot of expectation from each other. The girl wanting a well qualified (ivy league) guy as her husband, expecting her husband to have similar likes and dislikes as that of hers. similarly, the guy may have his share of expectations. when some of these expectations fail, the relationship goes sour. Thats what i meant to convey.

The truth is that when are building a temple, your concentration is on the beauty of the temple rather than on the person who helped you building it.

islandgal246 said...

Everyone is responsible for their own happiness and it is dangerous to pin one's happiness on someone else's.

Normal people? Who are they? Where are they? Are you trying to say that in a marriage, a couple should not focus on each other? Initially they do focus on each other. That is how they get to know each other. As the marriage matures, other things take priority however the relationship should not take a backseat.

Those who marry for material wealth or social status is not a marriage, it is a social contract.

Let us get real here.....are we dealing with human beings or robots? Few people get divorced because they had a lot of expectations from each other. We all have high expectations in life but that doesn't always happen. Do we get rid of our lives? No, we adapt and learn to deal with our disappointments and shortfalls as they come.
Marriages fail because of verbal and physical abuse, also because one party wanted to change/mold the other person into what they see as the perfect partner, or they realize they they do not have the meeting of minds (cannot see eye to eye on many things). People also change over the years, some change can be extreme such as religious zeal and fanaticism, lack of respect for each other, a continuance of behavior that will endanger the relationship and one party thinking that they own/bought the other person mind, body and soul.

No marriage is made in heaven, it takes work, however it takes love for each other to make it successful. A marriage without love and respect is no marriage at all. How can two people enjoy each other's company without an emotional commitment or attachment.

To procreate if that is the only mission for marriage, is not a one way street. Women are made up differently from men and having sex for the sake of procreation is not sex, it is akin to rape of the human mind and body. For many women sex without love or affection is like having a knitting needle pushed up your nostril. That is how emotionally and physically painful it is.

If there is a breakdown of trust and respect the marriage is doomed.

Human beings are not perfect and there is no perfect match. However it is not how much tolerate each other. It is how much can we lovingly accept each other for who and what we are without trying to change each other, the ability to adapt to the changes that will certainly occur within the marriage. This will determine the success or failure of a marriage.

freespirit said...

Have you ever thought about how few women in your grandfather's era were asked about their opinions on the relationship they shared?

As for detachment, should both partners aspire to remain detached or only the man? And if that is the main goal of the relationship, then what is the point of staying in the relationship?

vikraman said...

I think we agree on more points than we disagree. you said..
"Marriages fail because of verbal and physical abuse, also because one party wanted to change/mold the other person into what they see as the perfect partner, or they realize they they do not have the meeting of minds"

thats exactly what i am saying too. Marriages fail because often one tries to change the partner so that she/he would become "likeable".

Also i cannot agree that there are no normal people in this world and that this world is full of abusers. I have always said that you cannot live with someone who abuses you.

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