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At the Feet of The Mother

Marriage and Spiritual Life

Marriage and spiritual life generally do not go well together unless of course there is someone who shares the same aspiration and is willing to walk together on the same path supporting each other’s aspiration. This of course is the minimum though not yet enough. There should be meeting points in nature, common affinities that bring about a spontaneous understanding. At the same time there should be some complimentary aspects which enrich each other mutually. This is as far as marriage can go.

However in most cases the absorbing interest in fulfillment of vital desires as well as the time and energy needed just for maintaining the framework of the family life leaves little room and time for spiritual self-growth which demands a greater and greater one-pointedness. Up till a certain point, things may work and if a true understanding develops centered around the common aspiration then it may be fine. In such rare cases marriage may even be helpful. But more often than not there develops a contrary pull between the demands of a spiritual life and the constant pull towards the vital-material satisfactions of marital life. This is especially so when one partner is spiritually inclined while the other is not or is at best a religious type of person.

If the boy is spiritual then somehow this still works since given the societal framework women generally tend to accept and adapt and hence start moving in the direction of the husband. But the reverse rarely happens when a husband would accept and adapt to a woman’s higher spiritual aspirations. At best he may allow her to explore, even give her the freedom to practice her spiritual life as long as it does not come in the way of her societal and family duties. We can see this in the life a number of women such as Kayadhu, Mandodadri, Tara, Tulsi, Sulochana, Mira bai and many others. On the other hand, we see many women who readily follow in the steps of their husband, for good or for worse sometimes.  They suffer and stifle but are not fully free to walk their way.

The result has been an undercurrent of unhappiness and hypocrisy and all kinds of falsehood that have crept in our life when one of the partners especially the woman has the spiritual inclination but the husband does not have it. That is why the institution of marriage is being broken and women are taking their freedom and following their way regardless of family’s approval. While it may be disconcerting for some who would want to maintain the old framework but its overall impact is going to be positive. It is the Divine Will that has broken the institution of marriage and one cannot reverse the clock now.

What one can do however is to reset the relationship. The institution of marriage as it existed earlier is now going away. It exists only for those who do not yet have the higher spiritual urge and are satisfied having children and leading a materially comfortable life fulfilling their outer dreams and ambitions. But those in whom the spiritual urge has awakened are tending to walk out of this institutionalised system of marriage more and more. Or else they are filling their life with artificial scentless flowers mistaking it to be the real one.  Yet something can be done and it is resetting the clock. That is what is happening now. While the old institution of marriage now distorted and dated has been largely broken except for the still socially minded persons, a new form of togetherness, more plastic and truer is emerging. Its basis is not social approval but love, rather the truth of love. Its form is not a legal document but a living together of those men and women who have become conscious enough to honour their inner commitment and do not need any outer compulsion to remain steadfast in love. They live together and yet allow enough freedom and space for each one’s independent growth. This new form of ‘marriage’ if we may say so is more conducive to spiritual growth where people come together and live if they feel drawn by the deeper bond of love. True initially, like any new experiment of nature this will bring in its own challenges and difficulties but as humanity evolves it will find the new way guided by an inner intuitive light. Until this happens the best form that a relation between man and woman who have been tied by the bond of custom and tradition is to live as good friends who care for each other and yet give the needed freedom to explore and discover their own truth, the truth of their life, their true goals including the truth of their love.

In any case it is best not to rush into marriage until both are clear about their life goals and also mature enough to understand what marriage means beyond the social and legal institution. It is the task of the elders, both teachers and parents, to educate the younger ones. Unfortunately, while we are taught every other subject this one is hardly taught to us and it is about love and relationship. The focus is almost exclusively on success and ambition but a most important dimension of success is human relationships and handling emotions. But that is a different and vast area which we can deal with some other time.

Alok Pandey, August 2020


A few selections from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on this subject.

Sri Aurobindo on Marriage

D wrote a letter to M., a disciple, on 14-11-1924. It was meant to be read to Sri Aurobindo. D had requested Sri Aurobindo to give his views on marriage, particularly as he intended taking up the yoga in future. He wanted to know what attitude a person intending to take up the highest spiritual life should adopt towards marriage. D. admitted that he felt sex-attraction and did not want to resort merely to repression.

Sri Aurobindo : It is rather a delicate matter to answer. Perhaps the following points may be offered to him.

What is ordinarily known as sex-attraction is mainly a pull on the vital and physical planes between man and woman. This attraction, generally, gets mixed up with emotions and sentiments and is almost always mistaken for love, or psychic relation.

For those who want to give up life altogether – that is to say, for sannyasins etc. – marriage in the ordinary sense is out of the question. Because marriage is the one thing that strongly fixes down a person to life. Woman by nature has the strongest tendency to stick to life. She, generally, pulls down the man and fixes him to life. This is especially intended by nature for the continuance of the race and life.

Secondly, there is a meeting together of the psychic of the man and of the woman, – a union of soul with soul. This, of course, is difficult to get.

The first point refers to the ordinary life in the vital and the physical planes.

In the higher life there are two types, two gradations, of meeting of man and woman. One is the psychic union, the other is the spiritual.

The man of high idealism – the poet, the artist, has a developed psychic being. In the ordinary man, it is not developed. For a psychically developed man to get a woman of the right type is rather difficult. But if such a union could come about it would be a great help to both of them.

Disciple : But his question would be how to find out the right sort of woman for marriage.

Sri Aurobindo : There is no hard and fast rule in these things. It is all to be found out by an inner perception. It is not a science, it is an art.

Even when the union of the psychic takes place between the two, the other parts, the mental, the vital and the physical of one may clash with that of the other and the gain of the psychic being may be spoiled by this disharmony. But if the psychic being dominates in both then these difficulties may slowly clear up. The spiritual relation between man and woman is the most difficult to achieve. The man seeking the higher divine life, the seeker after divine Consciousness and the Truth – who is Purusha, – if he meets the woman of the right type, the woman who is his Shakti – then his spiritual life, the life which he is to manifest, is enriched and becomes full. In this case also there is the psychic union between the two.

In the case of those who have the psychic union of the proper kind to start with, the spiritual relation may gradually develop and manifest itself.

In the spiritual union the woman who is the Shakti must be really a Power – that is to say, a powerful personality who can receive the help from the Purusha in the proper way. Each must be of real help to the other: this relation is the most difficult to attain. These difficulties come to the Sadhaka. To the Siddha, the perfected soul, there is no difficulty. He knows fully well what is to be manifested. If his Shakti is there he knows where she is and he will get her.

Disciple : Suppose a person aspiring for spiritual life marries what would happen to him?

Sri Aurobindo : If such a man marries three things might happen :

If it is an ordinary marriage he may be pulled down to the lower level of consciousness, apart from the cares, anxieties and responsibilities he may be burdened with. In that case he may lose his aspiration for the higher life and may be completely changed on account of the woman’s influence on him.

He may be spiritually ruined altogether by the marriage.

Or if he gets the woman of the right type it may be a great help to him.

You can write to D. that Sri Aurobindo does not believe in marriage as it exists at present in society and as an institution. He does not ask a person to marry or not to marry; it is left entirely to the person concerned.

For a person who aspires for some kind of higher life it is common, especially for those who have a strong vital being, to have a tendency for vital enjoyment, and vital relation with a woman. Sri Aurobindo has no objection to this as an experience and perception. Only, in a Yogi’s life these have to be transformed into the movements of the Higher Nature.


From the Mother’s letter of March 1933 [CWM 14: 291]

To unite your physical lives, your material interests, to become partners in order to face together the difficulties and successes, the defeats and victories of life—that is the very foundation of marriage, but you already know that it is not enough.

To be united in your sensations, to have the same aesthetic tastes and enjoyments, to be moved in common by the same things, one through the other and one for the other—that is good, that is necessary, but it is not enough.

To be one in your deeper feelings, to keep a mutual affection and tenderness that never vary in spite of all the blows of life and can withstand every weariness and irritation and disappointment, to be always and on every occasion happy, extremely happy, to be together, to find in every circumstance tranquillity, peace and joy in each other—that is good, that is very good, that is indispensable, but it is not enough.

To unite your minds, to harmonise your thoughts and make them complementary, to share your intellectual preoccupations and discoveries; in short, to make your sphere of mental activity identical through a widening and enrichment acquired by both at once—that is good, that is absolutely necessary, but it is not enough.

Beyond all that, in the depths, at the centre, at the summit of the being, there is a Supreme Truth of being, an Eternal Light, independent of all the circumstances of birth, country, environment, education; That is the origin, cause and master of our spiritual development; it is That which gives a permanent direction to our lives; it is That which determines our destinies; it is in the consciousness of That that you must unite. To be one in aspiration and ascension, to move forward at the same pace on the same spiritual path, that is the secret of a lasting union.


From the Mothers’ conversation with a disciple on July 21, 1960

(disciple) In reference to the view of some modern social thinkers expressing fear of the possible breakdown and disappearance of the family system, You have remarked that this breakdown “was, and is still, an indispensable movement to bring humanity to a higher and broader realisation”. This raises some important questions which I state below for Your clarification:

Do You consider this dissolution of the family system indispensable only for the few exceptional individuals who follow some high mental or spiritual ideal or also for the general humanity?

Yes, only for the few exceptional individuals who follow some high mental or spiritual ideal.

If You advocate a complete dissolution of the family system for the entire humanity, do You consider it advisable for it to happen even before the new process of birth by direct materialisation has been normalised on earth?

More liberty and plasticity in the system are advisable. Fixed rules are harmful to evolution.

Do You also consider the abolition of the marriage system as equally indispensable as the abolition of the family system for the higher development of humanity? So long as the new process of birth has not been normalised, would not the present manner of sexual procreation continue? In that case, would not some form of marriage relationship be necessary?

Marriage will always take place, but legal ceremonies must not be enforced, to avoid illegality.

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