A Way to Inner Happiness
by Swami Kriyananda
Chapter One: A Direction, Not an Ending
"They married, and lived happily ever after." Isn't that how most fairy tales end? But then, that's all they are: fairy tales.
Romantic comedies, too, although they don't always say it in so many words, usually end with the same beamish promise: unalloyed wedded bliss, descending perpetually, like showers of rose petals, upon couples who, once they have tied the knot, stroll carefree through life down lushly green mossy glades.
People are conditioned from early childhood to look upon marriage as Nature's solution to the search for happiness. The handsome prince marries the beautiful princessshe of the long, golden tresses. The poor shepherd boy wins the aloof and unapproachable princess. Cinderella, after years of menial labor and of withering contempt from those closest to her, is selected from among the fairest maidens of the land to marry the noble prince.
Such a view of marriage is two-dimensional. It suggests no road disappearing gradually into the distant future, and therefore no future challenges. The couples in this picture do not walk down life's road together: They merely step into the canvas and disappear. How often has marriage, entered upon with such blithe expectations, proved disappointing!
It is natural to romanticize weddings. Brides want to wear white, and would feel deprived of something precious, if not driven to open rebellion, were it Fashion's decree that they wear tweeds. Guests want a wedding feast, and would feel cheated if all they got in return for their gifts were tortilla chips and a spiced yogurt dip. The parents want the congratulations (and perhaps the envy?) of their friends. The children want a chance to run amuck among the adults without fear of a scolding. Everybody likes a good time. And the groomwell, yes, the groom: He'll probably be happy enough, once he can get out of that stiff costumebetter suited to an operetta, he thinksand into something comfortable.
It is perfectly normal that weddings be romanticized. Marriage, however, is another story. It should be viewed realistically.
For marriage is a human state; it can give people no more than they themselves bring to it. The function of marriage is not to lift people "up to the stars." Marriage is not a substitute for divine ecstasy. All it can give people is a new recognition of what they are already, in themselves.
Given the unregenerate condition of most human beings, the self-recognition marriage bestows is not always easy to bear.
Marriage should not be approached as a beautiful, but motionless, painting. Rather, it should be viewed as an opportunity for ever-further growth and development. It should be recognized as a challenge and an opportunity to make someone else happy, rather than pursue selfishly throughout life one's own happiness. Marriage should be undertaken creatively, as an art. Couples should seek fresh ways every day to express their love for one another, and to bring out the best in each other, and in themselves.
"Creativity" is a key word. For marriage is not, in itself, a solution. It simply provides new opportunities for finding solutions to life's problems. We may say, also, that for every solution marriage provides it also presents fresh problems to be faced, multiplied by two, and then three or more as the "blessed events" begin piling up.
Any couple who think to live "happily ever after" once the wedding bells have stopped ringing are destined for a rude awakening. Hardly will the ringing have ceased than other, strident sounds intrude themselves: the bustling traffic of other people's priorities; the dreary exigencies of bills; life's daily routine; the growing realization that marriage alone has provided no perfect fusion of two human beings, as diverse expectations manifest themselves, along with diverse tendencies for meeting those expectations.
The mere fact that marriage is not really likely to fulfill the roseate dreams of many romanticists doesn't mean it cannot offer deep fulfillmentdeeper and more valid fulfillment, indeed, than the common two-dimensional expectations of it. What people entering marriage must do is stop dreaming and face their joint adventure not only hand in hand, but open-eyed.
Life's true fulfillments are never static. Truth itself is not static. Any definition of reality, including the highest
truth, should be an attempt to point a direction. Even the greatest human fulfillment can provide only a hint of Ultimate Perfection.
It is a weakness of human nature to want to define things absolutely. Definitions serve a purpose to the extent that they stretch the mind. But they are limiting if, after stretching the mind, they impede further growth.
Years ago I gave a series of lectures in Kuranda, Queensland, in northeast Australia. At the end of the series a man came up to me and said, "I didn't attend all your lectures, but I happened to catch the end of this last one. I'm not familiar with your philosophy, but I noticed that you kept on referring to God. Well, I'm an atheist. What can you say about God that will be relevant to me?"
After a moment's thought I made a suggestion: "Why not think of God as the highest potential you can imagine for yourself?"
He paused in astonishment, then nodded in that tentative, eyebrow-raised sort of way that Australians affect to indicate a combination of wonder and approval. "I can live with that," he concluded.
Perfection in marriage, as in everything else in life, should be seen, not as a still photograph, and not as a plateau, but as continuous movement in a forever unfolding directionmovement accompanied sometimes by struggle, but movement also holding a promise of great heights to be attained.
Points to Remember
- Marriage can give no more to people than they themselves bring to it.
- Marriage should be viewed, not as fulfilling a desire, but as an opportunity for inner growth and development.
- Marriage should be made an ever-creative experience.
- Marriage is not, in itself, a solution. It simply provides new opportunities for finding solutions to life's problems.
- Life's true fulfillments are never static. The greater the fulfillment in marriage, the more it will point a direction toward heights as yet unexplored.
- Perfection in marriage should be seen as continuous movement in a forever-unfolding direction.