Expansive Marriage

From Self-Expansion Through Marriage: A Way to Inner Happiness*

One of the false expectations with which many couples
approach marriage is that they will be, forever, all in all to
each other. I can’t visualize any two people remaining satisfied
for long with this thought, unless they are exceptionally
dull. No one person is ever going to help you learn all your
lessons in life. No one person is going to fulfill your every
need: no one, that is, but yourself.

For all the fulfillment you have ever sought awaits you
within. But that kind of fulfillment is never personal, for it
transcends the ego.

One purpose of marriage is, as I’ve said earlier, to give
people an incentive to expand their self-identity. By loving
one other person we learn to break, to some extent at least,
our ego-bondage. Once we’ve established self-expansion as
our direction of development, it is easier to continue the process,
broadening our affections to include other people, other
races, other nations—the world.

To fix this expansive image more clearly in your mind,
imagine a particular wave on the ocean as being endowed
with a personality. This wave, concentrating on its own special
reality, decides that only that which happens to it, out of
all the waves on the ocean, has meaning for it.

Think of this wave, then, as pushing itself up ever higher
in its self-importance, until it imagines it can dominate all
the surrounding waves. It takes a strong wind, however, for
a wave to rise high. Where one wave rises up, others will rise
also. Thus, the wave finds itself increasingly threatened by
other waves, each with a personality of its own, and each inflated,
similarly, with a sense of its own importance. As the
first wave tries to dominate all the waves around it, so they,
too, strive for dominion. Thus, conflict develops among
these self-seeking waves. Clashing together in arrogance and
ambition, they experience fear, pain, and suffering.

People are like those waves. The more a person affirms his
own self-importance, the greater is his desire to promote and
protect his ego, and the greater the pain he experiences—and
the more fleeting his pleasures.

There is no escape from suffering, so long as people seek
their escape through the ego. The way to liberation lies in
withdrawing the ego-wave back into the infinite ocean. It lies
in realizing that its own greater reality is the reality of the
ocean. To expand one’s awareness beyond the ego is no loss,
though the ego perceives it as such and fights against it with
all the skill at its command.

Marriage is one step toward breaking our attachment to
the pettiness of ego-dominion. It is a step, but for many a
vital one, toward soul-expansion. For anything that helps a
person to break out of the confines of selfishness and selfseeking
is good. Anything that further enmeshes a person in
ego-consciousness is bad, imprisoning him in pain and limitation.
It is bad, in short, because it is bad for him.

Since marriage is one means whereby people gain an incentive
to learn self-expansion, marriage is a holy institution.
It has a much higher purpose than mere selfish fulfillment.

If marriage is not viewed in this light, it can become a barrier
to true fulfillment. Couples who marry only for self-gratification
reinforce their contractive tendency, and strengthen
their egos. Couples, again, who give lovingly to each other,
but enclose themselves against further expansion, build walls
around their little, shared reality that, by shutting out others,
have a contractive effect on their own consciousness.

For life cannot exist without movement. Movement that
is not expansive will be contractive. Life cannot hold a static
pose for long. Even in the stillness of stagnation there is evaporation,
and the proliferation of noxious insects.

Life is an adventure in self-awakening. Anything that stands
in the way of this process is, in the end, damaging, because
stultifying. To those who seek true fulfillment in their lives,
marriage should be seen not as a cozy nook, but as a window
opening onto ever-expanding realities.

For many people, marriage represents a reinforcement of
their natural egoic tendencies. It represents an attempt to buttress
their fragile sense of security and self-worth. But for those
who approach life in an adventurous spirit—for those who
seek constant self-expansion—marriage represents a glorious
opportunity for self-development.

Selfish people marry for what they can get from one another.
Generous people marry for what they can share with one
another. Consciously or unconsciously, generous people realize
that their greatest gain lies in expanding their sympathies,
not in limiting them.

Selfish people think, “What can I get out of this relationship?”
Generous people think, “What can I give to this relationship?”

Needless to say, the world is not divided simplistically into
two distinct camps. People grow, moreover, beyond their first
understanding. What we must emphasize in our lives is not
the stage to which we have arrived so far, but the direction
our journey must take us in future.

To refer to people too glibly, then, as “selfish” or “generous”
would be a mistake. People are complex. People change. The
important thing is to be aware of specific directions of growth.
The more a person’s sympathies expand outward, the
greater his or her fulfillment. And the more those sympathies
shrink inward upon the ego—or, what is almost the
same thing, upon their own family with the thought of “I
and mine”—the more deeply that person experiences insecurity
and a gnawing sense of unfulfillment.

An emphasis on universality is not for those people who
haven’t learned first the importance of loyalty to one’s own.
The husband who thinks, “I love all—so why be faithful to
my wife?” has yet to develop the refinement needed for understanding
the kind of expansion I am describing. True self expansion
means escaping bondage to the ego. What the libertine
accomplishes, on the contrary, is the strengthening of
his ego-bonds.

It isn’t only charity, then, that begins at home: Loyalty
begins there, too. Only through the windows of loyalty can
one reach out and touch others—as, on deep levels of our
consciousness, all of us really want to do.

Here, then, is a way to make your marriage expansive in
the best sense. The method requires meditation and introspection—
or, to put it differently, it requires really getting to
know yourself, on ever deeper levels.

Learn to love yourself in the soul way, by perceiving in
meditation the hidden joy of your own being. Then, with
a love decreasingly selfish, reach out to touch your spouse,
your children. Refine your love so that it becomes ever more
pure, containing less and less of the consciousness of “I and
mine.” Love your family as you ought to love yourself: for
their souls, not only for their bodies and personalities.
Then expand that love outward to include your neighbors,
your countrymen, all mankind, and all sentient beings—
everywhere. In this way your love will expand to become
the love of God.

An outward expansion of love is what Yogananda called
the social way of attaining cosmic consciousness. And a very
important balance it is to the inner path of seeking union
with God in meditation.

Marriage can be a doorway, in both an outer and an inner
sense, to infinite awareness. But it will only become that
if you work hard at making it so. The obstacles to success
are many. While facing those obstacles as you struggle toward
perfection, remember further these words: “There are
no such things as obstacles: There are only opportunities!”

In describing spiritual marriage, I want to emphasize this
final point: that marriage, as such, is in no way a panacea; it
is what you do with marriage that determines whether you
will progress toward greater freedom, or regress toward an
increase of those delusions which, all your life, have brought
you pain. The greater your inner freedom, the greater will be
your happiness, and the deeper and more fulfilling your love.

*Self-Expansion Through Marriage: A Way to Inner Happiness, by Swami Kriyananda, Crystal Clarity Publishers. Formerly entitled: Expansive Marriage.

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