Buddhism: Marriage and Family | 15
Marriage and Family
Buddhist texts are essentially silent on the subject of Marriage:
Although the Buddha did not lay out rules on married life, he did offer basic guidelines for how to live happily within marriage:
Married people should be honest and faithful and avoid adultery—
- indeed, one of the ethical rules in the pañcha śīla is the prohibition against sexual misconduct, which is frequently taken in practice to be the endorsement of marital fidelity and monogamy.
In the Parābhavam Sutta, for instance, a significant cause of human error and negative karma is involvement with multiple women.
As for polygamy, the Buddhist laity are advised to limit themselves to one wife.
In traditionally Buddhist countries marriage is a completely secular affair taking various forms: monogamy or polygamy.
In many South and Southeast Asian countries, marriage is traditionally arranged, based on, among other elements, social standing, education, and compatibility of horoscopes.
Although monks may be invited to a marriage ceremony, their role is not to conduct the marriage itself but, rather, to bless the newly married couple as they set out on a new stage of their lives.
Ceremonies vary considerably from country to country and school to school:
In the Theravada, for instance, the couple might recite a text such as the Sigalovada Sutta, which deals generally with marital duties, and they might also recite a devotional text such as the Mangala Sutta.
Likewise, Buddhist views about the family tend to be general in nature, based in principle on the interconnectedness of karma.
Because the traditional Buddhist family is a large and extended group that includes aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and so on, one has a duty to honour and respect both one’s immediate family and one’s extended family.
In a famous statement the Buddha remarked that one should be kind and compassionate to all living beings because there can be found no being who was not once in some former life one’s brother, sister, mother, or father.
In many Buddhist countries, particularly those of East Asia,
one of the most important familial duties is toward one’s dead ancestors, who are thought to exist in a special realm and who depend on the living to continue to honour and care for them.