View Full Version : Buddhism, Weddings And Marriage

15 Jun 16, 05:58
I wasn't sure where to post this article from Ven Shravasti Dhammika's blog, so I thought I'd put it in the Early Buddhism forum:


As understood in most cultures, marriage is the union of two persons which is recognized by some authority be it religious, legal or social. There are and always have been many types of marriage – polygamous and polyandrous, there are cousin marriages, forced marriages, and in parts of the Islamic world temporary marriages. In some parts of the Western world same-sex marriage has gained legal and social acceptance.

Pre-Buddhist India

The various law books of Brahmanism, the main formal religion of the Buddha’s time, tell us much about marriage customs and weddings ceremonies in India before the turn of the first millennium. A girl had to be married off within a few months after her first menstruation and a father who failed to do so incurred more blame as time passed. There was a marriage season and the actual day and time of the wedding was usually determined by astrology. The caste of the two families was a crucial consideration. The two highest castes, Brahmans and the warrior caste sometimes intermarried, but only rarely did either marry below this, and to marry a sudra or an outcaste was inconceivable.

Brahmanism recognized eight forms of marriage, the most common being those arranged by the parents or guardians and which usually included a payment. Less common but still recognized were where the couple chose each other with the parents approval (Āsura), or where the couple married without their parent’s permission (Gāndharvah). This last type usually involved elopement. Abduction (Rāksasa) was allowed for the warrior caste and sometimes resulted in violence. The Vajjians used to “abduct others’ wives and daughters and compel them to live with them”, a custom the Buddha considered socially harmful (D.II,74). Svayaṃara was a form of marriage wherein usually a girl but sometimes a boy chose a partner from a number of suitors.

Such ceremonies would usually take place at a public gathering. The last and lowest type, although still legal, the Paiśāca marriage, involved marrying the girl after having raped her while she was asleep, drunk or otherwise unaware of what was happening. Apart from these eight recognized marriages there were in fact several other forms of conjugal arrangements. A slave or servant could gradually come to be treated as a wife, a woman could consent to live with a man because he paid her to do so, and a woman taken in war could become a wife. There was also what was known as a temporary wife (muhuttika, or taṃkhaṇika, Vin.III,139) when a man and woman came together out of convenience and parted when either one of them wanted to do so.

The Brahmanical wedding was usually preceded by checking the genealogies of the two families and was always conducted by a Brahman priest. While the wedding ceremony might differ slightly in different regions they all shared two other common features. These were the father of the girl joining the couple’s hands and the couple then taking seven steps around the sacred fire. According to some law books the newlyweds were to abstain from sex for at least three days after their marriage. As most couples usually did not even see their future spouse until the wedding ceremony, this would have given them at least some opportunity to get to know each other before physical intimacy began.

There does not seem to have been formal divorce in ancient India, at least during the Buddha’s time. If a man was dissatisfied with his wife he simply took another one, sometimes keeping his first wife or perhaps casting her out. The law books say a husband could expel his wife if she was barren, unfaithful, cantankerous, chronically ill or because had not produced a son within a certain number of years. In later centuries the permission of some authority - a guild, the heads of the clan or the king, was needed to divorce a wife. The Arthaśāstra advices the king to grant divorces if both parties are unhappy with their marriage.

It is worth pointing out that the area of northern India where the Buddha lived, the Middle Land, was by no means completely Brahmanized during his time and would not become so for at least another few centuries. Brahmanical and Hindu law books such as Manu Smṛti, Yājñavalkya Smṛti and the various Dharmasūtras, present the ideal, not necessarily the actual situation, and their rules were not always enforced by state power. Further, many communities and regions undoubtedly had their own wedding and marriage traditions and took no notice of or sometimes opposed Brahmanism teachings on marriage, weddings and other matters.

Buddhist Weddings and Marriage

The Pāḷi Tipiṭaka, the oldest record of the Buddha’s life and teachings, tell us something about what the Buddha and the early Buddhists thought about weddings and marriage and how they conducted them.

CONTINUED HERE (http://sdhammika.blogspot.co.uk/)