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Question:

I want to do seva to progress spiritually. I feel I will progress much more if I were at my master’s feet than being at home. I also do not want to get married, but my mother wants me to get married.  I am in a quandary. Should I focus on my spiritual path, dropping my parents’ wishes or should I get married? I don’t want to be in a situation in future when I regret that I didn’t get married or regret that I missed out on my spiritual progress due to my attachment to my parents. Please help.

Answer:

Let me start by telling you a few stories.

Story #1:

When Buddha was just about to pass away, his cousin and disciple Ananda was crying, “What am I going to do without you?”  Buddha said, “Appo Deepo Bhava” – Be  your own light.  Ananda did not understand.  Buddha passed away.

The Arihants who were enlightened people in Buddha’s sangha, were astonished that Ananda being the best teacher amongst them, was still not enlightened. Ananda had served Buddha for 45 years ignoring his personal spiritual growth. Arihants encouraged Ananda to work on himself. That is when Ananda understood Buddha’s last words and started his own self-effort. Soon, Ananda got enlightened.

In this case, Buddha became an obstacle on the path to Ananda’s enlightenment on account of Ananda’s attachment to Buddha.

Moral of the story – One can be at the master’s feet and remain un-enlightened if he does not apply self-effort. 

 

Story #2:

Ekalavya approached the Great Guru Dronacharya to learn archery. Drona rejected him because he belonged to a lower caste. Ekalavya made a mud statue of Dronacharaya and worshipped it and started self-study in archery. He became a more renowned Archer than Arjuna, the best disciple of Dronacharya.

Moral of the story – A disciple can progress anywhere.  He does not have to be at the master’s feet to progress.     

 

Story #3:

Once King Bimbisara and Queen Vaidehi  were contemplating on Buddha’s teachings and the Queen said, “You know something, I found out that I ONLY love myself”. Any other King in place of Bimbisara, would have beheaded her. But Bimbisara said, “I was thinking the same that I also love myself ONLY.” They both were able to look at their own ‘Ego’s’ and start working on themselves. Thus King Bimbisara and Queen Vaidehi were able to attain the highest truth with Buddha’s teachings while walking the spiritual path hand in hand.

Moral of the story – Marriage can provide the courage and wisdom to transcend this Samsara if both walk the path together. 

 

Story #4:

On the battlefield of Mahabharata, Arjuna did not want to fight his own family members. Lord Krishna instructs him in spiritual wisdom. Here is Verse 10 from Chapter 5.

brahmaṇyādhāya karmāṇi saṅgaṁ tyaktvā karoti yaḥ
lipyate na sa pāpena padma-patram ivāmbhasā

If you dedicate every single action to God, abandoning all attachments (cravings/aversions), then you can remain untouched by sin/karma; just like a lotus leaf in water, remains untouched by water.
 
Moral of the story – Perform all the actions in the world, dropping attachments to every action, if you want to become free from Karma. 
 
 

Summary:

From the stories above, it is clear that;

1] You don’t have to sacrifice your worldly duties, aspirations, and responsibilities to be able to walk on the spiritual path.

2] If you focus completely on the spiritual path with one-pointedness, you will rise to the Ultimate Truth where only Self-Effort can take you.

3] Nobody can gift you your enlightenment, you will have to work hard on your own to get there.

4] The more cravings/aversions you nurture, the harder it is to get there.

5] Whether married or not, you can still attain enlightenment if you have a co-operative spouse.

It is your choice whether you want to choose marriage or seva or both together.  I would not advocate one over the other.  What I would advocate is the continuous application of spiritual knowledge.  Are you applying the spiritual knowledge that your guru has been giving you?  If you manage to apply that spiritual knowledge and rise above attachment to people, situations and things; and refrain from raagas and dveshas, you are all set!  It does not matter whether you are living in a jungle or within a community, if your focus is spiritual knowledge application, you are bound to get enlightened.

How does one achieve enlightenment?

The path to your enlightenment will be paved by your degree of dispassion and equanimity while living in the present moment. 

It does NOT matter whether you got married or not, whether you had children or not, whether you did seva or not, or whether you taught 100 people about spiritual knowledge or not.  All these are at the periphery.  There is only one real yardstick.  And that yardstick is whether you attained the skill of equanimity, dispassion and present moment awareness. If you achieve this, you will achieve enlightenment definitely!  If you miss this goal, whatever you do, even thousands of years of seva CANNOT bring you enlightenment.  Be very clear that it is NOT the path that is important, it is really your authenticity on that path and the intensity of your commitment to spiritual knowledge that will get you there.

Hopefully this has answered your question.  Whichever way you go, may you always be happy!  Sukhi Bhava!  🙂

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