Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tying The Knot

A wedding (avahamangala) is a ceremony marking the marriage of two people. The first Buddhists adopted the wedding ceremony current at the time. However, wanting to distinguish their own from Brahmanical practices, they left out the part where the bride and groom circumambulates the sacred fire (yajana) seven times, and instead of a brahman priest officiating, the elders of both families did.
It was considered good for the bride and groom to be the same age (tulyavaya), ideally 16, although the Kama Sutra recommends that the bride be three years younger than the groom. Usually the groom went in procession to the bride's house, bedecked in garlands and accompanied by music and dancing, although sometimes it was the bride who went (A.II,61). The essential feature of the ceremony was when the father of the bride took her left hand and with a pot with his right hand poured water over her hands, a ritual marking the giving away the bride to the groom (A.IV,210; Ja.III,286). In the Jataka the Bodhisattva gives this wedding benediction: ‘May your friendship with your beloved wife never decay’. (Ajeyyau ea tava hotu metti bhariyaya kaccana piyaya saddhim, Ja.VI,323).

In ancient India the bride's family sometimes paid a dowry (dayajja) and at other times they gave her a dower (nahanamula), although such customs seem to have been practiced mainly by the wealthy. Some features of the ancient ceremony still prevail in Theravadin countries, although mixed with local customs. According to the Buddha, monks and nuns should not get involved in ‘the giving or taking in marriage’ and thus they have never been wedding celebrants (D.I,11).


Vasile Andreica said...

Venerable, that wedding benediction carries such a special meaning for me today... even if I'm not sure I'll ever wed my beloved one. But still, may our friendship never decay!

And may your life flourish!

no said...

"According to the Buddha, monks and nuns should not get involved in ‘the giving or taking in marriage’ and thus they have never been wedding celebrants (D.I,11). "

I was wondering what could be the reason. Then it became quite obvious that monks, exemplifying the best state, namely living a homeless life, can't logically also celebrate a state of living such as marriage. But humans, before reaching enlightenment, would still have to go about their affairs as best as they could. Thus the Buddha would still have some advice to give to married people (see "Marriage" in the Venerable's Buddhismatoz).

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Vasile,
Thanks for the kind thoughts. Much appreciated.

Dear No,
The reason the Buddha asked his monks and nuns not to be marriage celebrants is the same reason he asked them not to be doctors, go-betweens, government advisors, etc. you start off with one goal (enlightenment) and you end up spending all your time doing something else (marrying people). Why resolve to be an architect and then get a job as a botanist?

ah-ha said...

To celebrate or celibate? Was there a mistake by the scribe - just like Misquoting Jesus?

John and Pamela said...

The abbot at my temple, a Theravadin monk from Sri Lanka, officiates at weddings here in the United States. But, he is also very independent-minded, which I like.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear John and Pamala,
It is becoming common nowadays for Sri Lankan monks in the West to have at least some role in weddings, and perhaps not a bad thing either. Oh, and incidentally, if I had a cute little daughter like you, I’d be boastful too.

no said...

Dear Venerable,
Thank you for the explanation. Yet I am not too clear, which might be because I am looking at the wrong passage in the Digha Nikaya.

The passage I read goes something like this (translation by Rhys Davies):
"Whereas some recluses and Brahmans, while living on food provided by the faithful, earn their living by wrong means of livelihood, by low arts, such as...... Gotama the recluse holds aloof from such low arts."

Based on this rendering, it would appear that my thinking in my earlier post is in conformity to this passage, since as a recluse the Buddha did not think such vocations as worthy to be practised, especially for making a livelihood when a monk is dependent on the upkeep of supporters.

By officiating at a marriage ceremony, the monk would be doing it in his capacity as a monk, not as a professional match-maker or something like that, and therefore would not be devoting too much of his time. So the reason why the monk shoudn't be doing it is, to my understanding, because it is not in keeping with the reason why he is living a "homeless" life, ie a monk, in the first place.

Anyway, it is just an opinion of mine, and perhaps I am just being an "eel-wriggler"... :)

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear No,
Not just an ‘eel-wriggler’ but perhaps a blind one too. You say your understanding is that the reason ‘monk shouldn’t be doing it is …because it is not in keeping with the reason why he is living a "homeless" life, i.e. a monk, in the first place’. Am I crazy or something? Or is this exactly what I said in my reply to you?

no said...

Dear Venerable,
Thank you. Metta.