My wedding approaches rapidly, and with my love of philosophy it’s important for me to have profound and meaningful readings at the ceremony. We have each picked a modern reading that meant a lot to us – she from Walt Whitman, and I from Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata, beautiful advice from when I was a child. But I also wanted to find meaningful premodern readings, and that turned out to be a lot harder.
The problem I quickly realized is that romantic marriage is a recent invention, a construct of our own time. It was obvious to me from the beginning that I’d get little help from Indian Buddhism, where sex and marriage are emphasized as fetters that bind us in suffering. I knew that to choose marriage was to side against Śāntideva. Sure, Śāntideva praises the monk Jyotis for breaking his monastic vows and marrying a woman who fell in love with him – but Jyotis, like a good bodhisattva, did this entirely out of compassion. “I’m marrying you out of sympathy” is not exactly the note on which I want to start married life. Continue reading