“Poverty will be looked on as dishonorable, while a hypocrite who can put on a show will be thought pious. Marriage will be based on arbitrary agreement, and simply taking a bath will be considered proper cleansing and decoration of the body.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 12.2.5)
साधुत्वे दम्भ एव तु
स्वीकार एव चोद्वाहे
स्नानम् एव प्रसाधनम्
sādhutve dambha eva tu
svīkāra eva codvāhe
snānam eva prasādhanam
Friend1: Vedic culture sure knows how to shock people. You start off with the restrictions on meat-eating and intoxication.
Friend2: Hmm, that is a more refined version of the culture. You will find plenty of people living within a tradition rooted in sanatana-dharma who still eat meat and consume adult beverages.
Friend1: Okay, I am referring to the serious followers. Those who are trying to become brahmanas, at the least.
Friend2: Which is the priestly class. The ones to guide everyone else. Non-violence towards the innocent and sobriety of thought are the main objectives of those two restrictions.
Friend1: As if that weren’t enough to accept, you get the arranged marriage system. People are always flabbergasted by that one. They have to sit down and think about it for a moment after you tell them.
Friend1: Yes. The reaction is always a series of questions:
“Wait, you have to marry someone with whom you’ve never had sexual relations before? How do you know that you will enjoy being with them? A total stranger? And you are stuck with them for the rest of your life? People actually go through with this? It’s been the tradition for centuries?”
Friend2: Wow. I guess it is better to cover this subject later on, well after you have established the standard of chanting the maha-mantra on a regular basis: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Friend1: But what if someone did present those questions to you? How would you answer?
Friend2: I mean, I’m not sure where to even begin. The arranged marriage is certainly not intended to be a random collision, where you just find this person out of nowhere and tell them, “You’re marrying my daughter.”
Friend1: The families are involved, right?
Friend2: In the traditional sense, that is actually who is getting married. Two families coming together. Preferably at a young age for the woman.
Friend1: I mean some of those arranged marriages from the past would be illegal today.
Friend2: Right. The participants would be considered too young. Just ask yourself why puberty begins at the age that it does. Nature, which is controlled by the highest authority, is much smarter than we are.
Friend1: What about the attraction aspect?
Friend2: What about it?
Friend1: People spend so much time looking to buy a house. They want just the right one. They might live there for thirty or more years, so they don’t want to screw up. It seems that marriage would be an even greater risk.
Friend2: You have come upon the main difference. The marriage system of pure Vedic culture is rooted in dharma, whereas the other way is based on kama. With dharma there is fidelity. Kama carries no assurances.
Friend1: Explain the two, dharma and kama.
Friend2: Kama is sense gratification. I want to eat pizza for dinner. This will satisfy my senses. I want to be with that person; I find them attractive. Dharma is the way of living matching the needs of the spirit soul, who is the individual. Dharma is duty; it is something like religion, it is righteousness. Most clearly, dharma is the proper way.
Friend1: A marriage should be based on duty, then.
Friend2: It is an ashrama. Grihastha-ashrama. Think about that for a second. Wedded bliss is actually for advancing the cause of the spirit soul. It is supposed to be no different from sitting in a quiet place and meditating on the Absolute.
Friend1: What about the people who manage to succeed in marriages based on kama?
Friend2: There must be some dedication to duty in the background. A relationship based on kama is guaranteed to change, because my sense demands are never satisfied. The minute the other side goes against me, I want to flee. I become attracted to someone else.
Friend1: That’s true.
Friend2: Shrimad Bhagavatam predicts that marriage based in kama is one of the signs of Kali-yuga, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy. Simple agreement, svikara; no other science applied. This is a sign of degradation in culture. Nothing you can really do about it now. We are where we are. It is what it is. But know that every recommendation from Vedic culture is for advancing the cause of the purification of the consciousness, for bringing more happiness. Whether married or alone, whether happily living with someone else or hating every moment spent in their association, we should try to remember the Supreme Personality of Godhead and remain devoted to Him.
Marriage from kama just a start,
In ways from dharma to depart.
Of Kali-yuga a sign,
With wrong principles to align.
Proper goal in whichever way,
With Supreme Lord to stay.
So that as ashrama proceeding,
And into eternal life leading.