The dog threw up at 3:30 a.m. so I decided it was the perfect time to finish my letter to you. I’ve begun it a dozen times because I wanted it to be right. I wanted to say ‘I love you’ in a deep, sweeping, passionate way without somehow becoming overtly sentimental, or sappy.
But after a week of thinking and re-writing I still don’t have that formula. Instead I’ve found the perfect way to tell you I love you, and that is by completely overthinking it!!! That’s me-style, yes?
Plus, as per my usually just-a-tad-off-subject to the outsider, I’ve fixated on a phrase I heard maybe three years ago:
“Attachment is the root of suffering.” Or reflexively, “The root of suffering is attachment.” Other versions replace attachment with expectation, yet another with acquisition.
Long ago I had asked myself how marriage could be supported or degraded by this/these statement(s), and now, stay with me because I promise this letter will get better. But the moment these two ideas collided again– marriage and suffering due to attachment– it felt as though I needed to answer the question(s):
Did our marriage constitute “attachment”? And was our marriage the root of our suffering? Was I causing you suffering by loving you?
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Way too much for a simple letter to my Valentine. But I couldn’t shake it. I intended to find an answer to my question.
So I did what every good scholar would do– I googled it. “Attachment…suffering… marriage”.
Well, actually, first I googled to make sure the quote was actually even a quote. I found that it did indeed come from Buddha. From the Sunakkhatta Sutta: To Sunakkhatta. Yes, the quote is legit.
Now here’s the rabbit hole we need to go in and out of quickly: At first I was trying to say, “Well, does marriage really constitute attachment?” Maybe the meaning of this word ATTACHMENT was really FALSE ATTACHMENT. But that argument was obviously weak as it rested purely on semantics.
Instead it was more of a ‘duh’ on that one because, YES, marriage is an attachment to someone. The deepest attachment, in my opinion. The more I thought about it, the more I read, the more perplexed I became. And then I stopped.
This line in an article I’d been reading titled, “A Happy Married Life: A Buddhist Perspective” gave me that pause. “When one ceases to crave for sensual pleasure and does not seek to find physical comfort in the company of others, the need for marriage does not arise.”
This is where my questions ended (to a point, mind you), and my understanding grew. At least my understanding of myself. I suddenly realized that perhaps I didn’t subscribe to going AWAY from other humans and isolating oneself to seek enlightenment.
I didn’t believe that ‘physical comfort in the company of others’ was a crutch. I believe it is the true nature of human beings to be together. To learn together, to work together, to live together, to love together, to get married.
I didn’t think that the best practice to learning how to be the highest form of being could be achieved alone, or in a vacuum. I felt that enlightenment, for me, would be reached with YOU. Not just with you, but with the community of humans earth is made up of (there are some real philosophical difficulties here, too, I realize).
I said to myself, “I do not need to seek personal asceticism through giving up my relationships.”
Now I want to be careful here to point out that there is pure merit in going away and removing oneself from casual society for a time– even sometimes an extended period of time– to meditate, contemplate, and receive a truer self. Prophets through the ages have shown this.
Out the other end of my rabbit hole I realized very clearly that YOU are what I both wanted and needed. I felt as though we chose and choose each other in a way that sought the best for one another. Here I can subscribe to a very Buddhist principle of a happy marriage and that is the reality that, “marriage is a partnership of two individuals and that this partnership is enriched and enhanced when it allows the personalities involved to grow.”
Marriage is the ground where we should employ our most virtuous characteristics– love, patience, self-less ness, tolerance, and understanding. Marriage is the space where we can practice being the closest to an individual, and giving the most space to that same love.
Here, the Buddhist perspective is very clear and uplifting, “Man and woman need the comfort of each other when facing problems and difficulties. The feelings of insecurity and unrest will disappear and life will be more meaningful, happy and interesting if there is someone who is willing to share another’s burden.”
Marriage can and does cause suffering. Anyone who has been married can attest to that. But is it not important to work through suffering to brighter ends? To more brilliant outcomes? To becoming enlightened? To becoming one?
Again, the Buddhist perspective is insightful, “A successful marriage is always a two-way path: “humpy, bumpy” — it is difficult but it is always a mutual path.” The married path can be “humpy, bumpy”, certainly. But it is always taken TOGETHER.
I’m married to you because I love you. I’m married because I don’t simply believe in the institution, I believe in the evolution. The evolution of two individuals giving directly to one another in their most self-LESS practices. Not easy. Lifetime practice.
I don’t simply love you. I like you. I choose you. My love, in the immortal words of Macklemore, “If I only had one helmet, I’d give it to you, give it to you.”
Images: Aubreigh Parks Photography
All quotes taken from: A Happy Married Life: A Buddhist Perspective