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Vedanta Is for Marriage, Kids and Religion
Isaiah: Dear James, I have restarted reading the book and listening to your Berlin talks. To my surprise, my wife decided to listen to the series with me. She and I have had increasing friction over our spiritual beliefs and ideas. We were having constant misunderstandings when I would try to explain my reasons for approaching life in certain ways (as per Vedanta thinking). As an act of goodwill she offered to listen to the talks to try to gain some kind of insight into what I am thinking. She has been my biggest supporter when it comes to pursuing the religious aspects of Hinduism and learning Vedanta. But she is a Christian, and we have had trouble coming to terms on certain issues.
James: It is good she is trying to understand. She needs to know that Vedanta is not a religion. It is just knowledge of reality. It is not in conflict with anything. Vedanta has no problem with religion. In fact once self-knowledge happens the person will have a religious attitude toward life because self-knowledge necessarily includes God and the proper relationship of the individual to God, i.e. devotion.
Isaiah: Anyhow, when listening to the first talk from Berlin she had a question about a statement you made. At one point you talk about pursuing freedom 100%. You say something about how some people say they want moksa but they still they want the wife, the house, the kids, etc. She thought that maybe you meant that somehow these things were opposed to the pursuit of moksa. What I told her I thought you meant was that you were saying that some people say they want moksa but they still think they can makes things work for themselves in samsara. Is this correct or would you explain it differently?
James: This is a major doubt related to Vedanta. Ostensibly, you don’t get married and have kids because you want to be free of samsara. You want a certain result – perhaps some kind of feeling of family love, etc. I don’t know what people who marry want, because it makes no sense to me, but it is clear that they want something. So what is motivating this choice and the actions that it entails?
Freedom from some sense of inadequacy. Often there is no thought to it at all. People just cannot imagine living alone without support, without something to do that society approves of. There are perhaps other hidden factors – the desire for immortality, etc. You do not get free of your idea of yourself as a husband/wife/mother/father by joining the institution of marriage. The demands of this identity may cause you to question it, but basically you identify with the required roles. But if you think about it carefully, the underlying motive of all pursuits, including marriage and kids, is a desire for freedom.
If you recognize that, you can then become a karma yogi, meaning you can do your marriage as a sadhana, take care of your duties and gradually work out the marriage vasana in such a way that your mind becomes non-attached and contemplative. Then you can go directly for moksa. If you don’t do your marriage as karma yoga, then the marriage/kids vasana will morph into something else – people even divorce, remarry and start a second family because the vasana is so entrenched they cannot imagine living without it. Usually, however, they move into some other samsaric pursuit because the energy has to go somewhere.
Isaiah: Okay, sorry for so many questions, but I’ve noticed if I don’t go ahead and ask I forget them. Well, I hope that everything in samsara is going great for you.
~ The self, pretending to be Isaiah
James: It certainly is, although there is no samsara for me. Take care of yourself. My regards to your wife. You are welcome.
~ The self, pretending to be the big Vedanta guy