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Human Life and Problems

Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda
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As human beings we have achieved a level of material progress we would not have even dreamed of barely a century ago. The marvels of modern technology have given us enormous power over the forces of nature. We have conquered many disasters but the ultimate question is: 'Are we happier than our ancestors were in the past?' The answer is: 'No'.

The abuse of women, children and the underprivileged religious and racial discrimination, color bar, and caste distinction continue on unabated.

Perhaps those who enjoy material comforts suffer more acutely than their 'poor' fellow beings. Mental illnesses, stress and loneliness are some of the serious problems we now face in our modern society. But the vital question is: Who is responsible for all the evils that haunt the world today?'

There are many who are quite eager to take the credit for the progress that mankind has achieved. Religionists, scientists, politicians and economists- are all quick to claim that humanity is indebted to them for progress. But who must share the blame? I believe that everyone is equally responsible. Let us turn the spotlight on ourselves and ask ourselves to declare in all honesty if we also have been responsible for failing to bring peace and happiness to our fellow beings.

All of us are responsible for some of the horrors taking place in our midst today because we are too afraid to tell the truth. Let us take for example the exploitation of man's desire for sensual gratification. Greed for money and power has led some unscrupulous people to develop a multi-million dollar industry, to providing sensual pleasures in every possible way and young children are being trapped and victimized in the process.

Never before in the history of the world, has the human race been in such great need to be free from conflict, ill-feeling, selfishness, decent and strife. We are in dire need of peace nor only in our personal life at home and work, but also at the global level. The tension, anxiety and fear arising from the conflict are not only disruptive but continue to exert a constant drain on our well-being, mentally and physically. In their desire to completely dominate everything around them, humans have become the most violent beings in this world. They have succeeded, to some extent, but in so doing have paid a terrible price. They have sacrificed peace of mind for material comfort and power.

The basic problem we face today is moral degeneration and misused intelligence. In spite of all the advances made by science and technology, the world is far from being safe and peaceful. Science and technology have indeed made human life more insecure than ever before. If there is no spiritual improvement in the way we handle our problems then humanity itself is in danger of being wiped out.

GOING BEYOND WORLDLY PLEASURES

The religions of the world have always maintained that human happiness does not depend merely upon the satisfaction of physical appetites and passions, or upon the acquisition of material wealth and power. Even if we have all the worldly pleasures, we still cannot be happy and peaceful if our minds are constantly obsessed with anxiety and hatred arising from ignorance with regard to the true nature of existence.

Genuine happiness cannot be defined solely in terms of wealth, power, children , fume or inventions. These no doubt bring some temporary physical and mental comfort but they cannot provide lasting happiness in the ultimate sense. This is particularly true when possessions are unjustly acquired or obtained through misappropriation. They become a source of pain, guilt and sorrow rather than bring happiness to the possessor.

Too often we are made to believe that pleasing the five senses can guarantee happiness. Fascinating sights, enchanting music, fragrant scents, delicious tastes and enticing body contact mislead and deceive us, only to make us slaves to worldly pleasures. While no one will deny that there is momentary happiness in the anticipation of pleasure as well as during the gratification of the senses, such pleasures are fleeting. When one views these pleasures objectively, one will truly understand the fleeting and unsatisfactory nature of such pleasures. One will thus gain a better understanding of realty: what this existence really means and how true happiness can be gained!

We can develop and maintain inner peace only by turning our thoughts inwards instead outwards. We must be aware of the dangers and pitfalls of the destructive forces of greed, hatred and delusion. We must learn to cultivate and sustain the benevolent forces of kindness, love and harmony. The battle-ground is within us and is not fought with weapons or with any other sources but only with our mental awareness of all negative and positive forces within our minds.

Mindfulness makes a full man. A full man speaks with an open mind. And like a parachute, the mind works better when it is fully opened. This awareness is the key to unlock the door from conflict and strife as well as wholesome thoughts emerge.

The mind is the ultimate source of all happiness and misery. For there to be happiness in the world, the mind of an individual must first be at peace and happy. Individual happiness is conducive to the happiness of society, while the happiness of society means happiness of the nation. It is on the happiness of nations that the happiness of this world is built. Here we must use the image of a net. Imagine the whole universe as an immense net and each being as a single knot in this net. If we disturb one knot, the whole net is shaken. So each individual must be happy to keep the world happy.

From the lessons of life, it is clear that real victory is never gained by strife. Success is be never achieved by conflict. Happiness is never experienced through ill-feeling. Peace is never achieved by accumulating more wealth or gaining worldly power. Peace is gained only by letting go of our selfishness and helping the world with acts of love. Peace in the heart conquers all opposing forces. It also helps us maintain a healthy mind and live a rich and fulfilling life of happiness and contentment. 'Since it is in the minds of men that wars are fought, it is in the minds of men that the fortresses of peace must be built'.

SENSUAL PLEASURES

Today, especially in many so-called affluent societies, people are facing more problems, dissatisfaction and mental derangement than in under-developed societies. This is because men have become slaves in their sensual pleasures and crave for worldly enjoyment without proper moral and spiritual development. Their tensions, fears, anxieties, and insecurity disturb their minds. This state of affairs has become the biggest problem in many countries. Since people in developed societies have not learnt to maintain contentment in their lives hence naturally they will experience unsatisfactoriness.

There are four areas where man is trying to find the aim of life:

- Material or physical level;
-Likes and dislikes or pleasant or unpleasant feeling;
- Studying and reasoning;
- Sympathetic understanding, based on pure justice and fair dealing,

The last one is the realistic and lasting method which never creates disappointment. Today, people need more wealth, not only for their living and to fulfill their obligations, but because their craving for accumulation has increased. It has become a sort of competition.

In experience worldly pleasure there must be an external object or partner but to gain mental happiness it is not necessary to such have an external object.

Many young people have lost confidence in themselves and have to face difficulty in dealing what to do with their lives. The main cause of this mental attitude is excessive ambition and anxieties created by competition, jealousy and insecurity. Such problems naturally create a very bad atmosphere for others who want to live peacefully. It is a fact that when one individual creates a problem, his behavior in turn effects the well being of others.

Animal never experience happiness but pleasure. Happiness is not based on the arbitrary satisfaction of one's own self but in the sacrifice of one's pleasure for the well-being of others.

USING WEALTH PROPERTY

To most people a wealthy person, community or nation is one that is 'rich' in the sense of possessing assets or money which constitute material gain. The word 'wealth' originally meant state of well-being (weal). The word 'commonwealth' carries this meaning. But it is now used to refer to property which generally promotes material well-being rather than the mental state of being well.

Of course we cannot deny that desire for wealth is a valuable adjunct to success if held within proper bounds. Desire , in itself, is not evil. Unrestrained, however, desire leads to restless discontentment, envy, greed, fear and cruelty to fellow beings. The accumulation of money may aid in the achievement of a kind of happiness to some extent, but does not in itself bring total satisfaction. Where most men of vast means fail is when they confuse the means with the end. They do not understand the nature, meaning and proper function of wealth, that is merely a 'means' by which one can gain the 'end' of supreme happiness. But one can be happy without being rich. An old Chinese tale will illustrate this.

Once there was a king who wanted to know how to be truly happy. One of his ministers advised him that to be happy he would have to wear the shirt of a man who was truly happy. After a long time he found such a man, but the happy man had no shirt to give the king. That was why he was happy!

Wealth should be used well and wisely. It should be used for one's welfare as well as that of others. If a person spends his time clinging to his property, without fulfilling his obligations toward his country, people and religion, he will lead an empty life plague with worries. Too many people are obsessed with material gain, to the point that they forget their responsibilities to their families and fellow beings. Happiness is a strange thing. The more you share it, the more you get satisfaction .

If one is selfish, when the time comes for one to leave the world, one will realize too late that one had not made full use of his or her wealth. No one, even a wealthy person, will have really benefited from the riches so painstakingly accumulated.

ACCUMULATION OF WEALTH

Some people think that by accumulation more and more wealth, they can overcome their problems. So they try to become billionaires, working hard, but after becoming billionaires, they have to face many more unexpected problems - insecurity, unrest, enemies and difficulty in maintaining their wealth. This, clearly shows that the accumulation of wealth alone is not the solution for human problems. Wealth no doubt can help to overcome certain problems but not all the world's happiness can be gained through money. Money cannot eradicate natural problems.

Philosophers, great thinkers and rationalists have pointed out the nature of human weaknesses and how to overcome them. However, many people regard them as mere theories and not as solutions to their problems. Sometimes the intellect actually creates more problems because it increases our egoistic opinions about ourselves.

THE BUDDHA'S ADVICE FOR EARNING

Contrary to misconceptions held by certain quarters that Buddhism, with its spirit of tolerance and particularly in its practice of meditation, does not encourage its followers to work hard and to be industrious. The Buddha , in his many discourses, in fact strongly encouraged his followers not to be idle and indolent but to work hard and to be industrious so as to accumulate wealth through righteous means to maintain economic stability. Whilst encouraging the accumulation of wealth, the Buddha incidentally warned his followers not to violate any ethical or religious principles in so doing. He also advised that man should not become a slave to the mere accumulation of wealth just for accumulation for sake but to protect it without neglect and waste. He advised that wealth should serve as an adequate means of livelihood for the family, should be utilized to assist relatives and friends where necessary, and to help the poor and needy as charitable acts.

In his discourse on various types of happiness in relation to wealth, the Buddha gave four practical classifications of happiness as follows:

- Happiness in the possession of wealth through righteous and legitimate means

- Happiness through the proper and correct usage of accumulated wealth;

- Happiness in the knowledge free from indebtedness to anyone;

- Happiness in the knowledge that no illicit or illegitimate means had been employed in the course of accumulating wealth and that no one had been harmed or injured in so doing.

MAN'S PLACE ON THIS PLANET

From the Buddhist point of view, man is different from animals because only he alone has developed his intelligence and understanding to reflect his reasoning. Man means 'one who has mind to think'. The purpose of religion is to help man to think

correctly, to raise him above the level of the animal, to help him understand his relationship with his universe and live in harmony with it so that he reaches his ultimate goal of supreme happiness and fulfillment.

The three questions which have baffled man ever since he was able to satisfy his three basic survival needs of food, shelter and procreation are:'Who am I? What am I doing here? Am I needed? Throughout the history of man, many thought-systems have evolved, with religion being foremost among them, to provide answers to these questions. Naturally, since man asked them in the first place, the answers were all seen from the point of view of man himself.

MAN IN THE UNIVERSE

Long ago man had been seen himself as being in the centre of the Universe, as its most important inhabitant. According to this point of view , the world was made for humans, for themselves to obtain from it what they wanted because they were the most favored creatures on it and everything that existed on this planet was for their sole pleasure.

This so called "Humanistic" view may be directly responsible for the terrible rape of our planet and our disregard for the rights of other beings which co-exist with us. For example there have been tragic cases where certain species of animals become extinct through needless slaughter by unsympathetic humans in pursuit of their sporting pleasure or business purposes. Even today the subjugation of nature by science and technology is being applauded. We must increase the number of those amongst us who have already realized the vast destruction that has been wrecked by man in the name of 'progress'. Up until now nature has been most forgiving and it has allowed man to continue to think that this planet was made for him to rape and plunder at will, to satisfy his insatiable greed for material possessions and sensual gratification. Today there are many warning signs to indicate that the comfortable times are about to end. Hopefully, if Compassion and Right View will not save the world , then at least the same selfishness and desire for self-preservation and self-gratification will force man to give some sensible thought to our impoverished environment and our suffering fellow creatures on this earth.

To understand the place of man in the Universe from a Buddhist point of view we must first of all look at the Buddha's views on the cosmos. According to Him, the Universe is to be understood in terms of a vast cosmic space. His teaching categorized the whole universe into three groups: planets with living beings, planets with elements and only space itself.

We can see man as a specially favored creature that had come into existence to enjoy the pleasures of a specially formed planet or the centre of the universe, Buddhism views man as a tiny being not only in strength but also in life span. Man is no more than just another creature but with intelligence that inhabits universe.

Biologically, humans are weaker than any other beings big or small. Other animals are born armed with some sort of weapon for their own protection and survival. Humans, on the other hand have their mind for every thing but not as a weapon. Humans are regarded as cultured living beings because they are to harmonize with others but not to destroy them. Religion was discovered by them for this purpose. Everything that lives share the same life force which energizes man. They are part of the same cosmic energy which takes various forms during endless rebirths, passing from human to animal, to divine form and back again, motivated by the powerful craving for existence (the survival instinct) which takes them from birth to death and to rebirth again in a never-ending cycle called samsara. The three detrimental sources of man which bind him to samsara are Greed, Hatred and Delusion.

This cycle can only be broken irrevocably through the development of Wisdom which destroy these fetters and puts an end to craving. Our share fate as beings who inhabit this planet is that we all want desperately to go on living.

'All tremble at the rod
All fear death
Knowing that
One should neither strike
nor cause to strike' (Dhammapada)

All things depend on each other for their existence. A man cannot see himself as different from (let alone being superior to) other beings because his body is solely dependent on food, which means he is dependent on plants, water, oxygen, etc. for his existence. At the same time his mind also exists dependently because the existence of thoughts rely on sense data which are derived from the external world of objects and persons. The whole universe must be seen as an immense net: if only one knot in it is shaken, the whole net vibrates. Man owes allegiance to the world because he is dependent on it for his existence both physically and mentally. His attitude towards the world should therefore not be the arrogance of a pampered only child but one of humility: the world was not made for him alone, nor is the world always made out in his favor. Worldly conditions have no favoritism; they are neither kind nor cruel but neutral. Man exists because the rest of the world allows him to do so.

Therefore he should not try to squeeze things out from the world only for his own benefit. He must maintain a sense of awe and respect towards nature and all beings. Man is a relative newcomer to the planet Earth. He must learn to respect his other brethren. He must learn to behave more like a guest rather than a player in a card game where the winner takes all.

It was in recognition of this interdependence that the Buddha advised his followers to practice metta (loving-kindness) to all, to radiate that compassion towards all beings. The Buddha does not mean that men should extend their love to fellow human beings only (he certainly does not recommend special treatment for their 'fellow Buddhists'). Whenever he talks about loving others he always speaks of 'all beings' (sabbe satta) even those lacking material form, the conscious, the super conscious.

Three modes of birth: living beings are those that are moisture-born, egg-born, womb-born and those spontaneously arising in other planes of existence. Clearly the Buddha was teaching that if a man is to live on this planet he must develop an attitude of loving kindness towards not only fellow human beings but all beings that inhabit this planet as well as in other planes of existence. Only then can he vanquish the selfish thoughts which place his needs and survival above the needs of all others.

In Buddhist cosmology man is simply the inhabitant of one of the existing planes one can go to after death. These range from superconscious levels through the highly sensuous down to the four unhappy states. Man occupies a mid-way position in these realms. The so-called divine realms are 'happy' state but they too are impermanent. Although there are indications to lead us to believe that some intelligent living beings do exist in other world systems, it is not verifiable whether there are beings similar to humans in other planets of the universe. It is in terms of this infinite vast cosmic context that Buddhism tries to understand the place of man in the universe. In terms of that context man seems to be small. We must add to this man's propensity for cruelty, for his ability to inflict pain on others which makes him at times far less admirable than animals which only attack to satisfy their basic need for food, shelter or sex.

MAN'S UNIQUE POSITION

One might argue that this is a very negative view of man, relegating him to an inferior position and disregarding his magnificent achievements in philosophy, religion, psychology, science, the arts, architecture, literature and development of culture and the like. Far from it, in this cosmic context humans assume a unique position because they have the most rare privilege of easy accessibility to salvation. It is for three reasons.

Human world is a good, well-balanced mixture of pleasure and pain. When pleasure is intensified (in the divine realms) or pain in predominant (in the lower world) one's mind does not turn towards spirituality. Buddhists maintain that extreme austerity or extreme self indulgence are not conducive to the development of wisdom and understanding . The Middle Path between extreme pleasure and austerity is advocated and the human world provides man the opportunity to tread the Middle Path. The second reason is the relative short span of human life and the unpredictability of the time of death. Faced with imminent death one is more often inclined to spirituality. The third reason is that while in other realms the inhabitants are mere passive recipients of the effects of their past kamma, man is a favorable position to create fresh kamma, and is thus able to shape his own destiny.

All of this gives man the responsibility to work out his own salvation in the human plane. He is in effect his own Creator and Savior. Many others believe that religion has come down from heaven but Buddhists know that Buddhism started on the earth and reached heaven.

What this implies is that each man has within him the Buddha-seed (potential for perfection) which he can develop without any external aid. One can become a Buddha through birth in the human plane , because it is here that he can experience existence in its entirely. Buddhists would certainly agree with Shakespeare's view of the human paradox -

What a piece of work is man
how noble in reason,
how infinite in faculties in form and moving;
how express and admirable in action,
how like an angel in apprehension,
how like a god, the beauty of the world
the paragon of animals; and yet to me what is this quintessence of dust?
-Hamlet 2-2

In many ways man is ignorant, yet he has the seed to become the highest of all beings, a fully enlightened one. Some people say that human life is between heaven and hell because the human mind can be developed easily to experience heavenly bliss, and when it is abused it could very easily experience suffering in hell.

Man is man only if he has that human concern or human heartiness.
Proud man hath no heaven
The envious man hath no neighbor
An angry man hath not even himself.
-Chinese philosophy

'The individual by himself is helpless. Hence the social life of man which brings forth co-operative power. Man cannot be man without society. Man is one with nature' . -- (Greek philosopher)

In the teaching of the Buddha it is mentioned that human beings experience heavenly bliss when the objects impinging on the five senses are favorable and soothing.

On the other hand they also experience suffering like in hell if the objects are irritable and disturbing.

WHAT BUDDHISM REQUIRES OF MAN

What Buddhism require of man? A Chinese scholar once asked a monk what constituted the essence of Buddhism and the sage replied:

To do good, not to do evil
To purify mind,
This is the teaching of all the Buddha's.

Naturally this scholar had expected a much more 'profound' answer, something deep and abstruse, and he remarked that even a child of three could understand that. But the sage replied that while a child of three could understand it, a man of eighty could not practice it !

The Buddha has similarly cautioned his attendant disciple , Ananda not to regard seemingly simple teachings as something easy to follow.

This is the essence of Buddhism- Man is required to follow startlingly 'simple' precepts in his search for emancipation, but the practice of these can be extremely difficult.

To begin with:

-he must not take the life of any living creature knowingly;

- he must not take anything not given

-he must refrain from lying and harsh frivolous speech;

-he must guard against sexual misdemeanor;

-he must no take anything (like drugs and liquor) which causes him to lose his mindfulness.

These are important Buddhist principles to observe.

These principles are not meant for expression but to be simply put into practice with understanding. The central problem of the spiritual life is one of active, practical application, not a matter of intellectual knowledge.

The ultimate aim of man in Buddhism is to break finally and irrevocably the bonds that bind him to constant rebirth in the repeated birth- and- death cycle of samsara. He is destined to be subjected to an endless round of rebirths because in his ignorance, man conceives of an enduring entity called on 'ego' or 'self'.

Taking the illusion of an ego for real he develops selfish desires. Man is thus endlessly struggling to satisfy his cravings but he is never satisfied. It is like scratching a sore to find temporary relief, only to discover that in doing so the itch has increased because the sore has been aggravated.

THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE

Marriage is a partnership in which two individuals of opposite sexes but equal worth as human beings choose to live together. A happy and lasting marriage requires a lot of hard work and commitment where love is fed with shared experiences, joys and sorrows.

Marriage is the culmination of love by two individuals committed to one another by a common bond. 'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach ...'(Robert Browning). We believe as Browning does, that love is the essence of life itself, something which transcends boundaries, race and creed.

Marriage has failed to fulfill its purposes today because people have failed to recognize the importance of equality and respect for women. These privileges are enjoyed by many women in a large number of areas of human activity. Strangely when it comes to marriage, women are still treated badly. The importance of the role of women in society was undoubtedly widened after the advent of Buddhism in India, giving them a wide scope to venture into vacations besides house-keeping. In spite of this, for the vast majority, to get married and rear children remained the normal choice of career. But there was a difference: married life was ennobled by the noble position given to it by the Buddha himself to such an undertaking. He lifted the married women from a state of servant to a state of responsibility and importance. As an indication of the Buddha's concern for maintenance of happiness through marriage, he laid down specific instructions for the guidance of husband and wife.

The Buddha was full of praise for happy couples. Among his lay disciples were Nakulamata and Nakulapita who were considered most eminent for having lived together amicably for a long time. The Buddha praised them and gave instructions to others as to how they too could live happily in marriage. These instructions given over two thousand five hundred years ago hold good even to this day. Much misery has been experienced in modern times by men and women in married life because they deviated from these instructions.

The institution of marriage in ancient India was governed by the concept of caste, the position of women, the rights of men and the four stages of the individual's life. The Buddha's rejection of the concept of the caste system meant that the Buddhist institution of marriage was emancipated from these rigid and inflexible rules, regulations and rituals which had become a great obstacle to the free and unprejudiced behavior of the members of society both male and female.

The discourse of Fundamentals of Buddhist Social Ethic, (Sigalovada Sutra) generally lays down the basic pattern of relationships between husband and wife, parents and children, and enumerates the reprisal duties that bind them together emphasizing the most essential aspects of their common life.

The comprehensive study of the Buddhist institution of marriage outlined in the Buddha's teaching clearly shows that was intended for the enjoyment, promotion and moralization of biological needs, psychological satisfaction and material well-being of both husband and wife without any reference to specific customs, sacraments or any kind of ideology, religious or otherwise.

According to the Buddha, cultural compatibility between husband and wife was considered as one of the factors of successful married life. Many of today's problems in marriage arise from the inability of the parties concerned to recognize the sacrifices involved. Marriage is not simply lust and romance. Romance is not a bad thing in itself, but it is emotional and has limitations.

There will be less disillusion and heartache in marriage if we understand that, from the illusions of romance, a deep and abiding love may emerge. Love is a passionate and abiding desire, on the part of two people, to produce together conditions under which each can express his of her real self and to produce together an intellectual soil and an emotional climate in which each can flourish, far superior to what either could achieve alone.

In the past we heard of blissfully married couples who shared the sweetness of love earned through years of being together, for better or for worse. For most who have been long-married couples, 'happily ever after did not just happen. Couples in long, happy marriages mentioned this fact of life when asked what made their relationships a success'. 'We worked to keep the romance alive. We enjoyed our differences and learned from them.

'We voiced our discontents freely and deal with them right away instead of letting them build into thunderclouds'. But in a way, the thing all successful couples have in the common was reflected in this observation: 'Even when things were really bad, we were both too stubborn to quit'. Perhaps what characterizes modern couples with problems is that they want things to work out too easily as it happens on television. No, everything good must be earned through hard work.

For many the road to marital longevity has not been soothe. The bumps included many things: inability to have children, the death of a child, a disabled child. a difficult economic crisis and highly stressful career changes.

Although none of the couples surveyed said so specifically it was obvious that two other factors were important to their marital success. Firstly, even though some couples forced considerable differences in personality and sometimes carried heavy emotional baggage, they maintained respect for one another always and refrained from trying to remake their partners. A wife once told her husband: 'You married me for what I am'. He retorted, 'No, I married you for what you would become'. Now of course both parties were wrong because their expectations were different and they were unwilling to compromise. Secondly, none of the marriages was marred by psychological disturbances too severe to preclude a true partnership. There was a wife who always used to insult her husband even for a minor mistake stating: 'You are a stupid man'. The husband on the other hand was a tolerant man. However, one day when he was scolded by the wife using the same word the husband retorted: ' I think you are right. If I were not stupid man, do you think that I would ever marry a woman like you?' From that day onwards she did not repeat that insulting word.

To achieve a successful marriage, couples also need to understand and accept the differences between the two genders. Couples sometimes become frustrated with each other and wish that their partner was more like them. Knowing and being able to tolerate the differences between men and women helps a lot in marriage.

A mate who is willing to weather the hard times and make the adjustments that come with children, job changes, financial difficulties or simply learning more about the person one is married to, is the real secret to a successful marriage.

Another saying on married life: Wife becomes a mistress to a young man, a companion to the middle aged, and a nurse to an old man'.

Many couples with children are determined to stay together at least until their children are grown up. With just a little effort these years can be among the most fulfilling times in a marriage.

Marriage is a blessing but many people turn their married lives into misery and a curse. Poverty is not the main cause of an unhappy married life. Both husband and wife must learn to share the pleasure and pain of everything in their daily lives. Mutual understanding is the secret of a happy family life.

In a true marriage, man and woman think more of the partnership than they do of themselves individually. Marriage is a bicycle made for two. A feeling of security and contentment comes from mutual efforts.

A wife is not her husband's servant. She deserves respect as an equal. Though a man is generally regarded even today as being the bread winner helping out with household chores do not demean his masculinity. At the same time, a nagging and grumpy wife is not going to make up for shortages in the home. Neither will her suspicion of her husband help to make a happy marriage. If her husband has shortcomings, only tolerance and kind words will get him to see light. It is important in marriage to keep tolerance alive throughout. Little things can mean a lot. Right understanding and moral conduct are the practical sides of wisdom.

From time immemorial, flowers have been considered the language of love. They don't cost much. Wives, or for that matter all women, attach a lot of importance to birthdays and anniversaries, and caring husbands should never be too busy to keep love alive with little tributes and attentions. Trivialities such as these are at the bottom of most marital happiness. Wives do appreciate such little attentions from their courteous husbands and it is this lifelong goodwill that keeps the home fires burning.

A carefully developed family affection is a simple formula that works both for keeping marriages together and bringing up children of good character. True love means being willing to value ones' partner and being unwilling to devalue him or her in the presence of other people. This willingness has to spring from the heart. The key difference between marriages that work and those that do not is how much a couple value each other. Criticizing, putting down or belittling a spouse particularly in the presence of other people, erodes a relationship. And even this is not enough as each still has to value the other as he or she is a rare gem.

Sometimes words are not necessary if there is understanding. An elderly father one confessed to his children that he loved their mother very much and told them to take care of her always, even after he was no more. He confided to them that she was the best woman in the world and that the family as indeed lucky to have her around. The wife, now in her 60's, has seven grown children and as many grandchildren. Yet she confessed that she never once heard the endearing words 'I love You' ever uttered or whispered to her- not even a variation of it. The wife, who belongs to the old school of Chinese philosophy, is quite content with her husband's own caring ways and concern for her happiness in their blissful married life. Her female intuition somehow tells her that deep down in his heart he truly loves her and that she could not have been dealt a better deck of cards. It is in the nature of some people not to speak out their feelings, but they care. We have to watch out for their actions. The next key to a harmonious marriage is to work towards achieving one's objective. It is a law of nature that if no effort is put into, for instance, a garden, weeds will grow instead of beautiful flowers. The same goes for marriage.

Faith, not necessary in the religious sense, (though it helps tremendously if a couple shares similar religious beliefs) is another vital ingredient in a lasting relationship.

How important is sex in a marriage? Sex is a natural instinct and if enjoyed within its proper boundaries can bring about great happiness. Sex helps to keep a marriage glowing, and is an important and vital area that keeps a marriage together. It creates intimacy, a shred experience between two people which no one else is party to. It makes the relationship precious and private. The important thing to appreciate here is the fact that men and women see sex differently. While men may view sex as an intense physical activity, women do not. For her, it involves an interaction with the man she loves, that is with gentleness, his care and concern. Understanding the fact that women need intimacy and closeness makes the sexual activity a lot more meaningful and fulfilling.

Sex is much more than the gratification of an appetite. It is the basis of an intimate lifelong companionship, and the means of bringing into the world children whom we love and cherish as long as we live.

Through the ages we have learned that love and mutual respect must be the basis of close intimacy between the sexes. Sex, like any other tendency in man, must be regulated by reason. Man, not being governed by instincts like lesser animals, would find his tendencies running wild were he not to regulate them with reason.

There a saying:' Like fire, sex is a good servant but a bad master'

A society grows a network of relationships which are mutually intertwined and inter-dependent. Every relationship is a wholehearted commitment to support and to protect others in a group of community.

Marriage plays a very important part in this strong web of relationships of giving support and protection. A good marriage should grow and develop gradually from understanding and not impulse, from true loyalty and not just sheer indulgence.

The institution of marriage provides a fine basis for the development of culture, a delightful association of two individuals to be nurtured, and to be free from loneliness, deprivation and fear. In marriage, each partner develops a complementary role, giving strength and moral courage to each other, with each manifesting a supportive and appreciative recognition to the other's skills.

There must be no thought of man or woman being superior - each is complementary to the other, a partnership of equality, exuding gentleness, generosity, calm and dedication and most important of all, self-sacrifice.

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Vietnamese version : Các vấn đề của xã hội hôm nay ( Online)
Vietnamese version : Các vấn đề của xã hội hôm nay ( CD-Rom)
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Source : BuddhaSasana Home Page

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Layout : Nhi Tuong
Update: 01-01-2003


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