I'm just going to take a critical approach here, since I think that it's most constructive when you challenge your views as best as possible. It's important to have reasons for your behaviour, so this can help. I may be wrong, and I am sure in many places I will be, but I'll just give my two cents.
without a marriage...an agreement between two or more people to start a family, dependng on culture, "most" of us would not be here.
Wouldn't we then be better for it? After all, better to not be here at all. To paraphrase Schopenhauer:
let people realise the snare that lies in beauty, and the absurd comedy of reproduction will end. The development of the intellect will at last extinguish the will to reproduce, and will at last achieve the extinction of the race. Nothing could form a finer denouement to the insane tragedy of the restless will. Why should the curtain that has just fallen on defeat and death, always rise again upon a new life, a new struggle, and a new defeat? How long shall we be lured into this much ado about nothing, this endless pain that leads only to a painful end? When shall we have the courage to fling defiance into the face of the will? To tell it that the loveliness of life is a lie and that the greatest boon of all is death.
It's for no coincidence that in Buddhist countries, marriage was not a rite conducted by monks, as if they were in some way priests, but by Brahmins. Fundamentally, marriage is not a Buddhist institution, but an inheritance of whatever culture one is apart of. In many Buddhist countries this was the inheritance of the Indo-European patriarchal model, and in others you see all sorts of arrangement: polygyny, polyandry, endogamy, exogamy, matrilineality, patrilineality, etc. None of which were decided upon by Buddhist norms. Of course, people will develop and define their identity of "Buddhist" in order to suit themselves, being naturally acting in self-interest, and you will find that they will often merge, and people will come up with all sorts of excuses for their behaviour within any contortion of Buddhist logic possible.
The idea that somehow marriage is for love, or exists for love, is really absurd. It exists because of selfish human desires, which perpetuate suffering. For most of history, the idea that you had to love the person you marry would be viewed as foreign - this is an entirely modern view, which only arises because we have the ability to continue civilization without a 2.3 rate of replacement. Marriage exists because males had preferred it, for the propagation of their genes (as expressed in their own sexual desire), and because women had preferred it, for the raising of propagation of their genes and ability to raise children (as expressed in both their own sexual desire and hypergamous tendencies).
But for the record, if you are in a marriage, by all means, it makes sense to treat the person you are with with the most compassion you can - in this sense I agree with you reddust. However, in practice, it is most compassionate to actually divorce and not be in a relationship. Fundamentally, this is a hard truth, but I think you will know it to be true.
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
If one is living a householder life, but simply isn't married, I think it raises people's hackles somewhat when people mention marriage as some special source of samsaric activity, since we can probably find plenty of non-married, and even celibate householders (and renunciates too for that matter) who have just as much obstruction via their non-marriage relationships with things, people, etc. Heck, for plenty of people lack of relationship is as binding to them as relationships are.
How can you be obstructed by the lack of something? I also happen to lack a ferret. Am I obstructed by my lack of a ferret?
Marriage (-gamy) is not just a "special source" of samsaric activity, it is the prime source.
In Melford Spiro's "Buddhism and Society," his interviews with Burmese monks yielded almost a unanimous reply: the most difficult thing about monasticism, is celibacy. From the beginning to the end of the path, everyone's greatest obstacle is sexual desire. Sexual desire is the most basic unit of samsara, and is expressed in mating.
I think people are afraid of not being able to affirm their own lifestyles, and indeed, this is important for self-esteem. But really, you'll be better separate. I don't mean that you will want to be separate, or that it's easy to control yourself when desires arise, it obviously isn't as even Spiro's monks demonstrate, but it's better than marriage because marriage is a source of suffering. Of course, if you want to have a special "best buddy" and call it "marriage" then by all means, that's probably alright.
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
I don't think there's one answer, marriage simply isn't for some people..and that should be respected for sure. I also don't see eye to eye with the viewpoint of renunciation of outer things being a valid path for everyone either.
I don't think being single is really tantamount to renunciation, since it's just the lack of having acted. One does not need to engage in any formal ceremony of refusing to act, or renunciation, to not marry.
But what does it mean to say that not marrying is not a valid path for everyone?
Isn't everyone born single?
When is marriage a better choice than being single?
I can only imagine that the circumstances in which one is actually better off being married are ones in which one must be dependant - in which case marriage is more or less slavery (which is implied in the Sanskrit term for wife).
I actually would like to post some quotations from the tripitaka about marriage, but I think it might be too much for any prospective replier to take in. More or less, the picture you'll get is that, in marriage, treat your spouse well, but no marriage is best.