Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Will Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba approve of a man of nearly mid 60s marrying a woman in her twenties?

Last updated on 15th Jan. 2016

I was asked for my view on this matter put up in a recent Facebook post here, https://www.facebook.com/sathyanarayana.raju.9/posts/720986948037792.

[Update on 15th Jan. 2016
Brother Hari Sivakumar on Google+ share of this post contents wrote (he also added the same comment as an anonymous user on this blog post):

Sai Ram brother,

Please see Divine Discourse - 3rd September 1996 - first broadcast on 2012-10-04
(Linked here http://dl.radiosai.org/DD_1996_09_03.mp3)

Between minutes 18-21, Swami brings up this EXACT issue about societal norms (Samskriti), and a man of 60 marrying a girl of 20.
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I responded to him as follows:

Thanks a ton for giving the discourse audio reference/download link. Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba gives the example of a 60 year old man marrying an 18 year old girl as the man did not have any other helpmate at home. Bhagavan further says that when society sees them walking together on the street they will be viewed as grandfather and granddaughter (instead of husband and wife). So Bhagavan has clearly disapproved of 60 year old man marrying an 18 year old girl (at least, in traditional Indian society/community). From this discourse, I think Bhagavan's views would extend the disapproval to 60 year or 60 plus year old man marrying a girl in the twenties (including late twenties). I will update both my blog post & Facebook post on this topic suitably. Thanks a ton again brother Hari Sivakumar. Jai Sairam!

end-Update 15th Jan. 2016]

I responded via comments as follows (slightly edited):
My view is that the challenge would be in raising any (biological) kids that such a couple may have in today's world. It may have been different fifty years ago if the couple had enough money.
Regarding Swami's view: I was sitting in Sai Kulwant Hall when Swami made an unexpected/unscheduled discourse in May 2010. The discourse contents are available here: http://sssbpt.org/pages/Prasanthi_Nilayam/dd18052010.html.

One of the focal points of the discourse was the role of the husband and the role of the wife in a marriage.
"Just as women should observe Patrivrata Dharma (Dharma for a chaste woman), men should also adhere to Sativrata Dharma (Dharma for an ideal husband). A woman must be a Pativrata (chaste woman), so also her husband, a Sativrata (ideal husband). The wife should never go against the command of her husband, similarly, the husband should conduct himself according to the wishes of his wife and should look after her with great love." - This extract puts the matter in a nutshell. The husband should look after his wife with great love! Even if the man is elder to the woman by decades if the man is able to look after his wife with great love and the wife is faithful to her husband, that would make for a happy married life, I guess.

This marriage stuff is a very complex affair, especially for deeply spiritual types. Sometimes it may even be a karmic bond that needs fulfilment in this birth via marriage. Sometimes the young woman may be more interested in spiritual companionship from the very elder man. Society may frown but then as they say in Hindi, Miya Bibi Razi tho kya karega Kazi (if husband and wife are willing then what can the priest do (to stop the marriage)).

In the discourse Swami also said, "But, unfortunately, there are only a few men today who observe Sativrata Dharma though a large number of women adhere to Pativrata Dharma. God is pleased with those women who observe Pativrata Dharma. When there is unity between husband and wife, they can achieve anything and find fulfillment in life. Draupadi had five husbands and she considered them as her five life-breaths. Women today should observe chastity like Sita, Savitri, Draupadi and Damayanti. It is the sacred land of Bharat where you find such a large number of Pativrata women and nowhere else."

Ravi: Swami particularly said that where there is unity between husband and wife, they can achieve anything and find fulfilment in life. But as mentioned in update dated 15th Jan. 2016 at the top of this post, Swami has, in a public discourse, shown disapproval of a sixty year old man marrying an 18 year old girl as society would view them as grandfather and granddaughter (instead of husband and wife).

My own view in this matter is that I leave it to the individuals concerned. If a sixty-plus gentleman in MDH group wants to marry a WILLING & DEEPLY INTERESTED lady a few decades younger than him, I am not going to be critical of that. It is their life and their choice. However, if Madhusudhan Rao Naidu ENCOURAGED such a marriage by stating that it is divinely ordained by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba or something like that, I would be very critical of Madhusudhan Rao Naidu.
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I have given my own view and my understanding of Swami's words on such matters. I am not saying I am right. Maybe my understanding of Swami's words is incorrect. However, my own view is very clear that I WILL NOT OPPOSE OR CRITICIZE a 60 plus year man marrying a young woman in the twenties if both are willing. As far as I am concerned, it is their life and so their choice. Who am I to interfere in their lives? Would I like others interfering in my life? No, I would not.

Now you, ---, may have a very different view than mine. Fine. Let us agree to disagree on this. Mind you, I am not saying that Swami would ENCOURAGE such marriages as a norm. Further, I have also said that if Madhsudhan Rao Naidu has ENCOURAGED such a marriage using the name of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, I would be very critical of Madhusudhan Rao Naidu.
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The post contents above have also been put up on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/1693748484175055, which has attracted a few comments. Some readers may want to view the comments there.

I have given below some of my comments (slightly edited) on the above-mentioned Facebook post:

I think I also read about something similar that Swami said about crossing 50 yrs of age (being time for withdrawal from world and entry into Vanaprastha ashrama). I did NOT say that Swami would encourage marriage of a 60 plus year old man with a twenties something woman. My view is that Swami would not FORBID such a marriage in exceptional cases. About how the man will take care of such a wife 20 years down the line - that's a very valid point. However, some marriage matters are very strange. Sometimes the man has lots of money and the woman is primarily seeking financial security and a few decades together with the man, especially if the woman may think that she would benefit from the elder man's spiritual wisdom. But my view could be wrong. Perhaps others who have experienced Swami's reactions to such marriages are in a much better position to comment on this than me.
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Hmm. You know, I would view that (50 years thing) as a general recommendation from Swami, and not as a kind-of shastra rule. Marriage, especially in Indian context, can be for a variety of reasons. A special case is a widower with children who is looking for a wife to look after the children. My view is that these things are too complex to reduce to a simple rule like no marriage for men above 50 years (without exceptions).
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.. But what I have observed in Prasanthi Nilayam ashram situation is that many strange situations crop up. Late marriage among staff of PN institutions was not unusual. And Swami would not really forbid it. I mean, I am not saying that he would welcome it and say it is wonderful and all that. But he would not forbid it if the persons concerned were determined to marry. Usually it would be the man who is marrying late; but the wife would not be much younger than him. I mean, I have not known of any case of 60 year old man marrying twenties woman among PN staff. It would be more of around 40 year old guy marrying 30-ish woman. ... But among devotees, while I do not know the details, I would not be surprised if some man decided to marry/re-marry at 50 with say a 30-ish/40-ish woman and approached Swami for blessings and got it.
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Personally, I think that marriage for companionship (and not for procreation) among oldies should be fine. The shastras may not have anything on such a marriage but I personally would not be too bothered about that aspect. I don't know whether Swami ever commented upon such a marriage :-).
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I felt it appropriate to mention that I know for certain of a case of (physical form) Swami not only NOT forbidding but also signalling his approval for a POSSIBLE marriage between a late-forties gentleman (who was financially decently placed by Puttaparthi middle-class living standards) and a perhaps early-thirties lady (who was employed and perhaps decently placed by Puttaparthi middle-class living standards). While the marriage did not take place it was clear that Swami had no objection to the marriage POSSIBILITY and had signalled his approval for it if both the gentleman and the lady wanted to go ahead with it.

But I also have been told of a few cases where Swami specifically did not give approval (so could be viewed as disapproval by those who would not go ahead with marriage without approval from Swami) for many marriage proposals related to young men who were physically somewhat close to him. Some of these gentlemen have remained single.

I should also clearly state that I have not read or heard of Swami giving approval & blessings to marriage of any 60 or 60 plus year old gentleman to a twenty-something lady. I think this seems to be a rather extreme case.
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I have been told that, in general, Swami recommended marriage to those alumni of Sai university who took up jobs in the world outside. I have also noted that many alumni who served in Prasanthi Nilayam ashram for years as bachelors, when they did move out and take up a job outside, would get married. For those Sai university alumni who served in the Prasanthi Nilayam system, I know for certain (in the years I was associated with the system and Swami was accessible to alumni/devotees: Jan. 2003 to Mar. 2011) that as a general instruction Swami was OK with marriage for those who wanted to get married. That would surely extend to other Sai devotees serving in the ashram system. I mean, he did not expect all alumni (and surely, all other Sai devotees) who served in Prasanthi Nilayam system to stay unmarried. However, almost all of those alumni who were physically very close to him, would be unmarried (while they were doing that physically close service to Bhagavan). So Brahmacharya seems to have been better for such physically close servitors. Overall, I get the impression that Swami's view was that if somebody is living in regular society outside, "marriage is better". However, for those living in Prasanthi Nilayam ashram Swami had created a wonderful system where they could comfortably lead unmarried Brahmacharya lives if they so chose to do so and one could even say, IMHO, in general, that "Brahmacharya is better" for those living in Prasanthi Nilayam ashram.

11 comments:

  1. Sai Ram Brother,
    I wrote back to Ganti Uncle on this issue. Though I don't take that much interest in his mails I felt like responding to his latest mail in which he criticized MDH V Kumar for his marriage.
    I mean the mere look at the couple especially V Kumar's wife Vasundhara makes you realize that she is happy with the marriage. I mean we cannot be critical when the girl Vasundhara is so happy. It would be absurd on the part of Sai Devotees to criticize a couple who willingly married each other. That is I believe against Law. JAB SHAADI HO HI GAYI HAI TAB AAP KYA KAR SAKTE HO. JUST ACCEPT THE MARRIAGE.
    I feel it all depends on the couple in a relationship. See, if we believe that marriages are by destiny then we have to believe that V Kumar married as per God-Swami's wish. I very much agree with your views. Also, you see woman needs a husband who understands her, who accepts her and who has this capability to make his wife a perfect human being. May be Vasundhara fell in love with the persona of V Kumar or we can also say that his personality or qualities suited her very much in a way that she made it a point to accept him as her husband.
    I feel... you perfectly covered all the points. I hold the same views on chastity and marriage issues. I feel that once two individuals get married it is their duty to live a perfect married life by being loyal to each other. Also, in olden days cases of sages marrying women younger than them were common. Charak Rishi married Sukanya. Vashistha Rishi's wife was also younger than him. There were many such cases. Even the grandmother of Lord Parshuram was younger than his grandfather. In the cases of kings also it was true. So, you can see how women married for spiritual upliftment for marrying such spiritually elevated men gave them freedom to pursue spiritual goals and self realization. As you said some marriages can happen due to power or status which man occupies and the financial security which he gives to his wife. BUT I believe that most of such marriages take place on the basis of common understanding and girl's choice.
    I believe we must not be critical of someone's personal life or marriage. Let us not criticize anyone for marriage. Personally, I can digest a age gap upto 15 years but age gap more than that would be strange for me. But rationally no matter what it is we can't interfere in someone's personal life.
    Who are we to question when the couple is happily married ???

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    1. BTW the gentleman you referred to in your comment is not, I believe, 60 years old, and may be perhaps close to 50 years. The 60 years gentleman referred to by Mr. Ganti in his mail is another person who, according to MDH followers, is not having any plans to marry any young lady. So this blog post is discussion of a hypothetical (imaginary) case of a 60 or 60 plus year man wanting to marry/getting married to a twenty-something lady.

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  2. Then,I feel that marriage according to Indian Dharma is a very complex issue and not merely based on age but there are many other issues as well which are taken into consideration. If we take Universal Values into consideration then also we cannot be wrong. Because in West there is not one but many such cases of a man marrying late in life. Some old people of age group of 80's marry just for helping each other in daily household chores and supporting each other emotionally. I don't think such a marriage is wrong as it is psychologically good for the aged specifically when their children don't live with them or when their children leave them considering them a burden or there can also be cases when children leave their home city for jobs. So, in West it is common for women and men to marry just for the sake of emotional and psychological companionship which I feel is not bad.
    As far as Brahmacharya is concerned it can be possible even after marriage.
    Lord Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa married Devi Sarada who was younger to him by 17-18 yrs.
    Sri.Ramakrishna is regarded as an incarnation of Divine Lord and Devi Sarada is regarded as Goddess Kali's incarnation. Now,Lord Ramakrishna practiced celibacy irrespective of his marital status just to set an example for others who intend to be like him or grow spiritually.

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  3. @Sai Aanchal: Interesting comments & views. Thanks.

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    1. Thanks Brother for reading and publishing my comments.
      Truly appreciate your insightful-transparent views and unbiased notions. I wonder at times that becoming a Lawyer would have justified your personality and values, for the kind of rationality and transparency which you exhibit in your views and ideology. It is always great to discuss with an aware and well read person-Sai Brother like you.
      Thank you and Sai Ram.

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  5. Sai Ram brother,

    Please refer to Divine Discourse - 3rd September 1996 - first broadcast on 2012-10-04 on the Radio Sai Website (http://dl.radiosai.org/DD_1996_09_03.mp3). Between minutes 18-21, Swami talks on EXACTLY this issue, and societal norms (Samskriti).

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    1. Sai Ram,
      I went through the discourse, and I very much agree with Swami.

      I feel is that norms of society vary from society to society.

      Like in Punjab things are different, in Haryana things are different and in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala things would be entirely different. I don't know if you are aware of the social evil called Bride Buying, which is very much relevant in Punjab, Haryana and in some places of Rajasthan as well.

      Now, why are brides being bought over there? Because of the imbalance in the Sex-Ratio. Men don't find appropriate wives for them. So, what they do is buy brides from poor families. The majority of such brides are bought from states in North Eastern India. Below are the links to support my point:

      http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2011/12/bride-buying-in-punjab-and-haryana-a-disgrace-for-the-entire-country/

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4862434.stm

      http://www.vocativ.com/culture/society/bride-buying-indias-darkest-secret/

      If you go through the above links you would understand that for us there are many other social evils or socially problematic issues to focus on.

      Also, Swami preached not one but many things-how a man should behave with a woman, how he should sit next to a woman, the distance which a man should keep from a woman.

      My point is how many follow that?

      Now, in some cases men and women work together in Swami's projects. So, how do you think that societal norm preached by Swami can be applicable everywhere? If they are then they should be applicable in our Organization too and men and women must not work together.

      Then coming back to the point people don't even care about basic teachings of Swami leave aside following societal norms.

      Swami said that it is bad for a man elder to marry a younger woman(Almost forty years younger than him). You see Swami was God and unlike other people around him he was very much aware of the social problems in India. I have read that whenever Swami gave such examples, he even cited a story of a wealthy man who married a young girl violating her wishes. There was huge age gap between them and the girl being depressed committed suicide. Later when the rich man invited a Celibate Brahman to preside over the last rites of his deceased wife and offered him food-that young celibate Brahman later was put to disturbance by the soul of the deceased wife of that man via night dreams. It was through his Guru that he figured out what happened. So, the purpose of this story was that Swami wished to teach that to marry by cheating is a SIN.

      We are discussing over here I guess, Marriages By Force, By Cheating or Fraud or By Illegal means.

      All such marriages where either girl or boy are deceived, cheated by fraud or forced to marry someone illegally are null and void.

      Moreover when we talk of poor women-the chances of their being deceived are more but when it comes to independent successful and rich women then I don’t think they are immature enough not to decide what they are doing. So, the onus lies on women as well. Why do they marry men elder to themselves by thirty years or forty years? Because that is their choice no matter what society believes in. I guess in India Law is above societal beliefs except in cases of Homosexuality. Also, such cases of huge age gap are very exceptional. Point is that a woman should not be deceived and man should not be deceived.

      When people are independent, rich and successful and then their decisions are truly their decisions. We can’t be critical about it. But when things get murky due to conceit, deceptiveness, fraud, cheating or buying someone then that is truly what I despise and consider a major social evil.
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    2. Also, we have many other social problems like Dowry, Child Marriage and Female Foeticide to focus on.

      I would like to know if Swami’s teachings in terms of Simple Marriages without Loud Music or extravagance are being followed by his devotees? Then I would like to know if Swami’s teachings on abolition of Dowry (costly gifts) are being followed by his devotees?

      Very few people might be following such things. Now, these are social problems created by society itself. These are the actual social evils which need to be tackled rather than bothering about self-dependent, positive and willing choices of people.

      After all you cannot force anyone to get married. Also, we cannot prevent anyone from getting married unless they are equally committed to each other and determined to live together.

      Also, as I said in my previous posts marriages with age gap or huge age gap are of concern. But in some cases they might not be when two individuals are determined to live together and be loyal to each other.

      I personally would caution people planning to get married to an individual younger to them by 18-20-40 year. Such a huge age gap requires lot of responsibility and foresightedness on the part of the couple to avoid bitterness or divorce in later stages of life.

      But yes, I won't mind 60-85 year olds marrying in their age groups if their marriage is all about emotional and psychological companionship due to the neglect which they face from their children. After all an old person also needs someone to help, to share and to care, specifically when that old person is not spiritually enlightened to live his or her life in solitude. You are free to disagree and differ from my opinions.

      Thank You.

      Sai Ram :)

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    3. Thanks anonymous (brother Hari Sivakumar, I believe). I have included my response to your comment at the top of this (updated) post.

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  6. Nice thoughts on the Pativratas, thanks for sharing. One cannot stop thinking about Draupadi while talking about Pativratas. She is considered to be 'Kula Devata' and/ or 'Grama Devatha' by many people.

    In fact, there are many shrines for Goddess Draupadi, spread in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. One of the shrines, where She is a Grama-Devatha and Kula-Devatha to many, is located in one of the small villages of Tamil Nadu.

    The village is named KONDAL, Mayiladuthurai Taluk, Nagapattinam District, Nidur P.O, Tamil Nadu.

    Draupadi

    Draupadi Amman Thunai - May you all be BLESSED by HER grace!!

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