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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
.. 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.
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 :-).
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.
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.