The most important element of a marriage is matreyi, friendship. Marriage is a relationship, a business, a cultural exchange and a social process. You can also consider it a spiritual event. Irrespective of how you see it, the basic factor in a marriage needs to be friendship and most marriages lack friendship.
When two people consider themselves equal, then there is friendship between them. When there is equal responsibility, legal rights and social rights, there is friendship. If the legal system treats a husband and wife differently, if there are different sets of laws for the two, then there is no equality and no friendship. If there is disparity of status between them, if one is considered senior and the other junior, there cannot be any friendship. A marriage can be successful only when two people consider themselves friends. This is true all over the world.
In the Indian society, we have not allowed the status of a husband and wife to be that of friends. The social system considers one as privileged and the other as under-privileged. This is so because many women here are illiterate. If the woman is illiterate and the man arrogant, there is no possibility of friendship between them. Friendship can exist only when there is a feeling of equality towards each other. This is something you must think about. If a marriage goes wrong, it is not necessarily the fault of the couple or their parents the entire tradition is at fault, the national principles are at fault.
If two people are friends, they can speak openly to each other. If they dont like something, they can say that to the other person. Such a couple may have differences in preferences and views, but that will not result in their separation. In a friendship, despite differences of views, the relationship is sustained. Therefore, if there is no friendship between a husband and wife, then whatever the basis of their marriage, it will not work.
The academia today is trying to define the ideal behavioural relationship between a husband and wife. Should they be independent of each other? Should their property rights be different? If these things are properly addressed, then many marital problems will be solved. When the feeling of friendship pervades in a couple, everything else dissolves. They are able to tolerate each others mistakes because friendship is unconditional. Friends are sympathetic of each others faults. For marriages to have this quality, the entire tradition will have to be changed.
If my husband does not have the time for spiritual practices, should I also discard spiritual life? If the two of us have to live together, how should I work this out?
No two people in the world have the same finger print or the same face and no two lions are alike. No two people think alike, whether they are husband and wife or twins. This is the truth.
When there is no similarity in faces, finger prints or thoughts, how can there be similarity in spiritual or religious interest? If the husband is not interested, that is his bent of mind. You dont have to mind the fact that he is not interested. You cannot convert him by force. If you are interested, you follow it. However, if your spiritual life becomes the cause of pain for him, then you should leave it. In a family environment, peace and friendship are more important than your personal preferences. Always remember this.
How can we adopt ashram life in householder life?
It is very difficult to bring the ashram lifestyle into householder life no matter how many suggestions I make. The home and the family are not independent entities; they are influenced by society. You have to consider your neighbours in all that you do. Nevertheless, every householder should spend some time in an ashram, whether it is two days or two weeks. There are several ashrams in India where many realized people live. Connect with them, go and serve at such places for a few days. Assist in the areas you are familiar with whether gardening, kitchen work or farming. Most ashrams in India are large establishments. They are like large households. The only difference is that there is no husband, wife, son or daughter there, and the money does not belong to anyone. Ashram is an integral part of householder life, and you can learn many things by spending time there.
In a household, the husband and the wife are the two main pillars. The entire building of the household rests on these pillars and if they break, everything else will break. The father beam and the mother beam may have some differences, but there should not be any physical violence and they should not walk out on each other. The husband should support the wife in everything and respect her. The house where the woman is respected and protected, progresses. Riches, knowledge and power come to such a house. A husband and wife whose relationship is based on respect become like rishis. They become like Vasishtha and Arundhati or Atri and Anusuya. They may have shared a physical relationship, but that does not define their equation.
The relationship between a husband and wife is made up of emotions and feelings. Unless there is parity of feelings between the two, the relationship is not established. They are like the two banks of a river and the flow between them is that of the household. The two banks remain separate, but together they allow the flow to move between them. If this is the kind of relationship between a husband and wife, then the house turns into an ashram. Here ashram does not mean a place where rituals and worship are being conducted continuously; it is a state of mind. Therefore, if you want ashram life in the household, you have to reassess your relationship with your spouse.
Is it possible to achieve moksha while following a householders life?
I have already stated that the most important thing in grihastha ashram, householder life, is that the husband and wife create an appropriate relationship between them. If the children are troublesome but the parents have a strong relationship, there will not be any need to worry. However, if the father beam and the mother beam break, the house will fall apart irrespective of how well the children are doing.
A couple takes a vow to live together until they die, to give over their body, emotions and future to each other. There can be a difference of opinion between them, but there should not be any disrespect. The wife should not hurt the husband and the husband should not hurt the wife. If you can do this, then you dont need anyone to guarantee moksha to you. In a household where the husband and wife live like Vasishtha and Arundhati, Atri and Anusuya, Shiva and Parvati, what need does it have for moksha? Moksha is ever present in that house. You need moksha when you are unhappy. Moksha means freedom. When someone is released from prison, he may say he has become free. If one has never been imprisoned, what need is there for freedom?