Let’s jump straight to the point. There is NO marriage rites or ceremony in Buddhism; straight, gay or otherwise. Therefore, it doesn’t matter whether it is Gay or Straight. Are you surprised? Then read on.
Recently, news of 3 gay men getting married and receiving the blessings of their family and friends for their marital union caused a stir. (News) This marriage pushed the boundary because, not only is it a same-sex marriage, it involved more than 2 people! What is our Buddhist take on this matter?
Foremost, none of the sutta or sutra prescribes a standard rites or ritual for marriage. You don’t need Buddha to approve your marriage or sanctify it. And if your spouse cheat on you, Buddha will not throw him or her or them into hell.
For many people, the idea of marriage is based on Western culture and religion, where it is a monogamous relationship involving an ‘adam and eve’ union that is sanctified by God.
Buddhism does not have a belief of a creator being. (Aka. God / goddess), and Buddha is not a God. We do not perceive ourselves as servant or slave to Buddha. Instead, we view mankind as individually unique sentient beings that possess the best potential for enlightenment. That means mankind is intelligent enough to make informed decision and is therefore, responsible for his/her decisions and actions.
Thus, that decision to be married is a mundane and personal decision and does not involve Buddha and His monks in anyway, whatsoever. In short, Buddhist are free beings. They do not belong to Buddha and need not receive His permission or blessings to live their life happily ever after. To be happy, simply live your life wisely and responsibly.
Furthermore, Buddha did not prescribe a standard family structure for marital happiness. Since there is no ‘Adam and Eve’ story in Buddhism, the family unit can consist of different arrangements that suits them best. The important factor is that these arrangements does not harm oneself or others.
I knew of a distant Thai relative who was a wealthy man with 3 wives. It was a very big family unit that followed a patriarchy system. And his family was very happy and harmonious. His wives get along extremely well and addresses one another as sisters. He slept in a different bedroom every night, following strictly to a decided roster. I was a kid when I heard the adults talking about it.
Separately, in a remote corner of ancient China. A woman can have various partners and have children by different men. As it is a matriarchy society, all the children belongs to her. And you may have guessed it, they believed that the world was created by a Goddess. Man has no say in that society and that kind of family structure worked for centuries.
If the purpose of marriage is to form a family unit, then the above examples demonstrated that the structure of a happy family need not be in accordance to the Western standards or ideals. If we look deeper into it, we realize that a family consists of principled people coming together to live together as one social unit. They promise to be faithful to one another and use their resources for their common survival and happiness. In short, it is a commitment towards one another.
That commitment does not require the involvement of Buddha. It also, should not be built upon fear of an unseen beings such as a god/goddess. Instead, it should be based on love, responsibility and discipline.
In a Buddhist environment, people are advised to perform meritorious deeds on special occasions. Therefore, Buddhists visit monasteries and make offerings to the monastic communities on their special occasions. We believe that meritorious deeds will bring future happiness in life. (Note: besides donating to temples, one can also choose to donate to some other charities)
Thus, visiting the monks and making offerings to them on the day of marriage is purely an act of religious charity and has nothing to do with solemnizing or sanctifying the marriage.
When news of this gay marriage appeared, many people commented on the right and wrong of this union. Some gave their well-wishes while others condemned it as wrongful. Those who oppose this marriage seemed to adhere to the principle that a marriage is only meant for an “Adam and Eve” type of union.
I think Buddhism should be more open-minded. From a Buddhist perspective, I think this marriage is equally deserving of happiness.
If the husbands are committed to living happily, faithfully, responsibly and respectfully with one another, then they are likely to enjoy a meaningful and happy marriage.
May all be well and happy.