The recent case of JD and AH reminded me of a question raised by one of the kids in class. She asked if Buddhism teaches how to find the right person for love or marriage.
This is a very interesting topic because it is something that most laypeople search for. Someone special to share our life with. That soul mate and best friend who will always be there for us. And Buddhism is not against it! Enlightenment is not exclusive to the monastic community. The Buddhist suttas recorded numerous laypeople who are sotapanna (1st stage of enlightenment). They are married and had children too.
So what are the qualities that we can look for in a person when we are trying to determine if he/she is good for marriage or love? The answer can be inferred from the 5 precepts!
1. Precept against Killing
The first precept defines non-violence and tolerance. It builds our Buddhist character of treasuring peace and mutual respect. In that manner, even a pesky mosquito in our bedroom deserves to live and we try our best not to eliminate its existence because we have the power to do so.
Therefore this precept infers the following noble qualities that make a person good.
- Mutual respect
To choose a good boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife, we want to look for someone with the above qualities. Although It is difficult to find someone who scores 100%, we still hope that they at least possess such qualities to a certain degree. There is no shortcut and we really have to invest time to observe a person’s personality. If we practice meditation, it comes in handy because we tell ourselves not to fall in love too quickly! Be level headed and observe carefully.
A person can be kind to their loved ones, then friends, then neighbours, then strangers, then the weak, and finally the pesky and hateful ones (eg. mosquitoes?) The level of difficulties to be kind varies accordingly. If they are thoughtful and kind to all beings, including the small animals and insects, then you probably had found yourself a Snow-white or Prince Charming. Just like those Disney characters that attract birds and squirrels? But of course, we also need to self-examine. Are we also similarly kind? Otherwise, the relationship won’t be compatible isn’t it?
People are on their best behaviour when dating, so it becomes more relevant to observe minor things and small incidents. Are they kind and patient with old people, are they good nature while driving. Are they kind to children? Not those angelic ones but those that are screeching your head off in the restaurant?
Ok lets go on to the next precept.
2. Precept against stealing.
The second precept defines a character of non-covetousness and fairness. When we observe the second precept, we are actually building a character that does not desire things that we do not own. In that manner, we respect another person’s right to own material or immaterial gains and benefits. We do not even want to take advantage of others.
Such a partner in life will not covet your personal wealth. He/she will not be instigating you to fight against your family members for inheritance. They will not be blaming you for inheriting less. They won’t be comparing you with their friend’s spouses.
For those who are already married, you will surely know how important this quality is?
And again, everyone is an angel (real or fake) when they are dating. So there is no shortcut and we really have to observe a person’s character with level-headedness. What should we be looking out for?
Is she/he a giving or taking person towards others (including strangers) Does he/she delights in taking advantage of others? Do they covet things that are not theirs? (like stealing a cute teacup when dining out?) It is such “small”, “harmless” mischief that reveals the hidden persona.
Precept against sexual misconduct
When we practice this precept, we are building a discipline against excessive sexual desire or lust. We respect the sanctity of marriage vows or commitment in a relationship. In that manner, we won’t even consider becoming a third party to a monogamous relationship, even if they are unmarried.
Although sex is not everything, it nonetheless becomes one hot topic when the sexual desires between partners differ. From a Buddhist perspective, less desire is better because craving ultimately causes suffering.
When a person’s mind is besotted by sexual desire, it craves varieties and quantities. Since craving is a bottomless pit, no one can satisfy them. Therefore, a lustful partner without self-control will ultimately bring misfortune to a relationship, regardless of whether it is monogamy or polygamy.
I think it is important to distinguish the difference between passion and lust. The mutual physical attraction that we enjoy in a relationship is different from uncontrollable lust. Again, this is hard to tell and we need time to observe our potential partner. For a meditator, you might have developed the ability to “sense” negative mental energy in others. Otherwise, we can rely on the traditional method of patient observation.
Precept against falsehood and bad speech
In this practice, a Buddhist trains himself to respect the importance of Truth. By abstaining from falsehood, we train our minds to face reality and be receptive to it. The scary thing about falsehood is that our mind becomes accustomed to it, gradually we may even start lying to ourselves. When that happens, the line between reality and falsehood becomes blurred. Consequently, we will not see the Dharma even if we meditate hard on it.
A partner who is honest and truthful makes communication easier in any relationship. Consequently, we enjoy the benefits of trust and do not suffer the stress of lies. Therefore, it is good to have a truthful partner.
In addition to truthfulness, we also want a partner who is gentle in speech. In short, he/she should not be verbally abusive, enjoys insulting people, cursing and swearing, etc. A person who is verbally abusive is also committing violence. Therefore it is wiser for us not to have them as a lover.
You might be surprised by the next quality that is treasured by Buddhists and that is silence!
Have you met someone who chatters non-stop when the occasion calls for silence? A chatterbox actually reflects a chaotic mind that has many discursive thoughts. Their mental chaos will spill over into life and will ultimately have a negative bearing on life too.
Precept against intoxicants
Last on the 5 precepts is the precept against intoxicants. In this case, Buddhists will avoid potential lovers who abuse alcoholic drinks and drugs. A person who suffers from such addiction loses their mental capacity for discipline and control.
The previous 4 precepts and their positive qualities require much discipline to maintain. Alcohol and drugs cause one to lose those qualities. The tricky part is deciding how much is too much. Social drinking is tolerated in society and even celebrated. So shouldn’t we be lenient about it? Give some leeway?
I guess, it is up to individuals to decide how much is too much? But remember, all addictions start from a little bit more.
Hope the above is insightful and enjoyable to read. At the end of the day, it is quite difficult to keep a level head when we are falling in love with someone. Like the past masters say, “love is karma, relation is karma”
May all be well and happy.
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