Dating/Marriage within the Early Buddhist Community

A previous SC member brought up the example of Nakula’s mother and father.
One discourse address to Nakula’s mother and father reads as follows:

“Bhante, since I was young, when the young girl Nakulamātā was given to me in marriage, I do not recall ever transgressing against her even in thought, much less by deed. We wish, Bhante, to see one another not only in this present life but also in future lives.”

The housewife Nakulamātā in turn said to the Blessed One: “Bhante, since I was a young girl given to the young householder Nakulapitā in marriage, I do not recall ever transgressing against him even in thought, much less by deed. We wish, Bhante, to see one another not only in this present life but also in future lives.”

“Householders, if both husband and wife wish to see one another not only in this present life but also in future lives, they should have the same faith, the same virtuous behavior, the same generosity, and the same wisdom. Then they will see one another not only in this present life but also in future lives.”

Both husband and wife are endowed with faith,
charitable and self-controlled,
living their lives righteously,
addressing each other with pleasant words,

Then many benefits accrue to them
and they dwell at ease.
Their enemies are saddened
when both are the same in virtue.

Having practiced the Dhamma here,
the same in virtuous behavior and observances,
delighting after death in a deva world,
they rejoice, enjoying sensual pleasures.

Due to discourse such as these, it seemed to me that both a belief in rebirth and Buddhism could be helpful in providing guidance for marriage and marital purposes.

What do you think?

I would go step further and say that all conditional phenomena are not permanent. Marriage is a conditional phenomena. Thus, marriage is not permanent.
I agree with the sentiment of what you said.

Yes, such “fictional stories” of spouses are a part of cultural Buddhism.
But what I had in mind when I wrote that was the guidance provided by Buddhism for sustaining happy marriages - and perhaps real life examples of beings who were able to use Buddhism to prepare themselves to attain Nibbana together suitably and in due time.

Just to draw a contrast, there are various other possibilities of relationships in today’s world, such a casual dating, involuntary/forced arranged marriages without consent of both partners, careless choice of unsuitable marital partners that ends up leading to divorces (no one really expects they would get divorced down the line), domestic abuse and violence, marriages done for reasons besides mutual love/choice (see discourse comparing Brahmins with dogs) - such as for money, status, etc., among others, etc. I.e. countless versions of marital unhappiness.

The point is that people are having relationships and getting married anyway. I agree, at least conceptually, that marital happiness (in the broadest sense of the phrase) is not even worth a fraction of unconditional happiness.

But wouldn’t it be worthwhile for beings who are interested in dating/getting married anyway to at least turn to Buddhism for guidance regarding this issue?

Thank you very much for sharing you perspective on this issue - I myself am evolving my perspective based both on what I am trying to learn from the Dhamma-Vinaya as well as other perspectives kindly shared by those in the early Buddhist community.

Hmm :thinking: Can you please elaborate how so? I wonder if there may be a misunderstanding!

When I say “Buddha” did not have any partners - I contrast this with Siddhartha, who clearly did have a wife and a son.
I was saying the Buddha is a celibate monastic “whose life started at the age of 35,” meaning the age at which Siddhartha was able to become the Buddha.

His position on the issue seems to be:

  1. a marriage that is not contrary to and in accordance with the Dhamma-Vinaya is conducive to Nibbana.
  2. restraints against harmful sexual actions (as stated in the Noble Eightfold Path) seems necessary for the attainment of Nibbana. Which seems to mean beneficial sexual actions as a layperson is still “conducive,” but incelibacy by monastics is “not conducive” - to Nibbana.
  3. incelibacy seems to be an obstacle to rebirth in the Brahma realm, hence the phrase Brahmacariya.
  4. “sexuality” seems to be an obstacle for Arahantship, at least. He seems pretty clear that until “sexuality” was fully and completely uprooted permanently, he did not declare that he had become a Buddha.

I am very confused about how this relates to what I said. Do you mind explaining it to me in a little bit more detail?

I am even more confused. I am not sure where I said anything about parents at all, let alone speak out against gratitude towards parents or toward parents!

I’m sorry, I am still confused.
Which tightly held views are you referring to?
I’m not sure where “views regarding the self” were mentioned or implied, let alone any affirmations of a “permanent self.”

I am sorry that I am unable to respond to your comment more suitably and clearly. If you could please clarify what you said or perhaps some of the reasonings behind why you said what you said, I can try to explain and clarify further from my side.

Either way, thank you for replying. If you have any further thoughts on this matter, I would be very happy to hear it. To be honest, I get a feeling like we are not really a disagreement - it seems like there might be a misunderstanding, but I’m unable to tell what it is. However, even in the case of disagreement, I think discussion, learning, questions, and clarifications can go a long to help with suitably arriving at mutual understanding and agreement - something that I wish for the entire early Buddhist community along with much happiness. Thanks again!

In my experience, if you manage to maintain an open, honest, mutually respectful relationship over a long period of time, then this is precisely where you end up. That is: “the same faith, the same virtuous behavior, the same generosity, and the same wisdom” regardless of your different starting positions. That joining together of hearts to become one can take a little time to (re)establish.

For me, one of the great joys of a committed lifetime (or multiple lifetimes) relationship is this growth in dhamma that we share and support in maintaining virtue that we give one another. I feel (although I have no way of proving it) that both myself and my partner are more mature in the dhamma due to our relationship than we would’ve been individually. That only one of us would be described as a ‘Buddhist’ (let alone an EBTist) does not seem relevant to our understanding of dhamma.


As far as I know, neither the Buddha nor any EBT follower described the Buddha’s life as having began at Awakening. This might be partly a cultural sensitivity for respectfulness, but more relevantly such ideas might be inconsistent or confusing in terms of the Buddha’s teaching about kamma, rebirth, DO, or gratitude.
Consider it practically; much confusion might be churned up by a belief of life beginning at Awakening or (for extrapolated examples) ordination or marriage. Conditioning tends to be tenacious!
Comparing one’s {life} with others was many times spoken of by the Buddha in negative terms for monks (though perhaps a case could be made also for it being used skillfully, to orient people towards a path leading to liberation.) What is there to compare?

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It might be that Abhinav had the Aṅgulimāla Sutta (MN 86) in mind:

The Buddha said to him, “Well then, Aṅgulimāla, go to that woman and say this:

‘Ever since I was born, sister, I don’t recall having intentionally taken the life of a living creature. By this truth, may both you and your baby be safe.’”

“But sir, wouldn’t that be telling a deliberate lie? For I have intentionally killed many living creatures.”

“In that case, Aṅgulimāla, go to that woman and say this:

‘Ever since I was born in the noble birth, sister, I don’t recall having intentionally taken the life of a living creature. By this truth, may both you and your baby be safe.’”

“Yes, sir,” replied Aṅgulimāla. He went to that woman and said:

“Ever since I was born in the noble birth, sister, I don’t recall having intentionally taken the life of a living creature. By this truth, may both you and your baby be safe.”


@ERose I don’t think that I consciously had this specific sutta in mind, but this sentiment is EXACTLY what I had in mind when I wrote the comment that you responded to.

I meant it metaphorically, not in an absolute sense, exactly in the way described in the Aṅgulimāla Sutta (MN 86).

As I try to emphasize and fully integrate the study and practice of the entire Dhamma-Vinaya (DV) since they seem to go inseparably hand in hand, often I find myself trying to bring all of my ‘thought processes,’ ‘speech patterns,’ and ‘physical behaviors’ in line with Dhamma-Vinaya “as a whole” - therefore, I am not always conscious of which specific parts of the DV influenced any one specific bodily, verbal, or mental action.

I am very grateful to @Christopher for astutely sharing this discourse because I am not sure if I would have remembered which specific part of the Dhamma-Vinaya might have influenced me to respond the way I did at the moment when I made that comment.

Related to the topic of “the Dhamma-Vinaya as a whole” - I am interested in trying to figure out all the early sources that make it up, so I made another post (How to identify a clear list of all "early" Buddhist textual sources?) in order to do so. “How else can one try to practice in accordance with the entire range of the early Buddhist sources without at least some awareness of it” seems to be the reasoning and motivation for creating that post to learn from others.

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:slight_smile: Imo you are the judge of your own thoughts, as is anyone. The criteria I try to use myself to review and evaluate my thoughts is "does this lead towards liberation? is consistent with the Buddha’s Dhamma? "
It was from this and friendliness, that I posted. “Problematic” to me means “be careful; consider assumptions underlying this”; it is a tag I use for my own thoughts. It is not saying “that seems incorrect” (which I would say, if it seemed so to me, for asking for discussion which could be of benefit to myself as much as to anyone else).
It’s just input to consider; please, only use if useful!

@Christopher I also thank you for the reference.


To be perfectly blunt, this sounds like a classic case of aversion to me, which is one of the things we are supposed to be working with.

This, to me, is not at all what the Dhamma is about - a form of hyper-judgmentalism that makes us avoid anyone who doesn’t share our outlook. That’s just a recipe for suffering and samsara.

I appreciate the Dhamma because it is practical and flexible, not rigid and not requiring a set of 25 characteristics one must meet in order to be suitable for socialization or romance.

My wife is interested in the practice - she meditates occasionally and is in line with the tenets of attachment/aversion/compassion/etc of the Dhamma, but is nowhere near as committed as I am. She IS supportive of my practice, and I am cognizant to make my practice fit within the confines of our marriage and family (e.g. I’m not running off to 2-week retreats on a regular basis).

The Dhamma is simply about practicing with preferences and not letting them rule our decision-making. Simple, but not easy. Why make finding a mate harder than it already is?


A marriage with both sides adhering to buddhist values, virtues and practices might end up in both people eventually ordaining, and thats the end of that marriage :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

btw. I think believing that we can really control the rebirth process in my opinion means that one didn’t really grasp anicca, dukkha, anatta nature of life yet. This is just one sutta saying about these things you mentioned (that people have chance to meet in next life), and it is not told there with certainty that it will succeed.

On the other hand, a lot of suttas warn us that rebirth process is very dangerous, and one should strive towards liberation.

There is possibility that you can have some bad kamma in stock waiting for you, stronger than kamma connecting you to your partner. As long as you’re grasping at kama-loka experiences, there is really no certain refuge from suffering there.

Having a partner can be part of the path of course. But having romantic vision of life is part of perception that we believe we can make life as we want it to be and that it will be beautiful for long periods of time, happily ever after etc… But this is exactly what Buddha was saying in First Noble Truth that it is not the case.
If it was the case, there would be no such urgent need and advice to strive for liberation.

Of course you can practice dhamma aimed at liberation with your parthner together, but part of that practice eventually will be reducing your deep attachment to each other for the sake of boundless metta, and reducing attachment to “feeling loved/connected” towards non-grasping the world and experiencing so called “niramisa sukha” (pleasure born of not-clinging). And IMO, realisation of that can be tricky in practice in such circumstances, because one of you could be ready to go deeper than the other, and that can be very hard for one of you. It would require great maturity on both sides.


The path is a long (multi-life) process. As one progresses, one becomes ready for greater and greater relinquishment of the mundane life.

As such, I believe it is important that we acknowledge that the practices of each individual will vary, and that their views and priorities and the mix of these will vary. Even within this one life, I’ve observed huge changes in my own perceptions, beliefs and goals. Things that I couldn’t even imagine regarding practice when I was young, have now become the place of happy abiding :smiley:

So this is just a long winded way of encouraging tolerance for the practice perspectives and views of all forum users. There is a spectrum of practice, from the absolute beginner all the way to monastic. The path is one of the right practice at the right time :anjal: :dharmawheel:


Just dropping this image here to remind our interlocutors of the continuous (and yet ever changing) presence of gender expressions and relationship models other than monogamous heterosexual marriage, which this thread seems to have defaulted to.

These are also found in the EBTs and in Buddhist cultures in an amazing number of permutations, including third gender people, pandakas, same-sex attraction, polygamy, courtesans, and others. In today’s Buddhist cultures, we see a same-sex relationships (although many countries still criminalise these relationships or don’t have marriage equality, something to be remembered when talking about relationship types that some people take for granted but are denied to others) there are the third gendered kathoey in Thailand, in Tibet they practiced polyandry (one woman, 2 husbands). Buddhist culture has always been a bit more adventurous than we might think!

Whatever you are, whoever you’re with, however long it lasts, just make sure you have consent and don’t hurt anyone. :heart:


Bhante :anjal:

My contribution at least was from the perspective of a monogamous non-binary long-term unmarried relationship. This has recently changed from a monogamous gay long-term unmarried relationship. The reason for the change is that now the younger generation have given me a language (non binary) which better describes what it always was.


May I offer you one of Ajahn Brahm’s anecdotes?
When asked to bless a newly wedded couple he would turn to the husband and say …
“From this day on, Husband… you must not think of yourself!”
“Yes, Bhante.”
“And you must not think of your Wife!!”

“And as for you, Wife… you must not think of yourself!”
“Yes, Bhante.”
“And nor must you think of your Husband!!”

“You must both think only of US. Think of what is best for both of you together as a couple…”

When you find a woman who lives by these words, MARRY HER!!
My wife and I are as different as chalk and cheese. Yet, we’ve always had the most rock solid relationship. From my own life experience, I can attest that these words of Ajahn Brahm are timeless wisdom… they are the kernel of what keeps a couple together in the long run.


So this sort of makes sense to me, especially because those qualities of honesty, etc. all seem to be Dhamma-Vinaya-base qualities, so in some sense, it seems reinforce my preference for using this a criterion for selecting a suitable mate.
I agree with your overall sentiment. I have read about scientific studies that show that spouses often become more similar over time, in terms or mannerisms and otherwise.

A good point that you bring up is that “calling oneself a Buddhist” seems to have no bearing on the impersonal universal laws underpinning sustainable marriages.

But one question I am curious about is that “faith” in the Dhamma-Vinaya is explicitly and repeatedly defined as faith/trust in the Buddha’s judgment/understanding (though other discourses, such as the one where someone expressed mistrust in the two chief disciples only to meet with misfortune soon afterwards, have shown that it is not exclusive to the Buddha alone), but perhaps on a spectrum “down from the Buddha,” with Buddha at the sort of peak followed by the Sangha, followed by other beings to the extent of their harmlessness/beneficialness, perhaps?

Without sharing that same faith, as explicitly defined and conveyed as faith in the Buddha, would that affect the likelihood of being able to sustain that marriage into future lives?

I apologize in advance if that is an uncomfortable question, but it is one concern that seems to be on my mind. If say, faith in the Buddha for example is a pre-requisite (among other qualities of course), would a partner’s lack of faith in the Buddha be considered “difference in faith” as opposed to “same in faith” - thereby not meeting the requirement of “the same faith, the same virtuous behavior, the same generosity, and the same wisdom” necessary to sustain a marriage into future lives?

I usually think of the Dhamma-Vinaya as the judge of my own thoughts. If you were aware of the full scope of all the false, harmful, and unbeneficial thoughts that ever occurred in my own mind, you would probably also consider me better off using DV as the ultimate judge of my own thoughts. :sweat_smile::sweat_smile::sweat_smile:

Reminds me of Rahula Sutta!
Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta: Instructions to Rahula at Mango Stone

The second part reminds me of what I mentioned about trying to not be contrary to and trying to be in accordance with the Dhamma-Vinaya as suitably as I possibly can. I happy agree with you on both counts!

I’m happy it was based on reflection and friendliness. Friendliness seems to be a pretty accurate translation of metta to be honest. :slightly_smiling_face:

Thank you for explaining! Will re-read your message with this is mind.

Ah! Okay, thanks for clarifying, because I did interpret your previous message as meaning that it seemed incorrect to you and/or that you disagreed.

Thank you for providing it. I prefer your having said it, than having merely thought it, yet not expressed it. So thank you again for that. Yes, I shall continue to consider it and try to use all the parts that are helpful. :pray:t3::slightly_smiling_face:

Hi Abhinav,

It’s not a lack of faith or a difference in faith, it’s lack of sutta learning. When you see the Buddha, you see the Dhamma. Faith in the Dhamma is faith in the Buddha. The Dhamma is universal. The Dhamma is akāliko.

In MN34 we are offered the image of a cowherd (the Buddha) taking cattle across the Ganges to get safely to the other side (nibbana). If one is in that herd crossing the Ganges and yoked to another then both are likely to end up at the same destination unless the yoke breaks and the other wanders off in a different direction and gets sunk.

Whether one has good sutta learning or not is irrelevant to ones maturity in Dhamma. I am so grateful that I have managed to remain yoked to someone who has the patience to not forge ahead to nibbana while I stumble and fall; someone who can successfully pick me up, reorientate me in the right direction and get me walking the straight path again.


Can you further clarify what you mean by " this sounds like a classic case of aversion to me." What exactly seems that like “aversion” to you? :thinking:

  • I totally agree with this. It is not rigid and unrealistic like a checklist of demands.
  • The way that I think of it is like the Dhamma-Vinaya as a standard or criterion to screen out or screen in suitable associates (of which marital prospects, in the broadest sense of this word, is just one type).
  • The biggest benefit that I see in using Dhamma-Vinaya in terms of what you said about it being practical and flexible is that it utterly removes emphasis off of externalities completely - i.e. on wealth, beauty, fame, health, etc. - the kinds of criterions that I find myself subconsciously fall prey to (Mara’s bait?) if I do not explicitly and clearly define such a standard for myself.
  • I say this from repeated mistakes that I have and still make presently by “compromising,” “making excuses, justifications, rationalizations, etc. for not trying to uphold and stick to it” - mistakes that have had real life unhappy/not happy results for me, and thus has made me quite cautious about who I associate with and to what degree - it could even explain to a large degree why I choose to associate more closely with say the SC Buddhist community over say Facebook or Reddit Buddhist communities.

This sounds overall quite happy to me!
My concern is - imagine if one married someone who was antagonistic not just to one’s meditation practice, but to Buddhism as a whole (say, those who believe the all Buddhists go to hell for placing their faith in the Buddha and not in God)? Wouldn’t such a marriage put quite a mental strain on both partners? It seems that not all partners are equally suitable and one must choose carefully.

  • Do you mean “not letting our preference rule our decision-making?”
  • If yes, I honestly totally agree (or at least try to)!
  • I think that by using the Dhamma-Vinaya as the standard and criterion for decision-making, I can let all of my subjective preferences take the backseat as secondary - if not just leave them all aside for good, if possible.
  • This was it seems like “living life by-the-book” (book: Dhamma-Vinaya) without, like you said, letting subjective preferences rule our decision-making.
  • The simple answer seems to be because I do not wish to end up in an unhappy marriage.
  • Monasticism seems like true freedom. The burden of efforts to choose mates and sustain marriages are dropped and left aside for good. Many people accuse monastics of shirking their responsibilities to society and their families as if it’s the easy way out.
  • From my own experience, if I was able to become a monastic by now, I would have probably done it already. But the fact of the matter seems to be that I am simply not ready or able or prepared to do so. The power of misunderstanding, tanha, Mara, Mara’s bait, etc. shouldn’t be underestimated!
  • All of this relates back to your last question, which I try to cleverly answer with a counter-question of my own :rofl:: if my own more suitable next best option is to live the lay-life for now, why make things harder and unhappier for oneself than the lay-life already is by carelessly choosing unsuitable mates?

Someone put a finger on the pulse and verbalized my dream! :sweat_smile::joy::rofl:
Seriously though, hats off to you, kalyāṇa-mitta! :tophat:

Well, all conditional things are impermanent. So you are not wrong in the sense that sustain associations over multiple lives can’t be equated with “permanent associations.”
With that being said, it could mean that acting in accordance with the Dhamma-Vinaya (part of which are those specific discourses) would raise the likelihood of it succeeding, if not literally ensure the success of it with certainty.
Still, you do astute point out the danger of falling into the false view of eternalism that underpins the rosy, optimistic idea of a “happily-ever-after.”

I would agree and argue in favor of what you said in that these discourses are even more important and valuable than those that ensure happiness in further rebirths.
It seems to be the difference between conditional and unconditional happiness.

:grimacing:Since I am nowhere close to perfect, I might even argue that there is an extremely strong possibility…:grimacing:


Even this might overestimate the “having of a partner” - maybe the emphasis of the discourse is purposefully more on the development of the skills of trust, ethics, generosity, and understanding (which are helpful for any kind of association, not to mention for attaining Nibbana anyway).
In short, “having a partner” is not exactly a part of the “Eightfold Path.” If that was the case, monastics would have a more difficult time, not an easier time, attaining the ultimate goal.
But I understand your point. A partner could potentially be one of many kalyāṇa-mittas.

Also touche!

:thinking: Good point! This lack of urgency is clearly not advised in the Dhamma-Vinaya. :thinking:

You really don’t stop, do you?!? :sweat_smile::rofl: Tooooo true. What else can I say?
Acknowledging that there are both harmful and beneficial lay and monastic practices (i.e. neither can be said to inherently worse or better than the other), perhaps this is the reason why the Buddha prioritized teaching monastics over lay people? (Discourse related to the farmer-seeds-soil metaphor?)

I agree.
If one were to choose the lay-life based on their own subjective preference, wouldn’t this seem to support/reinforce the idea of using the Dhamma-Vinaya itself as a standard and criterion in the mate selection/marriage sustenance process?
If one trades off ( or “downgrades,” in a relative, not absolute, sense) the conducive conditions afforded by becoming a monastic, then at least choose a potential mate on the basis of maturity and orienting a partnership towards the gradual development of that maturity?

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Maybe monastics have everyone in the whole world as their partner? :wink:


Greatly said :heart:
Ley people developed in metta and wisdom, also :slight_smile:

Btw. I find this answer by Thich Nhat Hanh really getting to the core, and it relates greatly to the subject discussed here :slight_smile:
Especially when he talks about inclusiveness of true love. I find this talk very inspiring :slight_smile:

The title is just the question asked to this Venerable monk, the answer is much deeper :slightly_smiling_face:

I think it is not wise to even think about marriage before you’re in a commited relationship first and see how this works with that particular person first hand. Things might work out or get messy before you even take that to marriage process phase. And that experience of being in a commited relationship can be very learning, especially with passing time it might dispell many ideals that romantic people often bring into the relationship. I’m generalising here of course.
Of course, relationships can be very maturing experience, even without being aimed at it. For example being disillusioned with reality of them is very maturing, just as much as feeling moments of genuine support, clousre, love etc. Both sides - the bad and the good - are very learning.
And what happens later: who knows? :stuck_out_tongue: As Ajahn Brahm says, it is not wise to look so far into the future, because most of the time our plans and dreams and situation change on the way anyway.

I feel you. And if I were you I would just do whatever you want, as long as it is moral and just keep your mindfulness and honest observation in all these processes. And after you get a lot of various experiences, your understanding of dhamma will grow naturally. At least thats how it worked for me.

When Ajahn Chah was asked “what is dhamma?” he answered “nothing isn’t”.

With metta
:slight_smile: :anjal: :dharmawheel: