Dating/Marriage within the Early Buddhist Community

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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:



Good point!
Even though one may refer to the “Dhamma-Vinaya” as a whole as a single unit, there is much room within it for beings of different inclinations to find their niche and what is most suitable for them.

  • Long-winded? That was hardly two paragraphs! I would say well-winded… :grin:
  • You make a good point though. It was one of the reasons for my post.
  • While some parts of my post were definitely based on my own (current) subjective preferences, I did want to bring this topic up to address a sort of misconception that there was no guidance provided by the Buddha on this topic when there clearly was.
  • I think more beings would benefit from seeing the Dhamma-Vinaya as relevant to areas of their life beyond just mindfulness and meditation.
  • I think the Buddha mentioned somewhere that if his teachings were relevant only to monastics and not laypeople, it would be incomplete, but because it is applicable to both, it is complete, or something along these lines.

Thank you for the reminder regarding the gradual spectrum of the path from “absolute beginner all the way to monastic” and the importance of “right/suitable timing”!


Thank you for the reminder, Bhante!

  • I double checked my post, and will soon have to double check my mind, but I think I have tried to approach this topic in as suitable a way as possible (using general terms like mate, mate(s) etc.).
  • In general, as I think I mentioned in a previous comment, I think that emphasizing the Dhamma-Vinaya as a standard and criteria seems to suitably shift the emphasis away from externalities, which seems include gender expressions and sexual/romantic/marital orientations.
  • Because many of the discourses (Nakulapita/Nakulamata) on this topic take place in the context of a heterosexual marriage (though it seems monogamy wasn’t uncommon in the social context at that time), I think that there is definitely a pull (in addition to our own stereotypes and biases) towards the traditional models of marriage.

Thank you for brining these up!

Thank you for bring up this important problem related this topic/thread!


Thank you for your wise words yet again Bhante!

I have two questions for you on this topic:

  1. You mentioned polyandry in Tibet: What is the early Buddhist perspective on polygamy/polygyny/polyandry/poly-relationships in general?

  2. You mentioned the amazing number of permutations: What is the early Buddhist perspective on LGBTTQQIAAPK+ (I did the best that I could!) orientations?

Thank you in advance, and for your reminders and wise words of advice! It is definitely extremely relevant to this topic thread.


I’m glad!! May you and your partner be happy!


Yes, of course!

:thinking: Interesting :thinking:
It reminds me of “both oneself and others” in the phrase:
“don’t hurt/help oneself, don’t hurt/help others, don’t hurt/help both oneself and others.”

That sounds lovely!

How do the words of Ajahn Brahm relate to the words of the Buddha in this case?
How do you see them being related to each other?
Could one follow the words of Ajahn Brahm alone and still get the same results as following words of the Buddha regarding “what keeps a couple together in the long run”?

Thank you for sharing! May you and your wife be happy!




Thank you for sharing the video!

Sorry, for the lack of clarity in my terminology.
When I say the word “marriage” - I mean it in the most all inclusiveness sense the way people say “romantic relationships” even though, romance is not the only factor in it lol.
I also used marriage because the discourse refers to marriage, as opposed to two people dating.
Anything related to the topic of sexuality, romance, marriage, etc. - I just use the blanket term “marriage” - to refer to the entire marital process from say meeting, to like you mentioned, divorcing so that both partners can become monastics :rofl:.

I also noticed, this perspective is very specific to western cultures. In the discourse to Nakulapita/Nakulamata, they both refer to their “meeting” as “given to the young householder Nakulapitā in marriage.”

Surely they were not considered “unwise” for not being in a committed relationship prior to getting married!
To the contrary, their marriage, which was arranged (“given to - in marriage” indicates that it was arranged), seems happier than what many in our western cultures are able to achieve.

I think again, the emphasis is one developing the four skills of “trust, ethics, generosity, and understanding” which contrasts many modern day relationship advice.

Good point!

Does this imply to not prepare in advance or to proactively look? :thinking:
Maybe just focus on developing those 4 skills in the present moment? :thinking:

Yes, and repeated reflection as instructed to Venerable Rahula!

:sweat_smile: Sorry, I don’t understand! Can you help explain it?



Oh! Do you both place faith in the Buddha?

Do you think this might cause difference in understanding and wisdom? For example, one who learns the discourses may gradually advance beyond another who doesn’t learn it as much, thereby not meeting the requirement of sameness in those 4 qualities? :thinking:

Interesting metaphor.

:thinking: I am confused, is this really true? I read a discourses where one who both studies and practices much is considered “blameless on both counts” (i.e. superior to one who either studies or practices or neither).
Why would the Buddha teach the suttas if they were irrelevant to ones maturity in the Dhamma. :thinking:

I am confused about the application of the metaphor - I think I assumed that you would be in the herd led by the Buddha and your partner would be yoked to you.

A question: Wouldn’t it be safest if both were in the herd yoked to the cowherd (the Buddha)? Meaning, if one person studies and practices the Dhamma-Vinaya, can their partner simply yoke themselves without actually studying and practicing the Dhamma-Vinaya themselves (obviously not necessarily in its entirety, but to whatever degree is suitable for them) and expect to enjoy the same fruits and be together?

I am asking this for own understanding since I had not thought that such a possibility could work, but I am not sure! What do you think?


“Aversion” as it relates to your difficulty socializing with those who don’t share what appear to be fairly “devout” Buddhist views, particularly Dhamma-Vinaya views (knowing that “Buddhism” as a whole encapsulates many different approaches).

This is where my personal practice veers away from my Theravadin/EBT origins and more towards my current practice of Soto/Rinzai Zen.
I find some interpretations of this style of Dhamma to be too limiting and strict and not at all practical for laypersons.
By your own statement, perhaps monasticism should be your focus, and this question a non-question? Rather than trying to engineer a romantic relationship that checks off a long list of criteria, perhaps this is trying to tell you to ordain?


Sure :wink:
Main meaning of dhamma is “principles” of mind, principles of life… nature of how reality is working. It is very connected to dependent origination. I also like to understand dhamma as “path to liberation”. So when you live in accordance to dhamma, you’re nearing the final goal, final refuge, liberating extinguishment, Nibbana.

And when you’re not living in accordance to the dhamma, the dhamma (life) teaches you through suffering that you’re not doing “right” things and when you’re doing them, the suffering will come, thats how it is, thats the first noble truth and workings of kamma.
But doing this “mistakes” (not really mistakes) is a learning process, rising in dhamma through experience that we are all going through in our own tempo and way. As long as you perceive this situations with mindfulness and wisdom, and you don’t look just outside, but especially inside, to reactions and feelings and dillemas of your mind, you get in touch with the truth of samsara.

So even if things in life don’t end up well, you’re learning to never do same mistakes again through sufferings (and moments of bliss) you encounter along the path. Eventually you learn that everything in samsara is unsatisfactory and impermanent, beyond your control and connected to suffering going on elsewhere (sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara dukkha, sabbe dhamma anatta), and you really start to let go gradually of everything. And when you feel relief of letting go of everthing, of this “heap of suffering”, you start to experience niramisa sukha (bliss born of not grasping) and you really understand what Buddha was meaning, what four noble truths are all about.

In this way, even mundane things when seen with sincerity, constantly & consequently, lead to very importaint insights. So whatever you’re doing: working, loving, breaking up, meditating etc., shows you what actions leads to what consequences… so the life/dhamma is teaching you what actions bring what fruits.

Thats why doing all these things is learning experience.

Thats why Ajahn Chah said that nothing isn’t dhamma. Because everything is dhamma, everything you do is a lesson if you’re looking into relationship of your mind and experience of this moment. In this way you see principles governing this relationship (dhamma), and if you see what ways of dealing with life brings real happiness, and what eventually bring suffering, and you experience it again and again directly, without doubt you will know the truth for yourself… and then you will change deeply.

And well, everything except for Nibbana will eventually lead to suffering. The truth is all the time there if you look at this moment with wisdom. Even jhanas fade away eventually and you’re back into the stresses of life. Thats another huge insight.
And thats the moment when you really give up and enter fully onto the path. I think that is actually part of stream entry.

So whatever you do, just be mindful of relationship between your mind and whatever experience is right now, be it relationship, marriage, celibacy, dounts, thinking, planning, expecting, dreaming etc., you’re on the path of insight. You’re looking at the nature of mind processes.

Even in loving relationship, you will notice how you feel love one moment, and next you feel anger and frustration, the love again… (you can even notice what constitutes “feeling of love”) then again sadness or another thing. You will see that even if your ideals are very romantic, that love is a permanent feeling, actualy reality is constantly changing emotions, no matter how much you try to stabilize them, they’re anicca, anicca, anicca… and this is learning dhamma, learning the truth.

You could also realise how much your partner is anicca and anatta - changing and beyond your control :smiley:

Best wishes :slight_smile:


Ajahn Brahm has this knack of putting really deep Dhamma points across in a light-hearted, easy to understand way… that is why I offered you this anecdote for reflection. :smiley:

What did the Buddha have to say on maritial relationships?
From DN 31

A husband should serve his wife as the western quarter in five ways: by treating her with honor, by not looking down on her, by not being unfaithful, by relinquishing authority to her, and by presenting her with adornments. A wife served by her husband in these five ways shows compassion to him in five ways. She’s well-organized in her work. She manages the domestic help. She’s not unfaithful. She preserves his earnings. She’s deft and tireless in all her duties. A wife served by her husband in these five ways shows compassion to him in these five ways. And that’s how the western quarter is covered, kept safe and free of peril.

From AN 4.55

Householders, if wife and husband want to see each other in both this life and the next, they should be equals in faith, ethical conduct, generosity, and wisdom.

When both are faithful and kind,
disciplined, living properly,
then wife and husband
say nice things to each other.

They get all the things they need,
so they live at ease.
Their enemies are downhearted,
when both are equal in ethics.

Having practiced the teaching here,
both equal in precepts and observances,
they delight in the heavenly realm,
enjoying all the pleasures they desire.

IMHO, what all these teachings are pointing to is that both parties in the relationship must understand and truly fulfil their responsibilities towards each other, without craving, aversion and delusion. That being the case, the relationship would have a strong basis for being enduring, satisfying and yet liberating for both…


We both have faith in love, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity. We have faith that there is suffering, that there is a cause and an end to suffering , that there is a path that leads to the end of suffering. We have faith in the expediency of virtue, meditation and wisdom. etc… But we’ve been together a long time and as mentioned, these things align over a period of time.

I got a bit lost here and I’m not sure what the 4 qualities you mention are, but in any case:

We share our understanding of ‘the way things are’ of course; it wouldn’t be much of a relationship if we didn’t. We just don’t use the suttas to do it.

Many different skillful means are found within the suttas one of which is learning the suttas. The suttas are about how to engage with the path. To engage with the path you do not require a comprehensive understanding of every aspect found in the suttas.

Have you encountered the dhammapada commentary story of Culapanthaka?

So depending on the individual, just one meditation practice and a stanza from the Buddha (or indeed some other skillful sage) will do to break through in the time it takes to make a meal. Maybe then, like Culapanthaka, one might get all the analytical knowledge of the suttas free. Who knows? :slight_smile:

We are both yoked to each other. There is no lead partner, with the other yoked to them. Actually I wanted to use the term ‘holding hands’, but cattle have hooves, so it didn’t really fit. :wink:

The thing about being in a herd is that you only get to see or hear those cattle that are in your immediate vicinity. Even those other powerful cattle around us who are giving sutta study lessons have never seen the Buddha, let alone been yoked to him. They are constantly reminding us of this by opening with “Thus have I heard …” It’s all hearsay right? You are only going to realise it by doing.

If one is practicing and the other is not, then the yoke will break and you will go your separate ways. So, for example, with sila - If say one of you is feeling worn down and gets frustrated with the rats and wants to call the exterminator, then it is up to the other to get them back onto the right track before any serious damage is done. How one makes that happen is dependant on the situation, but for example, slinging a copy of the Karaniya Metta Sutta at my partner is unlikely to achieve that goal. (I would say that it is extremely unlikely that my partner would do such a thing as call an exterminator, but dementia is on the prowl in the western world and who knows what the future holds.)

I maintain that sutta learning is irrelevant to an individual’s maturity in the dhamma. If it was, the Buddha would’ve never been enlightened right? Part of being in a successful relationship is that closeness of intent in spiritual growth. That might be a really small ember when you start, but it is up to both parties to encourage that growth. We are all spiritual beings and we all need this spiritual growth for the sake of sanity. For me and my partner, neither one or the other is teacher, we are both students of ‘the way things are’ together. Each one supporting the other.

Thus have I herd:wink:


@stu Thanks for that lovely depiction :slight_smile: it sounds like you and your partner have developed a beautiful and enriching relationship :blush::revolving_hearts::sunflower:

I really appreciate the reminder of the benefits of being flexible with regards to the path. Finding the most suitable practice at the right time.
Some people love reading suttas, others don’t - as long as one hears the Buddha Dhamma, the source is unimportant. EBTs do provide some with the comfort and confidence that they are getting as close to the Buddhas teachings as possible, and I suppose this site is frequented by ‘sutta lovers’ and so has a natural bias :nerd_face: :wink: :smiley: