During a youth camp on 30 September, 2000 in Orlando, USA, HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj discoursed on the marriage institution. Swamishri describes the institution's past and present condition and points out its prevailing weaknesses and solutions.
…Today, more and more people suffer from despair and anxiety. Another generic attribute is that everyone wants to do things in his own independent way. Where there is a need for restraint, one talks of freedom and permissiveness. One asks, 'Why should we have discipline? Let people do whatever they want.' Such are the changes in attitudes.
Formally, people had less wealth and splendor. They lived in simplicity but were happy, whereas, today, people have so much but are unhappy.
If man exercises restraint then life will become conducive to happier living. During the ancient Gurukul system of education, students had to compulsorily study till 25 years. Their first lesson was in discipline. They obeyed the Guru's command and studied what he taught. When they went home, they obeyed their parents and the parents loved their children. When a son got married, his wife was treated by his parents as their own daughter and the son was treated likewise by his in-laws. But today these sentiments have waned and we consequently face problems.
The element of self-control in people is absent. An elephant becomes useful when it is controlled with an 'ankush'. One may feel why should there be such pressure? But it is not pressure, it is a means of control. A horse is bridled so that it does not run riot and create havoc. An ox is pierced with a ring through its nose to control it during farming. Similarly, to help us live a proper, meaningful life, the great sages and seers have prescribed a moral code of conduct in the scriptures. With the intention to promote all-round happiness, they pondered deeply and with great foresight. But we don't like it! We don't want any restrictions or rules that bind. We don't want anyone to have any control over us… It is because of such attitudes that we create problems for ourselves. And the consequences are frustrations and an array of difficulties.
…What is the meaning of Satsang? To keep the company of those who are true and good. With the company of good people one is inspired by wholesome thoughts and able to maintain one's integrity. And conversely, bad company leaves shattered morality, the social and family structure. The family structure was once beautiful. The entire family lived happily together with the grandfather and there were no problems. Whereas today, no one wants his grandfather, his father and mother. And the father does not want his son; the husband his wife. This is the tragic situation we have today. And the reason is people have given up moral restraints and discipline. So instead of progress we have downfall! We have endeavored to become modern but lost our culture in the process.
We want to realise Ekantik Dharma (Dharma, Jnan, Vairagya and Bhakti) and for this we must abide by and preserve our moral restraints. The climate of permissiveness in society is not good, and you know it because you have the element of discrimination through Satsang. But because of the social environment you live in, sometimes such questions regarding the need for discipline arise in your mind too.
It all hinges on controlling one's mind and disciplining one's senses. And to do this one has to renounce bad company. Bad company (kusang) means that which leads you astray from morality - and you should be beware of kusang. It could be the things you see, eat, a conversation or the company you keep. And once you have identified it, you should refrain from associating and thinking about it. You should renounce it even if it means losing monetary benefits or mundane success and fame. But people take that little benefit and forfeit their morality. There is no need for this! Whatever one achieves immorally will be the source of pain and misery. And that is why Lord Swaminarayan has advocated shunning bad company and things that come in the way of Dharma. If we have faith then God will assist us.
Previously in our culture, the village Brahmin (priest) performed all the rituals. He was the deciding person who saw and arranged marriages. And the parents of the boy and girl would accept it and have them married. Even though the decided couple had not seen each other, their parents not having seen the prospective bride or groom, still the marriage worked. Questions and differences must have cropped up, but the newly married couple had a resolve to share the joys and sorrows together and live together till the end. Whereas today, a minor difference immediately results in separation and break up. But one should at least make an effort to understand and tolerate each other. But no! Even after having children, one files for divorce.
Then the tradition of the village Brahmin deciding the marriage faded and parents or an aunt or sister would see the match and decide the marriage. Then after marriage, they (wife and husband) would never think that because their parents had decided it hasn't worked so they should break up. Whatever had been decided would do. They would live together till the end, even if it meant living in misery or pain. There was no thought to the beauty or education of a girl. Since the elders had decided, the couple accepted.
And today, we find that the girl and boy search for their own partner. They choose and decide regardless of their parents and relatives. They stay for two months, four and six months and still end up divorcing. Even though they decide by themselves still they break up.
Formally, the family structure was united. The father figure managed all the social affairs. Whatever he did, the son, daughter, daughter-in-law agreed. Whereas today, there is a lack of unity in the family. Every member earns his/her money. When the son turns eighteen and starts earning, he then independently manages his own affairs. The wife too earns. Whereas before there was one bank balance in the family. Today we find 'This is my money and that is yours. You pay your own share of the electric bill.' Ironically the wife and husband 'share' to such an extent! Where lies the love between them! Even in matters of food provisions the same sentiments. How can such a marriage survive? This then shows that people's minds are different! As long as your minds are not one then you are not united. 'You pay half the rent and I the other half. My wages and your wages! I will spend my money in whatever way I wish and not the way you want!!!' But this is not Hinduism. If you decide to live according to norms, then no matter where you are, you will not have problems.
How can you have different bills when the husband, wife and parents live together? Why should the menu be different? Everyone should sit together, eat together, talk together, respect and love each other.
Because of the prevailing air of independence and freedom we are losing our cultural roots and values. People succumb to the enticing social climate. But no matter what one should follow one's true values, cultivate greater faith in Dharma, God and His commands. The more one preserves spiritual values in life, the more one's mind will be fortified, the better one's thoughts, the more peace and progress one will attain.