Soul-Mates, Marriage and the Integral Yoga

The soul-mate, the individual who is intended to match your soul in this lifetime, the perfect partner, the person who helps one make life work. People are always seeking for just the perfect match, and there are any number of romantic notions about how this occurs in life. People then say that there is always just that one special person who is intended to fulfill one’s life and one needs only to be receptive and the meeting will take place.

There is of course a truth behind this concept, both based on experience in life by many people, as well as in the concept of karmic bonds spanning across lifetimes. The question however arises whether the existence of a soul-mate warrants all of the things that come along with that relationship if one is fixed on attaining results in yoga in this lifetime.

Some religious denominations encourage marriage among their priests in order to create a ‘helpmeet’ who aids the priest in fulfilling his life and duties. Some encourage marriage among devotees with the idea of living a devoted life while developing and maintaining a family experience.

Yet, for the spiritual seeker with a one-pointed focus on realisation, the entire concept of human vital interactions becomes a distraction. The great Tibetan yogi Milarepa devoted his life to intense sadhana and meditation and gave up on the idea of a marital relationship with his intended bride.

For the seeker of the integral yoga, everything depends on whether the individual is ready and prepared to take on the challenges of the intense focus needed for the transformation of life from a basis in the ego and the body-life-mind complex to a basis in the divine consciousness and a universal standpoint.

In an instance where the seeker is prepared to undertake the rigors of the path, the idea of such vital relationships becomes a way for the habitual energetic patterns of the vital being to try to impose themselves and convince the being, and the mental understanding, of the need to maintain such a direction and such a relationship. Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that this is one of the wiles of the vital nature to distract the dedicated sadhak from the focus on the goal.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Regarding your question about a complementary soul and marriage, the answer is easy to give; the way of the spiritual life lies for you in one direction and marriage lies in quite another and opposite. All talk about a complementary soul is a camouflage with which the mind tries to cover the sentimental, sensational and physical wants of the lower vital nature. It is that vital nature in you which puts the question and would like an answer reconciling its desires and demands with the call of the true soul in you. But it must not expect a sanction for any such incongruous reconciliation from here. The way of the supramental yoga is clear; it lies not through concession to these things, — not, in your case, through satisfaction, under a spiritual cover if possible, of its craving for the comforts and gratifications of a domestic and conjugal life and the enjoyment of the ordinary emotional desires and physical passions, — but through the purification and transformation of the forces which these movements pervert and misuse. Not these human and animal demands, but the divine Ananda which is above and beyond them and which the indulgence of these degraded forms would prevent from descending, is the great thing that the aspiration of the vital being must demand in the sadhak.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Sex, pp 299-308

Marriage and Spiritual Life in the Integral Yoga

In many religious traditions it is customary to expect the dedicated aspirant to forego not only sexual relations, but also worldly entanglements. In the Catholic religious tradition, nuns are considered to be ‘brides of Christ’ and as such, do not enter into the state of marriage. In the Hindu tradition, there is a phase in the life-cycle that is encouraged as one of leaving behind worldly attachments and taking up ‘life in the forest’, in other words, a dedicated spiritual seeking without involvement with the relations of the world in the normal sense. Many traditions counsel leaving behind one’s past relations and attachments when one is prepared to fully dedicate oneself to the divine quest. At the same time, individuals who take up this type of ascetic life of renunciation are not always prepared and suited for this life, and they then have to struggle, and in many cases, fail, to achieve complete control over the desires and impulses that would otherwise find normal expression in living an outwardly normal worldly life.

Within this context, for the truly dedicated seeker who is ready and prepared to abandon all and follow the path of spiritual one-pointed focus, marriage is and can be something of a distraction. Marriage involves commitments and the marriage partner has an expectation that these commitments will be fully met and supported from both sides of the marriage. Marriage also involves a number of developments, including career, household formation, in most cases children and family relations that add complexity and complications to the relation of spouses in the marriage.

Sri Aurobindo also addresses the issue with which so many traditions have struggled, namely, the dedication or taking of vows of people who have either a strong mental concept or emotional push to dedicate their lives to their seeking, but who have not yet fully resolved their physical, vital and mental predilections and instincts and thus, have constant issues in carrying out the vows they make. Spiritual progress can be made even while someone is living out the worldly life, or living in a state of marriage in society, particularly if they bring their aspiration into their lives and work through the issues that are major obstacles today for them. The intelligence of the Hindu stages of life idea exemplifies an approach that can aid people in working through the lures, needs, and pressures of the worldly existence before embarking on the life of renunciation that a one-pointed spiritual dedication requires.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “As to the question of marriage in general, we do not consider it advisable for one who desires to come to the spiritual life. Marriage means usually any amount of trouble, heavy burdens, a bondage to the worldly life and great difficulties in the way of single-minded spiritual endeavour. Its only natural purpose would be, if the sexual trend was impossible to conquer, to give it a restricted and controlled satisfaction.”

“It is only a minority that is called to the strict yogic life and there will be always plenty of people who will continue the race. Certainly, the yogi has no contempt or aversion for human nature; he understands it and the place given to each of its activities with a clear and calm regard.”

“… A mental acceptance or enthusiasm for the sadhana is not a sufficient guarantee nor sufficient ground for calling people, especially young people, to begin it. Afterwards these vital instincts rise up and there is nothing sufficient to balance or prevail against them, — only mental ideas which do not prevail against the instincts, but on the other hand, also stand in the way of the natural social means of satisfaction. If she marries now and gets experience of the human vital life, then thereafter there may be a chance of her mental aspiration for sadhana turning into the real thing.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Sex, pp 299-308