Thursday, 9 April 2009

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Today’s Failures with Family, Marriage

In flight over Africa

Somehow it happened that I ended up on the KLM flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg in a middle seat with a fairly large woman on one side and a thin woman on the other side. Traditionally monks or nuns for that matter stick to the company of the same gender. In circumstances such as now I have no choice. We might consider that the situation was not one of orthodox practice and that I am not necessarily keeping company of women. It is well engrained into the monastic culture to see everyone as family and at least to me the elder of two women I saw as a sister and the younger, my daughter.

Throughout the flight, which is austere (the only walking is to the toilet and back), we struck a little conversation. Only near the end did them and I open up, particularly to the younger one. She was curious.

I asked her, “Have you heard of us?”

“Yes, I attended the wedding of my friend, Arun, in your temple in Toronto last summer.”

From that point on we talked about the entity of marriage. The young Caucasian woman expressed that there is something essentially missing in today’s education. We both concurred that the subject of life is not taught and of the responsibility found within it. We also both agreed the preparedness of lifetime partnerships, learning to be committed and to discuss and compromise and sacrifice needed far more attention. It was a congenial conversation.

Personally, this topic of remorseful coupling and dysfunctional families disturbs me also daily. I am disappointed in the easy quitters, especially when children are involved.

The other evening Sivarama Swami spoke to his birthday crowd about how his upbringing was one of support and kindness, and being so sheltered he thought everyone had the same experience, until he got older and looked around him.

I could practically tell the same story. When I moved to the city 36 years ago to take up residence with the monks, I realized that many of the colleagues came from broken homes. It is unfortunate.

These days I prescribe to people to check out the Grihasta Vision Team, a group of professionally trained counselors in the art of learning to strengthen the bonds that free us.

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