Sanghamitta wrote:I think any spritual path that causes its practitioners to view marriage and by extension, parenthood or son or daughterhood as an " illness " needs to have a good long look at itself.
Seems to me this becomes a problem when people are confused about their goals.
If one wants to be a fully dedicated yogi, intent on applying all efforts towards liberation, practicing as though one's hair is on fire, etc, then presumably the fewer attachments the better. Regarding marriage (and other worldly activities) the way one would regard an illness might help keep an unmarried practitioner focused on the goal. Probably not real useful for a monastic to cultivate a view of marriage and parenthood as desirable -- although if a monk or nun wants to be able to counsel laypeople, it could be helpful to have some understanding of (and compassion for) the layperson's perspective.
If one wants to get married and raise a family, then one should do it properly; otherwise it's a dishonest arrangement. The Buddha has teachings on how to achieve a happier present life and generate merit for future lives, and I don't see any reason why one couldn't take up a meditation practice as well -- understanding that there are some constraints and tradeoffs between one's yogic and wordly pursuits, and that we're going to feel irritated in conversations with the more gung-ho types who seem to look down on us. There might be lucky instances where both spouses are Buddhists and equally committed to seeking arahantship, but whatever the case, marriage is not about unilateral choices.
The trouble arises when the householder decides to be a renunciant (or vice versa) but without leaving home. For instance, we can find some pretty icky stuff in one of the early (but influential) Mahayana sutras:
Jan Nattier wrote: There are numerous generic mentions of women, virtually all of them in reference to the wife of the male lay bodhisattva, and she is consistently portrayed as an object of clinging and as a possible stimulus to wrong action on the bodhisattva's part. The bodhisattva is told to vier her as a "denizen of the Avici hell" and to train himself to conceive of her (together with his other relatives, employees and slaves) as not really "his". Lest he continue to feel any residual attachment to his marital partner even after these personalizing reflections, the lay bodhisattva is given a long list of negative thoughts he should cultivate towards his wife, ranging from a crocodile to a demon to a guardian of hell...In sum, the bodhisattva's wife is portrayed as an object and an obstalce, and the possibility is never even considered that she might be a serious Buddhist practitioner (much less a bodhisattva) in her own right. (A Few Good Men: the Bodhisattva path according to the Inquiry of Ugra)
Misogyny and gender issues aside, this is a wonderfully crappy way to treat those around you -- but again, i'd say the problem here is mainly one of confusing different paradigms. We don't live in ancient India or China where a reluctant husband was required to pay lip service to various socioeconomic obligations. There's no reason, these days, to be married unless one values it. Children and spouses need love and affection; if one doesn't want to be involved with such fetters, better to stay single or get divorced. Many kids, I think, would say an indifferent parent is worse than no parent.