Marriage to non-Buddhists

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Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Nausauketman » Tue Apr 27, 2010 1:36 am

I've been a Buddhist since the age of 15 when I read "What the Buddha Taught" by Walpola Rahula. I'm now in my 50's, and have become ever more convinced that what the Buddha taught is the way. My problem is that my wife is a very devote Catholic and is continually forcing her views on me in an attempt to "save" my soul which of course I do not believe I possess. I agreed when we first married 28 years ago to become a Catholic as I didn't take spiritual matters that seriously then. I felt that Buddhist tolerance could see me through. However, it becoming increasingly more difficult to go through the Catholic masses and ceremonies which are so empty for me. I could do it if my wife was more understanding, but she thinks I'm going to go to a very unpleasant purgatory unless she can save me. Anyone else experienced similar problems?
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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Ben » Tue Apr 27, 2010 2:03 am

Hi Nausauketman
Welcome to Dhamma Wheel.
A marriage should be founded on both love and respect.
Perhaps you need to talk to your wife and let her know that no amount of harranging to convert you to Catholicism is going to work. Be very gentle when you tell her she needs to accept and respect you and your decision not to convert, not to attend masses, and to practice the Dhamma.

Over twenty years ago I stopped my practice following pressure from my then girl-friend. Our relationship lasted two years and I now regret stopping something that meant, and continues to mean, so much to me. I will never do that again. A very good Dhamma friend is at the moment in a very similar situation to yourself and he is going through a painful separation.
Whatever happens, I hope things work out for the best.
kind regards

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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Apr 27, 2010 3:09 am

Hello, nausauketman,
Ben's advice is good (as usual) but you might also find some useful responses in this thread: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4108 about difference of faith within a family - inter-generational, this time, rather than between a couple.
A difference is easier to manage when one partner is lukewarm or indifferent to religion and the other committed. Two people committed in different directions both need to show an unusual amount of patience and trust.
Metta,

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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Stuart » Tue Apr 27, 2010 1:29 pm

:anjali: nausauketman,
Nausauketman wrote:I agreed when we first married 28 years ago to become a Catholic as I didn't take spiritual matters that seriously then.


Have you been baptised into the catholic church? If so you might wish to ask your wife to contemplate the following catechism

1272 Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptised is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation.83 Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.


It really isn't her job to 'save you' or 'judge you' - if you are baptised you are the property of Christ, not of your wife .... well, from a Catholic point of view, anyway ....

Maybe remind your wife that your relationship with God is your relationship with God and no one else is going to understand that relationship. To think that your Buddhist practice is a sin against God's will is to misunderstand the nature of God and the teachings of Christ. Maybe, you should ask your wife to reflect on the idea that she seems to be saying that she understands the mind of God and knows what He has planned for you. Her job as a catholic is to love and pray for you, not to get in the way of the Lords work.

This article may also be of interest to your wife:
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m ... _n6127448/

.... now if you could get her into meditation, then things would become much clearer for her :) .... This is the website of the Christian Meditation guys:
http://www.wccm.org/home.asp?pagestyle=home

Stuart
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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby wtp » Tue Apr 27, 2010 6:27 pm

On the other hand...

You agreed to Catholic practice as part of your commitment to the marriage. Participation in Catholic ritual is part and parcel of the deal.

I was bought up a Catholic, practice as a Buddhist (by which I mean observing precepts, meditating, sutta study, attending the local Buddhist group from time to time) and I am married to a Hindu. I participate in all the puja, temple visits etc. My kids say Sanskrit prayers at dinner. These things are not meaningful to me, and often boring. But they are part of the deal. I respect my wife's (and more importantly my in-laws') religion and practice, there are many good and worthwhile elements to it. For example I do not believe offering flowers and incense to statues of gods will bring good things - but I do believe respect and gratitude are worth cultivating.

On the third hand....

If your wife is demanding more than tolerance and participation, if she is wanting you to abandon your practice or to profess belief in things you don't believe then that is another matter and a problem that will require a lot of work.
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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Nausauketman » Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:56 pm

Thanks to all for the replies. I've found they all contain good advice. I have tried to talk gently to her as you advise, Ben, but it never works- just sends her into a rage. However, I'll not stop trying. We're both getting older and perhaps she'll grow more tolerant. I am reading through that thread you suggested, Kim, and it is helpful. I was the lukewarm one for a long time, but no longer and I am having do reach deeper into my reservoir of trust. The catechism quotes are helpful, Stuart. I'll have to bone up on that. I can use that if we go to a priest for counseling as I'm considering. I'm with you there, wtp, I converted for her and figured I could participate in all the ritual, and, YES, it's very boring! And, as with you, I could take it if that's all it was, but you hit the nail on the head: my wife is "demanding more than tolerance and participation." I've got my work cut out for me. Once again, thanks for your support and suggestions. They're much appreciated. I'm happy I found the Dhamma Wheel.
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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Wed Apr 28, 2010 12:16 am

I hope you don't mind me throwing my 2-cents in but I converted to Islam for the sake of marriage and conveniently converted back to Buddhism at a later date :tongue: . When we got married I was more ecumenical in my views and thought I could hack it by way of clever twists of reason and sleights of theology but perennial philosophy doesn't quite hold up to the Dhamma. I am lucky that my wife is more understanding and even appreciates a lot of the Dhamma but I find myself edging ever closer to come out of the closet to my in-laws that I am-GASP-a Buddhist. This won't go over well to be sure so I'm holding back for my wife and toddler but it's hard for the very reason that my son is so young and I want to give him what I can of the Dhamma because (if he uses it) it is something which would be of inestimable value. Until then I fast for the month of Ramadan (it's my intensive nekkhamma retreat) and go to the mosque on the 2 Eids, keep halal (which is easy for a vegetarian) and greet the in-laws with 'Salaam alaikum' when the need arises. If I had it to do over again I would have never converted but having done so and landed myself deep in the mess I can sympathize completely with your plight. I wish you all the best. Metta.
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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Nausauketman » Wed Apr 28, 2010 12:45 am

Kahlil Bodhi, I don't mind your 2 cents at all. Appreciate it very much, in fact. Funny how similar our situations are even if you have to deal with Islam and I with Catholicism. And yes, kids do complicate matters. Our 3 have been raised Catholic, but I they all know I'm a Buddhist, that I love their mom, and that I just go through the motions at church for her sake. I have a copy of "What the Buddha Taught" by Walpola Rahula in the house and they all know where it is. My middle child has shown an interest in it and I bought him a copy of his own to have with him in college. Glad your wife is understanding. Mine is less so, but in so many ways, a good woman. I love her and hope to work this out. I hope to get to the point where she'll be accepting of my going with her to mass but not participating except for shaking peoples' hands and wishing them peace. I'm also OK with the Lord's Prayer as it is so Buddhist. I'm really uncomfortable reciting the Apostles' Creed, however, as it is basically a statement that you believe in all of the Christian dogma. Well, thanks again for your 2 cents.
Peace.
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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:27 am

You promised to become a Catholic 28 years ago and you fulfilled your promise, but I doubt you promised to brainwash yourself.

People change and 28 years is a long time, in a marriage you either change together or compromise if you want it to last, you've changed and your wife has stayed rigid.

There are lots of Catholics in this world who are tolerant, I think you have to ask yourself why your wife isn't one of them, I've been to Buddhist meditation retreats that were attended by Catholic priests.

I don't see it as a Buddhist vs Catholic issue, but a tolerance vs intolerance issue. You have shown a lot of flexibility, you've raised your children Catholic.

I think you have to ask yourself do you want this to still be a festering issue into your old age together, or can you set the boundaries and make a compromise that will last.
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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Nausauketman » Wed Apr 28, 2010 11:08 am

Goofaholix, when you write,"I don't see it as a Buddhist vs Catholic issue, but a tolerance vs intolerance issue," I think you've hit on a truth. Our parish priest is from London, UK of Hindu Indian mother and Scottish father. He strikes me as a very tolerant person. I've been mulling over going to see him for counseling as a last resort if reasoning directly with my wife doesn't work. Thanks for the advice.
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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Nibbida » Thu Apr 29, 2010 1:46 am

I was raised Catholic and there's no way I would practice it for anyone, for any reason. Generally speaking, I'd rather vomit than sit through a mass. I could not conceive of a reason, at this point in my life, that I would ever stop practicing the Dhamma.

That being said, I couldn't agree more with Goofaholix about it being a tolerance issue vs a religious issue. You might be interested to check out books by John Gottman, a psychology who has done research on what factors make up happy marriages (as opposed to most people in the marriage counseling field who have been working on assumptions). See his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. In it, he talks about "gridlock issues," perpetual problems like differences in religion, having/not having children, etc. where there is unlikely to be any compromise. The strategy is to move from gridlock to dialogue, and rather than resolve the issue, to make peace with the issue (i.e. develop acceptance, flexibility, finding common ground).

In many relationships, I have found the "common ground" approach to be useful. On some level, Buddhism is not as different from other religions as we may think. If we heed the message of the Simile of the Raft, any religion is just a means to get across to the other side. Once there, we set down the raft and move on. If you look at the work of Christian mystics, you will find that you are in very familiar territory. The only thing that changes is the vocabulary. The Cloud of Unknowing was written by an anonymous Christian mystic, and if you change the word "God" to "Ultimate reality" or Emptiness, it sounds like a Buddhist monk wrote it (albeit God is a little more personified version). St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart are other examples from history. Eckhart Tolle regularly uses examples from Jesus to illustrate points that seem to come straight out of the Dhamma.

Contemporary writers have addressed this too. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote Living Buddha, Living Christ and Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers. A very easy book for someone to sink their teeth into in this genre is Marcus Borg's Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings. Buddhadasa Bhikkhu wrote that “those who have penetrated to the highest understanding will feel that the thing called ‘religion’ doesn't exist after all. There is no Buddhism; there is no Christianity; there is no Islam. How can they be the same or in conflict when they don't even exist?" ("No Religion," 1967. http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books ... ligion.htm)

I used to feel irritated whenever people spoke about God, Jesus, etc., wishing they would just shut the hell up. Now when I hear them speak, I think of the Buddhist equivalent of what they are saying and I actually appreciate them for it. For example, I have a relative who often says "It's in the Lord's hands." I see that as her accepting the inevitable, not trying to control the uncontrollable, which I choose to call "equanimity." Angels or devas, saints or bodhisattvas & arhants. You say tomato, I say to-mah-to. Finding middle ground and equivalent terms has made family occasions a hell of a lot (pardon the pun) more enjoyable for me, which in turn allows me to better practice compassion and kindness. There are no losers in that game.

That being said, Christians can be a little adamant about joining Team Jesus, declaring strict allegiance, attending services, and tithing. It has survived as well as it has because of its pernicious memes. It actively encourages inflexibility in that regard. So all the more reason to have patience and compassion for those who buy into it wholeheartedly. Either you wife will be moved, sooner or later, by your honesty and sincere efforts to find a middle ground and appreciate what is so important to her. If not, then she is struggling horribly with choosing between the religion she holds dear and the man she has chosen to spend her life with (and you know how serious those Christians are about that whole "marriage" thing.) So that must be a difficult conflict for her to live with. Check out Shantideva's chapter on Patience (especially Pema Chodron's commentary in No Time To Lose) Our greatest "adversaries" can be our greatest teachers, if we choose to recognize them as such. There is actually something to be gained from difficulties like this.

:anjali:

P.S. Another family member of mine told me she's reading the Jesus Sutras in her bible study group. I kid you not. It's the writings of an 11th century Christian missionary into China, who had to express Christian ideas in a Taoist/Buddhist framework. The author states that "fourteen hundred years ago, the Jesus Sutras had already created a synthesis of Tao, Christ, and Buddha."
http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Sutras-Redi ... 0345434242
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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Nausauketman » Thu Apr 29, 2010 2:15 am

Hey, your all great! Thanks a lot Nibbida. I'm not giving up on this. Appreciate all the resources suggested and will definitely check them out. I have often been struck by things attributed to Jesus that sound very Buddhist. I wonder if Jesus would be dismayed at what men have wrought from his life. Sitting through mass is a challenge, for sure. I think during the Apostles Creed, I'll just mumble The Noble Eightfold Path: very quietly, of course. ;)
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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Nibbida » Thu Apr 29, 2010 6:10 pm

You're quite welcome. I hope it works out for you. Sometimes a shift in attitude is all that is needed, a catalyst to move things in a different direction.

Nibbida wrote:The strategy is to move from gridlock to dialogue, and rather than resolve the issue, to make peace with the issue (i.e. develop acceptance, flexibility, finding common ground).


It occurred to me after writing that post that the above is just an elaboration of "Right Speech."
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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Pannapetar » Tue May 04, 2010 10:23 am

Nausauketman, you have my sympathy. You see, I am married too and I have sat through incredibly boring ceremonies with my wife as well. The difference is that these were Buddhist ceremonies. Although I consider myself a student of the Buddha, I see very little benefit in listening to hour-long Pali chanting, for the simple reason that I don't understand Pali. However, for a marriage to be successful, both partners must be willing to make occasional compromises for the benefit of the other partner. The emphasis is on "occasional compromise", which is quite different from "permanent submission". Insofar the best course of action would be to explain your ideas and feelings to your wife in a diplomatic manner and stay away from those masses. Agree with your wife that your religious/philosophical views are incompatible. You are probably quite compatible in other ways, otherwise your marriage wouldn't have lasted 28 years. Perhaps its best to build on that capital rather than to get hung up on the differences.

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Zom » Tue May 04, 2010 2:42 pm

I've been a Buddhist since the age of 15 when I read "What the Buddha Taught" by Walpola Rahula. I'm now in my 50's, and have become ever more convinced that what the Buddha taught is the way. My problem is that my wife is a very devote Catholic and is continually forcing her views on me in an attempt to "save" my soul which of course I do not believe I possess. I agreed when we first married 28 years ago to become a Catholic as I didn't take spiritual matters that seriously then. I felt that Buddhist tolerance could see me through. However, it becoming increasingly more difficult to go through the Catholic masses and ceremonies which are so empty for me. I could do it if my wife was more understanding, but she thinks I'm going to go to a very unpleasant purgatory unless she can save me. Anyone else experienced similar problems?


If you are cute enough, you can convert her to Buddhism yourself - that would solve all the problems.
To do so you can use so called "drop seeds" method - that is you could from time to time give obvious comments and rise natural questions (on different life matters and situations) that will make her think a little bit rather than blindly keep God-belief. Buddha's truths can be seen here and now without any dogmatic conceptions. If you could make her see these truths - that will bring a huge benefit to both of you.
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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Nibbida » Tue May 04, 2010 7:42 pm

Zom wrote: If you are cute enough, you can convert her to Buddhism yourself - that would solve all the problems.
To do so you can use so called "drop seeds" method - that is you could from time to time give obvious comments and rise natural questions (on different life matters and situations) that will make her think a little bit rather than blindly keep God-belief. Buddha's truths can be seen here and now without any dogmatic conceptions. If you could make her see these truths - that will bring a huge benefit to both of you.


Unfortunately, this is a manipulative approach. To try to change a person's mind by surreptitiously "dropping seeds" lacks the consideration to let each person make their own choices. It's underhanded, rather than up front and honest. Even if she were to (miraculously) convert to Buddhism, what effect would a manipulative style of interaction have on a relationship? It may seem that eliminating differences between oneself and one's partner would eliminate problems, but no matter how similar two people are, there will always be further differences. (What if she converts to Tibetan Buddhism and you're a Theravadan? Gasp!) Finding ways to negotiate differences is a much more realistic approach than relying solely on trying to eliminate them.
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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Wind » Wed May 05, 2010 3:21 am

Nibbida wrote:
Zom wrote: If you are cute enough, you can convert her to Buddhism yourself - that would solve all the problems.
To do so you can use so called "drop seeds" method - that is you could from time to time give obvious comments and rise natural questions (on different life matters and situations) that will make her think a little bit rather than blindly keep God-belief. Buddha's truths can be seen here and now without any dogmatic conceptions. If you could make her see these truths - that will bring a huge benefit to both of you.


Unfortunately, this is a manipulative approach. To try to change a person's mind by surreptitiously "dropping seeds" lacks the consideration to let each person make their own choices. It's underhanded, rather than up front and honest. Even if she were to (miraculously) convert to Buddhism, what effect would a manipulative style of interaction have on a relationship? It may seem that eliminating differences between oneself and one's partner would eliminate problems, but no matter how similar two people are, there will always be further differences. (What if she converts to Tibetan Buddhism and you're a Theravadan? Gasp!) Finding ways to negotiate differences is a much more realistic approach than relying solely on trying to eliminate them.


I wouldn't really call it manipulative but rather subtle approach. In fact the Buddha even use this method. Like when a woman came to the Buddha to seek him to heal her dead child. The Buddha ask her to gather seeds from all the household that has no deaths in their families. And she could not find a single one. She eventually realize the dhamma through this experience. For some people, direct instruction may not be the best approach as they will automatically reject it before even considering it. But through subtle instructions, they too can realize the truth.
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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Nibbida » Wed May 05, 2010 6:56 pm

The difference with Kisa Gotami is that she was seeking help from the Buddha, and he provided her with an instruction. Teaching in subtle ways is perfectly fine, maybe optimal in some situations, like the Buddha demonstrated. But "subtly teaching" a person so that they will conform to your wishes is the manipulative aspect.
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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby SDC » Wed May 05, 2010 9:54 pm

Nausauketman wrote:I have tried to talk gently to her as you advise, Ben, but it never works- just sends her into a rage. However, I'll not stop trying. We're both getting older and perhaps she'll grow more tolerant. .


I have a thought that you may find helpful, although I don't know how you could apply it. I occurred to me when you brought up her anger in response to your practice. Now bare with me, because this may seem ridiculous, but I hope not.

For her not to have the person closest to her share in her beliefs may be causing her to momentarily question those beliefs herself. That then requires her to restore her confidence in those beliefs as fast as possible. I do not believe this is a pleasant thing for her to do, mainly due to the fact that, logically, Catholicism is quite difficult to accept. Fundamentally it goes against reason. That seems tough for her. So she lets you know, through anger, how unpleasant that process was. You also mentioned how she brought up the idea of purgatory to you and how she wants to save you from it. Seems to me that she is trying to instill some fear into you to get you to see it the way she does. Perhaps this tactic is prompted by her memories of early days of Catholic education in which fear, whether intentionally or unintentionally, becomes such a major aspect of the religion and how it is conveyed.

I know this may sound ridiculous considering her apparent passionate attitude, but perhaps there something to be seen. She seems terrified for herself and for you and does not want you to "waste" your time with something(Buddhism) that will not "properly" save you.

So I have to say that I agree tolerance is playing a part here, but I do not see it as being the underlying issue.

Let me know if I am way off.
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Re: Marriage to non-Buddhists

Postby Nausauketman » Fri May 07, 2010 1:03 pm

Pannapetar wrote:Nausauketman, you have my sympathy. You see, I am married too and I have sat through incredibly boring ceremonies with my wife as well. The difference is that these were Buddhist ceremonies. Although I consider myself a student of the Buddha, I see very little benefit in listening to hour-long Pali chanting, for the simple reason that I don't understand Pali. However, for a marriage to be successful, both partners must be willing to make occasional compromises for the benefit of the other partner. The emphasis is on "occasional compromise", which is quite different from "permanent submission". Insofar the best course of action would be to explain your ideas and feelings to your wife in a diplomatic manner and stay away from those masses. Agree with your wife that your religious/philosophical views are incompatible. You are probably quite compatible in other ways, otherwise your marriage wouldn't have lasted 28 years. Perhaps its best to build on that capital rather than to get hung up on the differences.

Cheers, Thomas



Pannapetar/Thomas, thanks for the post. You're quite right, my wife and I are very compatible in most things- very perceptive of you. The BIG exception of course is religion.
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