i was married 'officially'' for a decade, and now I have been seperated for 2 years after that. So, my thoughts and experience:
I think maybe, marriage and family is really the true proving ground for the realization of Anatta. Although I respect the Buddha and the Sangha immensely for the teachings, I would have be even much more convinced if these people had been able to achieve arahant status within the confines of a relationship to spouse and family . Because, I know from being on retreat in monastic settings that it's easy to become saturated with the Dhamma away from 'real' life..but what happens when we enter into 'real' life and how do we apply and understand the Dhamma there?
The monastic setting, does not have the interpersonal challenges equal to those in marriage and family life, where people are confronting you, in a big way, constantly with worldly concerns, day after day and moment after moment. I am maybe devout in my admiration of the Buddha doing prostrations and everything else due to trust, honor and repect. But, the Buddha always asked people to question his Dhamma. I wonder, whether the Buddha could have maintained his composure, by returning to the family life after his enlightenment. Living in that life, versus the controlled monastic environment is 2 different things.
People often ask, how would the Buddha react if he was stuck living working in McDonald's with some trash life, and trash wife, and I do wonder about whether an arahant, or even a Buddha stay in that life without aversion to run from Mc D's to the monastery? Would he stay there in McDonald's without aversion, living with your crappy job and crappy family? There is no space between these, so one might ask about these questions.The cashier at McDonald's might be an arahant, and we don't know it. Instead we go and and study with monastics that live in a nice controlled and insulated life, free from the world. So...who understands the Dhamma better, the monastic who is esteemed and living in seclusion training in Buddhist teachings his whole life, or the McDonald's cook who has been passing through the fires his whole life, married to some crazy women and having some crazy children, to realize the Dhamma first-hand? And no, I don't work at Mc Donalds like the example and am an engineer but realize it's the same thing......married people have a much crazier life and much more tribulation than monastics and I wonder if arahants could really survive in this environment if they were forced into it.