An “ideal couple” once came to Gautama Buddha and asked, “Lord, we married after being acquainted from childhood and there has never been a cloud on our happiness. Please tell us if we can be married in the next life?” The Buddha gave them this wise answer: “If you both have exactly the same faith, if you both receive the same teaching in exactly the same way, and if you have the same wisdom, then you will have the same mind in the next birth.”
The Buddha did not specifically say that they would or would not be married in the next life. Instead, He wanted to bring to their attention what living the “ideal” marriage truly involves. To have known each other for a long time or to never have had a cloud of unhappiness are not the essential components of a strong marital union. The wish of that couple was to have an everlasting union. But, Buddha indirectly questioned if their present marriage had in it what was required to make it everlasting.
At a certain marriage ceremony, the Buddha stated: “The greatest happiness which a mortal man can imagine is the bond of marriage that ties together two loving hearts. But, there is a greater happiness still: it is to embrace the truth. Death will separate husband and wife, but death will never affect him who has espoused the truth. Therefore, be married unto the truth and live with the truth in holy wedlock.”
Thus, sages state that the Divine can express itself in a marriage if both husband and wife are of the same mind, if they stand on the same platform of truth and support each other to adhere to the truth at all times, regardless of what may come before them. It has been very beautifully said, “The best garment is the garment of God-consciousness. It requires that a husband and wife should be as garments for each other. Just as garments are for protection, comfort, show and concealment for human beings, God expects husbands and wives to be for one another.” Thus, sages advise that husbands and wives should work to reveal the wisdom in their spouses and help each other elevate their minds towards God, so as to mutually benefit by their wedlock.
Yogananda Paramahansa has stated, “The greatest thing a husband or wife can wish for the spouse is spirituality; for the soul unfoldment brings out the divine qualities of understanding, patience, thoughtfulness, and love.” Spouses must learn how to advance each other's happiness and promote each other's welfare. Advancing each other's vanity does not provide any benefit. By doing so, one only weakens the spouse's spiritual potential by keeping him or her locked in the body-mind complex.
An example of how a wife elevated her husband from being material-minded to spiritual-minded comes from the story of Ratnavali and Tulsidas. Tulsidas was excessively attached to his beautiful wife, Ratnavali. Once, Ratnavali went to her father's house for a few days. Tulsidas missed her so much that he journeyed in the dark across the river in order to meet her. He took a boat and reached her place at night. Then he noticed that there was a rope hanging from the balcony outside her room. He climbed what he thought was a rope and entered her room.
Ratnavali was utterly annoyed at her husband's level of attachment. She exclaimed, “Do you have any idea of what you just did? It wasn't a rope that you just climbed; it was a snake! Are you that blind in my love that you couldn't distinguish between a snake and a rope? Great is your love for this body of mine composed of bones and flesh! Had you offered half of this love to God, you would have been spared from all worldly troubles and have attained salvation while living. This is an illusion that you are tied to, which is fleeting. But, God will remain with you forever. He is the only Truth in the entire creation. He is the one you should long and thirst for.” These sharp, but wise words brought a new light to Tulsidas. They awakened him to the unreality of the world and worldly relations, and also to the reality of the Supreme God.
With the inspiration from his wife, and the divine guidance from his guru, Nar Hari Das Ji, Tulsidas went on to become Goswami Tulsidas, a highly revered sage (Goswami = Master of the Senses). He writes in his Vinaypatrika:
Up till now I have lost much and wasted life in idle pursuits.
The grace of Lord Rama has aroused me from sleep.
Awakened now, I shall not allow myself to be victimised by Maya (Illusion).
I have gained the grace of the Lord's Name.
I shall hold it fast to my heart and
not let it depart from me for a second.
The beautiful form of the Lord I shall cherish in my mind. For long has this world mocked me, making me a slave of the senses.
Now I shall have no more of it.
I am now a bee at my Lord's Lotus Feet
and shall not allow my mind to leave the enjoyment of their nectar for a moment.
Moreover, when a husband and wife possess the knowledge of the Self, the Holy Spirit within, they become Divine to each other. Swami Rama Tirtha has said, “The wife should be the mirror through which the husband could see God. The husband should be the mirror in which the wife could see God… Believe not in the lump of flesh of your companion; believe in the Divinity within. You should look at this outward flesh and skin as a curtain which becomes transparent to you and you could see beyond the curtain, the Divine Lord within.”
When a person sees the Divine in his/her spouse, all possessiveness and selfishness vanishes. What remains is the subordination of one's own desires in return for the spiritual welfare and growth of the other. The partnership thus doesn't become one that averts problems and unhappiness, but becomes one where both companions aid each other in rising above the mundane and grasping the reality of Divine Love. Their mutual pursuits become higher and holier.