This past month marked my parents’ 52nd wedding anniversary. This is quite a milestone, for sure!
I wonder if many of you reading this are curious about the secret of the success of their marriage.
Well, I can confidently tell you that it would not be common tastes or preference because my mom and dad are polar opposites in many ways. My mom loves warmer weather and can easily tolerate heat. My dad prefers cooler temperatures and loves air-conditioning. My mom’s favorite beverage is chai and she never has cold foods or beverages, while my dad loves cold food such as fruit salad, iced drinks and of course, ice cream. ?
My mom likes to take her time shopping at a relaxed, leisurely pace. My dad is focused and task-oriented and prefers to ‘get the job done’ and then relax. My mom is creative and open to new possibilities – and this is evident in her cooking where she rarely follows a recipe and is always coming up with new ways to serve the same dish. My dad is an engineer so once he has found a way to do something that works, he would rather not deviate from this path.
Yet they are completely devoted to each other. So, what is the secret of their marriage?
My mom tells me that their wedding fell on the day of Buddha Purnima – which is also known as Vesak or Buddha Jayanti – one of the most important Buddhist festivals that marks Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. Buddhists worldwide celebrate this day according to the lunar calendar on the full moon day usually in May. In India, Buddha Purnima (or Vesak) is a national holiday.
I think it is not a coincidence that my parents’ wedding day was on Buddha Purnima. I would say that the foundation of my parents’ marriage is their devotion not just to one another and their immediate family- but their commitment to live a life of giving, integrity and service.
I recall how my parents would take us on summer vacations to India with suitcases overflowing with gifts for all our relatives, and even friends and relatives of our relatives. When my brother and I were young kids, it was our job to sit on top of the suitcases so that they could close because they were packed with so much stuff! My parents’ generosity was not limited just to family and friends in India. When our friends visited my parents’ home, they never left empty handed. Even today, when someone comes to repair something at my parents’ home in Queens, NY, my mom is ready with a parting gift- often a box of chocolate or a bag of pistachios. ?
Over the years, I have watched my parents’ bond strengthen with the support of a common spiriutal path and purpose. The content of their sharing has shifted to include books on spiritual topics. On my parents’ spiritual path, this is called jagat kalyan- which means sharing for healing and uplifting the world- and allowing for the truly good, auspicious, blessed and beautiful to unfold for everyone.
Giving is receiving
For my parents, to share what they have with others is like breathing and sharing air. There is no thought. It is simply done. My brother and I were raised in America – where the emphasis is more on the individual and nuclear family- so at times it was hard for us to understand my parents’ perspective.
However, today, I realize their wisdom. I feel grateful to my parents for showing me at a young age by their example of sharing and giving, that we are really giving to ourselves. That what seems separate and apart is really all one- part of One Mind that is healing together.
The story of the Prince Siddhartha
My parents’ deep understanding of their shared oneness with their family and friends is at the heart of the compassion that inspired Prince Siddhartha – before he became the Buddha- to release all his family attachments, leaving behind his wife, infant son and all the riches and splendor of his life of royalty, comfort and opulence. Through a series of events, Prince Siddhartha realized that despite all his earthly comforts, there was the inevitability of old age, sickness and death. Was this all there was to life? What was the ultimate purpose of life? There had to be more, and it was in quest of this answer that Siddhartha began his search.
In my work at Coaching for Inner Peace, I feel that the clients that find their way to me are often struggling with similar questions. It may look on the surface that they have some emotional or physical problem, or some challenge with a relationship. Or that they are grieving a loss or undergoing some major change with respect to their career or life path. At their heart, they are seeking a way to find some sense of enduring comfort, rest and purpose within their world- which often feels like it is falling apart or at least not what they imagined it to be.
I love the story of Prince Siddhartha because we each can learn from his example. I don’t mean we need to leave our family and go off to the forest to spend years in meditation practice and so on and so forth. ? But we can learn from what Prince Siddhartha did not do. He did not try to enter a new relationship hoping he would find happiness there. He did not try to conquer another kingdom or add another palace to his property. He chose the inner path- to go deeply within himself and find a new way to understand Life. He was seeking the Truth that would set him and all his loved ones free. After attaining enlightenment, legend states that the Buddha returned to share his teachings with his father, his wife, his son and other family and friends.
If you feel inspired to see a short beautiful clip of the journey of Prince Siddhartha, click here.
If you feel inspired to learn more, I would invite you to watch Little Buddha– a wonderful movie about a Buddhist Lama who comes to Seattle in search of the reincarnation of his dead teacher. He finds three kids who each could be the reincarnation and to determine which is the true reincarnation, they must all journey to Bhutan. One child is a young boy living with his family in Seattle, while the other two are a young boy and girl, living in Nepal and India, respectively. Interspersed with the main story is a beautiful retelling of the story of Prince Siddhartha – from his life as a prince to becoming the Buddha.