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The Teachings of the Buddha: The Happiness Visible in This Present Life and “The Same in Living”

by Bhikkhu Bodhi
October 17, 2013
Thu, 10/17/2013 - 10:48 -- bbodhi

Wholesome relations between parents and children depend in turn upon the mutual affection and respect of husband and wife, and thus the Buddha also offers guidelines for proper relationships between married couples. These again emphasize a common commitment to ethical conduct and spiritual ideals. Of special interest to us, at a time when many marriages end so soon in divorce, is the Buddha’s advice to the loving couple Nakulapitā and Nakulamātā on how the love between a husband and his wife can be sustained so strongly that they can be reunited in their future lives. This discourse also shows that far from demanding that his lay disciples spurn the desires of the world, the Buddha was ready to show those still under the sway of worldly desire how to obtain the objects of their desire. The one requirement he laid down was that the fulfillment of desire be regulated by ethical principles.

On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling among the Bhaggas in Suṃsumāragira in the deer park at Bhesakalā Grove. Then, in the morning, the Blessed One dressed, took his bowl and robe, and went to the residence of the householder Nakulapitā, where he sat down in the prepared seat. Then the householder Nakulapitā and the housewife Nakulamātā approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, and sat down to one side. The householder Nakulapitā then said to the Blessed One:

   “Bhante, since I was young, when the young girl Nakulamātā was given to me in marriage, I do not recall ever transgressing against her even in thought, much less by deed. We wish, bhante, to see one another not only in this present life but also in future lives.”

   The housewife Nakulamātā in turn said to the Blessed One: “Bhante, since I was a young girl given to the young householder Nakulapitā in marriage, I do not recall ever transgressing against him even in thought, much less by deed. We wish, bhante, to see one another not only in this present life but also in future lives.”

   “Householders, if both husband and wife wish to see one another not only in this present life but also in future lives, they should have the same faith, the same virtuous behavior, the same generosity, and the same wisdom. Then they will see one another not only in this present life but also in future lives.”

Both husband and wife are endowed with faith,
charitable and self-controlled,
living their lives righteously,
addressing each other with pleasant words,

Then many benefits accrue to them
and they dwell at ease.
Their enemies are saddened
when both are the same in virtue.

Having practiced the Dhamma here,
the same in virtuous behavior and observances,
delighting [after death] in a deva world,
they rejoice, enjoying sensual pleasures.

AN 4:55; II 61–62

To read more from the Book of Fours, click here.

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