Marriage & Moksha

K:  I have a partner, and want to marry. Does it mean I have to give up moksha?

V:  No.  There is absolutely no rule that says one must remain unmarried or even avoid relationships to get moksha (freedom from suffering).

To elaborate, in Vedanta, any idea of moksha comes from the scriptures, namely the Upanisads.  Is there any injunction against marriage in the Upanisads?  No. Take for instance the Mundaka Upanisad, where Shaunaka approaches the teacher Angiras seeking self-knowledge.  Shaunaka is described as “a great householder” which means he was a married man, presumably with a family.  Does Angiras turn Shaunaka away for being a married man, deeming him unfit to seek self-knowledge (moksha)?  No.  Angiras is looking for other qualifications besides marital status, specifically mental qualifications.  Because Shaunaka is “a great householder” is implies that he has lived a good and pious life, thereby preparing his mind for self-knowledge.  Therefore it could be said that something like marriage can even be helpful towards the pursuit of moksha.  Married and family life is rewarding but challenging and therefore it is an ideal place for spiritual growth, a key ingredient in the pursuit of moksha. 

Another scriptural example is the Bhagavad Gita, probably the most popular text in the Vedanta canon.  Both the teacher, Krishna, and the student, Arjuna are married men.  In fact, Arjuna had four wives.  And get this…Krishna had over 16,000!  While that is most certainly hyperbole the point remains that Krishna was not single.  If marriage were an impediment to moksha then certainly as a teacher, he would not have been married.  And he would have undoubtedly told his student that marriage is an impediment on the path to moksha. But Krishna doesn’t do that.  He simply tells Arjuna to go about his daily life with the proper attitude, the karma yoga attitude, in order grow spiritually.

However, Krishna does not present marriage or spiritual growth as an end unto itself. It is a means to prepare one for self-knowledge.  And an essential part of that preparation is clearly understanding that things like marriage will never give lasting happiness.  For that matter, neither will money, fame, achievement, family or religion.  That fact doesn’t make those things wrong and doesn’t mean they need to be avoided.  But they MUST be understood for what they are:  limited means of gaining temporary happiness.  Only then will one be able to look past them to the source of a lasting satisfaction:  knowledge of one’s own true nature.

So be married if you wish and enjoy it.  It is only an impediment to moksha if you don’t understand that things like marriage won’t give you moksha.