Of course, a materialist considers it to be absolutely normal to live together before getting married – in fact, he cannot imagine marrying a person who he has not lived with! It is unheard of! Thus we may take this attitude into our spiritual life – just see the power of subtle conditioning thrust upon us by materialistic culture!
In spiritual culture, however, there is no question of physical exchanges before marriage. Traditionally, the first physical touch between a husband and wife should take place in the vivaha-yajna: When he covers her head with her sari and applies a bindi to her forehead and sindur to the part in her hair. Then, such a physical exchange becomes very deep and meaningful, an almost electrifying experience that should only take place with one person in our life.
Furthermore, it clearly establishes the fact in our mind, that there is no room for any physical intimacies outside of marriage which protects our marriage from having extramarital affairs.
But if we have already been embracing, kissing and holding hands, maybe even engaging in sex, then the vivaha-yajna loses its profoundness and intensity. Perhaps we have had sensual exchanges with multiple candidates prior to making the decision to enter married life, and then terminated those relationships. As a result, we may end up engaging with so many partners before finally entering marriage. Consequently, these intimate exchanges become ordinary and cheap, and we miss out on the opportunity to view our marriage relationship as being very special and extraordinary – even in regards to bodily attraction and intimate exchanges. In this way, we are conditioned to think it to be normal to have physical intimacy outside of marriage which may allow extramarital affairs to enter our life.
Once, when flying from the Middle East to Ukraine, I sat next to a young Indian student who was studying medicine in Kiev. He was a Muslim, but since he had a lot of Hindu friends, he recognised me as a devotee and started up a conversation. I was surprised to hear that he had a girlfriend, and I ventured to comment that I was under the impression that Muslims don’t maintain such relationships before entering marriage. Naturally, coming from a materialistic background, we understand a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship to include physical intimacies. But my comment prompted him to share that their relationship was of a very different nature: While associating for two years they had never engaged in any intimate exchanges!
Since she was a strictly practising Muslim, he had never seen more than just her face and hands! And they certainly had never touched each other.
I was truly impressed by his attitude and approach to their courtship, and I could sense his high level of commitment to this girl. He was full of adoration for her and kept her as a most valuable jewel within his heart who he desired to care for and protect for the rest of his life. His goal was to finish his medical studies in Ukraine and return to India to marry her.
This encounter once again confirmed for me how strictly following our Vaishnava etiquette makes a conjugal relationship so special, extraordinary and deep, whereas materialistic culture makes everything ordinary and shallow – chewing the chewed...
A Bengali mataji in Mayapur once shared with me how she entered married life. She had seen her husband only two or three times before her wedding, in the presence of both parents. And she was very vividly describing her experience – how she accepted her husband just like receiving a wrapped gift. And after the wedding ceremony, she was allowed to remove the wrapping paper and discover what her husband was like. When a couple starts living together, they certainly detect new sides and qualities in each other. This she experienced as being something very special and exciting – an affectionate and romantic journey of discovery, which she only wanted to experience with one man in her life. She probably discovered negative traits in her husband as well, which I’m sure she humbly accepted as Krishna’s divine arrangement for her purification.
A woman who has been trained in chastity could never imagine embarking on such an intimate journey of discovery with several different men before deciding which one to accept in marriage. This reflects true chastity – something unknown today in the Western part of the world. However, it can be revived within our hearts – it is merely a question of desire...
On the 4th of July I flew on to New York....
Your servant, Devaki dd