The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Divorce is the legal ending of a marriage. In many religions, marriage is a religious act and thus there are various restrictions on divorce. In some religions, divorce is possible only if one partner commits Adultery while in other religions divorce is allowed but is the prerogative of the husband only. Because Buddhism sees marriage, not as a sacrament but as an agreement between two people, it accepts that if those two people agree to end their relationship they can do so. Buddhism and all Buddhist cultures have always seen marriage as a relationship worth maintaining but at the same time they have never had legal restrictions on divorce. The Kandyan law of Sri Lanka did and still does allow divorce by mutual consent as did customary law in Burma and Thailand. Separation or divorce is not prohibited in Buddhism though the necessity would scarcely arise if the Buddha’s injunctions were strictly followed. Men and women must have the liberty to separate if they really cannot agree with each other. Separation is preferable to avoid miserable family life for a long period of time. The Buddha further advises old men not to have young wives as the old and young are unlikely to be compatible, which can create undue problems, disharmony and downfall (Parabhava Sutta).
A society grows through a network of relationships which are mutually inter-twined and inter-dependent. Every relationship is a whole hearted commitment to support and to protect others in a group or community. Marriage plays a very important part in this strong web of relationships of giving support and protection. A good marriage should grow and develop gradually from understanding and not impulse, from true loyalty and not just sheer indulgence. The institution of marriage provides a fine basis for the development of culture, a delightful association of two individuals to be nurtured, and to be free from loneliness, deprivation and fear. In marriage, each partner develops a complementary role, giving strength and moral courage to one another, each manifesting a supportive and appreciative recognition of the other’s skills. There must be no thought of either man or woman being superior, each is complementary to the other, a partnership of equality, exuding gentleness, generosity, calm and dedication.