One Man Good
Marriage is a big deal. Having been through one that didn’t work out so well I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. So I naturally went to my teacher and dear friend, Venerable Geshe Tsulga, known by those close to him as Geshe-La, and asked him what he thought of my plans to marry Andrea. Keep in mind that Geshe-La was from Tibet and had been a monk since the age of eight. So at first blush he may not have been the best choice for marital advice. In the end however his thoughts on marriage gave me sound guidance that has served me well over the last 25 wonderful years.
After making my case his initial reaction was, “Tsk, tsk, tsk. I think that marriage is maybe not very good.” He continued, “When a man has a horse, he has karma the size of a horse, when he has a house, he has karma the size of a house. When he gets married and then has children, he then has all their karma as well. I think that one man is good, just his own karma to deal with.” I was not sure what to do. I had just returned from a journey through India with Geshe-La where I was seriously considering taking vows and becoming a monk. Like so many of us when we seek advice, we in reality, are looking for reinforcement of our point of view. I knew Geshe-La was absolutely correct when he spoke about karma and how entangled it could become. I also knew that two together, both coming from a spiritual place could create a life of kindness, compassion and love for one another, creating some wonderful karma.
Geshe-La went on to explain how when he first came to the United States, he lived with a married couple who fought constantly. He found their arguing very disturbing and wondered if this was how married people in the West treated each other. One of the things which really surprised him was when visitors came by, even if it was somebody they didn’t particularly care for, this couple treated the visitor with respect and kindness. It simply did not make sense to him. How could two people who supposedly loved each so other deeply exhibit so much anger and treat their partner so poorly? And then treat their visitor so kindly.
He then gave me the best marital advice one could ever hope for. “Treat your spouse, at all times, like the most honored guest in your house, with kindness, respect and generosity.” Geshe-La blessed our marriage and our home and we in turn have tried to always keep his advice in our hearts. Andrea has been my best friend and partner in all things, and we couldn’t be happier. I am very pleased to say that with our 25th anniversary coming up in April, though I didn’t believe it possible, each year we spend together gets even better than the last.
I will add one other observation on marriage that has come from my many discussions with Geshe-La on life and how to live it. He often spoke about attachments and how the things and ideas we are attached to lead to problems and unhappiness in our lives. This became very apparent to me when we were choosing paint colors for the rooms in our home. Andrea has a very artistic eye and enjoys playing with color. She had paint swatches of the many color options she liked as well as every shade of each imaginable. There were so many swatches around the house I soon began teasing her by calling her, Swatch Thing. For those of you old enough to remember think of the song, Wild Thing. There were so many options being explored that it became very difficult to choose. It took me a while, but two things eventually dawned on me. The first is that she was doing everything she could to make sure I was happy with the choice. The second is I really was not attached to one color or another and if she found one that made her happy then that is what we should do. After letting go of my attachments to certain colors and notions of having it my way, the decisions came easily and, in the end, looked great.
I have found that magic truly happens in a marriage when both partners are striving for the other’s happiness and giving generously from the heart. When I give her a gift from my heart I am rewarded a thousand fold with the smile and love from hers. Once we free ourselves from the ideas that we have clung to for so long, our own insecurities, jealousy and anger, we give ourselves permission to love and be loved unconditionally. When we learn to not simply listen but to actually hear what your partner is telling you. It may be through her words or perhaps her actions and body language she is telling you what she needs. The simple things are the ones that mean the most, “You’ve had a long day My Love. Why don’t you have a relaxing bath and I’ll wash the dishes.” It is the simple daily acts of loving kindness that prepare you for the bigger things in life that always come our way.
Geshe-La was living with a friend for a while. I was a firefighter in those days and stopped by to visit one morning when I got off duty. I related to him the story of a particularly tragic event that we responded to. I thought nothing of it until my friend later told me how after I left Geshe-La changed his plans, went to his room and spent the rest of the day in prayer for those involved. He lived a life of loving kindness. The depth of his compassion was simply astounding and a shining example for us all.
When I began to write this, I jokingly commented on going to a monk for marital advice. As I sit here typing away, I have come to realize there was no person more qualified than he to advise me. His motivation was mine and Andrea’s happiness. ‘One man good’ is true when one is on the fast track to enlightenment. I hope that by living a life of compassion and generosity with Andrea I am laying the karmic groundwork for ‘One man good’ in my next life.
I’ll end here with a simple thought on karma and rebirth Geshe-La taught me. If you would like to know what kind of person you were in your last life, you need only look at the conditions in which you are living in this life. If you would like to know what your next life will be like, look at how you are living this one.
Do you receive advice that has stayed with you? Please share it with us.
William C. Judge 2019
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