Humanity: Today & Tomorrow|Oct 30, 2005 1:21 PM| by:

The Inner Marriage

We all know of marriage as a social institution. But some of the ancient occult and spiritual traditions, for example Tantras, had the concept of inner marriage. Interestingly some of the latest psychological and feminist schools of thought are moving closer to this ancient concept, but in an as yet superficial way, without the deeper and profounder spiritual insight of ancient Yogis. In this article we will examine this ancient psychological concept of the inner marriage and its implications for self-development.

According to Tantras, every human being is psychologically androgynous, an ardhanareeshwara or a Siva-Sakthi. No human being, regardless of gender, is entirely a woman or a man from the point of view of the inner being, and in fact, each has inside an aspect of the other.  In Tibetan Tantras, the esoteric sense of the sexual symbolism is interpreted as the union or marriage between this inner man and woman, the Siva-Sakthi in the individual. But what precisely is the nature of this inner Man and Woman?

In psychological terms, every human being has in his or her inner nature complementary urges, qualities, faculties and powers. Traditionally the feminine nature is considered to be predominantly emotional, intuitive, pragmatic, passive, caring, soft, more other-centric than self-centric; on the other hand, the  masculine nature is considered to be predominantly mental or intellectual, rational, aggressive and dominating, and more ego-centric than altruistic. The modern mind tends to dismiss these traditional conceptions as something out-of-date and irrelevant for the present times. But there is an element of truth in both these traditional notions as well as the modern objections to it.

The truth behind the traditional notion is that Man and Woman are two complementary poles of existence. In the evolutionary self-expression in life, each follows his/her own unique nature and qualities or swadharma, as it is called in Indian thought.  The truth behind the modern conception is that these qualities are not something rigid and fixed, but something dynamic and evolving, changing according to the evolutionary needs, conditions and aims of the individual and the social environment.  The uniqueness of the feminine or masculine nature lies in an essential mode or state of consciousness, swabhava, which manifests itself in a set of qualities that are the natural and spontaneous expression, swadharma, of that essential mode of being, swabhava. For example, the unique and essential swabhava of feminine nature may express itself through a set of qualities like a predominantly emotional and intuitive nature, passivity, caring, gentleness, grace, beauty, etc. which are its natural and spontaneous self-expression. In fact, the essential feminine or masculine swabhava is a spiritual and experiential reality, which cannot be precisely defined in mental terms.  We may say roughly that a feminine swabhava is an inner state of consciousness in which all the feminine qualities are fused together in a single experience of an essential feminity which is more than the sum of its qualities.

Thus, the essential feminine swabhava is not rigidly confined to or made of these qualities; it is something deeper and beyond the qualities through which it expresses itself in life. It can express itself through other qualities also which belongs to the masculine swadharma. And this may be sometimes necessary for evolutionary development of woman in her inner as well as outer life. For example, in our present male dominated mental civilization woman has to develop her intellectual and rational faculties and also has to be, to a certain extent, aggressive and ambitious to progress in her outer economic and social life. And this progress, when it is achieved in the right way without losing entirely her feminine swabhava, helps in her inner growth, also by making her conscious of the inner man within herself. This inner marriage between the inner man and woman within every individual is one of the tantric ideals of self-development.

Keeping the above in mind, to achieve a perfect harmony, the woman has to become conscious of and express the masculine qualities and powers in her, not in the way man does, but according to her own unique feminine swabhava. This is not a mere subtle philosophical speculation but a psychological fact and a practical possibility which can be noticed by any discerning observer of human life and also confirmed by modern studies and research. Let us take, for example, the function of wielding power and authority which was traditionally a male domain. Today, many women, by shattering these traditional barriers, have risen to leadership and managerial positions. Some of the latest studies and research show that the way female managers exercise power is very different from that of their male equivalents. While the latter use mainly their authority, position, hierarchy and manipulative politics to enforce their decisions, women managers use less of their authority and position and more of their personal charisma and personal relationship to carry out their decisions.  Similarly when a well-developed feminine personality expresses masculine qualities, the expression is likely to be very different from that of a man. For instance, while a mentally well-developed male psyche delights in using thought and reason for transcendental and abstract speculation or in a disinterested pursuit of ideas for its own sake, a developed female psyche tends to use thought and reason mainly for arriving at practical conclusions for the pragmatic organisation of life. Even the quality of aggression can be expressed in a softer feminine way. The difference between the male and female aggression was depicted with great beauty in the Mahishasuramardhini “slayer of the Buffalo demon” sculpture in India. The asura (demon) in the sculpture, represents the grossest and the extreme form of male aggression, an unbridled brutal force of animality, with the head raised in an insolent violence. The goddess figure in the sculpture represents the highest form of female aggression, striking the demon, but with an exquisite feminine grace, and a slight smile in her face.

This brings us to the possibility of a purely psychological solution to the problem of sex. When there is a perfect inner marriage between the inner man and woman in an individual, which means when the complementary powers, qualities and faculties belonging to the masculine and feminine nature in an individual are perfectly synthesized, harmonised and integrated, then this inner marriage creates a sense of inner completeness, fullness, wholeness, harmony and integration which inwardly neutralizes the sexual urge. This idea is expressed forcefully in a Tantric text in which the sadhak asks “what is the need of an outer woman for me, when I have the inner woman (antar nari) within me”. This means when a man has become fully conscious of the inner woman within him and harmonised her feminine nature and energy with his own inborn masculine nature and energy, then the psychological need for an outer partner (or sex) either disappears or becomes redundant; it is no longer a compelling need of his life and, therefore, no longer a problem for him. The inner support or drive behind the sexual urge is no longer there. The outer physical manifestation of the sexual urge like the physical attraction for the opposite sex or even a physical relation with a partner may still remain. But, since they do not receive any psychological support or reinforcement from thought and feeling, they stop at the physical level and pass away without creating any obsessive psychological disturbance. (The same would apply to a woman.)

However, this inner fullness does not exclude a deeper love between men and women. In fact, it helps in the growth of true love. One of the great human confusions is the equation between love and sex. But, as spiritual teachers all over the world have repeatedly emphasised, they are two different things. Sex is a physical instinct, based on a physical and vital attraction between men and women, with an urge towards mutual possession and enjoyment, played upon by memory, thought, feeling and imagination of the mind and converted into a psycho-physical craving for the union of bodies. But love is a spiritual need of the soul, flowing from the spiritual centre of our being beyond our body and mind, with an urge for mutual self-giving, culminating in a union of the soul with soul. When the inner marriage is complete and perfect, and our mind no longer dwells and plays upon the physical sexual urge, then it helps to bring out the purer spiritual love of the soul to the front.  This inner and deeper love or union of two souls can express itself in the outer physical act or union.  But for the outer act to be a perfect and faithful expression of the inner love, there has to be a great purity in the physical, instinctive, sensational and vital parts of our being, which is very difficult to achieve.

Unfortunately, in most of us there is no such inner marriage; on the contrary, there is a radical inner divorce or conflict between the two poles of the inner being; either one pole is over-developed at the expense of or suppressing the other or else, they exist together without any conscious synthesis, in conflict with each other. This lack of the inner marriage in human beings is one of the factors which create the need for an outer marriage. Thus, our heavily externalized psyche instinctively tries to correct the imbalance within it by seeking a partner outside. This outer marriage can help in the inner development of the couple, if the married life is lived with a conscious higher ideal. The Indian ideal of marriage can be summed up as the need to grow or progress harmoniously in the path of Dharma with one’s life partner who complements one’s nature at all the levels of the being – physical, psychological and spiritual.

However, a Yogi or a seeker on the path of Yoga who is able to realise the inner marriage between the masculine and feminine energies within him, transcends the need of an outer marriage.