Updated: Sep 1
Buddhism is a path of transformation, in order to access one’s inner potential. At first, our spiritual growth is a solo journey where we get to know our own unique qualities and talents and realise that we can use them to bring benefit to the world around us.
“We actively nurture our love by working wholeheartedly on ourselves” (Karmapa).
Later on, love itself is a spiritual practice and marriage is the practice ground where we learn to support others, committing as much to their happiness as to our own. Marriage can be challenging, yet our inner potential is developed through facing life’s challenges, and not just seeking joy.
In Buddhism, we take refuge in the Buddha (the teacher who inspires us), the Dharma (the teachings that help us in our transformation) and the Sangha, the community of support, represented by all here at this marriage ceremony.
Buddhism places a strong emphasis on mindfulness, and appreciating the present moment. So let’s begin by connecting with this moment, so that we are fully present and can recognise the sacred nature of this special occasion. When we become more mindful of the present moment, it can feel like slowing down time, giving us the opportunity of savouring it fully.
Om Mani Peme Hung
The Elements and Relationships
Within Tibetan Buddhism, we often see prayer flags hanging on buildings or over doorways. They carry our prayers via the wind, and help bless the area in which they are displayed. Each colour of the flag symbolises an element. When the elements are in balance, there is health and harmony, when they are out of balance, there is disharmony and disease. The balance is continually changing within us; physically, emotionally and mentally. Once we become aware of the balance of the elements within us, and how we affect and are affected by the balance of the elements in others, we may find that this awareness guides us to take care of ourselves and to act more skilfully towards our partner. As the community supporting the married couple, we provide the space – the holding place – in which they can grow.
Irwin, Edie (1993) ‘Working with the Elements‘ based on the teachings of Dharma Arya Akong Rinpoche: Tara (Rokpa Trust)
Within a marriage, we need to help balance each other. And there is also one invisible force of profound importance in a marriage – the energy (prana) which moves through everything. The life force of a marriage is loving-kindness and compassion.
“For love to last, it is better not to have too many expectations. It is better just to offer love.” (Karmapa)
Invoking Chenrezig’s Blessing
Jowo chonji mago kundo kar Dzo sang je ji ula jen Tukje chenji drola zik Chenrizig la chantsa lo
(Translation: Chenrezig, Lord of Love and Compassion, please bless all beings)
These can based on Buddhist teachings such as the Five Precepts, Four Noble Truths, Six Paramitas etc.
Example: the Six Paramitas (generosity, morality, patience, energy, meditation and wisdom)
I vow to cherish you as I cherish myself, until we have moved beyond self cherishing, I vow to do nothing to harm you and everything to help you, until we have finished with all doing, I vow always to give you my best, I vow to make our relationship a space where we can face ourselves honestly and without fear, I vow to help you always seek the highest truth, until we have reached enlightenment I vow to love you, whatever it takes.
Exchanging of the Rings
The wedding ring is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual bond that unites two loyal hearts in partnership. ________, as you place the ring on _______’s finger, please repeat after me: ________, I give you my hand as I give you my heart, unreservedly and unconditionally. I give you this ring as I give you my love, exclusively and eternally.
[Both partners repeat the vow]
According to the South African Marriage Act (1961) or Civil Union Act (2006)
Uniting the Sangha: string ritual
We will now pass round the string/wool to the community gathered here. This is a symbol that we are united in supporting the married couple and will continue to provide a safety net for _________ and ________, as they go forward into their marriage. Once you each have hold of the wool, we will take a moment breath, breathing our love into everyone here present. The wool/string will then be cut into small pieces for you each to tie round your wrists, as a memory of the day.
By the power vested in me through the wishes of __________ and __________, as well as the blessing of the lineage of their spiritual friends, I now pronounce you Husband and Wife/Life Partners. Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in congratulating Mr/Ms __________ and Mr/Mrs/Ms _______________
Karmapa Chenno (Translation: Karmapa, please think of me) _______________________________________________________________________________
Lucy Draper-Clarke is an authorised Marriage Officer for the Buddhist Community in South Africa, through the Kagyu Samye Dzong Johannesburg. For Buddhist or spiritual/non-religious ceremonies under the Civil Union Act (2006), please contact lucyheartmind[at]gmail.com