In many religious traditions it is customary to expect the dedicated aspirant to forego not only sexual relations, but also worldly entanglements. In the Catholic religious tradition, nuns are considered to be ‘brides of Christ’ and as such, do not enter into the state of marriage. In the Hindu tradition, there is a phase in the life-cycle that is encouraged as one of leaving behind worldly attachments and taking up ‘life in the forest’, in other words, a dedicated spiritual seeking without involvement with the relations of the world in the normal sense. Many traditions counsel leaving behind one’s past relations and attachments when one is prepared to fully dedicate oneself to the divine quest. At the same time, individuals who take up this type of ascetic life of renunciation are not always prepared and suited for this life, and they then have to struggle, and in many cases, fail, to achieve complete control over the desires and impulses that would otherwise find normal expression in living an outwardly normal worldly life.

Within this context, for the truly dedicated seeker who is ready and prepared to abandon all and follow the path of spiritual one-pointed focus, marriage is and can be something of a distraction. Marriage involves commitments and the marriage partner has an expectation that these commitments will be fully met and supported from both sides of the marriage. Marriage also involves a number of developments, including career, household formation, in most cases children and family relations that add complexity and complications to the relation of spouses in the marriage.

Sri Aurobindo also addresses the issue with which so many traditions have struggled, namely, the dedication or taking of vows of people who have either a strong mental concept or emotional push to dedicate their lives to their seeking, but who have not yet fully resolved their physical, vital and mental predilections and instincts and thus, have constant issues in carrying out the vows they make. Spiritual progress can be made even while someone is living out the worldly life, or living in a state of marriage in society, particularly if they bring their aspiration into their lives and work through the issues that are major obstacles today for them. The intelligence of the Hindu stages of life idea exemplifies an approach that can aid people in working through the lures, needs, and pressures of the worldly existence before embarking on the life of renunciation that a one-pointed spiritual dedication requires.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “As to the question of marriage in general, we do not consider it advisable for one who desire to come to the spiritual life. Marriage means usually any amount of trouble, heavy burdens, a bondage to the worldly life and great difficulties in the way of single-minded spiritual endeavour. Its only natural purpose would be, if the sexual trend was impossible to conquer, to give it a restricted and controlled satisfaction.”

“It is only a minority that is called to the strict yogic life and there will be always plenty of people who will continue the race. Certainly, the yogi has no contempt or aversion for human nature; he understands it and the place given to each of its activities with a clear and calm regard.”

“… A mental acceptance or enthusiasm for the sadhana is not a sufficient guarantee nor sufficient ground for calling people, especially young people, to begin it. Afterwards these vital instincts rise up and there is nothing sufficient to balance or prevail against them, — only mental ideas which do not prevail against the instincts, but on the other hand, also stand in the way of the natural social means of satisfaction. If she marries now and gets experience of the human vital life, then thereafter there may be a chance of her mental aspiration for sadhana turning into the real thing.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Sex, pp 299-308

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.