Buddhists believe that they are walking a path of transformation of their inner potential, and through serving others they can help them also to awaken their own inner potential. Marriage is the perfect setting to practice and demonstrate this attitude of service and transformation. When a Buddhist couple decides to take the step of marriage, they make a pledge to a greater Truth based on the Buddhist scriptures. Buddhism allows each couple to decide for themselves regarding their wedding vows and the issues pertaining to marriage.
Exchanging of Buddhist vows
Buddhist wedding vows are similar to Catholic wedding vows in that the exchanging of the vows forms the heart or the essential element of the institution of marriage in which each spouse willingly gives himself or herself to the other. The Buddhist marriage vows may be spoken in unison or read silently in front of a shrine consisting of a Buddha image, candles and flowers.
An example of vows spoken by the bride and groom to each other may be something similar to the following:
“Today we promise to dedicate ourselves completely to each other with body, mind and speech. In every situation of this life, in wealth or poverty, in health or sickness, in happiness or difficulty, we will work to help each other to develop our hearts and minds, cultivating compassion, generosity, ethics, patience, enthusiasm, concentration and wisdom. As we undergo the various ups and downs of life we will seek to transform them into the path of love, compassion, joy and equanimity. The purpose of our relationship will be to attain enlightenment by perfecting our kindness and compassion towards all beings.”
Buddhist marriage readings
After the vows, there may be certain Buddhist marriage readings such as those found in the Sigalovada Sutta. Buddhist readings for weddings can be recited or chanted. This would be followed by the exchanging of rings as the outward sign of an inner spiritual bonding which unites two hearts in the partnership of marriage. The Buddhist marriage ceremony provides a space for the newlyweds to meditate on transferring their beliefs and principles into their marriage as they continue together on the path of transformation.