The Buddha, with his wisdom, knows that for various reasons, there are lay people who cannot yet renounce. So, he taught the Dhamma suitable for lay people as well. One of them that relates to the duties of lay people is called the Sigalovada Sutta. This sutta is found in the Digha Nikaya. Today, we shall talk about a chapter from this sutta, pertaining to the Duties of a Husband and Wife.
THE 5 DUTIES OF A HUSBAND
- He must be courteous to his wife
It is inherent in the nature of relationships that fresh young love during courtship is as fragrant as a blossoming flower. However, like a flower that eventually fades, this soon turns sour if the individual partners do not make the effort to preserve the relationship, become critical and judgemental of each other and develop certain unrealistic expectations of each other. Just as we would frequently water a bouquet of flowers to keep it fresh, a married couple should strive to preserve their relationship through courtesy and loving kindness, through right thought, speech and actions. The Buddha said, “The mind is the forerunner of all things.” If a husband puts in the effort to control the mind (which can be done through meditation), he will not allow harsh words to cross his lips in times of anger but will instead watch his anger until it subsides. Harsh words which are hurtful and painful cannot be retracted once they have been uttered.
- He must not despise her
In modern society, women have reached almost equal status to men. As such, most women demand and expect equal rights and opportunities and a man would do well to treat them with mutual respect.
- He must be faithful
The Buddha advised us to keep our Five Precepts pure. The third precept i.e. avoidance of sexual misconduct is especially important in a marriage and this works both ways. Nowadays, it is not unusual for both the husband and wife to work. It is almost impossible during work to avoid contact with the opposite sex, so both parties in a marriage must learn to be sensitive towards their spouse’s feelings on this matter and should tolerate and understand such contacts and put them in their proper perspective.
- He must give her the power of control in household matters
Household affairs are generally managed by the woman. In such matters, the wife should be left in charge.
- He must provide adornments
It is the nature of women to want to look nice. A husband should not be too stingy over this and should provide the necessary adornments.
THE 5 DUTIES OF A WIFE
- She must ensure that the household is well managed
If it is the duty of a husband to hand over the control of the household to his wife, then it is also the duty of the wife to ensure that the home is well managed.
- She must develop a good rapport with his relations
In the past where the wife belongs to the in-laws, she had to please them and humble herself. In modern society, it is common for a couple to live apart from the elders. However, a wife should still maintain a good relationship with her in-laws. This is important to ensure a harmonious family life.
- She must be faithful
As mentioned before, a husband must be faithful to his wife. The reverse is just as important.
- She must take care of the wealth
She must take care of the wealth acquired by her husband and not squander it. She should also save for the children’s future.
- She must be skillful and hardworking in all matters
There is a saying “A woman is the first to get up and the last to retire to bed!” This very aptly describes the multifaceted duties of a wife in the management of the entire household.
With this knowledge regarding the duties of both husband and wife, may we wish both of you a strong and lasting relationship that will always continue blooming with fragrance and happiness.