Marriage in Hinduism and Catholicism

Topics: Marriage, Hinduism, Sacraments of the Catholic Church Pages: 6 (2147 words) Published: March 8, 2006
The ritual of marriage is significant in the Hindu and Catholic religions. Hinduism is based on achieving liberation from rebirth as an ongoing struggle by fulfilling one's dharma according to the class in the caste system which one belongs to. In contrast, Catholicism is based on the interpretation of the Word of God in the form of tradition. Through shared elements in weddings such as the importance of marriage, the involvement of the witness, the significance of the groom clasping the bride's hand, the exchange of vows and the underlying meaning of the symbol of marriage, one can argue that the theology of Hinduism and Catholicism are revealed.

In the Hindu and Catholic traditions there are different perspectives concerning the importance of marriage. Hindu marriages are greatly rooted in the nature of man. Vasudha Narayanan states, "A man has an obligation in life to marry, raise children [especially sons], and fulfill his debts to his community" (90). Thus, marriage becomes a responsibility, as producing sons in order to preserve the family line and culture, is highly regarded in Hinduism. In order for a male to fulfill his dharma and escape suffering from rebirth, he should attain the three major religious paths which are karma-marga, jnana-marga, and bhakti-marga (Bhogal: Hinduism II). Through performing rituals, priestly teachings, gaining knowledge from the Upanishads and expressing devotion to a god, the aim is moksha, liberation from suffering. Through marriage a man can achieve his dharma and fully perform his religious obligations (Narayanan 90). Hence, a man without a wife is unable to perform his duties and thus a man is simply a half, who must be completed by a woman. According to Vasudha Narayanan, marrying women in one's own class is important, thus acceptable if the male partner is a higher class (48). The emphasis on the male partner being of higher class is a reflection of a woman's unequal role and status. A woman, however, is obliged to get married and be faithful to her husband. Vasudha Narayanan explains, "A Hindu wife's dharma involves sexual fidelity as well as total obedience" (Narayanan 98). Women's status is exemplified in the caste. Furthermore, fidelity on the part of a woman is a concrete characteristic of marriage and not her own free will. Marriage in the Hindu tradition is seen as a duty in order to fulfill one's dharma, as opposed to the Catholic tradition that views marriage as a holy sacrament.

The majority of Christians view sacraments such as marriage, as rituals that are performed by Christians as symbols of their loyalty and faith in Christ. Baptism and Eucharist are vital sacraments that are performed early in life and are present during the sacrament of marriage. "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Gal. 3:27). Hence, the sacrament of baptism is an initiation into the church and the sacrament of the Eucharist is a "re-enactment of Jesus' last meal with his disciples" (Oxtoby 218). Through the sacrament of Baptism, God is able to call his followers and through the sacrament of the Eucharist, the Christians are reminded of Jesus' sacrifice of his life, redeeming their sins in order to be accepted in the Kingdom of God. The sacrament of marriage is a sign of the union of Christ and His Church, a union which is permanent, resembling the union between a husband and wife (Paris 51). The means through which Jesus is faithful to His Church expresses the same relationship between a husband and wife. Fidelity is a crucial component in marriage and just as Christ could in no way leave his Church, no man could leave his wife or wife leave her husband (Paris 51). In addition, a marriage permits a couple to produce offspring and educate their children in the Catholic faith. Catholicism emphasizes Jesus' teachings of charity, love, faith and hope; however, chastity is also a vow that is to be followed by Christians. Through the sacrament of...

Cited: Amakatt, Fr. James. Sacramentality of Marriage in a Dalit Context. India: Inter-India Publications, 2000.
Bhogal, Balbinder S. "Hinduism II: Seeing the Gods and Goddesses." Introduction to Religion Studies. Computer Science Building, York University. 11 Jan 2005.
Narayanan, Vasudha. "The Hindu Tradition." World
Religions: Eastern Traditions. Ed. Willard G. Oxtoby. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Oxtoby, Willard G. "The Christian Tradition." World Religions: Western Traditions. Ed. Willard G. Oxtoby. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Paris, Charles B. Marriage in XVIIth Century Catholicism. Montreal: Les Editions Bellarmin, 1975.
The Holy Bible: New Testament. New International Version. Canada: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1973.
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