Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace!
The Origins of Wedding Vows
In Western civilisations, Christian marriages are generally understood and recognised as occurring at a wedding, where the bride and groom profess to each other what are called “Wedding Vows”.
Wedding vows in the form of “To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part“, have been recited at United Kingdom church weddings since 1552.
Before this vow was written into the “Book of Common Prayer”, marriages were relatively informal where couples could simply promise themselves to one another at any time or place, and the spoken word was as good as the written contract.
To have and to hold, from this day forward;
for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish, till death do us part.
– Traditional Church of England wedding vows
Even though it has now become culturally understood as wedding vows, the actual terminology of wedding vows reveals that the words expressed are that of being a covenant/contract.
It is a promise, an agreement, a profession of commitment between the husband and wife. Yet, there is no “swearing of/to” anything, nor is there any saying “I vow such and such by and such”.
And while the marriage itself is not subject to “re-negotiation”, the terms of the covenant to which both parties have agreed are indeed able to be re-negotiated.
This is of course possible only if both parties give their un-coerced, freely-given, mutual genuine assent to choose to re-write and re-word the terms of the covenant. One person trying to unilaterally change or re-word the terms of the covenant amounts to the sin of covenant-breaking.
All of this is much like modern contract law.
To fight both clandestine marriages and people marrying within forbidden degrees of relationship, the 4th Lateran Council of 1215 ordered (in Canon 51) this:
We absolutely forbid clandestine marriages; and we forbid also that a priest presume to witness such. Wherefore, extending to other localities generally the particular custom that prevails in some, we decree that when marriages are to be contracted they must be announced publicly in the churches by the priests during a suitable and fixed time, so that if legitimate impediments exist, they may be made known.
In England, this public announcement was called “banns”.
Priests were obliged to announce an upcoming marriage three Sundays in a row to allow anyone who knew of impediments to the marriage to come forward to “speak now or forever hold your peace.”
The legitimate impediments are:
- one person is already married
- they are close relatives
- one or both are under duress to marry
- one or both are not whom they claim to be
Today, in non-Catholic weddings, the phrase often used is “if any person can show just cause that these two should not be joined…”
In large parishes or those with high turnover, “banns” have been replaced by affidavits from people who have known the marriage parties for a long time and can certify their freedom to marry.
In summary, marriage vows are a system for contract between two parties developed a long time ago. In this system, besides the two contracting parties, other parties were also given a chance to voice their objection to the proposed contract if they had legitimate reasons to do so. Once this process is dealt with and considered over, everyone is to forever hold their peace.
How Dorje Shugden Arose and Was Recognized and Legitimized as Enlightened
A similar line of thought or logic can be traced in the arising, recognition and legitimisation of Dorje Shugden as an enlightened protector of the Gelugpa lineage.
Due to jealousy of Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen’s popularity and wanting to secure their high status and spoils in the Tibetan social hierarchy, the 5th Dalai Lama’s ministers decided to murder him and they did manage to after Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen himself advised them on how to go about it.
Following his murder, disturbing events began to plague Lhasa which made the 5th Dalai Lama and other high lamas from various traditions believe that Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen had returned as a harmful and mischievous spirit.
To eradicate this harmful spirit, meditation masters undertook several powerful fire rituals but were unable to do so. The masters included Mindrolling Lama Choegyal Terdag Lingpa who performed a powerful fire puja (Tib: sbyin sreg) to kill Dorje Shugden.
His attendants arranged grand offerings to be ritually offered into the fire and they had the highest Nyingma lama who attained siddhi (spiritually accomplished) holding the ladle. At this point in the ritual, the Lama compelled Dorje Shugden onto the ladle by the power of mantra. Then, he threw Dorje Shugden into the fire.
This powerful ritual ‘kills’ evil spirits and sends their consciousnesses to take rebirth in a Pure Land. However, every time Mindrolling Lama threw Dorje Shugden into the fire, he would have a vision of Yamantaka arising unharmed from the flames, standing on the ladle.
After a few attempts, he ceased the puja realising that he was not dealing with an ordinary spirit but an enlightened being who was one with Yamantaka. Mindrolling Rinpoche reported this turn of events to the 5th Dalai Lama, who was very pleased.
This proved that Dorje Shugden had completed Guhyasamaja’s generation and completion stages, the result of which was his Enlightenment and lack of karma to be destroyed.
Seeing this, the 5th Dalai Lama manifested great remorse and composed a prayer to Dorje Shugden. He later also developed such great faith in Dorje Shugden as a Protector that he designated Trode Khangsar in Central Lhasa as a Protector chapel dedicated to Dorje Shugden.
This episode in history when Dorje Shugden was established as none other than an enlightened protector can be viewed in the same way as the marriage process.
Whatever objections or causes for concern that were voiced more than four centuries ago had been dealt with almost immediately and put to rest by the 5th Dalai Lama himself and other high lamas of the day.
The high lamas of the Gaden tradition then proceeded to propitiate Dorje Shugden for four centuries with impeccable results.
Trying to challenge the legitimacy of Dorje Shugden more than four centuries later is merely degrading the holy masters and Tibetan Buddhism.
Today, the Central Tibetan Administration is trying to revise and rewrite history by objecting to Dorje Shugden, four centuries after the event.
Just like the marriage process, those who were there to witness what the 5th Dalai Lama, high lamas and the people of Lhasa witnessed and experienced themselves about the nature of Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen and Dorje Shugden are the ones who are qualified to object.
They did so but then realised that their objection was without basis and hence were turned into strong believers.
More so with a centuries-old track record, no one should doubt Dorje Shugden nor believe whoever is trying to degrade his enlightened qualities and activities.
The Great 5th Dalai Lama Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso’s teachers, contemporaries and students who were around in the 17th century to witness Dorje Shugden arising:
- The 4th Paṇchen Lama, Lobzang Chokyi Gyeltsen
- The 28th Sakya Trizin, Ngawang Sonam Wangchuk
- The 5th Drukchen of the Drukpa Kagyu tradition, Paksam Wangpo
- The 1st Dzogchen Drubwang, Pema Rigdzin
- The 4th Dorje Drak Rigdzin, Pema Trinley
- Choegyal Terdag Lingpa, the founder of Mindrolling
- “Marriage and weddings.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/ritesrituals/weddings_1.shtml
- “Banns of marriage.” https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Banns_of_marriage
- “Treasury of Lives” http://treasuryoflives.org/
- Vows the root of all attainments
- The 5th Dalai Lama’s Prayer To Dorje Shugden
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