When Monks Say “I Do”


“This discipline and posture toward the spiritual, which appears to the decaffeinated as annoying, stems from his five-year tenure as a devout Hindu monk who lived in the Redwoods of Northern California.” –-from “When Monks Say “I Do”: Confessions of a Former Monastic’s Wife, on Patheos

It’s Throwback Thursday to 2005, when this guy (my now-husband) was a monk!

I’m happy to share my latest installment for the Patheos Faith Forward blog—the juicy, tell-all story of what happens when monks marry.

Well, it’s not that salacious, but I do offer up an insider’s view, complete with complaints and secrets as to what it’s like being married to someone who once took very different vows.

Read on, friends …

Thanks, as always, for your reading and sharing!


9 thoughts on “When Monks Say “I Do””

  • Great article Dana!

    I do have friends who chose partners from different faiths and found adapting to new inter-faith practises reasonably well, however it was extremely difficult to swap to a Veg diet especially when they enjoyed Beef in any-form at least twice a week.

    I belief inter-faith marriage is about compromise and working with each other spiritually to find common ground instead of conversion in any form be it faith/diet.

    How are you dealing with these diet changes, do u still think about Beef? If in future should you regress how do u think Fred would react?


    • Jess:

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Apologies on my delayed response.

      Thankfully, I am no longer tempted by beef. When I first become vegetarian, I absolutely was–but not anymore. I’m not sure exactly when the shift occurred, but I found that spending time with cows in a monastic setting (when we’d visit the Hindu monasteries in CA and NC), helped tremendously.

      Americans are so sheltered from our food—but proximity to farm animals makes it much more difficult to imagine killing these kind and selfless creatures. I’m grateful to have experienced a turn around at an early age!

      You’re right; compromise is key! And, what started out as my compromise to give up meat has turned into my lifestyle–one that I wouldn’t trade for the world!

      Many thanks again, Jess!


    • Julie,

      Hinduism is inherently pluralistic and inclusive. Our theology states that the manifestations of divinity are unlimited:

      ekam sat vipra bahuda vadanti
      “The Truth is One but the learned refer to it by different names.”
      Rigveda Samhita, 1.164.46

      vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvam yaj jñanam advayam
      brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate

      “The learned who know the Lord call him Brahman, Paramatma or Bhagavan.”
      Bhagavata Purana, 1.2.1

      avatara hy asankhyeya hareh sattva-nidher dvijah
      yathavidasinah kulyah sarasah syuh sahasrasah

      “The Lord is like an ocean of goodness and the incarnations of the Lord are certainly innumerable, like thousands of rivulets flowing from inexhaustible sources of water.”
      Bhagavata Purana, 1.3.26

      ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham
      mama vartmanuvartante manusyah partha sarvasah

      “All who surrender to me, I reward them. Everyone follows my path in all respects.”
      Bhagavad Gita, 4.11

      Therefore, Hindus do not have difficulty recognizing the divinity of Christ. However, based on the above references to Hindu scripture, we would not agree that Christ is the only manifestation of divinity in the world. Christ is one of many.

      To a Christian, this position may appear to trivialize the uniqueness of Christ’s sacrifice. However, I would argue that Christ’s sacrifice invites us into a particular and unique relationship with the Lord, one in which God is conceived of as the Father. Still, Hinduism suggests that in addition to relating to God as our Father, we can relate to God in various other ways: as our mother, as our child, as our friend, and similar to the bridal theology that influenced Christian mystics such as Teresa of Ávila, as our husband or lover. Due to God’s opulence and compassion, he is both capable and willing to reciprocate with our devotion (Gita 4.11).

      One more point I would like to make: what we believe about Christ should be reflected in what we do (James 2:14-26). Christ himself said that if we are to follow him we must give up everything else (Luke 18:18-30, Matthew 19:16-30). Indeed, Christ is God who emptied himself to become a human-like servant of God (Philippians 2:7). This is the standard he has set. Our faith is not mature until we fully embrace the path he exemplifies. And this standard of self-surrender and devotion is present in Hinduism, albeit in a different form corresponding to the various potential relationships God invites us to enter into with him.

      I hope this explanation helps. Will you pray for me, that I will be able to live up to what God calls us to do?

      • Fred, so grateful for your email and your explanations. And yes, I will pray for you!
        I ran into Dana’s website after hearing about a workshop she is leading here in Raleigh on Writing as a Spiritual Practice. Prayer and meditation as well as daily journaling have played a pivotal role in my spiritual journey which is ever evolving.

        Like Dana, I grew up in a very conservative Baptist home. Her writings make me grin as they evoke memories of my upbringing as well as those of my mother. I,too, went to Salem college~ eons before Dana! (Class of 1984).

        While I consider myself very open minded and accepting of others I have always been taught and believed that Jesus is the only way to salvation.

        Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

        I am sure you can appreciate the conundrum I face when contemplating accepting a different way of thinking and believing.

        You say that “we would not agree that Christ is the only manifestation of divinity in the world. Christ is one of many.” Can you help me better understand these other ways?

        “All who surrender to me, I reward them.” Bhagavad Gita 4.11 -~ who is the “me” here?

        I am somewhat familiar with the Bhagavad Gita as I am currently reading it as part of my certification to teach hot yoga.
        I have listened to and engaged in much conversation with my fellow yogis and our instructors. I listen with an open heart but have been unable to embrace everything I am learning.

        There are many chants and mantras I can not participate in because they do not connect with what I believe. Example- last class we were chanting Om Namah Shivaaya – (I bow to Lord Shiva, the peaceful one who is the embodiment of all that is cause by the universe.) I told my teacher I was not comfortable with this chant.

        I agree with your thought that we can relate to God on many levels – Abba, Father, Mother, Husband, Lover…these are mere human characterizations of God. I have and continue to read and study many Christian mystics and engage in many of the contemplative practices they teach.

        It appears we have much in common with the difference being on our views of Christ.

        Again, I appreciate your answer to my question and look forward to hearing Dana next month.



        • Julie, thank you for praying for me. I am glad to hear that Dana’s story resonates with you. She is a wonderful person and, of course, an important influence in my life.

          There are several ways to inclusively interpret John 14:6. For example, some Christian theologians note that John was attempting to build bridges between the conception of Christ and the Greek conception of the divine Logos (Word). If this assessment is true then John’s approach is arguably quite inclusive. Christ also states in John 14:2, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” which some theologians interpret as referring to other spiritual traditions, each with their own place in God’s kingdom. It is also worth mentioning that Christ is speaking directly to his own disciples in this section of John, as opposed to speaking to the public.

          Notably, Christ is also stating that he is the way to the Father, or in other words, he is the way if you desire to have a relationship with God as the Father. Many people have a preference for this type of relationship with God, hence one of the many reasons they follow Christ.

          In John 14:15, Christ says, “If you love me, keep my commands,” and in 14:23, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” What are those teachings? They are to love God wholeheartedly (Luke 10:25-28, Matthew 22:34-30) instead of loving the world (1 John 2:15-17). This is a combination of devotion to God and renunciation of the world, which Christ embodies in his personal example of sacrifice in pursuit of a relation with God as the Father. If we wish to pursue the same relationship with God, we will follow Christ’s teachings because “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).

          In other spiritual traditions, the “way” or the path to God will depend upon the particular relationship one would like to have with him. In some cases, devotion will be emphasized more than renunciation, and in other cases, vice verse. But the principles of devotion and renunciation are common throughout the traditions. In addition, the details of devotion will vary according to the relationship one is pursuing. For example, all traditions have multiple names for God and these names correspond to the qualities that are particular to a conception of God.

          Which brings us to a particular name of the Lord: Shiva. The name Shiva actually means auspicious which implies that God is good for everyone. Shiva also embodies renunciation, and in doing so, appears very beautiful because he does not selfishly chase after mundane desires and instead meditates upon the Lord who is the source of everything. So perhaps you can think of Siva as a reminder of Christ’s teachings to forgo worldly desires in pursuit of loving God wholeheartedly.

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