Sharing Blessings From A Special Union
Posted by Chris Johnnidis on May 18, 2018
I was deeply moved recently to be part of a special union between dear friends Nandita and Fahad. They had asked me last year if I would officiate their wedding ceremony, and after quite some dialogue and deliberation, :) I realized that given our shared connection over the years (including hosting Awakin circles together in Philly) and their unique story, it was an opportunity of a lifetime and really the only thing to do was say yes and figure it out along the way.
Many friends offered support in very practical ways (and many more in intangibles ways, I'm sure): Pavi along with Birju and Anne-Marie generously shared notes from their wedding ceremony, including their vows--which themselves had been inspired by Nipun and Guri and others. Jin Chuan Shi, a monk at City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, also generously shared of his officiating experience. Nimo sent song suggestions that spoke to the particular circumstances (which were many and intricate, especially with each family coming from different religious backgrounds). And more. Including by osmotic inspiration over the years: Somik, John, Pavi, Chaz just to name a few.
In the spirit of being vocal in times of beauty, in gratitude, and with Nandi & Fahad's blessing, here is the transcript of most of the ceremony, along with their vows below that.
Update: a video summary was published showing various parts of the wedding celebrations. It may not capture the full intricacy of the occasion, but it’s certainly smile-inducing. :) And you can see flashes of special moments–like the period of silence during the ceremony (2:47; unfortunately not a shot of the whole group yet); “value stones” (4:04); and the “hug chain” (3:00) that Nandi & Fahad requested, which became delightfully more spontaneous and chaordic than planned.
Welcome beloved family, dear friends, and honored guests. We’re here this afternoon to witness this marriage between Nandi and Fahad, and the values that underlie it. In each other, Nandi and Fahad have found their life partner. And we have been called here today as sacred participants to witness and rejoice in their union. Many of you have traveled vast distances to be here. They are touched and surrounded by your love today. On their behalf, thank you all for your presence.
[Ask assembled to silence phones/be mindful of taking pictures/video]
Perhaps as we start out it’s worth asking aloud why we even have such ceremonies? Simply put, we are coming together to celebrate love. Not just the love between a couple, but love the universal human value that is timeless, that goes beyond any one story. We are here to bless their love with our quality of presence, and in turn be blessed by their act of union.
To say a bit more on love: Nandi and Fahad deeply believe that despite all of our differences, love is what we all share. It is the great unifier. That no matter who we are, where we’ve come from, what we believe, we know this one thing: love is what we’re doing right. We have all loved in our lifetimes, and in this moment, we’re reminded that the ability to love is the very best part of our humanity.
About ceremony, three aspects of an engaging ceremony come to mind: first, they include space for arising of the unknown, and/or touch on the infinite. A genuine story of love touches on the infinite. Or the eternal you could say–not to say it’s going to be a long ceremony. ;)
Another aspect is inclusion and participation—and in that spirit we would like to request you to all share a few moments in silence and stillness together to center our hearts and intentions for this day…. [Shared silence]
As we move through these celebration days, Nandi and Fahad wanted to look back and give gratitude for all the visible and invisible forces that brought them together and enabled them to choose each other as partners on this life journey. From meeting in their hometown of Raipur in high school to embarking on new frontiers in the U.S., you could say they have already come a long way together. :) Close friends in high school, their common ground emerged over long conversations, and later in life when their paths crossed again. A shared appreciation for sincere inquiry, exploring new frontiers, and their profound mutual support for each other deepened their relationship.
This relationship, then, has already developed deep roots: forged by years of mutual support, by the nurturing of listening to each other or even simple loving glances, by the unglamorous earthworm work of processing difficult—even seemingly impossible questions.
Blaise Pascal famously said, “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of. We know the truth not only by reason, but by the heart.”
Ultimately it was the quality of heart that caused the seed of this relationship to blossom into the luminous couple we see before us. Over time, what rises to the surface of mattering is the way they have loved each other, and invited others in with love. A love like theirs doesn’t stay enclosed within the relationship; it inevitably spreads out.
We all know that humanity & love can transcend differences. And I would add one further piece: differences, and the process of integrating differences, help us grow and ultimately transform. This may be the hidden gift of this union. When the integrity of each part remains intact when integrating, despite impulses to push away differences or assimilate them, then the beauty of their coming together only increases.
You may recognize both the joys and wonder of that process, as well as the challenge. It is not easy. Hurt happens in relationships, though it’s never intended. The process itself contains elements of churning and transmuting, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, which calls on us to grow beyond our previous conceptions.
And when we can work steadily on this transformation process not only do we grow, but along the way others can gain inspiration. Marianne Williamson put it this way in a now-famous quote (with slight modifications :))…
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be [liberated], [generous], [fulfilled], and [joyful]? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of [Truth, or Love]. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of [Truth] that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
Nandi and Fahad, may you continue to shine your light. And share it with others. And may you not shy away from any dark times to come. Your vows speak to this. And whether it’s apparent or not, that has been part of your process all along.
And this brings us to the third aspect of a good ceremony: more so than simply marking the start of something new, we are actually honoring what is already underway.
Do you pledge to help each other to develop your hearts and minds? cultivating generosity, gratitude and wisdom as you age and undergo the various ups and downs of life?
Recognizing that the external conditions in life will not always be smooth and that internally your own minds and emotions will sometimes get stuck in negativity. Do you pledge to see all these circumstances as a challenge to help you grow, to open your hearts, to develop in authenticity, to see your own unconscious, to accept yourselves, and each other; and to generate compassion for others who are suffering? Do you pledge to avoid becoming narrow or closed in thought, and to help each other to see various sides of situations?
Understanding that just as we are a mystery to ourselves, each other person is also a mystery to us. Do you pledge to seek to understand your selves, each other, and all living beings, to examine your own minds continually and to regard all the mysteries of life with curiosity and joy?
Do you pledge to preserve and enrich your affection for each other, and to share it with all beings? To take the loving feelings you have for one another and your vision of each other’s potential and inner beauty as an example, and rather than spiraling inwards and becoming self-absorbed, to radiate this love outwards to all beings?
Do you pledge to keep awareness of the disadvantages of ignorance, anger, aversion and clinging attachment, to apply antidotes when these arise in your minds, and to remember the kindness of all other beings and your connection to them? Do you pledge to work for the good of others, with all of your compassion, wisdom and skill?
Do you pledge day to day, to be patient with yourselves and others, knowing that change comes slowly and gradually, and to seek inspiration from your guides and not to become discouraged?
Do you pledge to continuously strive to remember each other’s inner beauty, as well as the inner beauty of all living beings? To support and grow the qualities of love in each other?