Master [Paramhansa Yogananda] continued his reminiscences of those years. “A student of this work in Boston told me he wanted to be a renunciate. I said to him, ‘Your path is marriage.’
“‘Oh, no!’ he vowed, ‘I’ll never marry!’ Well, a week later he met a beautiful girl and swore to me that he was deeply in love with her!
“‘She isn’t the one for you,’ I warned him.
“‘Oh, but she is!’ he cried. ‘She is my soul mate.’
“Well, it wasn’t long after that that he returned shamefacedly. ‘I want to be a renunciate,’ he announced fervently once again. The girl had left him, having enjoyed spending his money.
“‘You have yet to meet the right one,’ I said.
“Some time later he told me laughingly of a fat, quite unattractive-looking girl who had been showing an unwelcome interest in him.
“‘Aha,’ I said, ‘this sounds like the right one!’
“‘No Swami, no!’ he cried, horrified. ‘You were right before. Please don’t be right this time!’
“‘She sounds like the right one for you.’
“It took him some time, but gradually he discovered what a good nature the girl had beneath her unglamorous exterior, and fell deeply in love with her. Eventually they were married.
“People are so often blinded by outward appearances,” Master continued. “Marriage in this country is often a union between a pretty shade of lipstick and a smart-looking bow tie! They hear a little music, fall into a romantic mood, and end up pledging their lives away.
“People must learn to look behind the veil of superficial attraction. Without soul harmony there cannot be true love.”
Master saw every human experience, including that of marriage, primarily as an opportunity for inner, spiritual development. Romantic notions of “wedded bliss” were, to him, simply and purely delusions. It wasn’t that he denied the satisfactions of a harmonious marriage, but rather that he wanted devotees to see all human experiences as steppingstones to the soul’s only true fulfillment, in God. Thus, he recommended to people who sought marriage that they first look for spiritual compatibility in their mates, and only secondarily for mental, emotional, and physical compatibility. He saw marriage not only as a fulfillment, but, much more importantly, as an opportunity for learning essential spiritual lessons in selflessness, loyalty, kindness, respect, and trust.