Buddhism and Respect for Parents
Compiled by Dr. Ron Epstein
San Francisco State University
Please send all comments, suggestions, and corrections to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: "Living with Brahma are those families where, in the home, mother & father are revered by the children. Living with the first devas are those families where, in the home, mother & father are revered by the children. Living with the first teachers are those families where, in the home, mother & father are revered by the children. Living with those worthy of gifts are those families where, in the home, mother & father are revered by the children. 'Brahma' is a designation for mother & father. 'The first devas' is a designation for mother & father. 'The first teachers' is a designation for mother & father. 'Those worthy of gifts' is a designation for mother & father. Why is that? Mother & father do much for their children. They care for them, nourish them, introduce them to this world."
Mother & father,Sutta-Nipata:
compassionate to their family,
those worthy of gifts
from their children.
So the wise should pay them
with food & drink
clothing & bedding
anointing & bathing
& washing their feet.
Performing these services to their parents, the wise
are praised right here
and after death
rejoice in heaven. (106)
Though being well-to-do, not to support father and mother who are old and past their youth -- this is a cause ofThe Path of Purification:
one's downfall. (I:6, Narada Thera, tr.)
...a wise man...should support his mother and father as his duty....(II:14, John D. Ireland, tr.)
[Regarding lovingkindness toward parents,] here is what is said:Venerable Master Hsuan Hua's Commentary to "Universal Worth's Conduct and Vows":Bhikkhus, it is not easy to find a being who has not formerly been your mother...your father...your sister...your son...your daughter (S. ii, 189-90).Consequently he should think about that person thus: This person, it seems as my mother in the past carried me in her womb for ten months and removed from me without disgust as if it were yellow sandalwood my urine, exrement, spittle, snot, etc., and played with me in her lap, and nourished me, carrying me about at her hip. And this person as my father went by great paths and paths set on piles, etc., to pursue the trade of merchant, and he risked his life for me by going into battle in double array, by sailing on the great ocean in shops and doing other difficult things and he nourished me by bringing back wealth by one means or another thinking to feed his children. (IX, 36, Nyanamoli, tr.)
For example, teaching living beings who do not understand filial piety to be filial is a method to cause them to plant good roots. There is a saying,Of the ten thousan evil acts, lust is the worst;What makes people different from animals is that people understand how to be filial to their parents and respectful to their teacher and elders. People are different from animals, who do not understand filiality, yet even
Of the one hundred wholesome deeds, filial piety is foremost.The lamb kneels to nurse;The young lamb kneels when it takes milk from its mother, and when the young crow grows up, it returns to care for its parents. Filial piety, therefore, is basic to being human. Those who are not filial to their parents do not have good roots, but one who is filial certainly does have good roots. (Flower Adornment Sutra, Ch 40, pp. 115-116)
The crow returns to feed its parents.