The awesome power of parental love
By Lionel Wijesiri
Kaushalya is a graduate in Marketing Studies and working as a corporate PR Manager. Her mother died a few weeks ago. Back at home after the funeral activities, she talked about her mother and related a personal life incident.
“I was just six years old when this incident occured. My mother was an ardent collector of antiques, especially vases. She had a much-cherished vase once owned by her great-grandmother. It was inside a small display case. Her mother loved that vase and frequently referred to it as the family treasure. At that time I was an accident-prone child. One day while running up and down the living room, I accidentally knocked over the display case. The vase hit the floor with a loud crash and shattered into pieces. I was shocked and frightened at what I’d done, screamed and began sobbing”.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
Buddha visit - The Buddha accepted his father’s invitation and returned to visit his homeland. During this visit, he preached the Dhamma to King Suddhodana. The Compassionate One said he knew the King’s heart was full of affection and deeply grieved. The painting depicts how an artist saw it.
“I remember my mother come running into the room. There was fear in her face. Seeing the shattered vase, she sighed heavily. Then she saw me sitting on the floor wailing. “I’m sorry, Amma. I’m sorry, Amma. I broke the family treasure!” Seeing despair on my face, my mother was silent for a moment. Faced with two powerful and conflicting instincts - one toward anger and blame, the other toward compassion and forgiveness, she sat next to me, pulled me on her lap, and kissed my tears. “Sweetheart, when I ran in here, I was terrified that something bad had happened to our family’s most precious treasure. But thank God, you’re okay. Kushi, you are the family treasure.”
“My mother turned what could have been a painful incident and a lifelong source of guilt into an enduring source of affirmation and worthiness. That day I experienced a mother’s limitless love towards her children.”
This is a story of parental love. It’s a love we would never quantify. Their love is unchanged, unconditional and cannot be measured. Parents are the fountains of our lives. They are the sun and moon in our world, in our family. The father is the Sun and mother is the moon. As Buddhists, as well as grateful and faithful sons and daughters, we cannot think of a life without our parents.
The study of parental love is something from which social scientists long shied away. But with the increased interest in the origin of mental illnesses, more attention is being paid to the infancy and childhood of human beings. What investigations have revealed is that parental love is, beyond all cavil or question, the most important experience in the life of a human being.
For the new-born baby, survival is of the first importance. But survival alone is not enough - and in most cases it is doubtful whether the mere satisfaction of his physical needs will secure even that. We now know from the observations of a number of physician and investigators that parental love is an essential part of the nourishment of every baby and that unless he is loved he will not develop as a healthy organism.
The Buddha has taught us that it is our bounden duty, a moral obligation to respect and support our parents unceasingly, especially when they reach old age, and when they are feeble or sick. If one does not support one’s parents in general or in the latter part of their lives in particular; he or she, according to Buddhism, is an ungrateful and uncivilised son or daughter. The Buddha declared this very clearly in the Wasala sutta, the Discourse on outcastes:
Whosoever being wealthy supports not his mother and father who have grown old - know him as an outcast.
On the contrary, in the Mangala Sutta, the Buddha said, to support mother and father, to cherish wife and children, and to be engaged in peaceful occupation - this is the greatest blessing.
In the Katannu Sutta, the Buddha said, I tell you, monks, there are two people who are not easy to repay. Which two? Your mother and father. Even if you were to carry your mother on one shoulder and your father on the other shoulder for 100 years, and were to look after them by anointing, massaging, bathing, and rubbing their limbs, and they were to defecate and urinate right there [on your shoulders], you would not in that way pay or repay your parents.
If you were to establish your mother and father in absolute sovereignty over this great earth, abounding in the seven treasures, you would not in that way pay or repay your parents. Why is that? Mother and father do much for their children. They care for them, they nourish them, and they introduce them to this world. But anyone who rouses his unbelieving mother and father, settles and establishes them in conviction; rouses his unvirtuous mother and father, settles and establishes them in virtue; rouses his stingy mother and father, settles and establishes them in generosity; rouses his foolish mother and father, settles and establishes them in discernment: To this extent one pays and repays one’s mother and father.
In the Sigalovada Sutta the Buddha laid down rules elaborating the duties of children and parents.
The duties of a child towards its parents are five in number:
(1) Support them with four requisites-food and drinks, clothing, shelter, and medication
(2) Perform their duties such as helping them to do whatever they find difficult to do
(3) Keep up the family tradition, name, and image
(4) Be worthy of their inheritance
(5) Transfer merit to them after their death.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
Parents love - The parents’ love towards children is unchanged, unconditional and cannot be measured
Parents, too, have a duty to take good care of their children as set by the teachings of the Buddha. There are five primary duties that a parent must do while bringing up a child:
(1) Advise to refrain from doing anything evil
(2) Persuade to do meritorious actions
(3) Ensuring properly educated.
(4) Guiding to the right path in the careful selection of a spouse.
(5) Passing on inheritances
These duties make good sense even today. They form basis of good family relationships and the democratic and social ethics of a Buddhist.
Live and love
Parental love towards children is creative, greatly enriching the lives of the receiver and the giver. It is the only thing in the world of which one cannot give anyone too much. Genuine parental love has a firmness and discipline of its own for which there can be no substitute; it can never harm or inhibit or spoil, it can only benefit.
Scientists are today discovering that to live as if live and love were one is an indispensable condition - because this is the way of life which the innate nature of man demands. The idea is not new. What is new is that contemporary men should be rediscovering, by scientific means, the ancient truths as delivered by the Buddha nearly 2,600 years ago. For human beings - and for humanity - nothing could be more important.