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By Egerton C. Baptist




According to ancient Hindu and Buddhist culture, taking care of and looking after the welfare of one’s parents, was a great and meritorious deed. Society in that time, in fact, considered it the duty of children to attend to the needs and wants of their parents. The neglect of this duty and obligation was regarded as a grave wrong that generated evil Kamma that resulted in re-birth in woeful states (apayas). Among the Brahmins of the time, the neglect of one’s duties towards one’s parents was also an offence meriting death for such neglect. Apart from all this, it is the duty of children who are born into civilised and cultured society and who have been brought up with great care and affection by their parents, to repay that great debt of gratitude they owe them for what they are today, by, at leat, looking after them when they are old. Nowadays, some people seem to have become so selfish, that they do not care to fulfil this duty to their parents.

According to the Buddha, it is both a duty and a meritorious deed, to look after the welfare of one’s parents. In the Maha Mangala Suttta, of the 38 beatitudes enumerated therein, the treatment of one’s parents is one ¾ Matta-pitu-upatthanam.

Mr. Egerton C. Baptist, a writer on many aspects of Buddhist Doctrine, is doing a great service, especially to the present younger generation who now tend to neglect their duties towards their parents, by bring out this useful brochure, in an endeavour to arrest this trend by opening them to their duties to their parents.

Sri Chandrasekeraramaya,
Ananddamaitreya Mawatha,
Maharagama, August 9, 1979.
SRI LANKA (Ceylon)




I have endeavoured to set down briefly in this booklet the duties, particularly of children, towards their parents. What prompted me to do this is that in this Kaliyuga (ie. age of Materialism), when the human span of life is short, many born today have very little regard for their parents and elders. Filial love and affection, as is evident from their behavioural patterns is almost totally absent in this generation, even if we are amazed at the sharp intellect that many of those born today are karmically endowed with. If I succeed in persuading, at least a few, of the great harm and evil karma they are heaping upon themselves by neglecting their parents, I would not have written in vain. I would be amply rewarded.

Looking after one’s parents, particularly in their old age, is a very meritorious deed and children especially those in affluent circumstances, should not shirk or neglect this duty. Children owe their parents a great debt which they can never repay, for what they are today. In fact, many young men (and women) in high places would not be where they are today, but for the loving care and sacrifices their parents had mad for them. It is pity that many do not realise this. Children who one the other hand, respect, and look after their parents, especially in their old age, are successful in all their undertakings, prosper in this world and in the lives to come. They are the beloveds of the Devas (ie. gods). Here I am reminded of Sakka, King of the gods. Sakka, we are told, had made Seven Vows, before he finally attained to his high celestial position. Among them these two take first place: "As long as I live, may I maintain my parents. As long as I live, may I revere the head of the family." The Seven Vows are recorded in the Samyuttta Nikaya in these words:

"Whoso his mother and his father keeps,

The senior in this family reveres,

Converseth gently and with soft-toned speech,

And all that makes for slander puts aside.

Whoso sets himself all meanness to suppress,

A man of truth, his temper ‘neath control:

On such an one of the three and thirty gods

Do verily conver the name: ‘Good Man’.

The undertaking and carrying out of these Seven Vows when he was human being helped Sakka attain his exalted celestial position. May those blessed with a measure of wisdom endeavour to emulate his noble example. May I extend my sincere thanks to the Venerable Balangoda Ananddamaitreya, Maha Nayaka Thera, I am grateful for his very illumination Foreword. I have been associated with the learned Maha Nayaka Thera since 1951. It is impossible to find so widely read a monk like the Ven. Anandamaitreya and it is only natural that I should invite him, again and again, to write the foreword to my books on the Dhamma. May he live long to take the Message of the Tathagata to the West where many are thirsting for Knowledge and Enlightenment.

To the protecting Devas of the thrice-hallowed blessed land of Sri Lanka who are also guiding me in all my efforts to make the Buddha Dhamma better known, especially among English-speaking peoples, I once again bestow the Merits of the Dhamma-Dana. Who knows, if my aspiration for Full Enlightenment (Buddhahood) in some distant aeon, becomes a reality, they may well be with me at the Hour of Full-Awakening.

May all beings be well and happy.

Egerton C. Baptist





In this brief treatise, I shall set out in as concise a manner as I can, the duties of children towards their parents and the reasons as to why these duties and obligations should be fulfilled, and also the duties of parents towards their children. And, in doing this, I shall also in the process, cite certain incidents and anecdotes that will be relevant to the subject of our discussion, as recorded in the sacred books of the Buddhists, that would be of use and interest to us all in understanding the reciprocal nature of the duties of parents and children towards each other.

"Monks," says the Buddha, in the Book of the Gradual Sayings ¾ Anguttara Nikaya: "those families where mother and father are worshipped n the home are reckoned like unto Brahma (i.e. 'God'). Those families where mother and father are worshipped in home are ranked with the teachers of old (i.e. One's First Teachers). Worthy of offerings, monks, are those families where mother and father are worshipped in the home. 'Brahma', monks, is a term for mother and father. 'Teachers of old', monks, is a term for mother and father. 'Worthy of offerings,' monks, is a term for mother and father. Why so? Because mother and father do much for children, they bring them up, nourish and introduce them to the world. The test goes like this:

Brahmati Mata-Pitaro, Pubbacariyati Vuccare

Ahuneyya ca puttanam Pajaya Anukampaka

Tasma hi ne namasseyya sakkareyyatha Pandito

Annena atha panena Vatthena syanena ca

Ucchadanena Nahapanena Padanam Dhovanema ca

Taya nam Paricariyaya Matapitusu pandita

Idha c'eva nam pasamsanti, pecca sagge ca Modati.

The translation reads:

Parents are called "Brahma", "teachers of old."

Worthy of gifts are they, compassionate

Unto their tribe of children (i.e. progeny).

Thus the wise should worship them and pay them honours due.

Serve them with food and drink, clothing and beds,

Anoint their bodies, bathe and wash their feet.

For service such as this to parents given

In this life sages praise a man, and he

Hereafter has reward of joy in heaven.

It is also said that those children, who after their parents in the manner described above, will be blessed with long life, happiness and power, and their wealth too will increase. On the other hand, if children neglect their parents and do not look after their welfare, they will not be endowed with long life and happiness, and whatever power they may own and possess all these will vanish soon. According to the Buddha, one's greatest helpers in this world are one's own parents. Looking after such benefactors, therefore, becomes a means of showing one's gratitude to them. Gratitude is one of the great qualities among humankind in this world. Kindness and goodness found in a person are also great qualities. But, these find their base in Gratitude.

Accordingly, that He may set an example to the world, the Buddha in the second week after His Enlightenment, turned round to face and look with gratitude for a whole week, upon the Bodhi-Tree (or Tree of Enlightenment as it afterward came to be known), which gave Him shade and shelter in his Quest for Enlightenment, and, in this manner, assisted Him in His struggle for Buddha (Animisalocana puja). Thus, as we see, the Blessed One gave us, by his own example, a lesson in Gratitude.

Although to us, ordinary worldings, this gesture of the blessed one in showing Gratitude to the sacred Bodhi tree, would appear useless and meaningless and of no purpose, especially as the offering of Gratitude was to an object like this ¾ a Tree ¾ which has no Mind and Body. This was, we must try to understand, the Blessed One's way of setting an example and demonstrating to the world that the showing of gratitude for any little assistance or help one may obtain from whatsoever source or direction it may come, is the quality of a Great Being, ¾ of a Noble Man.

Looking after the welfare of one's parents, therefore, is not only a good quality, but also the hallmark of a great person. We are also told that even the Devas of the Tavatimsa heaven (God of Sakka's realm), regard those human beings that look after their parents, as being endowed with the great qualities of a noble person.

We are also told that the denizens of the hells who tender the fires of hell, accost those children who have neglected and not looked after the welfare of their parents and lead them to King Yama who, it is believed, administers severe punishment upon them. From this we see that even in the neither regions (i.e. the Niraya or hells0, the hell-tenders look upon such children who do so, with regard and respect, as they hold in great esteem the quality of 'looking after the welfare of one's parents'. If such is the respect and regard that even the hell-tenders have for those children who look after the welfare of their parents, how much more should human beings who are now able to have the opportunity, and are in a position to do so, tend and care for the welfare of their parents, while they are still on this earth with them. The Chief of all Men, the Buddha, enumerated the blessings and the blessedness of looking after one's parents in the stanza, Brahmati Mata Pitaro.., and we shall take these now, one by one.


How Do Parents Become Brahma?


We have seen that the Blessed One likens parents to Brahma. They are also Pubbacariya, Ahuneyya and Prajayanukampaka. How? Brahma is endowed with the four great qualities of Metta, Karuna, Mudita and Upekkha, and these he extends to all beings in all direction of Space, we are told. In the same way, the Blessed One says that one’s parents too shower these venerable qualities on their children, and in so doing, themselves become like unto Brahma (ie. God) to their children. And, this is how it all happens. First, parents desire the health and happiness of their yet unborn child, while it is still in the womb of its mother and keep wishing and praying and looking forward to the day when they will see their child. This is the quality of Metta bestowed on their yet unborn offspring of any parents.

Secondly, after the child is born, out of deep Compassion, parents protect the helpless child from all harm ¾ from flies, mosquitoes, bugs, insects, and so on which might harm their little one. When the child cries through hunger, their great Compassion is again aroused for their child. All this is actuated is Karuna, ¾ another attribute of Brahma.

Thereafter, when they see their child playing, walking about, passing exams and doing well, their hearts become soft and filled with tenderness. The great joy and happiness that arises in them at seeing all this, is the quality of Mudita (i.e. rejoicing in the welfare of others), which is another attribute of Brahma. And then, finally, comes the stage when the child has grown up and is living with his own family and on his own strength. This, once again, gives great satisfaction to the parents ¾ a balance of equipoise of Mind ¾ and the ability to exercise a sense of Equanimity at the child’s new status in life, ¾ now all alone, away from their parents, and on his own. This Equanimity or equipoise of mind, is the last of the great qualities of Brahma. To Buddhists this quality is known as Upekka (i.e. Equanimity). Thus, by exercising the qualities of Metta, Karuna, Mudita and Upekkha in this way which, as we said, are also the four great attributes of Brahma, parents themselves become Brahmas or Gods, to their children. That briefly is how parents become Brahma to their children.



How Do Parents Become Pubbacariyas (i.e. the First Teachers)?


During their young days children do not know what is right and what is wrong. Parents, therefore, teach them for the first time, what is right and what is wrong. "Son! Come here; go there; this is your father; this is your mother, sister, brother; do this; do not do that…." they are taught. Other things they learn later. The parents thus become the first teachers ¾ Pubbacariyas ¾ to their children.



How Do Parents Become Ahuneyya (i.e. Worthy of Gifts, etc.)?


Ahuneyya which is a virtue attributed to the Order of Monks (Ariya Maha Sangha) means that Monks are "worthy of offerings, worthy of hospitality, worthy of gifts, worthy of reverential salutation, being an incomparable field of merit to the world", to the laity. Hence, they might by tending to the needs of the Monks gain great Merit, as Monks are extraordinary and not ordinary beings. The Buddha ascribed the term "Ahuneyya" too, to the parents to demonstrate how, like the Order of Monks, parents too are worthy of all this, ¾ food, hospitality, gifts, reverential salutation, etc., from their children. Thus, Ahuneyya, an attribute used to describe the Ariya Maha Sangha, also becomes an attribute applied to one’s parents by the Buddha himself.
Compassion to one’s Progeny  Pajayanukampaka  How?

The Buddha’s Compassion is known to extend to all living beings. In the same way, only parents are capable of such Compassion towards their children. Whatever troubles and worries are brought upon them by their children, parents endure and bear them all up with the measure of fortitude, show their Compassion to and understanding of their children’s problems. But, some children soon forget all this, when they themselves are doing well, and are well off. They do not attend to and look after their parents in their old age, and when they are frail and feeble. Indeed, some children are so shrewd that they wait upon their parents pretending that they love and care for them very much, only, of course, till they are able to get their share of the family inheritance in the form of property, money, jewellery, and so on. Thereafter, on the pretext or another, for one reason or another, they show indifference and drive their parents away from their homes when they are old and feeble, as they now do not wish to even see them, let alone looking after and attending to them. Oh! What wicked children these must be. But, eve to such children, parents are know to extend their Compassion. The Samyutta Nikaya records a typical instance of Ingratitude among children even the in time of the Buddha. Here, in our story, we are told that certain wealthy parents living in the time of the Buddha had been persuaded to divide their wealth among their four children, since they had now grown old. In the hope and expectation and the assurance that their children would care and look after them in their old age, the parents divided their entire property equally among their four sons. Not long afterwards, instigated by their wives, when the parents began to visit the homes of their children from time to time, sometimes staying longer in one son’s home than in another’s, there was resentment one day in one of these homes, the parents even being asked whether all their wealth had been given only to this one child alone. "Did you not give your other sons too your wealth in equal proportion?" the sons asked. "Why, then, do you come and stay only here?" It was the same reception and treatment at the homes of all the sons, ¾ the same old story! Such were the taunts thrown at the parents by those ungrateful children. Eventually they had no place to go to for shelter or food and were cast on the roads, to eke out an existence and fend for themselves, as best as they could. And, remember so badly that they were now begging on the streets from house to house with no place to go to ¾ no shelter, no food.

Now, as it so happened, this brahmin once a millionaire, now looking worn and in a coarse cloak came one day to visit the Exalted One. Having exchanged the customary greetings and compliments of courtesy, the old brahmin took his seat at one side. To him thus seated, the Exalted One said: "Wherefore, brahmin, art thou looking worn and art clad in a coarse cloak?" "Four sons have I, Master Gottama, in this place," replied the brahmin, "but, they in concert with their wives, have shown me the door." Thereupon taking pity on the old brahmin, the Blessed One said, "Learn these verses, brahmin, and when the folk are assembled in the ‘Chapter Hall’ (i.e. the meeting hall of the brahmin synod), and thy sons too are seated there, recite to them".

Accordingly, this father, the old brahmin, having learnt the verses taught him by the Exalted One, made his way to the ‘Chapter Hall’, where in there was a vast concourse of people gathered, amidst whom his sons too were present, dressed in all their finery and grandeur. There, in the midst the old man stood up, ill-clad as he was, and announced to the gathering that he had a grievance and wished to proclaim it in that assembly in a few stanzas. Thereupon he began reciting the verses which the Blessed One had taught him, which went like this:

Ye jatehi nandissam yesan ca bhavam iccisan te mam darehi sampuccha sa va varenti sukaram

They at whose birth my heart was glad,

For whose becoming much I longed,

They now in concert with their wives

Are as a good that drives off swine.

Asanta kira mam jamma tata ti bhasare rakkhasa puttaru pena te jahanti vayogatam

Impious and shameless sooth are these

Who call me ‘dear one,’ call me ‘dad’

Demons are they in guise of sons.

Him that is come to years they leave.

Asso va jinno nibbhogo khadana apniyati balakanam pita thero paragaresu bhikkhati

Forsaken, as a worn-out horse

Unfed is led away from crib,

The sire, the senior of these boys

Doth beg his bread at other’s doors.

Dando va kira me syyo yan ce putta anassava candam pi gonam vareti atho candam pi kukkuram


Better in sooth ‘the stick’ for me

Than having disobedient sons.

It serves to keep off savage ox,

It serves to keep off savage hound ¾


Andhakare pure hoti gambhive gadham edhati dandassa anubhavena khalitva patti-titthaliti.


Whereas I wandered in the dark

I find a footing in the deep,

And by the stick’s effective power

I, though I stumbled, stand once more.


Now, it was the lat at that time that the offence of ‘Neglect of one’s parents’ was punishable by death. And, these children especially, having made use of the old brahmin’s wealth, were in dire peril. As they began to listen to the verses being recited by the old brahmin, they knew it was for them because they were concerned and responsible for the old brahmin’s present plight. Greatly agitated and fearing for their lives, th4e sons came forward, fell at their father’s feet and begged his pardon. Their father forgave them and withdrew his charge and advised them to forsake their evil ways and support him. Greatly relieved at receiving the old brahmin’s pardon and thus escaping the dire consequences of their evil conduct in having neglected their old father all these years, having by false pretences obtained his wealth, they now led out the old brahmin to their house, and when they had bathed him, they each clothed him with a suit of raiment, and fed him.

Then that brahmin, one day taking one of the suits his sons had given him, went to visit the Exalted One and, exchanging with Him the greetings and compliments of courtesy, took his seat at one side, and so seated said, "We brahmins, Master Gotama, select a teacher’s fee for our teacher. May Master Gotama be please to accept my fee."

The Exalted One, moved by Compassion, accepted. Thereafter, after the exchange of the customary courtesies and greetings and the offering of robes, the Buddha preached to the brahmin, his sons and their wives, and established them in the first stage of Buddhist Sainthood (Sottapatti-phala).

Thereupon that brahmin exclaimed, "Most excellent, Master Gotama, most excellent! As if one raised up that which had been overthrown, or revealed that which had been hidden, or declared the way to one who was bewildered, or carried an oil-lamp into the dark, so that they that had eyes could see, even so is the Norm, in many ways made manifest by Mater Gotama. Lo! I go for refuge to Gotama, the Exalted One, to the Norm, and to the Order. May Master Gotama suffer me as a lay-adherent, who from this day forth as long as life endures has taken in refuge!" And, they all took refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sanga.

Here, then, again, is another instance illustrating the abounding Compassion of parents, however wronged they might be by their indifferent, callous and hardhearted children. But, for the overwhelming Compassion of these parents, those sons, as we see, would have certainly been put to death, for ‘Neglect of Parents’ was a serious and heinous offence in that time.

The Compassion of parents towards their children could be understood only is one who has him or herself becomes a parent. There is again the instance of Ajatasatta, whom readers might remember, which had listened to the wicked Devadatta and put his own father Bimbisara into jail and had him killed there. He too understood this lesson only after a son was born to him. On the very day that a son was born, news brought to him that his father had died in prison. He thereupon enquires of his mother whether his father Bimbisara too had been likewise happy when he (Ajatasatta) was born. When he was told by his mother how when he was conceived in her womb, she had a strange desire to drink human blood, her husband, his father, instantly split open his shoulder and gave her his own blood, that she may drink it and in this manner by satisfying this strange desire of a pregnant woman, made his (Ajatasatta’s) own life safe ¾ for evil might otherwise befall the still unborn child ¾ only then did king Ajatasatta realise how much Compassion parents can, indeed, have for their children. But, that realisation came, alas, too late! Bimbisara was already gone where no human hands could reach him. That is why I said that it is only one who has himself or herself become a parent can realise, in full measure, the love and compassion of parents for their children.

Learning these lesson, wise children should worship their parents as I said earlier, both morning and evening, saying to themselves, " This, indeed, is my fountain of Kusala (i.e. good deeds)!" ‘Worshipping’, as such, may be an eastern mode of respectful salutation; even so, the West would have its own form of respectful salutation, which could be observed with equal reverence.

The looking after the welfare of one’s parents should be done, not merely in its outward form of reverential worshipping of one’s parents as I nave described herein, but by also providing them with various kinds of food and drink, clothes to wear, coverlets to protect them from the heat and cold, and comfortable beds and chairs. This attention and loving care that parents are entitled to can come only from gook and loving children, and comes under the admonition that one should ‘look after the welfare of one’s parents.’ By doing their duty in this manner, the children are not only praised in this lifetime itself by the wise, but, on their death, will, it is said, be born in the celestial realms (i.e. Deva worlds).

Qualities of Parents and How They Look After Their Children

On another occasion, in describing the qualities of a mother, the Buddha related the Sonanda Jataka, and said, that a mother desiring a child prays to the Devas (i.e. gods), goes to soothsayers to find out the constellation of planets when such an event can be expected and under which 'Star' (planet) of the 'Zodiac' the child would be born. She is also eager to know the date and the year the child would be born and whether it will have long life or be short-lived. Incidentally, it is mentioned, that for a child to be conceived there must be the 3-fold factors ¾ (1) it should be the mother's right time; (2) there must me the coming together of the parents; and (3) a 'being' ready to be conceived. After conception has taken place, the mother is overwhelmed with great desire; that is to say, a deep love and affection arises within her for the child that is now conceived in her womb ¾ this stage is called 'Suhada'. Carrying the child in her womb and giving birth to it after 10 lunar months (9 months as we reckon time), the mother becomes 'Janetti'. She then gives suck to the child of her own blood which has now turned into milk through her great and consuming affection for her child. She gives it warmth and consoles the child holding it to her breasts, ¾ thus protecting it from the wind, the sun and the rain, this being called, the "feeder of nutrition" (Posaka) stage.

Describing the care and attention lavished by parents on their children, the texts also state that a mother while carrying her child in her womb in this manner for 10 lunar month, protects it from harm or hurt and looks after like a gem. And, after the child is born, she will not allow even a fly to settle on it. At this helpless stage, the child can only cry when it is hungry or thirsty, falls ill, has a stomachache, or feels pain from a fall or a broken bone. The saliva, phlegm, excreta and urine is washed and the child made clean by the mother, as if it all were a part of its mother's own body. A mother does not feel squeamish at all this, but treats them all, it is said, as sandalwood, and attends to the child with her own hands. That is how, as we have seen, a mother's deep love and affection for her child turns, as we have seen, her own blood into milk which sustains and nourishes the child with mosquito nets to protect it from flies and mosquitoes because if they do not protect and look after their child in this manner with loving care, the survival of that child becomes difficult and remote.

While bringing up a child in this manner, that child should also be taught to respect and follow the family customs and traditions and culture. One should also read to them religious stories and establish a religious fervour in them. All this should be instilled into children by their parents, who, as we said, are their First Teachers, until they are of age to attend school. It is in this way, that wise parents make their children noble and good citizens.

Now, a child who is brought up in this manner, will not only be a boon to the family, but to the whole village, country and race, and will, without doubt, bring much credit to his parents and his country. On the other hand, if a child is not brought up in the correct way, the opposite too can happen and his whole present and future life too can be ruined.

We are also told that if a child brought up, nursed, taught and looked after the welfare of his parents, and instead becomes disobedient and harasses them, that child becomes what the sacred texts call a 'Mittavindaka', and would, in the process of time, be born in the apayas (hells).

Now it must also be stated that the task of bringing up children should be undertaken with great care and wisdom, the burden of this undertaking falling heavily and chiefly on the mother because from the time of its birth till it grows up, the child is in its mother's arms and under her care and influence. Accordingly, the mother is the chief architect of its future, ¾ its fortune and its misfortune ¾ the task of the father being mainly to work hard and earn a livelihood and bring home the food and drink for the family. Since the father has often to go out and be away most of the time to find the means to provide all this for the family, he is also not always at home. Thus, the mother becomes the focal point in the household all the time, and moulds the character of the child, as we see, from its beginning. The mother's role in a home is therefore, pre-eminent, and this has been the tradition in the time of the Buddha too. She was given first place in the home.

Many parents often complain, however, that though they take great care in the bringing up of their children and in providing them with all that is necessary for their growth and well-being, in the hope and expectation that in their old age they too would be looked after and cared for ¾ some of them having seven or eight children ¾ yet not one of their children looks after or cares for them. Such children, who neglect that in so doing, they do a great wrong. However, it must be mentioned that such children are invariably those who have not been brought up in the proper way, as set out in this brief treatise, by their parents and, from the very beginning. If children are taught to respect those worthy of respect as their parents and elders are, and they are also taught the value of their parents and how beholden they are to them, in the manner we have describing herein, they will never go against their parents at any time and never be a disappointment to them. It is often the fault of the parents themselves when their children do not live up to the expectations of their parents. Those children who are well brought up will support and look after their parents, even if they themselves are poor, with whatever they themselves have. Thus bringing mutual joy and comfort to their aging parents while they are still with them, and at the same time in the process, heaping and storing up Merit for themselves for now and hereafter ¾ and in the lives to come.

How Children Should Look After Their Parents


It is stated in the Sigalovada Sutta that children should look after their parents in five ways. The actual text reads:

Bhato ne bharissami, kiccam nesam karissami,

Kulavamsam, thapessami, dayajjam patipajjami, atha ca pana

Petanam kalakatanam dakkhinam anypadassami.

As we have seen, from the time a child is born its parents undergo much worry and trouble but they surmount to all these because of their great love and compassion; they also feed them with their milk, as we have also seen that has now become part of their own blood. Remembering, therefore, that they are the beneficiaries of all this great and loving care and tender affection that have been showered on them from the time of their birth. Children should look after their aged parents with respectful care and attention ¾ feeding them with nutritious foods, such as medicinal conjee, rice, and so on, and thus, making them strong, even if they had a hundred and one things to do. Parents, in short, must come first. Children must also look after the family inheritance ¾ property ¾ without wasting and squandering the parental wealth that they have inherited. Children who fail in this respect to look after the family property and parental wealth will not be recipients of their parental wealth. For, parents bestow their wealth only upon those children who respect and look after them in their old age, and who heed their advice. Children must also bear in mind that while their parents are still alive and with them, they must attend to all their needs. When their parents alas are no more, they must accrue merit by performing various meritorious deeds and transfer the Merit thus accrued to the deceased parents. Such transference of merit to one's deceased parents is also a duty cast upon children.

Duties of Parents Towards Their Children

In addition to what parents should do for their children as I have set out earlier in the course of this treatise, there are according to the Sigalovad Sutta, five ways in which parents should show their Compassion for their children.

Papa nivarenti, kalyane Nivasenti,

Sippam Sikkhapenti Patirupena

Darena Samyo jenti samaye dayajjam niyyadenti

Here, in the Sigalovada Sutta, it is taught that parents should point out and show their children the consequences or retributive results of bad kamma (i.e. evil actions), both in this lifetime itself and in the next life, and prevent them from doing such evil actions. They should also teach them to keep good and wholesome company by having good friends and good companions. Children should also be taught to respect the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saugha, and the family elders. Here, I would like to cite the case of the Millionaire Anathapindika who lived in the time of the Buddha and his son Kala. Anathapindika's son never liked to visit the Blessed one and listen to His sermons. He thought that if he began to associate with the Monks and became friendly, he would, in course of time, have to carry gifts too to them. He never knew what a vast field of merit the Ariya Maha Sangha was. His father therefore decided on a strategy ¾ a sort of bribe ¾ in order that he may persuade his on to visit the Buddha. He asked him to go to the Blessed One and learn just one four-line stanza and that, if he did so, he would be rewarded with a gift of a thousand Kahavenus (1000 pieces of gold). The Blessed One knew why the son of Anathapindika had visited him, and while he preached the Blessed One also 'willed' that the son would not be able to remember the four-line stanza. This meant that the son had to visit the Blessed One repeatedly. When the Blessed One saw the son was ripe for Conversion (Sotapatti, first stage of Buddhist Sainthood), He withdrew His 'restraining-influence' and allowed the son to remember the four-line verse. But, by that time, the son no longer wanted the thousand pieces of gold because he was now a Sotapatti-Saint. It is thus, as we see, the duty of parents through various devices and stratagems, to endeavour to guide their erring and recalcitrant children on to the correct Path, and make them perform meritorious deeds, get them to earn an honest living and, in time, at the proper age, also see that they are well married according to their station in life. Parents should also hand over the family property to their children at the correct time. In these five ways, parents are exhorted by the Blessed One to do their duty by their children. Parents who bring up their children in this manner would find that their children are a blessing to them and the world.

The Debt of Gratitude That Cannot Be Repaid

We are also taught that the debt of gratitude children owe their parents for what their parents have done for them cannot be repaid to them whatever their children might do in return their parents. For instance, if by keeping the mother on one shoulder for even a hundred years, a child thinks he can repay them for all that his or her parents have done for him or her, he is wrong. Even in this manner, parents cannot be repaid for what they have done throughout the years for their children to bring them up to where they are today. The Buddha has also said that even if a child keeps his parents on the throne of Sakka, the King of the Gods, his parents would not have been repaid or compensated for what they have done for him. However, the Buddha says that if a child is able to instill Saddha (i.e. Faith) in a parent who has no Saddha, is able to instill Sila (i.e. Virtue) in a parent who has no Virtue, is able to instill Panna (i.e. Knowledge and Wisdom) in unwise and foolish parents, then that child would have repaid his or her debt of gratitude to his or her parents for all that they have done for him or her. Wise children should therefore, endeavour to instill Faith, Virtue and Knowledge in their parents.

It should be borne in mind that the wise and the noble admire and appreciate those children who look after the welfare of their parents. Such children, it is said, are blessed with long life and they live in joy and happiness throughout their lives. Their wealth, strength and happiness, doubles and trebles, and flow in abundance. And, when they die, they are reborn in the celestial realms. No poison, it is also said, will affect them, even if a posioned arrow is shot into their bodies. Such instances are numerous in the sacred books of the Buddhists. We shall herein cite only the instance of prince Sama and the beggar 'Sutana' who went amidst rakkhas (i.e. cannibals) and came to no harm. The deer Nandiya, who escaped the traps set for him is also another instance. Children should, therefore, at all costs and at all times, show gratitude to their parents by looking after their welfare, so that it will be a profit to them in their journey in sansara (I.e. the recurring cycles of birth and death).

In the Sama Jataka, the Bodhisatta says to the King:

Yo mataram va pitaram va macco dhammenu posati

Devi pi nan tikicchanti mata petti bharam naram

Yo mataram va pitaram va macco dhammenu posati

Ida ceva nam pasamsanti pecca sagge pamodati.

Being freely translated this means that if one looks after his parents, even the devas supply them with medicines, care and protection. They are also praised in this world.

Having listened to this sermon, the king went back to the city and performed many meritorious deeds and when he died was reborn in a celestial realm. Children should, therefore, keep all these points in mind and consider it their duty, to endeavour to understand the views of their parents, and look after them to the best of their ability, treating them with great reverence by worshipful salutation, both by day and by night, for their own benefit, for both, now in this world and the next.

These duties of parents and children towards each other, as set out in the Sigalovada Sutta, are briefly as follows:

As regards parents, one should:

  1. Support, minister to and reverence them;
  2. Perform duties for them;
  3. Protect their properties and keep up the lineage;
  4. Act according tot he advice they give;
  5. Give alms and charity in their name when they are dead.

The parents in turn will:

  1. Restrain them from vice;
  2. Encourage them to do good;
  3. Give them a good education or train them in a profession;
  4. Find them suitable wives (or husbands);
  5. Hand over their inheritance at the proper time.

I would like to conclude this brief thesis by citing an incident in the life of the Buddha that amply demonstrates how deeply ingrained in Eastern peoples, is the tradition and duty of looking after one's parents, especially in their old age. We are told that one day while the Buddha was on His alms-rounds, a certain husband and wife seeing the Buddha, fell at His feet saying: "Dear Son, is it not the duty of sons to care for their mother and father when they are gown old? Why is it that for so long a time, you have not shown yourself to us?"